I wrote this article on Things to consider when choosing a web host many years ago, and these are valid considerations. However, I felt it was time to provide a more relevant and current post on the subject so below I note the 5 things to consider when choosing a web host in 2017 and beyond.
If you’ve just purchased a domain name for your new website, the next step to getting your website online is choosing a web host. I know you may be tempted to get a free website (i.e. freebie web-hosting with WYSIWYG page builder) but if you want to grow your business in the future and ultimately your website, I don’t recommend getting free web-hosting.
While they have their advantages for start-ups on limited budgets or novices who have no web-building experience, such as easy-to-use, drag-and-drop page builders and a range of pre-built templates, you are not in control of your website and you are limited to the functionality provided by the web-host’s page builder. Ultimately, you will wind up getting frustrated with not being able to do what you want or need to with your website, and will need to move it to a new web-host.
Since the web-host’s page builder and templates are proprietary to them, you do not own your website and it will not be easy to move its home. All the files that make up your website will be stored on the web-hosts server and you won’t have access. At the very least, you may be able to export the data, but rebuilding your website through a different CMS system will be difficult.
Instead I recommend purchasing web-hosting through a reliable and reputable web host (such as HostPapa, BlueHost, 1and1, HostGator, Godaddy). So before you start, I recommend that you do a Google search for the top 10 best web-hosts in your country as well as the top 10 web hosts for security, which is probably the most important thing to consider when purchasing web-hosting.
You’ll find several articles providing a list of the top web hosts with features that they consider important so you can easily compare. Select the most recent articles – preferably in the last year.
Here are 5 things to consider when choosing a web host:
Some of the security features you should look for are:
Shared vs Dedicated Server
If you are planning on selling products online, taking customer information and payment information, you’ll definitely need a dedicated server, so that your customers’ information is not compromised by hackers hosted on the same server as you.
RAID (Redundancy Array of Independent Disks). You may have heard of or used RAID for your own home storage. RAID uses a series of independent disks to store data in more than one place. In some cases, the disks may be located in completely different buildings. Because your website is stored in different places on multiple hard disks, your data is protected especially in the event of a server crash.
SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol). FTP is often used to upload website files, install plugins, download or restore backups (I use it all the time when working on clients’ websites). SFTP provides an extra level of security during uploads/downloads.
DDos Protection (Distribution Denial of Service attack). As a small business start-up, you may not need DDos Protection but if you are a larger business with several computers on your system, or you expect your business to grow quickly, you’ll want to check for this security feature.
Firewalls. Just like you use firewalls on your own computer, you’ll want to check your web host includes firewalls to secure your site from outside threats.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). If you are planning on selling online and accepting payments or storing important customer information, you’ll want to ensure your web host offers SSL. Since Google is now ranking secure websites higher than unsecure websites in its search algorithms, you may also wish to include SSL on your website even if you aren’t planning on collecting payments or customer information.
Sitelock is a great feature to include on your website. Sitelock offers a number of features, including scanning for malware and preventing your site from being blacklisted.
Even with all of the above security features, it is important to back-up your website regularly just in case something goes wrong (a fire, MySQL attack, hack, or you somehow wiped your entire database or deleted all your files). Although you can back up your website data through FTP or a plugin (if you’re using WordPress), your web-host will also be providing email hosting, so you want to make sure your emails and everything else that runs your website is backed up too. Backups are also useful just in case you want to move your entire website to a new web host. Check to make sure your web host provides the following:
- Offsite backups
Server location is not necessarily important except to ensure it’s in the same time zone for tech support. If your website goes down during out-of-office hours, will they be awake to provide support?
Most web hosts provide a certain level of support, but you will want to check if it is included with your hosting package. Tech support may only be provided with more expensive upgrade packages. You’ll also need sales support if you have any sales or billing enquiries.
Check whether the web host provides 24-hour support particularly if your web host is in a different time zone or your clients are in various time zones.
When you’re just starting out, you may not need much for your first website – at the very least you may need WordPress, but most web hosts offer these days, especially reputable ones. However, think long term. As you grow your business, your website will grow. You want to make sure your web host offers what you’ll need in the long term, or you will have to move your website later if it doesn’t. Check what’s in their basic starter package as well as what they offer in their upgrade packages to see if they will provide what you need long term.
- Do they include the content management system you want to use now or in the future?
- Do they include multiple domain names / sub-domains or do you need to pay for more?
- Do they provide email hosting for multiple email addresses or do you need to pay extra? Most businesses need more than one email address. Make sure they at least allow for 5 email addresses.
- Is there enough storage? This is important especially if you are a photographer or plan to upload videos and lots of photos. Content management systems, images, videos, multiple websites and backups need plenty of storage. Your emails may take up a lot of space too.
- Do they provide enough bandwidth? Again, if you’re a photographer, plan to upload videos or expect a lot of people on your website, you’ll need a fair bit of band width, if not in the beginning, but as you add more to your website. If there’s not a lot of bandwidth and multiple people watch the same video at the same time, your site may not have enough resources to stay online.
One other thing to consider: Are they using the latest software installer, PHP MyAdmin & Database Management?
You could ask, but, if you’re not sure what any of that means you won’t know what to ask. However, if the web host’s website itself looks out of date, old-fashioned, is not mobile friendly, or is hard to navigate, etc., it’s a red flag. It’s likely that their software installer, PHP and database management are out of date too. Most content management systems need the most recent version of PHP and your site may disappear during an update if an old version is being used.
In the end, it all goes back to choosing a reputable web host. Check online to find the top web hosts for your own country and ask others you know which web host they use. Find out their level of satisfaction, if they’ve had any server issues (blackouts, shut-downs, down-time) or email issues. Ask if their websites were ever hacked or compromised, how often their website is offline and ask how easy it is to get hold of customer support and how quickly issues are resolved.