Quick Guide to Choosing a Web Host

choosing a web hostChoosing a web host can be a difficult decision for those not overly familiar with the technical aspects that are involved, not least because of the sheer volume on offer. Web hosting packages tend to vary quite wildly too on the surface of things, when it comes to price, making the choice even more confusing. With that in mind, here’s Intrahost’s quick guide to choosing a host to help you to make a decision quickly. We also sell web hosting, so this will be a completely unbiased guide. ;-)

How Low Should You Go?

Price is of course at the top of most people’s priority list, we all want to save money. However, be very wary of choosing the lowest priced hosts as often, this is reflected in the service, no matter what uptime the hosting company may claim.

Recently, a Twitter follower suggested to me that I should move my web hosting to a company that’s free. I politely declined. Free services are great if you’ve got a hobby site, but they’re never a business solution and neither are many of the services that charge around £0.99 – 1.99 per month. For business, you need a service that’s secure and reliable and in my experience, the really cheap end of the market is neither.

However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t shop around, but you should be aware of what you need and always choose a business grade package for company websites.

Ups and Downs of Web Hosts

Many companies claim to have an up time of 99% or more and to be fair, most do. Again, companies that offer a lot for very little appear to have the worst outages. Have a look around and make sure that you read testimonials from existing customers before committing.

Ask if the web host:

  • Guarantees the uptime
  • Offers a Service Level Agreement
  • Bases its offers on a long-term or monthly contract

If you’re covered by a guaranteed uptime then you can be fairly certain that the company has a stable network that doesn’t experience many outages. Likewise, if you’re not tied to a long-term contract, then you can switch in the event of any problems without too much trouble.

Security Matters

Security is increasingly important to your website and absolutely vital if you accept credit card payments on your site. With this in mind, ask what security measures are in place at the data centre where the servers are stored. You should go for a host that chooses high-end hardware and software solutions, as well as physical security at the data centre premises.

Bang for your Buck

Pricing is important but so is what you get for your money and you should pay attention to this when checking out one package against another. The features that you need will depend on what kind of website you have, including:

  • If you need more than one site – some of the cheaper sites offer unlimited sites for as little as £1.99, but are generally not worth it in terms of outages and support
  • Email – how many mailboxes does the host allow
  • How much storage is allocated – will it be enough to host your site once you have a blog uploaded with lots of images and video, for example
  • How many databases are you given
  • How much CPU/memory are you allocated and what happens if you use more? Many hosts don’t allow you to go over your allocated resources but some will bill you. Others might have a service where each user isn’t measured and you could then find yourself sharing the server with a resource hog, which will slow your site

If you have a large site, then shared web hosting is probably not for you, as the resources won’t be enough. Likewise, if you have an ecommerce site then it’s a better, more secure bet to invest in a dedicated server where you are not sharing space and resources with other sites.

Pay attention to whether the host offers SSL certificates too, some people choose their hosting and when it comes to the certificates, find that they have to pay for an upgrade before they can get them.

Is Web Hosting Support Good Enough?

Choosing a host which is located in the same country as you is the best bet when it comes to support, as although most hosts claim to offer 24/7 support, this is often not the case. If your site goes down in the middle of the day, or you have some other problem and your host is located on the other side of the world, there’s not much you can do if nobody’s answering the phone.

I’ve had many different experiences when it comes to support and again, the bargain basement hosts are the ones to avoid. I’ve waited days for support, or even had my questions on an issue that the hosting company didn’t have an answer for completely ignored. This is clearly unacceptable and of course, this is a problem I’m citing from the past, but it is something that you will come up against if you choose a host that doesn’t really do business grade hosting.

Again, look for testimonials when you’re checking out web hosts online and check out forum posts too. A company with a bad reputation will easily be found, there’s nothing people that who have had a bad experience online like doing more than letting the rest of us know.

Choosing a web host isn’t particularly difficult, it’s really just the sheer amount of hosting companies that are around that muddy the waters. However, follow these tips and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

It’s a competitive market and hosts don’t tend to vary wildly on price if it’s a professional service, but do be aware that free doesn’t always equal good and if something appears to be too good to be true, it usually is.

We did say that we do web hosting, didn't we? :-)

Image: Spiceworks (CC)