We were once in your shoes and we remember clearly having so many questions about this and finding so few answers. So today we want to make it easier for you and break it down into 8 things you should consider when choosing a hosting provider.
Over the years we have gained insight and experience on this topic as we have moved from one hosting provider to another, each with its own sets of challenges and advantages. Today we hope that through this article we can equip you with a basic foundation to feel confident about choosing the right provider for your needs.
Before we begin let’s just break down what a hosting provider is… According to Wikipedia: ‘A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that hosts websites for clients, i.e. it offers the facilities required for them to create and maintain a site and makes it accessible on the World Wide Web.’
Think of hosting as your website’s home. Without web hosting, your website wouldn’t be online and available to users around the world.
If you search the internet for hosting providers, you will be swamped with options all claiming to be the best and the cheapest. How do you choose? Do you know what you need from your hosting provider?
Here are 8 things to consider when choosing a hosting provider:
- Shared hosting vs Dedicated Hosting
- Ask the right questions
The most important thing to remember here is that you definitely get what you pay for. A lot of companies offer dirt cheap hosting plans, but what you often miss in the small print is that these plans are for tiny websites with hardly any space for traffic to the site. Or they exclude really basic essentials like emails and support. So while it’s important to be smart about how you spend your money, you have to also make sure that the plan you are buying actually covers your basic needs and doesn’t compromise on the important things.
The best approach is to find a company that offers reliable service, the flexibility to upgrade/downgrade as needed, transparency about what’s included/excluded so that you can make an educated decision. There are some great companies that offer all these things and have plans for most price-points. So when you are starting out with a small website and minimal traffic, you can opt for a more affordable package while still knowing that you are getting the best service possible and as your business and the website’s needs grow, you have the flexibility to move up the plans as needed.
Another bug-bear about some of the more affordable options out there is that their support is often out-sourced or even barely existent. The last thing you need is to be stuck with a problem and unable to reach your hosting provider for assistance or guidance. A simple problem with a website can often lead to major downtime, errors and losses if you cannot get hold of your provider for support.
Try and find a company that still keeps its support in-house and has many streams open for simple communication such as emails, chats, and phone calls. A company that values its clients and puts them first is worth its weight in gold.
If your website is a main source of revenue for your company, like an e-commerce shop, or sales funnel, then ensuring that your website is up and running at all times is obviously of the utmost importance. You don’t want to lose clients and potential business because your website is throwing up 404 error pages when people try to visit them.
Most companies will offer 99.9% Uptime which sounds amazing! But in reality, there is a huge difference (about 8 hours of downtime a year) between 99.9% and one little extra nine (99.99%) which is what you should really look out for.
Finding a provider with a good track record for uptime and reliability is, therefore, a super important factor to consider when making your choice.
Have you ever wondered what that lock Icon is in the top left corner of your search bar? Well, that is what is called a Secure Socket Layer or SSL for short. When you see this icon when you are viewing a website, it means they have an extra layer of security on their website to help protect your data. While some hosting providers offer this for free, there are others that want you to pay for the very basic level of SSL. Now there are also different levels of SSL which can range from $5 per year to a whopping $1,000 per year, depending on your site’s security needs. So if you have to pay for this basic level of security then it is best you look for a hosting provider that offers this free of charge.
On top of this, you also need to ensure that they are equipped to offer you more personalised security if you need it such as compliance with privacy acts and data protection depending on where you are based.
Shared hosting vs Dedicated Hosting
To keep their plan prices low, a lot of providers will offer shared hosting. This in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to know whether it will be the right thing for your website.
If your site is small with minimal traffic, then usually a shared hosting plan will work just fine. However, as your site grows and your traffic expands, you will find that your site slows down or throws out error 509 when traffic peaks (for example over high shopping seasons like Christmas or Black Friday if you have a shop). This is when dedicated hosting becomes essential.
So if you have a larger site with more traffic, you should consider going in with a larger package/dedicated hosting from the start.
The goal of having a website is to grow the amount of traffic you get to drive sales etc, so it stands to reason that your provider should be able to offer you flexibility in plans and the ability to move between them as your needs grow. When you are just starting out you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a top-end plan that you don’t even need yet, but as you grow, you don’t want to be stuck in the small plan you started out with that doesn’t fit your needs anymore. Having scalability is a big deal and a point you need to remember when choosing a company.
It can be confusing when hosting providers name their packages differently and you might not know what to look for when starting out. We have named our packages based on how businesses are doing on a practical business scale. Each scale is suitable for a business at those stages of the life cycle. This means we offer full flexibility as you can scale your business from small beginnings to exponential future growth. We also have custom packages for more customised needs.
And last, but certainly not least, you need to ensure that the company offers maximum transparency regarding their offerings, their price schemes, and how they work. Do they charge extra fees for upgrades/downgrades? Do they charge sign-up fees, cancellation fees, or any other fees that aren’t immediately obvious? Is it easy to get in touch with them? Do they keep their promises? Checking out all these things upfront can prevent some nasty surprises down the road.
Ask The Right Questions
Asking the right questions right at the beginning to find out whether a provider is suitable or not can save you a lot of hassle early on. Some questions we would recommend asking are:
- Are you using Cpanel or your private backend system to manage your website?
- What is the maximum PHP_Memory that I can set on this package? (This is useful to know if you are running a WordPress website which requires 256MB minimum in order to function correctly)
- What is the bandwidth limit that my account has?
- What is your cancelation policy?
- What restrictions are on the package that I want to order? (Some hosts won’t tell you upfront, but they usually restrict your resources or put you on a server with 500 other clients, this will mean that the resources they say you are getting are actually shared between all those websites and not yours alone.)
So, in conclusion, you need to know what the requirements of your website are and you need to feel comfortable with the provider that you choose. There are many options out there, local and international and we hope that our 8 things to consider when choosing a hosting provider will help you find the perfect fit for your website.