Is finding a web host for your new website much harder than you anticipated? How much do you know about website hosts? And what do you know about the important features a website should have, versus the so-called “nice-to-have” features?
In this article, I am going to share insights about web hosting. Whether you are just starting out with your first website project, or are trying to change hosts or website platforms, this information will prove to be valuable.
After all, the goal is for you to be able to confidently make a decision about the most important features for your website, and how to decide between all of the different options.
Here’s what’s included in this article:
- What is Hosting?
- Features for Choosing a Web Host
- Different Hosting Types
- Finding a Web Host
- Changing a Web Host
What is Hosting?
Hosting gives you a place to store your website.
In order to better understand the interaction between hosting and a website, I will use an analogy. Imagine you have a car. The car’s purpose is to bring you from point A to point B. However, when you don’t drive, whether you are in A, B, C or D, the car stands still. The car needs a physical place to stand still, it needs a physical place for parking. That required physical place to park the car, is what a host for a website is. The host is where all the files that make up your website are being stored.
Will you need a web host?
Yes, you will need some kind of hosting environment.
For most people public hosting is the way to go, and this is particularly true for website beginners. For the technically more advanced there is always the option to run their own server and host their website(s) on this private server. However, that is also a more costly matter. I wouldn’t recommend it to a business starter who’s already juggling with a lot of tasks and who is technically not that inclined.
Features for Choosing a Web Host
How do you find a web host? There are literally thousands of companies out there who offer you a place to store your website. To find a good hosting partner for your website project, you should look for certain features.
- What is their offer in terms of disk space and bandwidth?
Example: 5 GB of storage and 50 GB of bandwidth, or 50 GB of storage and 600 GB of bandwidth.
- How transparent are they in regards to what hardware and technology they use?
- Is the hardware they use the latest technology?
- Do they aim to optimize their customer experience?
I know that this can be a tough question for non-techies to follow-up on. Do you have troubles sometimes to understand the tech terminology and don’t know whether a hardware is top-notch? Take a look at whether or not they openly communicate with you, and what they are using. If you are shying away from talking to tech people, please read my tips for dealing with a Techie first.
The way they communicate to you is already an indication. If they have been using old, outdated technology and are open about it, the word would spread like fire in the web community.
Uptime is the amount of time a website is accessible.
This is usually measured in percentages, and an uptime guarantee is given in each pricing plan. But be warned here. Do not trust promises of a 100% uptime! That’s pretty much unrealistic.
Promising a 100% uptime would mean that a server would never have to be restarted. Which then implies that there are never any upgrades made, or that the server is never being maintained. Honestly, nobody would want such a provider!
Regular security and maintenance is a must, so don’t believe these 100% promises. Look for plans that have a minimum uptime guarantee of 95% or more on their contract.
Renting a web space is done on a monthly or yearly plan, but the price shouldn’t be the deciding factor here.
“Prices do vary, as do services.”
First and foremost, you must be clear about what you want to do with your website. There is a big difference between hosting a simple blog, and creating a membership site with video streaming. When you know what your website is about, it will be easier for you to draw comparisons regarding web host pricing. However, I want to encourage you to check the structure of web host pricing plans. Chances are you will want to upgrade your plan, as your website grows. Make sure they have a reasonable upgrade structure.
Support is an essential factor. Even if you think you may never need it, I recommend that if you have two very similar offers, choose the one with the better support promise! It’s not much fun when you have to wait 36 hours for someone to respond to an urgent matter! Find out whether you can call, email, or communicate through chat support. You should also find out what their response times are.
Here you will need to do some research. To get the real story and not some ungrounded reviews, I suggest you do a Google Blog search, in order to find well-researched articles from bloggers. You can also look them up on social media channels with business-context, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
- What are their customers saying about their availability?
- Are they easy to contact for support?
- How helpful and friendly is their staff?
- Have they received some public praise for their product(s)?
Besides that, always check a web host’s website for praise and public reviews. The HostGator* website is a good example here. On there, you will their hosting rewards and reviews, giving you a good idea how their products have helped other bloggers and businesses over time.
Different Hosting Types
Although there are possibilities for free hosting, I wouldn’t recommend it for a professional setup.
Free hosting usually runs off of 3rd party advertisements that you have no control of, and is prone to be low in performance.
The most often used hosting types are:
This is where multiple accounts share a single web server, each having their own domain name. This means, you are sharing resources with other customers on that server. If another user on your server is overloading, your website can be slow.
VIRTUAL PRIVATE SERVER
Virtual servers are virtual instances on a physical machine. There can be many virtual instances in one physical server that all share the same hardware, but operate independently from one another. A VPS is more customizable than a shared hosting, and it can handle big waves of traffic way better.
If you want a server all to yourself, this is the way to go. They have the best customization and performance features, as well as the highest price.
Most people start out with shared hosting, knowing that they can always upgrade later. Having the comfort of seamlessly upgrading your website’s infrastructure is the meaning behind the term scalability.
Finding the right Web Host
As mentioned above, the most important factors for choosing a web host should be its offered features. This gives you an idea of what your website will be about, and the features you will need most.
Let’s say you want to start a simple blog with pictures, nothing too spectacular. As for the storage feature, 5 GB of disk space will be a good place to start with.
HostGator* is a popular web host that I can recommend. They offer many different hosting types for all types of skill levels: website builders, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting or WordPress hosting – jus to name a few.
However, even if you know what features you need for your new website, how do you pick the one web host that is for you?
I have read a lot of articles where people are recommending an array of different hosts. I believe there are many hosts out there who do a really, really good job, and strive to provide the best service for their customers. If you run your website with WordPress, there are a few hosts out there that offer their hosting packages with full services and technology around the WordPress platform.
But is there a recipe for a perfect host?
I don’t think so.
As a website develops, gains traction and gets more and more visitors, you automatically become aware of features and/or services that are important for you but that are difficult to come by with your current host setup.
Speaking from my experience, I never had much problems with the uptime of my server. But when it comes to the support I get (when I need it), I felt often disappointed about it. And this will be the main reason that I am going to change my hosting provider soon.
As with every other business, hosting companies change and evolve in a cyclical movement. Some are getting better, while others are growing and scaling their foundations, which may temporarily affect parts of their business. And this may lead to unhappy customers. It’s really ok to switch your hosting provider from time to time.
Changing the Web Host
Changing your hosting provider is a bit more work, and I recommend you ask someone for help if technology isn’t your thing. Some hosting companies even provide a migration service for your website. This will bring the website from your old host, to theirs.
HostGator* offers a free transfer of new accounts within 30 days of signup. Bluehost has a package to migrate up to 5 websites and 20 email addresses for free. With SiteGround you can have websites under 1 GB migrated for free. Above this size and they will charge by the hour. WPEngine, a host that is dedicated to offering its hosting for WordPress sites, is also offering migration services for free.
If you run a WordPress website you can make use of some great plugins to do most of the work, but you will need to know what you are doing in order to get it right. Be aware that your website will be down for some time. The better you are prepared for the move, the shorter this downtime will be, and the less your business will be affected by it.
* Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means, if you click on a link and purchase a product, I may earn a commission. If you would like to read more about my attitude to promoting products and my affiliate policy, please visit my affiliate policy site.