Editor's Note: Jane Hurst is a business writer and regular OMI contributor. Today she joins us to explain the factors marketers should consider when picking the right hosting provider.
Having a great website is a very important step for any online business. However, choosing the right hosting is equally important: without it, your site will suffer from lag, crashes and downtime which can put a huge dent in your sales. In order to get the most out of your website, it’s vital that you find a great web host. So in this article, we’ll explain the different kinds of hosting plans you will come across, and how to choose wisely. Let’s get started!
Types of Web Hosting Platforms
There are three types of web hosting platforms:
- Individual Plans – Many companies will sell you a slot on servers they own and operate. This is the cheapest option, and it’s great for those who are just starting out on limited budgets. For example, an introductory package at HostGator is only $3.96 a month if you sign on for a three-year package. There are a few drawbacks: you can usually have only one domain, features may be limited, and bandwidth/data storage are lower than what you’d get on more expensive options.
- Dedicated Servers – These plans are much more expensive (they can be $139 or more each month), but if your business is growing, this may be a better option for you. Just make sure that your provider offers individual plans and dedicated servers so you have the option to switch if necessary.
- Reseller Accounts – Reseller accounts are way cheaper than dedicated servers, and in terms of functionality, they lie between individual plans and dedicated servers. With these, you can host multiple domains and websites on a single account. This is a good option for businesses that run a number of websites. You can expect to pay between $10 and $20 monthly.
What to Look for in a Hosting Plan
While you obviously need something affordable, price is not the only thing to consider when looking for a hosting plan. Free web hosts are never a good choice. Sure, they sound great, but you get a lot of on-site advertising, and not a lot of features. Other things to look for in a hosting plan include:
- Customer Reviews – See what other users are saying about the host before you sign on and end up wasting your money. Look for multiple reviews from both current and past customers, and don’t base your judgment on a single review, positive or negative.
- Customer Support – If the host doesn’t have great customer support, move on to one that does. You need to know that there is a dedicated staff you can depend on in case anything goes wrong. The best hosts will respond to queries 24/7, because the Internet never sleeps.
- Storage and Bandwidth – Many plans offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth, so you probably don’t have to worry about this too much, but you still need to make sure that the host offers what you need.
- Script Support – Make sure your host has built-in support for web scripts you will be using. For instance, if you plan on using WordPress, look for a host that makes installing the platform quick and easy. Some hosts limit MySQL databases which are necessary for running WordPress.
Know Your Hosting Needs
Once you have decided that you need a host, make sure you understand your requirements well. That way, you will know that you are not going to end up with features you will have to pay for but won’t ever use. If you don’t need WordPress, there’s no point dishing out extra money because a host will install it for you
Assess the following factors when making your decision:
- The type of website you are building (entertainment, e-commerce, news?)
- The need for WordPress or other common features
- Whether you’d prefer a Linux or Windows based platform
- Special software like Ruby, and up to date versions of special software like PHP
- Anticipated traffic volume
Investigate Host Reliability and Uptime Guarantees
It is vital that your web host operates 24/7, and has a powerful server and stable network connection. If the score is less than 99%, you don’t want it. For obvious reasons, you should not trust what a server says about itself. You can get accurate uptime info by reading reviews, or tracking your web host with server monitor tools like Alertra.
Research Web Host Upgrading Options
Make sure that you research all of your upgrade options, because you may end up lacking what you need when you are ready to upgrade. You should have no problem using a shared web host which can handle a WordPress blog with up to 40,000 visitors monthly. But you may need more accommodation down the road, and you should have peace of mind that your host can manage the switch - if you expect to grow quickly, look for a web host that will grow with you.
Choose Hosting Based on the Site Engine
Unless you have a dedicated web design team, you’ll likely begin with a common site engine. Some hosts are better suited to these engines than others, so you can narrow down your selections by researching compatibility. For instance, WPBeginner has a great list of WordPress hosting providers, and HostingAdvice has a good list if you want to use Joombla.
Check Domain Options and Hosting Space
You should consider your host’s domain options and the size of its hosting space. Domains are cheap, and it can often be hard to have just one. In fact, a good number of site owners have more than five domains, and others have over 50. To manage this, you need more hosting space, so make sure that your hosting account will let you run multiple domains. Don’t make the mistake of signing up for a host that will only accommodate one domain.
Check Prices on Both Sign-Up and Renewal
Before you choose hosting, look at the prices for both sign-up and renewals. Sometimes web hosts suck you in with cheap sign-up rates, and then you are stuck with expensive renewal fees. This is a normal thing, but if you do your research, you can dodge this trick and avoid paying a small fortune in the long run.
Check Hosting Control Panel
A very important factor to consider before you choose a host is its control panel: it must be user-friendly and fully functional. You can use cPanel, Plesk, or a proprietary control panel such as the one used by GoDaddy. While IX Web Hosting is very inexpensive, the custom control panel is generally considered poor, and what you’ll save in money, you may pay for in the time it takes to get things done.
The right web host takes a back seat to your website, runs consistently with little downtime, and adapts flexibly to your needs as your business expands. Hopefully this article has given you an idea what to look for, and what to take account of so you can find a host that will put your website first, and create a smooth experience for your company and visitors.
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