6 Tips To Help You Choose the Right Web Hosting Service For Your Website
There are around 1.9 billion websites on the world wide web today, according to Internet Live Stats. Of these, only around 260 million are estimated to be active, but that’s plenty to offer pretty much every type of information, content, product or service you can think of.
But what do all of these sites have in common? They’re hosted on a web server. This is the place where all the information files and data of a website - code, images, forms, emails etc - are stored and made available for viewing online. To use a common analogy, if your website’s domain/address is the street address, the web host is the actual house it ‘lives’ in. Web hosting is therefore essentially the process of buying or renting this server space and power needed to keep your website running and accessible to anyone with a web browser.
Web hosting is now a major industry worth around $75 billion in 2020. There are estimated to be more than 330,000 web hosting providers worldwide, each offering the computer servers and connectivity infrastructure to ‘host’ your website (for a fee) so you can focus on things like content and design. This is a great solution, especially for smaller businesses that would never have the resources to own and maintain their own web servers. But it leads to another question: with so many hosting providers out there, and most of them offering a wide range of hosting plans, how do you choose the right service for your organization?
Different types of web hosting services
Before we get into how to choose a suitable web hosting plan, let’s quickly run through the different types of services that are available.
- Shared Hosting: This is when you buy or ‘rent’ some space on a web server that is also being used by other sites. It’s a bit like buying a flat in a high rise building - you have your own private space, but you’re still sharing resources with other residents. This is typically the basic option offered by web hosting providers - it’s usually cheap and simple to manage but has limits on flexibility and scalability.
- Dedicated Server Hosting: As the name implies, this means your website has its own dedicated server. In other words, it’s owning the entire high-rise building from the example above. This offers much greater control and freedom over how the server’s resources are used, but is much more expensive and will often require some technical knowledge to maintain effectively.
- VPS Hosting: Virtual private servers (VPS) - sometimes called virtual dedicated servers (VDS) - give the appearance of dedicated servers without the maintenance requirements. Software is used to divide one server into multiple VPS, with each of these ‘dedicated’ to one site. It has emerged in recent years as a middle ground between shared and dedicated server hosting.
- Cloud Hosting: This is emerging as the new hot trend in web hosting, and means using the virtual resources of a cluster of servers (i.e. ‘the cloud’). The key benefit here is scalability - you can seamlessly add server resources as required. Within this trend, the latest frontier is multi-cloud hosting, which entails using several different cloud platforms to diversify risk and take advantage of the best services of each provider.
Factors to consider when choosing a web hosting provider/service
These days there are web hosting plans to suit most budgets. Free options are available, but will likely come with strict limits on disk storage space and bandwidth. As with so many things in life, you mostly get what you pay for. Higher priced plans typically offer greater speed, capacity and flexibility, as well as a range of additional services and support.
Aside from costs, the main thing to think about what kind of website you want to run. When it comes to web hosting needs, there are huge differences between a personal blog aimed at a few friends, a media-heavy entertainment site and an e-commerce site with a global target market. Some sites really need fast load speeds, others may prioritize reliability or security features. Once you have a decent idea about your own requirements, objectives and (honest) expectations, the following criteria can help you choose the most appropriate hosting service:
- Reliability (Uptime): It’s obvious that you want your website to live at all times, so look for providers with a proven track record and guarantees of uptime as close to 100% as possible. Above 99% is usually a minimum requirement, but that’s still 3.65 days of downtime a year (99.999%, known as the ‘five nines’ is desirable). Also check the policy for details on what the provider will do if the site goes down. FinancesOnline recently reported that each hour of downtime costs an organization $336,000 on average, so a speedy response to any issues is essential.
- Server location: If your website is targeting a specific geographical area (e.g. Europe), then it’s usually best to be hosted by a web server in that region. This can improve website speed but also makes it more likely that the provider offers a more relevant and tailored service for your local needs.
- Security: Given the growing threats from cyberattacks, this is just as important as performance. Look for hosting providers and plans that offer automatic server updates, firewalls, backup services and other security against cyber threats. Of course, additional protection will likely raise costs, so any decision must balance security needs with the available budget.
- Additional services: Web hosting is not just about disk space and bandwidth anymore. Competition in the market is high, so look closely at what hosting providers are doing to stand out from the crowd. Make a note of what would be most important to you and see if anyone is offering those features. These may include easy upgrades as your website traffic grows, custom email addresses, the ability to add more domains, SSL certificates or integration with content management systems (e.g. WordPress), among others.
- Customer support: If you’re outsourcing the management of your web hosting to a third party, you want to know that they will be there for you when you have a query or problem. Look at what communication channels are used for customer support, and whether it is offered 24/7. It’s also important to review the refund policy - can you get your money back if you’re not happy with the service provided?
- Pay attention to the details: This is generally good practice in life, and especially with online services. Always read the small print and be wary of anything that sounds ‘too good to be true’. If a plan offers unlimited storage and bandwidth plus security guarantees for just a few dollars a month, then there’s a good chance you’ll find some strict limits and conditions buried somewhere in the contract. You also need to know what you’re committing to in terms of contract length, subscription payments and any additional fees.
As we’ve made clear, the ‘right’ hosting service for you will depend on a number of factors, and unless you have unlimited money to spend it’s more than likely that you’ll have to make some compromises. That’s why it’s vital to think carefully about the factors we’ve highlighted above and what’s most important to you. Choosing the right web hosting service will allow your IT team to focus on the important tasks of developing the best website possible for your organization. If you need top tech talent to help you do that, just get in touch with us at Jobsity!
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