Hosting can easily make the difference between an optimized and effective website, and the clunky beasts consigned to the bottom of the public consciousness barrel. How do you choose the best web hosting options from amongst the roiling seas of gimmicks promising 100% uptime and hiding or tacking on extra fees outright – often quite arbitrarily? That’s where our best hosting provider guide comes in. Decoded for your reading, oh browsing traveler.
1. Pricing Options & Terms – Do Some Legwork!
The first thing most any shopper notices in the buying process is price and rightly so. However, don’t be too quick to seize on what may look like the juiciest offer from the get-go. Take a little time (and maybe some scrap paper, or an Excel Sheet), and calculate the prices for what your Hosting needs will require. Sites looking to monetize will likely have widely different needs than expository sites, and forums different still. Managed versus Unmanaged plans come with differing support levels as well. Not to mention that some companies outsource support.
2. Location, Location
Not too far off the self-explanatory track, but a bit further than Pricing nuances, it’s important to consider where your hosting provider’s data centers are located. Generally speaking closer proximity to the majority of your site’s visitor demographic(s) will translate to better hosting speeds, in turn translating to superior load time for your visitors. This, in turn, should ensure a better experience for said individuals, resulting in more traffic and hopefully that ever-elusive ‘buzz’!
3. It’s All In A Name
Some hosting providers take on free or cheap domains with the service, but it’s not ideal for a few reasons. Firstly, the Hosting provider in question always has final ownership over the domain name. So if you ever want to move due to either of the factors discussed in points one and two or on account of service dissatisfaction, you’ll be forced into awkward buying your domain name back. That’s not even the whole story. Free domains are often free for only the first year, meaning you’ll have to pay and often jacked-up price for renewal each and every year, or pay to buy the name outright. It’s a process quite akin to serfdom, without the backbreaking consequence, but with some painful ones to your wallet in turn.
With that in mind, it may sometimes be worth acquiring your domain separately – and ideally – before you even get into choosing a Hosting Provider. Your domain name is like your given (government) birthname. Once you’ve picked and legally acquired one, you’re stuck with it, unless you’d like to part with money and time to get the moniker switched.
4. Features & Functionality
Broadly speaking, Hosting plans come in four varieties with increasing performance capabilities. You’ve got WordPress Hosting for websites looking to take advantage of one of the most popular OpenSource CMS around. (It’s also what this website is run on). Many providers offer WordPress Hosting, managing every aspect of the site for you according to your requirements.
There’s also Shared Hosting for small business owners or blogs just getting started. In this plan variant, you’ll be sharing bandwidth and resources with a number of other websites all on one server.
Piggybacking, there’s also the choice of VPS (Virtual Private Server) Shared hosting plans, which are partially shared, but with certain resources dedicated specifically to you. These often come backed with Solid State disk drives for higher performance, albeit at a higher price. You can either go for an unmanaged hosting plan and use your coding skills (or your team’s) to operate your website in a DIY fashion. Alternatively, most providers offer managed VPS plans where the hard work is left to proffessional sys admins.
The final option is to call on your own dedicated server for the maximum speed and performance possible. These plans are always the priciest, but also the most feature rich – often coming replete with an SSL certificate (or two, or three!), in addition to free domain names we discussed above.
5. Data Center Hardware
It’s worth paying some attention to what type of hardware is used in your host’s data center(s), as this will invariably impact the performance of your website. Processing power, server data limitations, and so forth, are all important to consider. The uptime guarantees and speed tests shouldn’t be dismissed outright, but you should seek to verify them which we’ll touch on below.
What’s more, it’s also not bad practice by any stretch to make sure your chosen data center has online and offline IT security, as well as physical security of a more traditional type (most do).
6. Migration & Backups
Many times you’ll be freely allowed to move your extant website to a new hosting provider with no migration cost, provided the control panel you use (cpanel/whm, or Plesk, or other) is the same. Other times you’ll have to fork over a small fee, but, as always, it’s a bit of a variable as it’s hard to know whether one provider is better than another in any other capacity than on a case-by-case basis.
7. Control Panels
Speaking of control panels: if you’d like to have control of your site at any level, don’t settle for a proprietary control panel without at least testing it awhile, first, lest you find yourself in a real-life version of a classic Jim Carrey-Morgan Freeman bromance film.
8. Support & Reputability
Managing a website’s content is a headache spiraling dead alleyway unto itself, without getting into loopy support exchanges. Email support is standard, while some form of LiveChat assistance usually is as well. Beyond this, you have to shop around a bit for more obscure features like remote assistance (for unmanaged or WordPress hosting).
Helpfully, though, you can usually try out anything from a 14 to 30 (even up to 90) day trial, or most often money-back guarantee. Even so, be sure to read a few user reviews to make sure other have been recompensed, should things not work out with your host for any reason.
9. Email Capabilities
Planning on having email on your site? Of course, you are, in which case it behooves you to plan accordingly and take advantage of free email – often only up to a certain limit, and differing by plan – is available. What’s more, consider your hosting provider’s anti-spam tools, or whether you have the independent software to deal with that unpleasant inevitability.
10. Wiggle Room
The final point to consider – which could well determine the effectiveness of steps one through nine – is whether your hosting provider allows for seamless growth. A monetized site of any sort is obviously built with growth as the end goal and raison d’etre in equal measure.
Even small bloggers might find traffic surges resulting from a celeb retweet or Reddit pickup. No one – save a cyber criminal or prankster – enjoys a downed website (unless you’re counting the Feds and TPB), but that’s another story altogether. Scalability varies a fair amount.
Some providers have allowances built into lower tiered plans for traffic surges. To close the loop: it’s simple, but still at least ten steps deep to picking a new hosting provider, not to mention potential transfer costs. Pick well the first time, and leave any worse times to the uninformed shoppers out there.
Hosting Checklist Conclusion
You’ve made it this far through the ten essentials to look out for in a hosting provider guide, guide, so pat yourself on whichever extremity or part of the torso’s preferable Feel free to leave anything you think should have been a mention – and we’ll be happy to amend things. Otherwise, have a peek at our extra handy comparison tool, or any other portion of our site, and good luck!