When you create a website or web application, it needs to be stored on some sort of a physical server. This is web hosting and it ensures that your site’s data files run correctly. Having a good host is important. Are you wondering how to pick the best web hosting provider for your business?
Good web hosts not only offer storage space, but they are also the protector of that space, keeping it safe and secure. Whether you have a website that is slow or out of date, or you are building a brand new one, there are important variables you need to consider.
In this article we review the top 10 factors to consider when choosing a web hosting provider:
- Speed and performance
- Types of hosts
- Customer service
- Site backup availability
- Ability to add domain
- E-commerce and email options
- Account limitations
- Server reliability
- User interface
How much is web hosting? Web hosting plans vary drastically based on several elements, including the 9 other factors we cover in this article.
Make sure you know what you need before you start shopping. Research website hosting options by checking out each service for yourself and assessing what they will provide in terms of features.
You know your business best. Shop smart by understanding everything you need and try to match a host that offers everything you need at a price that best fits your budget.
Questions to ask: Do they offer different hosting plan levels to fit your needs as you grow (cost and features)? Is email hosting included? Do they support e-commerce (if needed)? Do they have a WordPress-specific hosting plan (if needed)?
Important: Hosting services are often discounted during signup, but the renewal rates can be much higher. This may lead to a surprise bill at the end of your discount period. Check beforehand how much it will cost for upgrades and changes in hosts before choosing one.
2. Speed and Performance
Your website’s performance and speed can have a huge effect on everything from customer and visitor perception of your company to Google ranking to conversion and bounce rates.
Shop for a host that can ensure you a fast-loading, safe site, with smooth navigation. A poor-performing site can leave customers dissatisfied, unimpressed, and more than ready to visit your competitor. Don’t be that brand.
Questions to ask: Do they offer site performance optimization features (pre-configured web caching)? Do they provide data centers close to your visitors (e.g. USA based, Michigan vs. Arizona)? What are the server specs for each hosting plan (look at how much and type of RAM, how many core processors, how many GB of storage, how much bandwidth, if they have HTTP/2 or HTTP/3 enabled servers)?
3. Types of Hosts
Webhosting isn’t one size fits all—there are a host of host options out there. (Truly couldn’t resist that one.) Each designed for a specific purpose.
- Shared hosting: Several websites kept on the same server. Inexpensive but limited.
- VPS Hosting: Share physical server space, but your website is hosted on an independent piece of internet real estate. Cost-efficient but housekeeping tasks are yours to take care of.
- Dedicated hosting: “Full rental rights” over a web server. Most expensive plan and allows for higher traffic and only bounded by scalable server capacity.
- Managed hosting: Subtype of hosting that equips you with a hosting plan, infrastructure support and some hardware management and maintenance. Pricing and benefits vary greatly depending on needs.
- Cloud hosting: Enables on-demand access to computing resources. Things like CPU, RAM, storage, security services, and more. Huge customization and scalability and pay-per-use pricing can lead to higher costs in certain cases, but can be great options for businesses needing a more custom fit plan.
- Colocation: If you have a personal server, you can host it in a colocation center for a fee. This fee covers bandwidth, electricity, IP address, cooling, and server monitoring/maintenance. Best for regulated industries (healthcare, finance, and government). Very expensive for smaller businesses.
4. Customer Service
How is the host provider’s customer support? A host that offers live 24/7, in-house client services with chat and social media visibility will give you quick responses on your technical problems.
This is a huge consideration when shopping. Good customer service is a benefit not all providers offer, but one that you will appreciate later.
Questions to ask: Does the provider offer free website migrations (if you’re switching providers)? Is it easy to contact tech support? How quickly do they respond? Does customer service vary based on the plan you select?
5. Availability of Site Backups
The dark side is coming for you! Cyber threats like ransomware have been targeting general websites as well. They often result in irreparable damages to your site’s index page file. If left unchecked, this can also cause severe server or local hard disk failures. Make sure that any host service provider offers regular web data backup so no matter what happens on the internet with regards to cyber-crime there will always be an extra copy ready and waiting.
Questions to ask: Does the web host provider offer security features such as onsite and offsite automated backups, malware scanners, brute force and DdoS protection?
6. Ability to Add Domains
You may be starting with a single website, but with planned growth, you may soon find yourself in need of multiple sites. Before signing up with any service provider, make sure they will be able to grow with you. It’s hard enough to choose your domain name, let alone the additional task of managing your domain name(s), so take these steps to pick the hosting provider that will make this process easy and quick!
Look to make sure they offer an account that can handle your needs by allowing additional domains and subdomains on one hosting plan.
Questions to ask: Are there reasonably priced hosting plan options that I can upgrade to if I need to add domains? How many domains are included in the web hosting plan?
7. E-Commerce and Email Options
Website hosting has changed drastically over the years. Now, more than ever it is imperative to have an email linked with your website’s domain name. It helps establish credibility and lets your customers know you are a legitimate business.
E-Commerce has its own specific software compatibility, security, and speed requirements. Make sure if you already have the need for E-Commerce, or you may in the future, that the host you choose can handle it.
Questions to ask: Does the website hosting plan include email hosting and how many emails do I get with the plan (1 or unlimited?)? Which web hosting plan option offers the features needed to support my e-commerce website?
8. Account Limitations
Some hosting providers have incredibly strict terms and conditions that can result in extra charges or even temporary or permanent termination of your account without warning!
Important: There are hosting providers that prohibit the use of excessive amounts of CPU time on their servers to run processes. Make sure you are familiar with how the limitations may affect your business.
9. Server Reliability
When it comes to your online business, you need a hosting company that can deliver high-quality service. Weak servers and unstable network connections can not only push your site offline, but can lead to low rankings on search engines like Google. Look for hosts with reputable uptime scores, preferably 99.9% and above.
Question to ask: What is the website hosting provider’s uptime score?
10. User Interface
Ease-of-use should be one of your top considerations when choosing the perfect web host.
I know most small business owners don’t have the time or desire to learn how to be a website developer, but you should still know the basics of how to manage your domains, website software, databases, and email.
Many popular web hosting providers offer site hosting management using cPanel. It’s very intuitive and user-friendly.
Important note: This is different from managing your CMS (e.g. WordPress admin dashboard) where you can edit a post or page, review a comment, or update your plugins and theme.
It’s empowering to know how to access and make a website change when your web designer or developer isn’t available (and relieving especially if you need the change done ASAP).
The ability to access everything promptly and easily with just a few clicks on an intuitive interface can save you time, money, and headaches. It allows the opportunity for the use of new features and enhances productivity too.
Questions to ask: What control panel does the web hosting provider offer to manage domains, email, software, files, and databases (cPanel or something else)?
Having a good website host is critical.
It can affect your user’s experience and, in turn, negatively or positively impact your website’s SERP (search engine ranking position) meaning the difference between your website bringing in the leads and sales conversions you need to succeed to your visitors bouncing away and onto your competitor’s website.
Do you already have a website?
Is it running slow and you aren’t sure if your web host is causing the issues? We offer a website audit service to help you find out, contact us to learn more.
Shopping for a new website hosting provider?
Read our 7 Tips for a Killer Small Business Website article where have a list of the best website hosting providers (we update this annually!).