What to Look for in a Web Hosting Provider

Your website is one of your most critical assets, and deciding which web hosting provider to put your trust in can be stressful, to say the least.

After all, the right host will ensure your website is fast and always up and running. A bad one could cause you headaches, a ton of cash and even your reputation.

So how do you know which one to choose for your business? It largely depends on your business needs and budget, but here are some general things to keep in mind as you research your options:

Server types

Here are five common server types:

  • Shared hosting. Typically the most cost effective and simplest method of hosting, shared hosting is exactly what the name implies. Your website will be stored on the same server as other websites. You will share the same memory and processing units. Because of the simplicity and price, they are ideal for companies launching their first website or for small businesses. However, because you are sharing with other businesses, surges can impact your website, slowing load times, for example. If you expect large levels of traffic, shared hosting is likely not for you.
  • Dedicated server hosting. You rent the server and only your website resides there. You essentially gain complete control over the website. That said, dedicated hosting is pricey and tends to require technical knowledge to install and manage. Still, if you expect high volumes of traffic and need complete control over your server, this is the way to go.
  • Virtual private server (VPS) hosting. With VPS hosting, you share a server with other websites; however, your website is hosted in a specific space on the server. VPS provides more control over your website and more storage, but it’s not as costly as a dedicated server. VPS hosting isn’t ideal for handling very high levels or surges of traffic, and other websites on the server could impact your website performance.
  • Cloud hosting. This one is increasingly becoming the hosting provider of choice. The server is virtual—rather than physical—and runs in the cloud. You can connect to it from anywhere. Cloud hosting is less prone to downtime or server failures, even with heavy traffic. Plus, you tend to pay for only what you need at any point in time, so it is affordable and can grow as your needs do.
  • Managed hosting. Providers of managed hosting do almost all the work for you. They will set up and replace hardware and software, and they provide technical support, monitoring and all updating. You can essentially take a hands-off approach to managing your website.

Your anticipated traffic

Most providers charge for storage and bandwidth usage, so you will want to have an idea of how much traffic you are likely to receive. Just keep in mind that the goal is growth, so use optimistic projections.

You don’t want a sudden surge in traffic, for example, after a successful email campaign or when a blog post goes viral to bring down your website.

Level of assistance

Will you need plenty of support initially and/or long term? Providers offer a range of customer service options. Some will provide basic phone support during specific hours. Others offer 24/7 phone support. Some providers even will take over complete management and maintenance of your website, including monitoring and resolving security issues, fixing software glitches, and managing backup.

Extra feature capabilities

Make sure the provider can accommodate any special needs you may have, for example, hosting email or obtaining an SSL certificate. Figure out exactly what you need for your website, and ensure you are getting what you need without impacting the overall cost too much.

Security features

You will be storing internal data and customer data, and you need to ensure it is secure. Choose a hosting provider that offers SSL certificates and IP deny services; that runs firewalls and malware detection; and that regularly monitors for and responds to anomalies. You will also want a provider that offers 24-hour backup, to limit the amount of data you can lose should the server go down unexpected.

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