How to Pick the Best Web Host for YouLast Updated:
Want to start a website? You’ll find it easier than ever, with thousands of web hosting providers available on the Internet today. But how do you pick the right one for you?
We’re here to help. Sure, we could just point you to the many web host provider rankings we’ve compiled, but we know better than that. Web hosting isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, and if you’re going to find the best solution for your website, you’ll need to know what factors to look at when you’re narrowing down your shortlist.
Of course, the finer points of your web hosting plan should be tailored to the specific needs of your website–an online shop will have different hosting priorities than a Minecraft community site, for example. But the following are important regardless of what website you’re creating.
Your web host has one job; and that’s to, well, host your website. The resources that come with your hosting plan are the main factors that determine whether or not that job can be done well. When we say “resources,” think of all the essential allocations that needed to get your site off the ground.
Storage and Bandwidth
There’s disk space, which should be enough to hold all the files that constitute your website; this will need to be at least a few gigabytes, more if you plan on hosting your own photos and videos. Another important resource is bandwidth or data transfer, which basically determines how much data can be ferried to and from your site visitors. Remember our Web Hosting 101 primer? Every time someone visits your site, they’re getting a copy of your site’s data — so in an indirect way, data transfer can also affect how many visitors you can get.
Many hosting providers claim to offer “unlimited” storage and/or bandwidth, but make sure to check the fine print! Often, what these sites mean is that they won’t impose specific caps on you; but you still need to stay within the bounds of “normal usage”. That’s well and good if you don’t need much storage or bandwidth, but if you’ve got a huge site or foresee massive traffic growth in the future, you should get in touch with the web hosts you’re considering and clarify their storage and bandwidth usage policies.
Email and Databases
Email accounts and databases are also important, especially if you plan on setting up email as a channel for professional communications or, in the case of databases, building a more extensive system for your site’s backend. Check how many accounts and databases your web host will give you, what database types are supported, how much email storage you’ll get, and whether you’ll get useful related tools like spam filters and autoresponders.
Website Builder and Applications
This is more of a consideration for beginners who might not be confident in their ability to code and build a website from scratch. Many hosting providers include free use of a drag-and-drop website builder in their hosting plans, and that can be a good solution if you’re looking for an easy way to start.
Many web hosts also offer 1-click installers for popular web applications. Beginner or not, these give you a convenient and hassle-free way to boost your website’s functionality. If you’re looking to start a blog, for example, a web host that can give you 1-click installs of content management systems (CMS) like Drupal and the ever-popular WordPress is ideal. We’ve put together a list of the best hosts for blogging, as well as for Drupal-specific or WordPress-driven sites, so make sure to check those out.
Budding online entrepreneurs, meanwhile, will do well to look for a web host that allows you to have third-party shopping cart and payment systems like Magento and PayPal. Be sure to ask if your potential web host allows for that, as it gives you more options for your online store. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got lists for the best hosting providers for general e-commerce or Magento-driven online shops, too.
Multiple Domains and Subdomains
Most web hosting providers will give you a free domain name, which is always handy. If domain name offers are the only difference between two of your choices, go for the one that gives you a free domain. Remember, though, that many of these offers only last for a year; you’ll typically have to start paying for the cost of your domain name once you renew your hosting plan.
Once you’ve got your first website, you’ll want (or need) to put up more domains or subdomains sooner or later. Make sure your host is prepared to support that growth by allowing you as many domains or subdomains as you think you’ll need. Not all web hosts give you unlimited domains or subdomains, for example. “Unlimited” isn’t the only acceptable answer here, of course; whether your domain limit is set at 50, 500, or unlimited, just make sure that it won’t prove restrictive for your future web hosting plans.
Good Control Panel
Many web hosts come with either their own custom control panel or a version of cPanel, one of the most popular control panel solutions out there. Either is fine; what matters more is the organization and utility of the interface. Do you have all the tools you need for website administration? This can mean everything from cron jobs — which let you schedule specific tasks that your system will carry out each day — to website traffic statistics and performance logs, as well as options to add new domains, email accounts, and more.
If you’re an experienced hand at web hosting, you’ll want to have SSH access to make it easier to modify batches of files, edit permissions, and more, all from the command line.
Uptime and Reliability
If you’ve read our previous uptime article, you’ll know that uptime isn’t as simple as looking for the highest guaranteed percentage available. That said, uptime is a good, quick gauge of a web host’s reliability. Canvass users’ comments on the web host’s availability, consistency, and any performance issues it might have. Read the web host’s service level guarantee (SLA) or uptime guarantee carefully, too. This won’t just tell you what compensation you can expect from instances of unexpected downtime; the detail and rigor of their policies will also give you a good feel for how committed the web host is to ensuring that your website runs smoothly.
Security and Backups
SSL certificates are often a separate expense from your hosting plan; if you’re planning on using one, make sure your web host supports external certificates. This is especially important if you’re setting up an online shop — SSL certificates help boost your site’s security and cultivate customer trust, so make sure your web host will let you have one.
Aside from SSL certificates, check what security measures your hosting provider will give you. Seek out the details of firewalls, antivirus, malware protection, and other such features that they might bundle into your plan or offer as a separate package.
Don’t forget to check for any data backup services, too. Will your web host back up your files and databases? How often will they do it, and what procedures do you follow in case you need to recover files? If they don’t offer backups at all, look into what your alternatives are. You don’t want to risk losing all your website data forever.
24/7 Customer Support
No website is free from issues or errors, and when those do happen, you’ll want knowledgeable and responsive support on your side. Does your web host offer tech support for free? Most do, though some providers have limited coverage. Check if there’s a limit to the kind of issues or problems that your web host’s support team will handle. Is there a fee for more extensive or critical troubleshooting requests?
Check, too, if your web host has multiple communication channels available. You don’t want to get stuck in the support ticket queue when your site is melting down, which is when a real-time channel like phone or live chat can come in handy. Are support team members available round the clock? You can’t always foresee when things will go awry, so knowing that you can request assistance and get a response anytime can be a load off your back.
Of course, you don’t want to be left helpless if your web host does take some time to respond. Check if your hosting provider has an adequate knowledge base with FAQs, guides, articles, and even video tutorials that can help you troubleshoot any issues yourself if needed.
Price and Billing Plan
Ideally, you’ll host your website with a company that will offer good services without bleeding your wallet dry. Many hosting providers offer several contract term lengths, with monthly prices dropping the longer the contract. This can be convenient if you see yourself running a website with that provider for the long haul, but if you’re not so sure, locking yourself in for the next year or three could end up costing you more in the long run. Cheapest isn’t always the best; with web hosting, you tend to get what you pay for.
That said, don’t burn a hole in your pockets just for a web hosting plan. It’s not impossible to get good service for a reasonable price. Just look at our list of the best cheap web hosts, which gives you the top companies for affordable web hosting that doesn’t scrimp on quality. As with anything else, the key is to strike a balance between getting the resources and services you need and only spending as much as you can afford.
There’s an endless stream of web hosting options out there, and finding the right one can be difficult. Different factors take on varying degrees of importance depending on what you need your website to do. Nevertheless, we’ve given you eight things that matter regardless of the kind of website you’re setting up. If you start with these fundamentals, it’ll be easier to sort through all the web hosting companies vying for your business.
If you’ve got a specific type of website in mind, check out our different hosting provider reviews as well. Aside from the top companies, we’ve also listed the best providers for all kinds of web hosting needs: from setting up blogs and small businesses to cloud hosting solutions and web hosts that cater to people who need the security of offshore options. With these factors and Comparakeet’s reviews, you won’t have any problems finding the best hosting solution for you.