You’re all set to create a presence on the internet, but there are many different web hosting services. You might wonder, “Which one works best for my project?”
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all service out there, you can still narrow the options down by defining your website and setting a budget.
To help you pick the perfect hosting match, we created 6 easy steps that you can take to find a great hosting partner for your project or business. But, before we get into these steps, let’s take a look at the basics.
What Is a Web Hosting Service?
To put it simply, a web hosting company rents you space in a server or a data center so you can build and manage your website on the Internet.
There are different hosting options, from shared hosting to colocation. In the former, you share the server’s resources with other customers, and the latter only gives you space in a data center where you can bring your servers. (But, more on that later.)
You can also choose how much freedom you want with server management. When looking at different hosting options, you will probably stumble upon the terms managed and unmanaged servers.
In short, with a managed server, all the server’s maintenance, updates, and configuration are dealt with by the hosting company, and the unmanaged server is the exact opposite.
However, there are some variations in between. Generally, if you have the know-how of servers in your company, go with the unmanaged option. If you lack the server development knowledge, then the managed server is a better option.
What Is Vital for a Great Hosting Service?
There are two main issues related to your site’s hosting quality that make your visitors run for the hills: An offline site and a slow website.
Research by Google in 2018 found that people are 32% more likely to leave if your website takes between 1-3 seconds to load. Furthermore, if your site is offline, your visitors can’t access your content at all.
All of this means that your website’s servers’ load speed and uptime play a critical role in your site’s success.
However, it isn’t apparent how your hosting service performs. To monitor your site’s performance, we recommend using a service such as Pingdom. You can also find hosting reviews that showcase the servers’ performance data, such as this cheap web hosting services review by HostingFacts.
6 Steps to Choosing a Great Hosting Service
There are many web hosting companies out there. Choosing one that is best for your needs and means might be intimidating, especially if you’re just getting started in the online business world.
Therefore, we’ve broken this process down into 6 actionable steps you can take to find an excellent match for your web hosting needs.
Step 1: Choose the Proper Hosting Option
The hosting options available today are suitable for low-traffic websites to large server parks of a high-traffic website. Choosing the right fit for your business mainly comes down to the amount of traffic you expect on your website and your site’s size.
The hosting options generally fall into the following categories:
- Shared hosting – You share the server space and resources with other people. This is the cheapest hosting option aimed at low-traffic websites.
- Virtual private server (VPS) hosting – You get a dedicated part of the server where you have guaranteed space and resources. This is for low-to-mid-traffic websites when you need a stable performance that’s not influenced by other people – but the benefits come with a slightly higher price tag.
- Cloud hosting – Similar to VPS hosting, but uses the state-of-the-art cloud computing software. This option is best when you need instantly scalable resources for a fast-growing website.
- Dedicated server hosting – In simple terms, you rent an actual server solely for your usage. This option is for larger websites that need higher performance and resources dedicated to them – and it’s more expensive.
- Colocation – you rent space at a data center, where you’re responsible for installing and maintaining your server(s). This option gives the most control over your hosting capability and is suitable for big websites with a team of developers and engineers behind it.
Step 2: Calculate Your Web Hosting Budget
Let’s face it; the best web hosting isn’t free. There are free hosting options out there, but if you’re looking for anything stable and trustworthy, you need to spend some money.
However, the upside is that you can get a decent hosting service starting from a few bucks a month. However, the cheapest hosting might lack some core functionalities that your project or business needs.
Therefore, it’s wise to figure out how much money you’re able to spend on website hosting before committing to a specific service. We recommend calculating your budget for at least one year, because the annual pricing plans tend to be the cheapest options among hosting plans.
Also, don’t be afraid to remove some features, choose a more affordable plan, or switch to a cheaper provider if the costs of the perfect hosting exceed your budget; you can always upgrade.
Step 3: Decide How You’re Going to Build Your Website
Building a website with today’s modern tools is relatively straightforward.
If you’re just getting started online, consider choosing a hosting service with a built-in website builder like Tailor Brands (that’s us!) or Squarespace. The built-in website builder tools mostly give you access to drag-and-drop functionality, where you can use sections and blocks to build your site.
Website builders usually have multiple templates you can choose from, and most of them are already mobile-optimized. The latter is one of the essential features you need for your site in this modern world.
If you don’t want to restrict yourself to a hosting company that offers a website builder, then you can:
- Build a website yourself using WordPress or other third-party tools
- Hire an in-house website developer
- Hire a freelance web designer
- Buy a ready-made custom website from an agency
Keep in mind that hiring outside help or turning towards an agency can be quite costly.
Step 4: eCommerce Features for Online Stores
Building a functional online store requires some specific features, such as a shopping cart, payment methods, product displays, and so on.
Sure, you can get away without any of these, but that only makes the purchasing process from the visitor’s perspective much harder.
If you’re creating a site where you want to set up a webshop, look for a hosting service with specific plans for online stores. These cost more than the cheapest hosting options, but you get the required features and integrations without much hassle.
Again, you have the alternative to build or add these functionalities yourself that enable you to accept payments, automate shipping, add a live chat feature to your site, and more.
Step 5: Additional Hosting Features and Support
Now that you have your fundamentals down with previous steps, it’s time to fine-tune the additional features you need with your hosting service.
These other features can come with the hosting plan you choose or might be available as add-ons. Depending on the service provider, the typical perks that are included with hosting plans are:
- Website security options (SSL certificate, spam protection, etc.)
- Free email accounts
- Automated daily or weekly server backups
- Easy integrations with third-party tools
Also, depending on your online proficiency level, you might need some help now and again.
This is where customer support by the hosting company can come in handy. While some providers offer a 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support, others might have a limited number of hours for specific connection methods.
Make sure you pick a service that has the customer support options that you feel comfortable with.
Step 6: Double Check the Fine Print
By this step, you should have a pretty good idea about a suitable hosting service, and maybe even a few options picked out. You should still go over the small details because some of them might even end up breaking your budget.
One of the important details to watch out for is the bandwidth and storage limits with a hosting plan. These limit the amount of traffic and disc space for your files and data you can have. While many providers are quite flexible with scaling resources, some may charge a high premium for exceeding the limits.
Another tip is to clearly understand the service provider’s money-back guarantee or refund policy (if they offer one). Most services have a no-questions-asked policy; however, the policy might not cover the hosting option you’ve chosen. This is typically true with more expensive services, such as dedicated hosting.
You should also be vigilant about the renewal prices after the initial period. Many hosting companies offer low promotional prices and then raise them twofold or even multiple times after the promotional period ends. The same applies to free domain names, which typically are free for one year and renew to an annual payment for the renewal period.
We recommend adding all those costs up after the low-price period ends to see if the hosting service still fits within your budget. Also, you don’t need to get started with the most feature-packed plan either as most of the hosting companies are happy to upgrade your service when you need it.
Over to You
By now, you should have an overall understanding of how to choose a great hosting partner for your project or business.
Ensure the hosting service you choose is reliable, have all the features you need, and the costs fit your budget even after the promotional period has ended. If possible, take full advantage of the free trial or money-back guarantee to become confident that the service meets your expectations.
After you’ve chosen your hosting solution, make sure to choose a great domain name next!