How to choose a good quality hosting provider is often a difficult decision between cost and benefits. Learn why you shouldn’t buy on cost alone…
When it comes to security your website hosting plays a big part of the process. A good website host generally means great security, fast load times (Good For SEO), great service up time, and exceptional support systems in place. The biggest rule in choosing the right website host is to make sure you are not choosing the provider based purely on price.
Hosting services come in several different types and are available in a wide range of pricing plans for each. The 3 main types or classifications of hosting accounts are shared hosting, virtual private server hosting and dedicated server hosting. I have briefly outlined the key differences between the 3 below however you will get the best bang for your buck and best balance utilising a virtual private server or VPS style hosting platform.
Shared Hosting – This is the cheap and nasty hosting you often pay just a few dollars per month or year for. Shared hosting is where you purchase space on a server shared with several hundred or even thousands of other websites. This is less secure because with the right kind of attack on one of those sites could spread or affect your website as well.
Virtual Private Server – This is your own piece of cordoned off web server space that is uniquely dedicated to your website and your projects. Typically this segregation from other websites and VPS means that you have far better security and protection for your website. A VPS is a virtual computer with a preset dedicated amount of virtual memory and cpu that you have sole access to.
Dedicated Server – This is the top tier of hosting where you have your own physical hardware server that you have full control over and is not shared with any other websites or projects. Whilst this affords the highest levels of protection and isolation for your project it is really not needed for most standard websites. This level of hosting is only required for mission critical projects and applications that require larger amounts of resources.
When purchasing hosting in the VPS range you should expect to pay between $15 and $250 per month depending on your individual requirements.
Below are the key factors I recommend you look at when choosing a good hosting provider.
Decide how much support you are going to need.
Customer service goes a long way when it comes to website hosting and its not a matter of if you will need help but when you will need help. Your hosting provider should offer all of the following support options:
- FAQ or Knowledgebase – A selection of self help articles and documents that you can access to support yourself when required. These are usually easily found on the main website of the hosting provider or in your client dashboard.
- Helpdesk Ticket Support – An easy to use way to request support via either an email address or via a support portal. Typically you would submit your request for support and a staff member would reach out to you with a solution or to help you resolve the issue.
- Phone Support – This may be 24 hour phone support or business hours phone support but you should always be able to pick up the phone and contact your hosting provider to get support or answers.
- Full Hosting Management – This is where your hosting provider is making sure that all critical updates and security patches to your server are performed for you on a regular basis.
Your hosting provider should be providing all of the above if not they may not be the best solution for your website hosting needs.
Know your storage and bandwidth requirements.
Make sure you understand the storage and bandwidth needs of your website. Storage is the amount of space you will need to store your website. To give you a basic idea a small WordPress based website with 5 pages and half a dozen images will require at least 300-500mb of storage space. We recommend making sure you choose a hosting plan with at least double the storage space that you need. So for the aforementioned small WordPress website look for hosting with a minimum of 1gb of storage space. If you plan to utilise POP3 or IMAP email services with your website that will share the same hosting storage then I recommend doubling that amount to a minimum of 2gb of storage space.
The second factor here is bandwidth which is how much data transfer your website will use each month. If you have a small website with only a few local visitors per month then I recommend calculating your required bandwidth needs using the following formula:
Website Size (Storage) x 2 = Minimum Bandwidth Suggested.
This would mean that if you have 1gb of website storage then for a small local website with low to moderate traffic should have a minimum of 2gb monthly bandwidth.
Ultimately be honest with yourself and estimate your storage and traffic needs without going overboard, we all hope that when we launch a website we are going to get flooded with people wanting to buy our services or products. In reality be conservative you can always upgrade your account later if you need more storage or bandwidth.
Don’t buy on price alone.
Many providers offer unlimited plans for just a few dollars a month and these deals look great in theory. In most cases they can afford to offer such a plan because they know that you will never use the amounts of bandwidth and storage they are offering, and that they are using highly crowded servers. This means that your website performance and security could be at risk from resource throttling (slowing down your site for using too many resources) and cyber attack.
Make sure you own your website and that it is portable.
Hosting providers often take customer service for granted when it comes to their clients. If you own your own website, and you make sure it can easily be moved to another host if required, then you are in control and you can vote with your feet should a host not live up to your standards. Use a good quality CMS (content management system) such as WordPress this will make moving your site much easier.
Own your domain name.
Many hosting companies especially the cheaper ones offer a free domain with your hosting account. Make sure you own that domain because if you don’t and you want to move your website to another provider you may not be able to keep your domain name. Imagine how it will look for your clients if all off a sudden your website doesn’t work because you had to change domain names.
Choosing a hosting provider is important and hosting on a budget is rarely a good thing. If an offer for hosting appears to be too good to be true then it most likely is. Be realistic about your hosting needs I have been in this industry for over 20 years and I have never seen a client need unlimited hosting storage or bandwidth.