If you have a website, you need hosting.
However, a quick Google Search reveals a wide array of hosting service providers, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Which one do you choose? If you’ve never set up a website before, choosing the right host can be a minefield.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a methodical approach to choosing the right hosting provider for your needs.
Putting Together a Shortlist
Selecting a hosting provider for your website can be overwhelming without a methodical approach. You need to start off with a robust shortlist of potential hosts. Popular brands such as 123 Reg, GoDaddy, Fasthosts, or 1&1 Ionos generally provide a low-cost service, but as we’ll learn, cost is just one of many factors that need to be weighed up.
As well as the countless well-known hosting companies out there, many web design agencies (ourselves included) provide their own website hosting solutions too. Dealing directly with a host or going through an agency each have their own pros and cons.
6 Key Elements to Picking the Right Web Host
Here’s our 6 essential elements to finding the best web host for your needs. You may find it useful to give each provider on your shortlist a score out of ten for each the following elements to help you pick out a clear winner.
The reliability of your host directly affects the reliability of your website. Your website is your shop-front, so how would you feel if it becomes unavailable due to a power cut at your host’s data centre? Your site needs to remain live and available 99.9% of the time – anything less may reflect poorly on your brand. If your website suffers frequent downtime, this can be detrimental to your reputation and ultimately your bottom line.
Also consider other worst case scenarios; if your host were to completely wipe your website by accident, how much would it cost to replace? It’s vitally important that any host you choose has a reliable backup regime and that multiple backups are stored in secure, off-site locations. If something catastrophic should happen to their main data centre, you need the reassurance that they’ll be able to quickly reroute to an up to date and fully functional backup.
Similarly, what’s the host’s plan of action should they suffer some kind of ransomware, cyberattack, or terrorist attack and and the personal/payment data you collect is leaked or lost? Who would be responsible for the loss of data? We suggest informing all prospective hosts of your own “worst case scenarios” and ask each one what their plan of action is should each scenario arise. Their response to your concerns may give you an idea of how seriously they are about protecting your data and maintaining a reliable service.
A website’s speed is now a crucial Google ranking factor, but it’s also essential for creating a good user experience. We all know how frustrating and off putting it is when a website takes a long time to load; in fact, recent statistics suggest that 40% of users abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. If you’re looking to run a successful online e-commerce store or a brochure website with a lot of complex functionality, you’re going to need a hosting package that runs on fast solid-state hard drives (SSD), more bandwidth, and plenty of RAM compared to a small site with few interactive features.
Shared hosting (where multiple sites are stored on a single server) is usually the most suitable option for the majority of websites. However, if you’re expecting a large amount of traffic, or running certain high-performance systems such as Magento, then you will most likely need a virtual private server (VPS) or a completely dedicated server to host your site.
Should your website suffer downtime, break down, or get hacked, who would you prefer to reach out to? Would you rather pick up the phone or send a support ticket by email? When something goes awry when using a larger host, you generally have to do all of the legwork in reporting errors and chasing for updates. Even if you’d delegate this to your team, consider the more valuable work they could be doing instead. If a more personal touch means a lot to you, then going with a small, independent provider or website design agency may be most sensible option. Plus, the smaller the company, the harder they are likely to try to keep your website on their server and retain your business.
We’re all in business to grow and thrive. Choosing a hosting package that’s “just enough” for your needs today may cause you issues further down the line as your business evolves and develops. Even if the functionality of your website stays the same, you may need to make allowances for growing traffic numbers. It’s crucial to select a hosting provider who can adapt their solution to you as you grow.
Some hosting providers offer packages that specialise in certain technologies such as WordPress hosting, Joomla, WooCommerce, Magento, etc. (to name a few). If you are unsure what you need in terms of technical requirements for your website, your web design agency should be able to talk you through your needs and find a package to suit you precisely.
In general, it’s best to choose a hosting provider that offers a management system called cPanel as this is a fairly standard and well-known system that the majority of web designers and developers are likely to be familiar with. Alternative options put forward by hosts may be specific to that individual provider; this can pose difficulties in future if you ever need to move your website to another host.
6. Price vs. Value
Many businesses are understandably tempted to go with the cheapest option available – especially in the early days when money is tight. But as with most things, you get what you pay for. Cheaper prices may be great for cash flow, but may result in slow load times, unreliable uptime, poor customer service, and a lack of flexibility for growth.
Many providers often keep setup costs low to attract new customers, but renewal costs may be considerably dearer. Ask about renewal and upgrade pricing before you sign up.
Always take the time to read each hosting provider’s operating terms, along with any additional terms that come with their specific hosting packages. Ask the provider to clarify any areas that you don’t understand or that seem vague. If at all possible, see if you can negotiate a trial before you buy. Smaller, independent providers may be more open to this than larger hosts.
There’s certainly a lot to consider here, so take your time in coming to a decision. We generally recommend small, independent web development/design agencies over larger, well known hosting providers. Companies generally have a closer relationship with their web design agency than they do with a hosting company. To get the best hosting for your business, you need a trusted partner who understands your website’s specific technical aspects and has an independent view of the hosting market. They’re also better placed to manage any technical problems on your behalf too – potentially saving you money and giving you more time to run your business.
Did you know that OLCO Design offer a variety of reliable hosting packages as well as our top of the range website design services? If you’re planning your next move online, give us a call on 0330 223 1193 today.