Picking the right web hosting company can be a very daunting process; not only for a beginner but also for an experienced webmaster. It’s almost like searching for Mr. Right in the digital world!
When looking at different web hosting providers – and there are thousands out there – all of them promise the best service with 99%+ uptime, 24/7 support, and lots of features and resources. But which of those features actually matter? What should you look for in a web host?
The following checklist will walk you through some of the most basic and essential points that should help you make an educated decision when deciding on a hosting provider for your next project/website.
Understand Your Hosting Needs
The first and most important thing that you have to assess before buying any hosting service is what type of hosting and what resources your website will need. Here are some of the basic questions you should have ready answers for before you start searching for a host:
1. What type of website are you hosting?
Are you launching a static HTML website or a dynamic one that uses WordPress or some other content management system? Some hosting companies have specialized plans that are optimized for a certain content management system or website builder, and they can save you a lot of time and hassle when setting up and maintaining your website.
2. How much traffic are you expecting?
The amount of traffic or visitors to your website will determine how much server resources it will need. Each hosting plan will provide different allocated quotas of bandwidth, memory, CPU, concurrent connections, and other resources.
For a brand new website that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, you’ll probably be fine with the most basic entry-level plan. However, if you have an established website that is already receiving a considerable amount of traffic, then you need to look for a plan that offers sufficient resources to accommodate your website’s current and short-term anticipated needs.
You may also consider a scalable cloud hosting plan, which allows you to instantly grow your available resources as your website grows without any downtime or the hassle of server migration.
3. Will you be hosting more than one website?
If you have multiple websites, you don’t have to purchase a separate hosting service for each one of them. Many providers allow you to host more than one website on the same plan. This feature is often offered with more advanced plans, which may cost you a little extra, but would still be cheaper than buying a separate plan for each website.
4. What are the technical requirements for your website?
What programming languages and versions are required? What about databases? Do you need Linux or Windows based hosting? Do you need root access? Do you need any specific modules to be enabled/disabled on your web server, such as mod_rewrite?
Server Location and Reliability
The geographical location of the server where your website will be hosted is an important factor that affects how fast your website loads for your users. The closer the server to the end user, the faster the website loads, and vice versa.
If your visitors are primarily from the United States, then choose a web host whose data center is located in the United States. If your website’s primary target is Canadian consumers, then find a Canada-based hosting service. And if your visitors come from many different countries, then you should consider a content delivery network solution to improve the loading speed for your site’s users worldwide.
It is also important to have a reliable, secure, well maintained and frequently updated server. If a web host can’t keep your website up and running at least 99% of the time, then you should look elsewhere for a more reliable service.
Easy-to-Use Control Panel
A user-friendly control panel is one of the most important things to look for in a web host. It will make it much easier to manage all aspects of your hosting service in one web-based interface, instead of having to install a bunch of different programs on your PC.
One of the most popular and arguably the very best web hosting control panel is cPanel. It comes with many features, functionalities, and tools that make it very simple to manage your site’s files, databases, emails, etc. If you are a beginner webmaster with little experience then you should definitely opt for a cPanel-powered hosting service.
Initial Price vs. Renewal Price
There is fierce competition among web hosting companies, and many of them utilize different marketing tricks to attract more customers. Since everyone likes discounts, it is a common practice of web hosts to offer generous discounts to new customers.
A lot of times, the specified price for a particular hosting plan is a promotional, discounted price that only applies to the first billing cycle, after which you will be charged the full normal price. So before you rush to hit the “buy” button, take your time to learn more about their pricing policy and find out how much the renewal price will be after the initial promotional term comes to an end.