Finding the best web hosting company for your site can be a difficult and overwhelming process. The quality of hosts can vary widely, and getting stuck with a bad web host can mean slow performance of your website and even security issues.
In this post, we’ll outline a few ways to feel confident about choosing a web host.
First Things First: What Exactly is Web Hosting?
Your host is the “computer” where your website is stored. Your host provides the server from which your website files are delivered to your website visitors.
Questions to Start Your Search For the Best Web Host
The first thing you need to do is determine your needs and the hosting features that are the most important to you.
Here are questions to ask as you start your search for the best web hosting company:
- Do you have any specific needs? Do you have several different sites that need hosting? Lots of URL redirects? Do you have e-commerce needs? Do you want email? All of these specific needs impact hosting choices.
- What happens if your site goes down? Do you just lose visitors or do you lose income too?
You need to know what the consequences will be if you have downtime on your site. How much is a little extra piece of mind worth to you? Your answer should influence your level of hosting investment.
- What’s your site’s traffic level? Evaluate your site’s current level of traffic and make a realistic projection for future traffic levels.
- How much control do you need?
- Are you an average user, meaning you don’t need much control? Or will you be testing different configurations or making advanced installations?
- What is your “need for speed?” If your site runs slowly, is that going to be a major problem for you? Or just a minor inconvenience?
- What’s your preferred way of getting help?
- Are you okay with a host that only provides help via support tickets or online chat? Or do you prefer to get support over the phone?
- How much storage does your site require?
- What kind of content do you have on your site? For instance, if you have media-rich content like photos and videos, storage space is an important consideration.
- HTTP Loopbacks – Loopbacks are a must-have when hosting a WordPress site. WordPress and some plugins (like BackupBuddy) run scripts (bits of code) in the background. This makes sites run more smoothly and reduces wait time. They’re called loopbacks because the server is connecting or looping back to itself to run something else.
- Command Line Zip – Servers can run all sorts of programs, just like your computer. The command line is a simple way to run those programs in Linux. ZIP is a program that compresses files, creating .zip files (for example, most WordPress themes and plugins come as .zip files). Some plugins, including BackupBuddy, require command line ZIP. Sometimes a host will turn this off by default, but they’ll be willing to turn it on if you ask
- Numbers – Hosts will offer a whole set of numbers when bragging about speed and memory. It can be overwhelming, especially when hosts start boasting about unlimited memory, storage, etc. (just remember that nothing is unlimited — read the fine print). These numbers would include things like storage Space, Data Transfer/Bandwidth, Maximum PHP Runtime & PHP Memory.
Are You Using WordPress?
Another important consideration when searching for the best web hosting company is the fact that you are using WordPress to create your site.
There are a few basic requirements specific to hosting a WordPress site, things you need to consider when picking a host, but there are also some more specific things to consider.
Check out this post for more on how to find the best WordPress host.
Other Things That Indicate a Good Web Host
Beyond the actual server requirements, there are other things to keep in mind when looking for your best web hosting company.
What do you do when the worst happens? If your site crashes you’re going to want help and you’re going to want it quick; none of the other server requirements are going to matter at this point.
So when looking for your best web hosting options, be sure to find a customer service team with a quick response time. Do they guarantee a response within a specific amount of time? Depending on the severity of your issue, a wait time of around a few hours for a response should be reasonable, but you certainly don’t want to wait 24 hours for a response. That’s bad.
Make sure they’re actually helpful. Customer service should actually resolve your issue. It’s no good if they’re evasive, give bad information or flat-out don’t care.
Make sure they offer help via your preferred method. Do you prefer to receive your support by phone? Or are you most comfortable receiving support online by ticket or chat?
How much control do you need to have? Not all hosts will offer you the same level of control. Since you may have shared hosting and not a dedicated server, you may not be able to control everything. But a good host will give you the necessary access to do what you need to do.
Most hosts offer a control panel that includes a lot of backend functionality — more control than you probably need. But you want to have that kind of control. You never know when you’ll need it.
Not Overloading Resources
If your site is hosted on a shared hosting, you run the risk of your host cramming as many sites as possible onto one server in order to maximize their profits. This can result in slower load times on your site or your site becoming unavailable due to other sites on the same server hogging resources and bandwidth.
Unfortunately, there’s really no way to check if your host is overloading resources. Check out the speed of other sites using the host or even check out the host’s own site to see how fast it’s running. The best you can really do is ask around, read some reviews and get a general feel for the resource quality they offer.
What kind of uptime guarantees does the host offer? 99.9% sounds great, but that still allows for eight hours of downtime per year. Can your business handle that? For many small businesses that’s an annoyance, but for other businesses, that can be a deal breaker.
You should also ask what happens if your host can’t live up to their guarantee. If they screw up and their server crashes, can you get a refund? If you’re really concerned about downtime, you should also ask about their disaster planning. Things like earthquakes, tsunamis and even thunderstorms happen and they’ve been known to take down websites. Your host should be prepared for the worst. It happens.
Many hosts offer one-click installs of WordPress, saving you time as you, literally, can install WordPress with one click.
Keep in mind with one-click installs, however, that this isn’t always the most secure way to install WordPress.
If the worst should happen and your site crashes, it’s vital to have a backup of your site to restore it from. Many host companies create backups of your site for you. You should check with the host to see if they do create backups for you, how often these backups are created and what the charge would be to restore your site from that backup as many hosts charge you for this service.
For WordPress sites, it’s a good idea to use a WordPress backup plugin like BackupBuddy.
When creating your website, it’s important to find the best web hosting company for your needs.There are so many things to contemplate when you start your search. For more suggestions and advice on how to find the best web hosting company for you, check out our free ebook, How To Pick Web Hosting Without a Computer Science Degree.