Back in the day, choosing the right web host for your business meant considering how much bandwidth and storage you think is needed to run your website smoothly. That’s not the case today. Before you choose a web host, it’s a good idea to do a comprehensive analysis of the services, peaks, and features that a web host provides and whether or not they suit your website needs.
Choose the right one? You’ll have a website that’s running smoothly.
Picked a bad host? Prepare to have endless headaches and overblown costs
Given the number of web host providers available today, it’s no surprise that some providers specialize in catering to different types of websites. However, there are some common (yet highly essential) factors that you should consider before committing to a hosting plan.
1- Server reliability and uptime scores
When your website suffers downtime, you’ll lose out on traffic, potential sales, viewership, and most importantly, it could cost your entire business. According to Gartner, the average cost of downtime can be as high $5,600 per minute, which makes it a good idea to avoid a hosting provider with weak servers and unreliable connections.
Instead, look for companies that have reputable uptime scores and server reliability. The industry standard today is to have at least a 99.5% uptime rate and anything below 99% should be avoided.
2- Speed and latency
The speed at which your web page loads affects your conversions. The Kissmetrics research shows that 47% of consumers expect websites to load within 2 seconds or less and 40% will abandon the page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
One of the factors that can affect page speed is latency, which is the data travel time from server to users. The higher your latency is, the longer it takes for a user to load your website or page.
To keep latency down, it’s best to choose a server location that’s closer to your targeted audience. Look for a web host with multiple server locations as it gives you the ability to put your website closer to your audience.
3- Customer service and support
When you face technical problems with your website servers, having good customer service support can be a massive boon. Is the hosting provider known for being effective and speedy when it comes to technical support? Or do they have a terrible support team that barely helps?
Choose a web host that gives you all the basic customer support channels such as emails and support tickets. Better yet, look for web hosts that offer 24/7 live support to its clients and have a social media visibility as they are more likely to respond when you ask for help.
You should also give priority to companies with an in-house customer support team as they tend to have a better understanding of the company’s operation as opposed to outsourced customer services.
4- Development and web developer features
For web developers, it’s important for you to check whether the hosting provider supports the type of framework and language that you intend to develop on. Some web hosts will only support certain programs on certain plans.
For example, InMotion Hosting allows you to use the programming language Ruby on its shared hosting plan but does not enable Rail. Which means, if you wanted to use Ruby on Rails, you’ll have to upgrade to a higher plan such as VPS.
Another thing to check is whether the web host offers extra tools for developers as well (Staging, GIT, built-in cacher, etc.)
5- Ease of use
To save time and reduce the number of road bumps for starting your website, it’s recommended to go for web hosts that provide a smooth onboarding process and an easy-to-use interface. Ask yourself the following questions when looking at a web host:
- Is it easy to sign up with them?
- Can you immediately start hosting after signing up?
- Does the setup process take too long?
- Is the user interface easy to navigate through?
- Are they trying to aggressively push you into buying unnecessary upgrades and services?
That last point, in particular, is a practice that’s used by some web host providers whereby they try to upsell you into buying features and upgrades that your website might not need. This can be annoying but as long as you know what your website needs are, you can easily avoid any unnecessary purchases.
The pricing for hosting plans should be an important factor when choosing a web host. If you’re just starting out or have a limited budget to work with, it might not be a good idea to go for premium plans such as VPS or dedicated hosting.
It’s recommended that you go for something affordable in the first 24 months so as to keep your spending down. Generally, for those who are starting out, a shared hosting plan would be the best option since it’s quite cheap and is more than capable to handle a small website.
Thankfully, there are a ton of affordable hosting companies that offer a wide range of hosting plans and services that you can choose from.
7- Site backups
Even with the safest security measures in place, your website is still exposed to a number of potential risks such as ransomware, hackers, viruses, bugs, and even hardware failures. In worst cases, any of these incidents can lead to irreparable damages like losing your index.php file.
Having a backup of your website is definitely helpful to avoid any unnecessary headaches over data loss and more importantly, the amount of time your website stays down.
Standard practice for any good web host is to offer at least a regularly scheduled backup of your website. That way, should anything happen, you can just ask the hosting provider to restore your full site immediately.
In addition to regular backups, check whether the web host allows you to do the following things:
- Lets you manually do the backup via the control panel
- Uses programs to create auto backups of your site
- Lets you restore your backup files by yourself without needing to wait for the support staff to respond.
8- Flexibility / scalability
An important factor to consider when choosing a web host (and your plan for that matter) is whether or not they can fit into the growth of your website and business.
What that means is, the hosting plan that you use now might not be enough two or three years down the line, especially if you have expanded to include an online store or experience significantly higher traffic.
Growth should always be the focus of any website and if a hosting provider has trouble accommodating, then that could be an issue.
Do they have a VPS or Dedicated Server plan/solution? Can you easily upgrade your account?
Do you need to transfer to a new host if your current plan is not enough? You should ask yourself these questions when you’re searching for a web host that you intend to use for a long time.
9- Adding more domains
One of the key components for growth is diversification. You might be starting out with just one website and domain name but as your business becomes bigger, you’ll realize the benefit (and necessity) for having multiple websites, domains, and subdomains to popularize your brand or business.
Plus, having multiple sites can be a great way to highlight different products or services of your business. The Coca-Cola company is a great example of this, with different products such as Dasani and Minute Maid each having their own website but still operating under the Coca-Cola umbrella.
Before you sign up to a hosting provider, aside from their packages and features, try to find out whether their plan allows you to run multiple websites on a single web account. Research on the cost of unlimited websites and subdomain packages and compare it to other web hosts as well.
Basically, keep an eye out for web host providers that offer different service plans and allow you to add a new domain, giving you the flexibility to scale over time.
10- Email support and features
Emails are still a great method for getting feedback from your users and improve subscriber conversions. Which is why it’s always a good idea to have your email hosted together with your website.
While most hosting companies should have the ability to host your email with your domain name, it doesn’t hurt to check. In addition to that, you should also check if they offer any help or solution for general email issues such as spam.
If they do not offer any email features, then you might have to look for third-party solutions. The easiest one to work with is probably G Suite. The service by Google lets you create your emails while being hosted at their servers and it can cost as low as $5 per user per month.
11- Refunds and free trial policies
Every hosting company you research on, chances are they have some form of refund policy or trial period which allows you to test out their services and help you decide whether to continue or not.
Since using a hosting provider can get pricey (though there are plenty of good and cheap web hosting services available), choosing a web host that offers refunds and free trials can help you avoid wasting money if you end up not liking the provider.
Research upon a provider’s refund and free trial policies and ask yourself the following questions:
- If you cancel within the trial period, do you get a full refund?
- If you cancel after the trial period, do you get a prorated refund or will you be charged for it?
- Are there any cancellation charges if you cancel before or after the trial period?
These questions might seem basic but they’re worth asking before you sign up and commit to a hosting plan that normally lasts for a few years.
My advice? Avoid hosting companies that charge a high cancellation fee during trial periods. Instead, go for hosting companies that offer anytime money-back guarantees so you can ask for a prorated refund after the trial period.
12- Business track record
Signing up for a web host is kind of like signing up for a marriage. You need to be able to trust them if you want to commit to such a long-term relationship. Since most hosting plans require you to commit for a year or two, you might want to make sure that the company has a good business track record.
Do some research on the hosting companies that interest you. Check how long they’ve been in the industry. If they’re relatively new, it’ll be hard to determine the quality of their services. If they’ve recently changed management/owners, then check if it has had any effect on the quality of their services.
Arvixe was acquired by Endurance International Group (EIG) back it 2014, and when they were performing their data centre migrations it affected their users badly. Cases of increased downtime and slow support response have plagued the hosting provider to this day.
Another hosting company, IX Web Hosting, was sold to Site 5 (which EIG owns as well) back in 2015 and the company ended up closing in 2018 due to how poorly they handled the migration process. Because of this, many users’ websites went down and all their data and emails ended up being inaccessible.
Suffice to say, if you’re going to sign up with a web host, make sure that the company will stay around for a long time (and maybe avoid EIG-owned companies).
A web host is one of the important building blocks for your website. If it’s unreliable your website will suffer the effects. Read and understand the factors above and choose a web host that not only suits your needs but is also capable of handling your website.
When you have a good foundation to rely on, you can then direct your focus on taking your website and business to next level by improving other areas such as content creation and marketing strategies.