What to Look For When Choosing a Web Host

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Written by Neil in Web Hosting with 10 comments

Updated March 9, 2017

Your website is your storefront (figuratively or literally) and can mean the difference between success and failure. Choosing the right web host from the get-go can save you a fair bit of money and unwanted headaches down the road. If you need a little help deciding which host is best for you, check out this list of the most important things to consider.

Web Hosting Prices

Web hosting prices range from as little as $3 per month to more than $75 per month, depending on features and options. Shared hosting is cheapest and could be a good option if you’re just starting out, as chances are you don’t need much space or bandwidth. Most shared hosting companies charge $3–8 per month for a decent amount of disk space and an assortment of features. Dedicated servers can cost over $75 per month as they are more secure, fully customizable, and provide faster page load times, since the resources are not shared.

Disk Space & Bandwidth

A small website will need 10–100MB of disk space. If you plan to use a lot of images, videos, or sounds files, you’ll need more disk space.

Bandwidth refers to how much data a website transfers in a month and is related to traffic. So a personal blog with few readers needs minimal bandwidth while websites for big corporations or popular forums need high bandwidth.

So when you’re shopping for a web host you need to evaluate your disk space and bandwidth needs. If your site will feature lots of graphics, dozens of pages and hopefully get a lot of traffic, you’re going to need decent bandwidth and disk space. Unlimited plans are available, and can make life easier but are often unnecessary. If your site will be simple and not generate a huge amount of traffic, you should be fine with smaller amounts of disk space and bandwidth.

Support

Whether you’re a professional or a novice webmaster, you’ll likely require assistance from your web host’s support team. It’s important to ensure your web host offers 24-hour support. A toll-free phone number is vital if you don’t want to pay for long-distance calls, and all reliable web hosting providers support you through email and online chat. They’ll help you through your problems and ensure your issue is resolved (the good ones). Response time is also critical: excellent support is live (phone or online), or when someone gets back to you within minutes; over an hour is unacceptable. Some web hosts simply point you to documentation or help pages on their website, which isn’t always the most helpful. Investigate the type of support offered by your web host before you sign up.

Uptime & Page Load Time

Reliability and availability are important aspects to consider when shopping around for web hosting. This is frequently referred to as uptime or how often your website is “up.” The best web hosts have uptime rates of 99.9% or greater.

Page load time is how long it takes your website to load, and is influenced by both the content on your website and your web host. While the size of the webpage (the content) being loaded is a factor, how long it takes a web host to load this data matters too. Page load time is important because it affects the user experience directly, and for this reason it’s also a key element of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Security & Stability

Good web hosts have tools to secure your infrastructure, protect your users and block hackers. Look for the essentials such as firewalls, website scanners, optional SSL certificates and 2-factor user authentication.

Daily Backup

Ensure your web host runs a daily backup routine to protect your website data. If your website is attacked, crashes, or is broken, you need a reliable, easily accessible backup.

Email

Think about how many email accounts you need for your website, how much storage you’ll need for each account, and how you’ll want to access email. Multiple email addresses might make you appear more professional or may not be necessary for your audience. Does the web host offer access to webmail? Make sure your web host supports your email requirements.

Database Access

This is a consideration if you plan to build a data-driven website or web-based application. If so, make sure your host provides adequate access and supports the database.

Shopping Cart

If you want to sell products or services through your website, then you need a shopping cart system that is secure and easy to use. Your web host should provide the right security features so that customers can feel confident shopping with you. Most popular web hosting services have shopping cart systems that meet these requirements.

Compatibility with website software (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.)

While most web hosts provide easy-to-use tools for publishing a blog – WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or a variety of other popular web applications – some web hosts are much better than others in terms of compatibility and support.

Ease of Use

Choose an easy-to-use web host if you are new to web hosting. Some hosts provide newbie-friendly tools and interfaces, while others are more sophisticated and suited more for more advanced web developers.

Still Unsure?

Choosing a web host shouldn’t be so complicated. With over 20 years of experience building and helping others build web sites, we know a thing or two about web hosting. Get some peace of mind and focus on what’s really important – building your website! Check out our top picks for web hosting below.

Disclosure: We are compensated for our reviews. We test each web host thoroughly and recommend only the very best. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.

What we like: Free domain name registration, industry-leading features, unlimited disk space and bandwidth, unlimited email addresses, great prices, excellent customer support, free website builder, 90-day money-back guarantee.

Best for: Exceptional value for those on a budget.

What we like: Free domain name registration, free site builders, simple and secure hosting, ideal for beginners who need a little assistance, 24/7 customer support to get your site up and running in minutes, 30-day money-back guarantee.

Best for: Beginners who need a little assistance.

What we like: Fully managed WordPress hosting so you can focus on what’s important, enterprise-grade security to protect you from data loss and hacker takeovers, free SSL certificate and lightening-fast page load times to improve your site’s SEO, award winning 24/7 customer support so your back is covered, and a 60-day money-back guarantee so there’s no risk.

Best for: Those whose time is better spent focusing on what’s important.

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