A quick Google search will show you that there are many active web hosts in the world. Each one promises something different and it can be difficult to understand what is best for you. Do you get the shared hosting plan, the dedicated hosting, VPS hosting, or some other managed hosting service?

It’s not always easy to decide on the type of hosting or on a web host for that matter. This guide will help you better understand what a web host really is, the different types of hosting, and the factors to consider when choosing a hosting company.

What does a web host do for customers?

Many web hosts are a one-stop-shop for everything related to your website such as email marketing, website builder, SSL certificate, professional email, etc. Other web hosts are laser-focused on delivering the best hosting experience possible.

This can make things confusing for the average person looking to launch their first website. At its core, a web host allows you to upload your files to its servers and then serves (sends them to a visitor that lands on your website) those files as quickly as possible. Depending on the type of hosting you choose, the company can also manage your servers and software upgrades or leave it to you.

Get clear on what you want

The most important step is fully articulating what you need in a web host. This will be dependent on what type of CMS you’re using, your expected traffic levels, the kind of products you’re selling, if you’re uploading large files to the hosting provider, and more.

For example, an eCommerce store and a consultant would have different needs. The eCommerce brand would likely get more traffic, need to process payments, have increased needs related to security, and a host of other necessary things. A consultant may just need a fast host and a way for people to contact them. No matter what kind of site you have, list out the important aspects of your ideal web host before you start the search in earnest.

Understand the types of hosting

Not all hosting is created equally. In addition to the quality of the web host, there are multiple types of hosting which can be further broken down into subtypes. The major types are as follows.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is entry-level hosting and is where most people start. If you’re at a loss when it comes to choosing a hosting plan, it’s usually a good idea to start with shared hosting and work your way up as your needs evolve.

Shared hosting is when multiple websites share the resources of a single server.

As the name suggests, shared hosting is when multiple websites share the resources of a single server. It’s a great way to save on costs but if one of the websites outgrows the server or receives a spike in activity then all the websites are impacted. This is ideal for newer websites.

VPS hosting

VPS hosting is a step up from shared hosting. Multiple websites still share the resources of a single server but the number of websites is drastically reduced. The server is also virtually partitioned so each website has a specific amount of storage, computing power, and bandwidth. If any website hits the limits on its plan then it doesn’t affect any other website on the server.

Generally speaking, you get more control of the server environment when you’re using a VPS. This is ideal if you have a larger website (greater than 40,000 visitors a month) or you want to make sure you’re not affected by the actions of other brands. It’s a bit more expensive but the benefits are tangible when compared to shared hosting.

Dedicated hosting

Dedicated hosting is the most expensive type of traditional hosting and it’s when one website has all the server resources dedicated to it. This has many obvious advantages like speed and performance, but it also requires much more maintenance to run at optimal efficiency.

Instead of expecting the host to maintain firewalls, patch software, upgrade things, etc., the responsibility falls on the customer. Of course, you can get managed dedicated hosting, but that will further increase the costs. Because of that, it’s not ideal for someone without experience or access to specialists.

Cloud hosting

Cloud hosting is a newer form of hosting. Instead of having a single server run multiple websites, multiple remote servers run a single website. This type of hosting is interesting because you can scale up or down resource usage as needed so it can be as cheap or expensive. There’s also greater security because if one of the remote servers goes down, it may not affect the other servers responsible for keeping the website online.

Each type of hosting is ideal for different businesses. If you’re just getting started then VPS or shared hosting is likely the best option. If, on the other hand, you have a growing brand that’s getting more traffic or has unique needs then cloud hosting and dedicated hosting are great options. After deciding the type of hosting you want, it’s important to vet the company as a whole based on key web hosting factors.

Compare the key web hosting factors

Beyond the initial requirements, you’ll identify before searching for a web host, there are general factors to take into consideration. Below is a short primer about the major factors that you should vet.

The best hosts have 99.9% uptime or more.

Uptime/reliability

If a web hosting service has all the features you need but cannot provide consistent uptime then it should be removed from your list. The industry standard for hosting companies is a minimum of 99% uptime. Anything less than that should be removed from your shortlist immediately. The best hosts have 99.9% uptime or more. Platforms like HostGator and IONOS meet this criterion easily.

Customer support

How many ways can you use to contact customer support? Are there self-help resources and video tutorials for both simple and complex processes? What channels are available for live support? Do they have email, live chat, and or phone support?

Once you confirm that the company has these support resources, it’s important to assess the quality. How long do they take to reply and do the support reps have enough knowledge to solve the problem you’re experiencing? If the support is below average then avoid the hosting company. There will be times when you run into issues and you’ll need their help. Is support is bad then you won’t get the assistance you’re looking for.

Performance

Performance and speed are synonymous. The better the performance of the host, the faster your website will load for visitors. This will create a positive user experience and possibly increase revenue. There are multiple things that determine the performance of a website. The storage space and the type of storage (hard disk drive vs solid state drive), the bandwidth allocation, regular software updates, etc. Make sure the host you’re considering is able to meet your needs. A platform like Wix provides unlimited bandwidth and generous storage on many of its plans.

Security

Security, no matter how you look at it, is important online. There have been so many data breaches that people are skeptical of new sites at best and won’t use them at worst. Even if the perception of danger wasn’t there, the real risks are. Your host should support SSL certificates, regular malware scans, backups, and more to ensure security and stability.

Conclusion

The type of web hosting you choose depends on a wide range of factors. Some will be peculiar to your business and others are general things to look at in a web host. Even though this guide has outlined the major types of web hosting, keep in mind that your needs will constantly evolve. When you choose the type that works for you now, make sure your host has a clear upgrade path so that you can easily increase your plan limits down the line.