The web host you choose can have a huge impact on whether or not your website helps you hit your long-term goals. The wrong host can translate into a poor user experience, constant website downtime, and security vulnerabilities. The right host can serve as a platform that you use to grow your brand with confidence.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a host. Some of them are more important than others. For example, security is always at the top of the list but there are other factors that aren’t as obvious but will still have a big impact on your overall experience. In this guide, you’ll learn what those factors are so you make the right choice.
The needs of your site/business
The most important things to consider when choosing a website host are your needs. What’s important to your brand and will the web host you choose be able to meet those requirements? If the host doesn’t have the bare minimum you require then you can instantly scratch it off your list.
- What kind of content management system are you using – Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, something custom, etc.?
- Are you building critical infrastructure that needs to be online at all times?
- How much traffic are you expecting now and in the near future?
- Do you need access to the server for some reason?
- How many people will be making changes to the hosting and is that supported by the host?
These questions are simple and you should have the answer readily available. That doesn’t mean the exercise should be skipped because it’ll help you go beyond the flashy features they’ll mention and focus on what matters to you.
Reliability and uptime
A web host can have all the bells and whistles like a website builder, email marketing, scheduling, etc. but it doesn’t matter if it’s not reliable. An unreliable web host will have constant downtime. The problem with this is that your visitors won’t form a bad opinion of the web host – they’ll form a poor opinion of your brand. They have no idea who your host is.
You should aim for a host with 99% uptime at the minimum
Every moment of downtime presents an opportunity to lose sales. Before you choose a web host do a bit of research about its uptime scores. You should aim for a host with 99% uptime at the minimum. Anything less than that should be avoided. The best hosts have uptime above 99.9%.
For example, IONOS, Wix, and HostGator all have uptime above 99.9%. Once you’ve selected a host, it’s a good idea to use server monitoring tools to ensure the uptime stays high. If you notice a reduction in uptime, it may be a sign to switch to another host.
Ease of use
Another important factor is how easy it is to perform essential functions. Can you quickly install an SSL certificate? How much effort does it take to add another domain to the hosting, if it has a website builder, are the options obvious and easy for a beginner?
Oftentimes, you won’t be able to use a web host before signing up but popular hosts have many video tutorials available. Watching them will give you an idea of how difficult it is to do simple things. Do the processes look like something you can easily replicate or does everything seem difficult and technical? If it’s the latter, you may want to look elsewhere.
It’s common for hosting companies to offer an introductory price then increase it after the first month or the first year. It’s an incentive that works well for them and it’s to be expected. It’s important for you to understand exactly how much you’ll be paying after your first term is up. Many web hosts make that information difficult to find or are constantly changing it.
Avoid web hosts that increase prices by more than 100% on renewal unless the introductory price was unreasonably cheap. For example, the IONOS business hosting plan is just $12/year but jumps to nearly $100/year on renewal. That’s because it was unreasonably cheap to draw customers in and increases to a reasonable price. As long as the renewal price is within your budget, the host is worth considering.
Customer support quality
The entire hosting experience, no matter how simple the interface and helpful the FAQs, requires technical input from time to time. There will be problems with your server or even your website that are difficult or impossible for you to solve. That’s when the support team comes into play.
Avoid web hosts that increase prices by more than 100% on renewal unless the introductory price was unreasonably cheap.
First, what kind of availability do they have? Are they only available during working hours or can you reach them 24/7? Do they have multiple channels you can use to contact the support reps like live chat, email, and phone? What about self-help resources such as videos and written tutorials?
If all these things are available then you’ll look at the quality of each area. Are the tutorials detailed and useful? Is the support team responsive and knowledgeable? Are they able to solve problems quickly? If you’re not satisfied with any of these answers then it may be best to choose a different hosting service.
Speed and performance
Speed, which is often equated to overall performance, is one of the most visible aspects of a web host. You can implement a CDN, caching, code minification, etc. but if your host is slow, you’ll only get subpar results.
Multiple things contribute to the performance of your host. The first factor is the technology used. Software evolves rapidly so your web host should update its infrastructure regularly to take advantage of advancements. If they don’t, site performance will reduce in relation to those with updated technology. It also introduces security risks.
Server resources also affect speed and performance. How much bandwidth is allocated to your plan? What about storage? If you answered the questions presented at the beginning of this guide then you’ll already know what you need for optimal performance. Another thing to consider is the server location in relation to where your visitors are coming from. A server in Australia catering to people in England will have latency and hinder the performance of your website.
Security is essential. A bad actor can destroy all of your hard work in an instant if they gain access to sensitive areas. Many security issues are your responsibility but a lot of them are the responsibility of your hosting company. Things like DDoS attack protection, firewalls, OS updates, etc.
There are other things a high-quality hosting company does. First, it should have regular malware scanning and removal on your behalf if anything is found. This is often an add-on service if it’s not included in the main hosting plans.
Another thing a host should have is a regular backup service. Can you restore your site after a compromise in case you can’t clean up the malware? Finally, your hosting service must absolutely support SSL certificates. Most modern hosts provide a free SSL certificate for at least the first year and others sell it. The bottom line is that there should be dedicated support for an SSL certificate because your visitors look for it and it protects your interests.
There are many factors to consider before you purchase web hosting. This guide has outlined some of the most important factors, but the list isn’t exhaustive. Be sure to put your needs above everything else and you should make a decision that serves you well in the short and long term.