Feeling overwhelmed by all the possible web hosting providers out there? Every hosting provider offers a slightly different deal, and it all depends on what your website needs and what you’re looking for. Follow this guide to choosing your ideal web host.
First of all, web hosts typically offer different packages with different prices pertaining to how much of their service you can use. While web hosting comes in both free and paid forms, remember that you get what you pay for.
Free hosting may not cost you a cent, but most free web hosts will place advertisements or branding somewhere on your website, which may not look very professional if you’re running a business or a portfolio site. Depending on the hosting provider, you may not be able to link a custom top-level domain to a website on a free plan. If that is the case, you’ll probably have to stick with one of the web host’s subdomains, which apart from looking unprofessional, can also negatively affect your ranking on search engines.
Most hosting providers that offer free hosting also have paid hosting plans – it’s how they make money – and paying customers tend to get priority over free customers when the hosting provider’s resources are in demand. As such, if your website is running on a free hosting plan, don’t be surprised if it suffers from slow loading speed, infrequent downtime, or lack of support from the hosting provider.
Obviously, the redeeming quality of free hosting is that it’s free. For hobbyists or students trying out web designing or just wanting to check out the different features of each web host, free hosting offers a no-cost way to see the inside of a cPanel. However, it’s probably wise not to expect to stick with free hosting forever.
Paid hosting plans vary greatly in pricing and features. Most web host providers offer plans starting at a few US dollars a month, and can go up to as much as thousands of dollars a month for huge websites requiring dedicated servers. Unless you’re running a worldwide mega service like Google, however, you probably wouldn’t need to fork out so much to get your website up and running. For most starting websites, the cheapest or second cheapest paid plan would be enough, as long as it offers full functionality according to your needs. Always remember to compare the plans offered across different web host providers to make sure you pick one that suits you best.
The general advice would be if you’re starting out just trying different web hosts to see what they offer, it’s alright to sign up for a free account first and see if you like the service. If you’re considering going professional though, you will probably want to get paid hosting for more uptime, reliability and service, and faster loading times.
We all love great deals. Sometimes, hosting providers may run special promotions such as discounted plans, free top-level domains with the purchase of a hosting plan, or other add-ons to your hosting package. If you have your eye on a hosting plan but it’s going to burst your budget, be on the lookout for special discounts around dates like Black Friday or Christmas.
Each hosting provider has their own unique member area interface, which can play a part in your decision making process when choosing a web host. Additionally, hosting providers may use cPanel or other software to allow you to control various aspects of your website. Before signing up for a paid hosting plan, it’s a good idea to try out free hosting with that provider first, so you can familiarize yourself with their user interface and decide if you’re comfortable with it.
To display web pages, you’ll need to upload files to the web server. Hosting providers usually have a page in their user interface allowing you to do so, or they may also allow you to directly upload files via FTP transfer. Check out what the file transfer limit is on each web host, as some hosts have limitations such as a maximum transfer size of 50 MB at a single time. These limitations can usually be increased by upgrading to paid or more expensive hosting plans.
Web hosts should have the ability to offer these features along with their hosting plans. While not all of these features may be included in free hosting packages, they should typically be available if you opt for paid hosting.
The nearer the web server to your clients’ locations, the faster your website will load for them. If you expect your primary visitor base to be from the United States, for example, it’s probably best to go with a web host that offers a US server location.
If you are planning on installing existing software for blogging, e-commerce or forum functionality, you may want to consider web hosts that offer “one-click” installations of such software. The process of moving house is never fun, and some hosting providers also offer to “migrate” your entire website for you if you are switching between web hosts.
Almost all websites will make use of a database at some point. Make sure the hosting provider and plan you select offers enough databases for your use. You can sign up for external databases or host one yourself, but if you wish to avoid the hassle, get a hosting plan with enough databases included.
Your hosting provider should allocate enough disk storage for all the files on your website. For non-media-heavy websites, this storage space is usually more than enough. However, if you intend to include many large images or videos on your website, the server space given with basic hosting plans may not be enough.
Additionally, some web hosts may restrict the file types that you can upload. If you plan on including certain file types such as compressed files, videos, audio files, applications and some other extensions, be sure to check with your hosting provider if your desired hosting plan allows for these file types to be uploaded.
In case the inevitable happens, it is good practice to do regular backups of your website and store them safely. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this manually. Your hosting provider should have periodic backup options which you can configure to select the frequency of backups and what elements should be backed up.
A number of web hosts may set a traffic limit for free and limited hosting packages. This may include downtime if your website has surpassed the limit of visitors, which usually resets at set time intervals, such as daily, weekly or monthly.
Going viral is not a bad thing, and you can’t always control when it happens. If you find that your website is starting to grow in popularity and exceed your hosting plan’s limits, consider upgrading to a larger package.
This list is definitely not exhaustive of all the factors one needs to consider when choosing a web host. Fortunately, hosting plans these days can be relatively cheap to start with, and you can easily switch to a new web host if you find the previous one unsatisfactory.
What other factors do you think are worth considering when selecting a hosting provider?
Dec 12, 2019