Thinking Beyond Price When Choosing a Web Host
One of the best ways to establish your brand and reach customers is through a website for most any company. For your website to be easily accessible and functioning correctly, you’ll need to choose a great web host. There are thousands of web hosting companies, providing countless options from shared to VPS to managed to dedicated servers. Each offers an excellent opportunity for the right company and website. So how do you know which is right for you? You need to understand what your needs are first. Here’s a 25-point checklist of questions you need to answer to help you decide on the best host for you:
- How many domain names do you need to host?
- How many subdomains do you need to host?
- Do you have a WordPress site or use some other CMS? If not, what language is your site written in?
- Is your site image-heavy, or do you host a lot of images for visitors to download?
- Do you have special scripts you need to use?
- What are your caching and CDN needs?
- Do you need e-commerce support?
- Do you have an application that you need to host on the same server?
- Do you need Windows applications?
- How many databases do you need to host, and what kinds?
- How much space does your site take up today (if you already have one)? (How many MB or GB is it when downloaded?)
- How many visitors do you get (or anticipate) a day/month? Does/will your traffic volume have big swings?
- What kind of security do you need?
- Do you need a dedicated IP address? If so, how many?
- Do you have an SSL certificate now? If not, do you want/need one? What kind of SSL certificate do you need?
- Who manages your site? How technical are they? Or do you need someone to manage it for you?
- What kind of access to the server do you need?
- Do you need version control?
- Do you need a separate staging area?
- Do you need backups done for you?
- What are your plans for growing the site?
- How will any downtime of the website impact your business?
- Do you need 24/7 support? How do you like to contact support? Email? Chat? Phone?
- How many email accounts do you need/have?
- Do you want to use Exchange for email?
Next, you need to make sure that you get a clear picture of what you’ll receive, how customers are treated, and if you can genuinely work with the company. Here are a few things to consider when assessing potential web hosts.
Type of Web Host
You’ll need to choose the type of web hosting, depending on your business needs. There are four general types of web hosting:
Shared. Having shared hosting means that your website will be placed on the same server as many other sites, up to thousands of them. If you think that your website will get low to moderate traffic levels, this might be a good choice for you. However, if you think your site will have high traffic levels, shared hosting may not be able to handle that. The plus side is that shared hosting won’t cost you much—that’s if you’re willing to deal with the other sites affecting your performance from time to time.
Virtual Private Server. This type of web hosting divides a server into virtual servers, where each site has its server. Only a few other sites use the same server, so a company with VPS hosting may be a good choice if you don’t want your site’s performance to be affected by other sites or you receive lots of visitors.
Dedicated. A dedicated server offers the most control because you exclusively rent an entire server. Only your sites are stored on the server, but the cost of using a dedicated one can be much higher than a shared or dedicated one.
Cloud. A cloud hosting company will offer you the ability to handle high traffic without limits. A team of servers, the cloud, works to host a group of sites. This type could cost you more than a shared or a virtual private server but offers infinite scalability to meet fast-growing needs.
Having multiple domain names is common, so your web host must allow you to add multiple domains.
Generally speaking, most shared hosting companies allow multiple domains per account on their more extensive packages, but entry-level packages may only allow for one. Make sure to double-check before choosing a web host.
Web Host Staging
This is another consideration you should make when choosing a web host. If you want to create and manage development copies of your website, you may want to choose a web host that includes this feature. Some web hosts have special staging features available for websites created using software like WordPress or Joomla.
When choosing a web host, you’ll want a reliable support team that will help you maintain your website. It’s essential to look for companies that will provide 24/7 support, email access, and online chat. If your web host cannot offer this type of core support, you might want to look for one that can. Having reliable customer support is especially important if you don’t have someone on your team with technical expertise.
Some web hosts allow you to try them out for free—make sure to read the fine print and see whether they issue refunds if you’re unsatisfied with their services. Some hosting companies charge very high cancellation fees; watch out for those also.
You’ll also want to consider whether your web host will be able to accommodate your website and company’s growth. Quickly and easily scale your hosting is an essential consideration as your number of employees grows, traffic to your website increases, and you need to add advanced functionality to your sites such as e-commerce or social networking. Transferring your email accounts and website from one host to another takes valuable time and effort and can come with considerable additional expenses. These issues can be avoided if the web hosting company can scale its solutions to meet your growth needs.
Before committing to a web host, do some research and look at their customer reviews. Make sure to read as many as you can to understand how they treat their customers.
Price is what runs across people’s minds before making any major decision. However, when choosing a web host, you get what you pay for in many cases. It’s easy opting for the cheapest offer, but that may not be the best idea in this circumstance.
For example, a company offering to host your site for $3.95 per month probably won’t have much to offer you. Take a close look at the features that come along with each hosting site, then make the decision based on your business needs today and over the next two years. While paying just $3.95 a month to get started may seem attractive, if your site will be growing quickly or if you want to add e-commerce features and the host can’t offer it to you or help you scale soon—you’re better off paying a little more from day one. This is particularly true with WordPress sites that are best hosted with a web host experienced with their unique needs.
In addition, pay close attention to the renewal fees of your potential web hosts. Some may offer attractive first-year rates but may more than double their rates after you’ve been with them a year.
As you can see, there are many things to consider before you choose a web host. Unfortunately, there is no single perfect web host because every company has different needs. Use our 25-point checklist to start the discussion with any potential web host. With time and research, you’ll be able to make an informed decision and find your best match. When in doubt, consult with a professional website and application development company before making your final decision.