How to choose a webhosting provider

Are you starting up a new business website, or just looking to change hosting to a new provider? Identifying the right web host for your website can be a real headache for businesses. There are so many providers out there, all offering a variety of features that all appear quite similar, making it difficult to determine which hosting is right for you.

To help you choose a web hosting provider, we will first aim to help you define the hosting needs for your website. Armed with this information, you will then be able to make better sense of the features and functionality offered by most web hosting companies, allowing you to make a more informed decision on what the right web hosting plan is for your business.

Defining your Web Hosting Needs

What purpose will your website serve? This is the first question you need to ask yourself when choosing your web hosting packages. For example, if you are creating a content hub or an online gallery your needs will be very different from someone looking to create a large e-commerce store.

To help you define the purpose your website will serve, and to get a clearer picture of the type of website hosting you are going to need, here are some questions you should consider:

  • What are the storage needs of your website?
  • Will payments need to be processed?
  • How much traffic do you expect to generate?
  • How advanced are your content management system (CMS) skills?
  • How much can you afford to spend on hosting?
  • Are there any services in addition to hosting that you will require from your provider?
  • Will the answers to any of the above questions change significantly in the next 12 months?

Once you have carefully considered the questions above, you should be equipped with the raw information to make an informed choice on your web hosting needs. In the next section, we take a look at some of the types of web hosting offered by the major providers.

Types of Web Hosting

When searching for web hosting services you will probably encounter numerous different types of web hosting, differing in price point, and each with different sets of features.

While they may be offered under slightly different names depending on the provider, most types of web hosting fall into the following four categories: Shared; Dedicated; Cloud; Managed.

Shared Hosting: Shared hosting is generally the cheapest and most common form of web hosting. It is ideal for blogs or small businesses on a budget. The hosting is ‘shared’ on the same web server along with numerous other websites. For this reason, speeds can sometimes be slow, and the service may even go down if you have a particularly high traffic spike. While shared hosting is generally a solid hosting option, it really isn’t ideal if you generate high levels of traffic, or if factors such as page speed are important to you.

Dedicated Hosting: The next step up from shared hosting, dedicated hosting is a single server ‘dedicated’ to hosting a single website. It is the opposite side of the coin to shared hosting in that it is a more expensive hosting option, but provides much faster load times, and is generally more reliable. Unlike shared hosting, this option is perfect for high-traffic websites where page speed and reliability are paramount.

Cloud Hosting: A cloud hosting plan (also known as VPS hosting) hosts your website on multiple servers as opposed to just one shared or dedicated server. Cloud-based hosting generally offers greater flexibility and functionality than shared or dedicated servers but can require a little more technical know-how in some cases making it more suited to businesses with a degree of technical expertise.

Managed Hosting: An increasingly popular option, managed hosting offers extensive features and functionality such as website building applications, add-ons or plugins. This type of hosting is ‘managed’ by major hosting providers, with WordPress hosting being the most popular. This is more expensive than shared hosting but is a great option for businesses looking for an all-in-one package with minimal fuss and an added level of customer support.

Web Hosting Features

Within each type of web hosting, there are many different types of features which either come as standard or can be bolted on to your plan. You should have a better idea at this point as to which web hosting is likely to be best suited to your website, and you can learn more below about some of the common features offered by web hosting providers.

Security: Security should be a prime consideration for all websites, no matter the nature of your business. However, while most providers offer SSL encryption and some form of backup as standard, websites which process payments may need an extra layer of security such as advanced encryption and protection from DDoS attacks or hacking.

Storage: The storage space option you choose returns us to our original question, ‘what purpose will your website serve?’. If you are running a text-based website, with few images or videos, a low storage plan will suffice. However, a site which is rich in high-res images and videos is likely to require a plan which offers higher storage capacity.

Bandwidth: As bandwidth determines the speed at which data travels, a website which receives high levels of traffic and hosts downloadable elements is almost certainly going to need a plan which offers high or unlimited bandwidth. Of course, the opposite is true for low-traffic websites.

Website Builders: As we mentioned in the previous section, managed hosting plans offer dedicated website builders, allowing you to bring your website build and hosting under the same roof. This is a great option for businesses looking for a simple solution to their website and hosting needs. For larger companies, with access to designers and developers, however, this option is unlikely to appeal.

Ultimately, the web hosting solution you choose should be determined by the requirements of your website. You should also consider the resources available to you, both in terms of budget and the expertise of your team. There have never been more options out there for websites looking for web hosting, and armed with the information provided in this article, you should be perfectly placed to choose the very provider and plan for your needs.

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