It’s hard to believe that finding a great web host is still a challenge for many people especially when you consider that the internet has evolved so far in only 20 years. However, with literally thousands of potential web hosting companies these days it is really hard to determine who is good and who is well maybe not so good.
The task of finding the perfect hosting provider can almost be like finding a needle in a haystack and just when you think you have found the best one you come across another that suddenly catches your eye. However, the thing you need to realize is that your hosting provider can make or break your website and its chances of succeeding.
How can that be – aren’t all hosting providers the same? The answer to that is absolutely not. The real problem is that there are way to many people who think that opening a web host company is easy and their key to quick riches. The problem is that many of these so called web hosts simply do not have a clue as to how to actually setup their servers or properly take care of their customers.
An unreliable and unstable server can have a negative impact on your website and your business. Customers will lose faith in your brand, search engines will rank you poorly or not at all and the worst part your revenue will suffer. I don’t have to tell you how serious this is as a business owner.
So what is a web hosting really for?
It may surprise you how many people still don’t know how all those websites are put up on the web. Just go around and ask someone if they know what a web host is or how the websites they visit everyday get there. Most of them will have no clue and look at you quite dumbfounded. So if you are one those people it is OK because you are not alone, but you are about to find out what it really is for.
Think of a website as a house. You want the perfect one, but it takes a few more things before you can get it. Now you need to find a piece of land to put your home on so you find a web host (the real estate agent) who can help you find a piece of land to put your new house on. Of course it doesn’t really stop there does it. You have to also find the construction company (web designer) to build this new home for you. So how will anyone find your new home? That is easy too – Your Domain Name! Think of that as your street address. Without one not many people are going to find you.
- Web host provider – The land
- Domain Name – Street Address
- Real Estate Agent – Web Hosting Company
- Construction Company – Web Designer
Web hosting is the land you build your new home on. It is space on the internet where the files that create your website are kept. A provider will rent you space on a dedicated server (basically a computer without a monitor or keyboard). Unless you rent a dedicated server you will be sharing space with hundreds and sometimes thousands of other websites.
What to consider when looking for the right web host
It is oh so easy to get caught up in your dreams of how your website will look and how many people are going to be visiting your site and buying everything you sell. However, the reality is that you need to get your domain, find a web hosting provider and build your website first.
There are 7 things to consider when you look at potential web host companies.
24/7 technical support
1. Website Storage
On average most websites typically use less then 1 gigabyte of space. This means that most of the hosting providers out there who are offering you space are normally going to be well within your needs. However, larger sites such as eCommerce sites will need a lot more space. This is because they use a lot of images for product displays. There are other types of sites that use more as well and some of these sites require special web hosting such as virtual private servers or dedicated servers so that they have the resources necessary to operate.
One thing you are going to see a lot with web hosting providers is the use of the word “unlimited.” I suggest you really read the fine print because there really is no such thing as unlimited. For many of them as long as you use your hosting within a specific set of guidelines you will never notice any difference. However, if you using their hosting plans to store all of your photos they will put a limit on you pretty quick. The reason for this is that the intended use of their hosting plans is to put a website up for people to visit and not to be used as online storage. However, many providers such as Lovemyhost do offer separate online storage plans where you can backup, store and share those important photos and files at a low monthly price.
Like storage you will need to know how much bandwidth you will need. This is a reference to the amount of data that can be transferred between the web host server and your customers computers. So if you have a big website and expect to have a large number of visitors each month you will need to plan on a higher bandwidth need. It is always better to have more then not enough.
Just like storage there are many providers who offer unlimited bandwidth – but make sure you understand what their guidelines are. With many shared hosting accounts that offer unlimited anything they are designed for smaller websites and not large popular websites. Your website will most likely get slowed down if you begin going over the resource limits they have in place. So if you think you will have a popular website you might consider and upgrade to hosting plan with dedicated resources such as a VPS or Dedicated Server.
Make sure that if your website grows that you are able to scale its needs easily with your web host providers plans. Being able to quickly upgrade resources is important to the long term growth and stability of your website. If your website were featured on some big news channel or you were to get on Shark Tank you might want to be ready for that huge traffic spike. Nothing can be worse for business then having your website suddenly crash on your customers.
Many web hosts offer an uptime guarantee. This guarantees that your website will be up for certain percentage each month. However, what you need to realize is that they are to often referring to their own server being up and accessible. This guarantee does not cover issues outside their control. So if you are the victim of malware, poor scripting, etc that causes your website to crash they will not cover this. It is best to ask questions and find out what their guarantee covers. Most will reimburse you with some type of credit towards hosting, but that is different from company to company.
The security of your website and customers should always be of the utmost importance. Make sure that your host monitors their servers 24/7 for DDOS attacks, malware, viruses and other security issues. Google does and will divert traffic from sites with known security vulnerabilities – with a full blown warnings about malicious content. This will be detrimental to your search engine rankings and your customers will lose faith in you. This has caused the demise of more then a few popular websites over the years.
Lets face it – Murphy’s law is real. Well at least it sure seems it is. Keeping backups of your entire website is extremely important. You should make sure that your web host provider is maintaining daily backups on all shared style hosting accounts. At Lovemyhost we make site backups in the morning and evening so that if something happens you can get the most recent backup of your site up and running a few minutes. However, some providers only take backups once a week and many do not provide backups at all. This doesn’t mean they are a bad web hosting provider, it simply means you will need to take your own backups and store them or find a 3rd party company that can do it for you.
7. 24/7 Support
The best web hosts will provide you with 24/7 tech support by ticket and many do a great job with this. Make sure that whatever company you choose provides a level of service that meets your needs. Think about it being 3 in the morning and your website goes down. You submit a ticket. 8 hours later your tech support finally gets back to you. Sounds funny, but this really does happen a lot. In fact I have seen it take longer.
Another factor is where their support team is from. Have you ever contacted customer service from a big company and the person on the other end has a thick accent that makes it hard for you to understand. Then to make things worse you can’t communicate your issue, because they have no real clue what you are saying.
So put them to the test before you choose them. Give them a call. Send a ticket. Check response times. If they are busy see how they deal with you. It should all factor into your decision.
Yes there are a lot of options out there and it will seem overwhelming, but just take your time and do it right. This is a decision that can make or break your business.