How to Choose a Web Hosting Service
There are plenty of Web Hosting Services for you to pick from, therefore when it comes to making the final decision, we’re always uncertain and confused as to whether we’re making the right choice.
There are numerous factors that you would need to consider when picking your hosting service and we’re going to take a detailed look into them in addition to the possible scams that you may come across. So, basically this guide is going to cover it all!
Minor decisions before the final choice
Before you pick your web hosting service, there are a couple of decisions that you would need to make because they’re going to govern the final decision, such as:
What kind of site are you planning on hosting?
There are plenty of different kinds of websites that you could possibly host. A few among them could be: informative and review sites, E-commerce sites or may be even forums.
Each of these comes along with their own set of requirements and therefore before you pick a host you’re going to need to decide what kind of site you intend on building.
How many websites do you want to set up?
Every host has its own limitation when it comes to the number of domain names that you would be able to host on their servers through a single hosting account. There are a few that allow you to host just 2 domain names and there are others that allow up to 25!
Of course, the amount of bandwidth and disk space would be split among your domain names. So, don’t be too excited if you see a large number here.
What about sub-domains?
There are times when you may need multiple sub-domains under a particular domain name. Some of the possible reasons include: the setting up of a blog, discussion forums, shopping carts and maybe even a contact us page.
Of course you could always set things up so that every part of your website follows your root directory such as: http://www.yoursite.com/forum/ rather than http://www.forum.yoursite.com/ which is a sub-domain.
But there are cases when webmasters would need to set them up on different sub-domains. Therefore before you pick your hosting service it would be wise to consult your webmaster and ask them what they intend to do.
Important hosting related terminology
If it’s your first time looking for hosting services, there are going to be a few terms that you come across and have no clue as to what they mean. Therefore, before you pick a particular service it is important that you understand the following terms:
- Domains – Domain names are basically the names of your websites e.g. Deltabusiness.com, bestshop.net, happyblog.org. You would be able to pick from a variety of extensions. You could either buy your domain name from your hosting company itself or you could use another provider for this purpose.
- Uptime – Uptime is the percentage of time that your website is going to be up and running. There are going to be a few moments when your server would be down due to maintenance and other issues, but on the whole most hosting services guarantee an uptime of 98 – 99.99%.
- MySQL – Basically, this is one of the most important software’s that would help you manage your database. It is necessary if you’re using a CMS platform such as WordPress or Joomla to build up your website. Almost all the hosting services that you come across have it implemented in their packages.
- PHP – It’s a programming language that is used to build up websites and programs needed for the functioning of your site. Most of the hosting packages come along with PHP, but there are still a number of hosts that don’t offer PHP. So, if you’re looking forward to using a CMS platform like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal etc then make sure that PHP is supported.
- Apache – When you’re setting up your website you’re not going to be using Apache directly; but, it’s a HTTP server software which is very crucial if you want your website to be search engine friendly as this would allow you to re-write the URL’s of individual pages.
- cPanel – The cPanel or Control Panel is what you’re going to be using if you want to tweak or access any particular areas of your server. It’s crucial as it’s the user interface using which you would be able to upload files, create back-ups and even install software onto your website.
Features to look for in your web host
Now that you know a bit about the basic features that you’re going to be looking for, the next step would be to consider some of the more advanced features:
Your Monthly Bandwidth Allocation
If you have an internet connection at home, you probably already know what bandwidth means. It’s basically the amount of data usage that your website is taking up. Your bandwidth gets used whenever a person loads a page of your site, listens to an MP3 file, watches a video, uploads or downloads something from your website or even checks out an image.
Tip – Choose a hosting plan where you get at least 2 GB bandwidth per month.
How much Disk Space do they provide you with?
This is one thing that you shouldn’t worry about, as in most cases the amount of disk space that’s allotted would be more than what you need. This is basically the space on the hard drive of your shared or dedicated server that’s allotted to you.
Tip – Choose a hosting plan where you get at least 1 GB Web hosting space.
Parked Domains are essential for popular websites
If you own www.yoursite.com you’re probably also looking to own www.yoursite.net, and various other extensions in order to prevent brand theft. In such cases you’re only going to be focusing on one site and leaving the others as they are. Such domains are termed as parked domains and most hosts allow a certain number of parked domains.
In this case you’re going to be re-directing all the parked domains to a particular page of your main domain (preferably the home page). Usually you’d pick out domains which probable spelling errors in addition to a variety of extensions in order to prevent yourself from losing any form of traffic.
Add-on domains are cool – Does the hosting service offer you this feature?
Add-On domains are separate domains that you would be able to add to your CPanel without the need of another hosting account.
In simple words it means the number of websites you can host in a single web hosting account.
Viewers would see the websites as two separate entities and they’d never realize that they’re both being operated from within the same Control Panel.
Unlike Parked Domains Add-on domains won’t re-direct traffic to a predefined site and would act independent of each other.
Tip – You would need at least 1 add-on domain if you plan to start another website soon.
How much are you going to be charged?
One of the biggest factors that govern our final decision is the amount that we’re going to be paying for our web hosting services. In most cases there are different plans that you could take a look at, some start as low as $5 a month whereas others run into the thousands. The amount that you pay would depend on some of the other features that we’re going to take a look at.
Tip – For a new site a hosting plan with cost like $5 to $10 a month would be fine.
Dedicated or a shared server?
This is a decision that you would have to make when you’re purchasing your hosting services. Most new websites begin with a little traffic and won’t consume a lot of bandwidth; however as your site ages you may find it necessary to pick a dedicated server (A server just for yourself) as in this case you wouldn’t have to share server resources with any other websites.
Tip – If you are just starting a new site, shared hosting would be fine.
Should you pick Linux or Windows hosting?
If at all you need to make use of technologies related to windows such as ASP, .NET, Microsoft Access, MySQL and other features on your website you would be better off using Windows hosting.
However, if you don’t know what those mean and have no idea what needs to be done, Linux hosting would be fine as you would be able to work easily on it. If you’re in doubt it would be wise to consult your web designer as they would be the ones building up the website.
There are a few people who think that their hosting package needs to be the same as the Operating System on their computers; remember that it’s not the case and you would be fine with any hosting platform.
Tip – Most of the users are comfortable with Linux web hosting. You can install blog, forum, guest book, image gallery etc. very easily on a Linux hosting account.
Even our own blog is hosted on a Linux hosting account.
Do you need Quick Installs?
Quick Installs are basically programs that would be able to be integrated into your website right from CMS platforms such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal (This would be the basis of your site and all your pages would be set up using their User Interface); Forum and Chat software as well as E-commerce software such as Magento and various other software.
If you’ve got a small budget and wouldn’t be able to hire individuals to program your site from scratch, you may need to use these quick installs, else you wouldn’t need to bother about it. Actually you don’t have to worry a lot as all major hosting services offer this.
Tip – Most Linux web hosting accounts have either a feature name Fantastico or Softaculous to auto install blogs, forums, guestbook’s, galleries etc with a click of a button.
Support is key!
There are times when you would need immediate guidance and support to help you out with technical difficulties on your website and server in general. Therefore, when picking out your web hosting service it would be wise to pick one based on the quality of support that they offer.
Tip – Just send some queries through email or have a live chat with the hosting company and see how they respond.
There are times when your website could crash without giving you a heads up and you could end up losing all the information that was stored on your server. This would definitely lead to havoc and you could possibly lose your entire business this way (Especially if you’re an E-commerce store).
Therefore, it is necessary that your hosting service offers periodic backups of your files because you’re not going to remember to do it yourself even though you may think otherwise.
Moreover, irrespective of the security of your website; there are times when hackers get into it and could corrupt your file system. In such cases you may need to get rid of it all and begin from scratch. This won’t be necessary if you’ve got your latest backup files at hand.
Tip – You yourself can also download a manual backup through your hosting control panel.
Web Hosting Scams – Beware!
Just like everything else, even the task of finding the perfect web host has its own share deal of risks involved because there are a number of scams lurking around.
If you’re new to the industry you wouldn’t know what to look out for and that’s what these companies take advantage of. Therefore, if you come across anything like what’s mentioned below you better watch out.
They don’t offer a money back guarantee
If the hosting service you pick doesn’t offer a money back guarantee after a period of around 30 days it could either mean that it’s an outright scam or their services are really bad. In both cases you would want to avoid the hosting company involved.
A Free Domain name not registered to you
Wow! Who wouldn’t want a free website? You’d definitely take up that offer only to realize after a few months that you were scammed. The moment you see an offer like this you must realize that you’re being scammed, because the fake hosts would be able to take away your domain from you and just give it off to someone else and the cycle would repeat.
Don’t get it wrong: Most hosting services offer you a free domain name on sign up because a domain name is relatively cheaper than the hosting. However, in such cases you own the domain name and are free to do with it as you wish.
Moreover, if at all you cancel the hosting services and get back your money as per the cash back guarantee, you would lose out on the domain charges because that cannot be taken back.
Tip – Do confirm with your hosting provider that the free domain if any will be registered under your name.
Cannot seem to contact them?
Hosting companies usually have their postal address as well as phone numbers in addition to a live chat feature so that you would be able to contact them any way you wish. If at all the hosting service that you decide to use doesn’t have a Contact Us page linked from the home page you should be suspicious.
Only Annual plans
The top hosts have various kinds of hosting plans ranging from a single month to years. If at all your hosting service only offers annual plans you must make sure that they’re legit because that’s highly unprofessional and it could be just a way to get the maximum cash out of you.
Of course there’s no problem in buying annual hosting from a reputable host, that’s actually the best thing to do as it’s a lot cheaper that way.
Make sure that you read the TOS
Before you sign up and pay for hosting services you should go through the TOS of the hosting provider in detail because this is where they would provide any information that would probably send customers running away.
Moreover, by reading their TOS you would learn a lot about the overall functioning of their services and hence you would be able to take advantage of everything they have to offer you.
Making the final decision
Now that you know the basics of picking the best web host, it’s time that you actually check out some of the hosting services that you’ve heard of. However, in order to find the perfect host you should obey the following guidelines:
Search for Hosting sites
The first step towards finding the perfect host would be selecting quite a few possible hosting services and taking a look at what they have to offer you. In order to do this you could just search for a list of reputable hosting companies.
Take a look at the features and plans they have to offer
Now that you’ve got a rather decent list of web hosting services to compare, it’s time to begin the comparison. Open each of the websites in different tabs of your browser and move on to the features page.
Get rid of the host that doesn’t offer the feature that you need the most, because by now you’ve already decided what you’re going to be using and what would just be a bonus feature.
How much are they charging?
By this time you’ve already got a selected few that you’d want to pick. But, it’s not yet time to decide. First compare their prices and ask yourself if you’d be willing to pay that amount every single month.
If you’re not happy with the pricing, it would be wise to select another hosting service as this is one of the crucial aspects that you’d need to look at.
Do they allow you to switch between hosts?
There are times when you would just want to leave a particular host and move on to another company. In such cases you would need to transfer all your files from one server onto the next.
Most of the reputable web hosting services offers an easy “opt-out” service and you would be able to move all your files onto the servers of your new host with ease. However, there are some that would make it next to impossible for you to make this happen.
So, the wise choice would be to stay away from hosting companies that don’t allow you to walk away as and when you want to.
Are they willing to help you out?
If you’re a small business owner and are just looking for a website to showcase your business, it’s possible that you have no idea about the functioning of a website and what needs to be done in order to set it up right.
The top hosting services offer to help you out in this regard and would set up a website based on their own “Easy to make website interface” or they would set you up on one of the popular CMS platforms such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal (Based on your choice).
What’s the response rate of their support staff?
Do you want to know how quick they are when it comes to answering your queries? The best way to find out is by contacting them via their live chat option on the website and asking them about it.
If they happen to be offline you should forget about using their services because it could be the same case when you actually need their help. So, for the best services it would always be wise to use hosts that are really supportive.
Check out reviews online
No matter which hosting service you intend to use, before you make any sort of payment it would be wise to look them up online. There’s definitely going to be a lot said about them and therefore you’d be able to decide if they’re the best choice for your hosting needs.
Lastly – Pick your plan!
Finally, we’ve come to the last step – registration! You’re almost there, you’re website is going to be up in a few minutes from now.
Once you’ve decided which host you want to use you would then need to pick out a particular hosting plan. You’d have to pick this based on your bandwidth requirements as well as the amount that you’re willing to pay them.
Once you’ve decided, you should get in contact with support again and let them guide you through the entire process of registration and setting up your website.
Picking a host isn’t difficult – but it’s crucial
Therefore, we’ve seen that the entire process of picking a reliable web hosting service isn’t difficult, but it’s something that you need to pay a lot of attention to as it’s the single most important factor that would count towards the success of your website.
No amount of search engine optimization by your SEO professionals would be able to help you if the host you pick is bad; as, a bad host would lead to slow site load speeds which in turn would result in the loss of business and clients.