There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a web hosting service.
One of them is the price, but this factor shouldn’t be the only consideration when deciding how to choose a web host. You should also consider the features and benefits offered by each provider, as well as their reliability and customer support.
There’s a lot of jargon used when discussing web hosts – dedicated hosting, shared hosting, servers, and bandwidth are just a few. We’ll try to break through that jargon and offer some tips anyone can use to choose the best web hosting service to fit their needs.
First, let’s get to a few definitions.
A “host” or “web hosting service” provides the computer storage to hold all the data for your website in one place.
Dedicated vs. Shared Hosting
Think of a server as a big box where you store your belongings.
You can either get one of those boxes that they bring to your house. You fill it up and the company leaves the box on your property until you’re ready to empty it. You are in control of your belongings the entire time they are stored. When you’re done, the storage company retrieves the empty container.
Or you could have the big box brought to your house, you fill it up and the storage company takes the box back to a central location to store along with many other people’s containers. You are the only one with the key to the lock.
Or you could rent one of those units in a facility with a bunch of units. Again, you are the only one with a key to the lock on your unit, but the facility manager has a master key and can get into your belongings anytime.
The same is true of web hosting. A dedicated server provides you and your organisation space to store your web page data and only you can get into it to make changes. You can lock your data up so tight even a search engine crawler can’t get inside.
You have total control over your data, but you also have total responsibility for making sure the server stays up and running.
Shared hosting is when a company offers storage space on a single server or computer to several organisations. If something happens to the computer storing all that information, everyone’s website using that server goes down.
Typically, dedicated hosting is more secure, faster, and more reliable than shared hosting. But it costs more, too.
If your website will be relatively small and you’re not selling anything, you could probably get by with shared hosting. But if you have an e-commerce site or provide mega-amounts of information, dedicated hosting may be your best bet.
To throw another wrench into the mix, some web hosts offer a hybrid – not entirely dedicated but not totally shared either. You’ll need to do your homework to figure out what will work best for you.
The Internet is always “on.” That means businesses are open pretty much 24/7. That means you want your website to be ready at any moment for a visitor. And you want to make sure the host can handle the number of visitors that access your site.
Read online reviews for the companies you are considering. Do they have an excellent reputation? Is their service reliable? Do they respond quickly to customers’ questions and concerns? Do customers complain or praise the customer service process?
This may take a bit of research, but it will definitely be time well spent.
Customer Service and Support
Does the web hosting service you are looking at have a reputation for providing great customer support? Everyone runs into a time when they have a question about something that has to do with their website. Does your hosting service respond quickly, respectfully, and knowledgeably?
Look for a company that has support available around the clock. Is the process efficient or do you get passed from one person to another?
Ease of Use
Every web hosting service has some sort of dashboard that allows you to manage your website – add pages, implement SEO, and post information. Is that dashboard easy to use or will you need to get an IT degree to understand how it works?
Are there page templates that make designing your pages easy? Are they flexible? Easy to use? Free?
What other plug-ins would make maintaining your website a breeze and does your hosting service offer them?
Take some time to wander around the web hosting service site and check out what they offer.
Websites today need to be secure. We’ve all heard horror stories about websites being hacked and people’s private information being shared with millions of people. Does the web hosting service you are considering offer a valid SSL certificate?
What is the company’s procedure in case website security has been breached? How easy would it be for someone to gain unauthorised access to your account? Can you backup your site easily?
This is no time to be shy. Ask the tough questions so you can get straightforward answers.
The one thing that causes more people to leave a site is the speed at which it loads. Studies have shown that if a site takes more than 3 seconds to load, your visitors abandon your site and search for one that loads faster.
Does the service you are looking at have enough capacity to offer fast load times?
Cost is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Make sure you read all the fine print about fees, renewal costs, and the cancellation policy. Costs are all over the map, so make sure you know what you’re getting for the fee you are paying.
Choosing the right web hosting service can be daunting. With almost all the web hosting service providers claiming to be the best, there is a lot of confusion about whom to choose.
But once you do your homework, you’ll be able to dial down to the service that will best fit your needs.
Check-in with the folks at Orange Media to find out their suggestions for choosing a web hosting service.