Finding the right web host is one of the most important steps when setting up a website. The wide variety of services and packages on offer can easily leave you confused when trying to find the best service provider. The following post will help you out by providing you with insight into the most important criteria to take into consideration when choosing a web host.
Availability is a technical term used in the web hosting industry to refer to reliability. It is important to find a web host capable of offering high availability. Simply put, the web host should guarantee that your website will remain online and will not fail because of server errors or go offline for extended periods during maintenance.
99.5 percent is the industry availability standard even though it still translates to your site being offline for more than 3 hours each month – not what you want from your hosting and IT provider. You ideally want to find a high availability provider capable of offering uptime of 99.95 percent if not higher.
Finding a web host that offers high availability is critical if you would like your business and website to have a reputation for reliability. It will help make your customers trust you more and will guarantee that your website is always working to maintain the services offered to your customers and for income generation too.
- Bandwidth Limits
Bandwidth is a term for describing the amount of data sent from your server to the browsers of your visitors. Each time a person loads one of your pages on his/her smartphone or computer, bandwidth is being used up. If your website has a lot of heavy content like large media files (music, images, videos, etc.) you may use a substantial amount of bandwidth.
Some of the hosting packages or even web hosts actually set a limit to the amount of bandwidth that is available for you to use each month, which is referred to as bandwidth allocation. If your website does not get too many visitors, this might not be an issue. However, if you are experiencing growth in traffic or an unexpected surge in demand happens (like when one of your posts goes viral), you might find yourself going beyond the bandwidth allocation.
Once this happens, one of two things can happen: you might find that the web host prevents the website from displaying for the remainder of the month or you could find yourself being billed for the extra bandwidth that you have used, which is similar to what happens if you go beyond your allocated mobile phone data.
Paying for the additional bandwidth and having your website taken offline are both not very desirable options, especially since going beyond the bandwidth allocation shows that your website is doing particularly well. What you should be looking for is a web host that offers wither unlimited or unmetered bandwidth on smaller (shared) hosting packages as well as bandwidth allocations on bigger (dedicated server) plans that are so high that you are hardly ever likely to surpass them.
- Disk Space Allocation
The amount of disk space that you require is determined by your personal circumstances. If you are just a small business looking to run nothing besides a website, then you don’t actually require too much disk space. However, if you run a large business that collects huge amounts of data and runs powerful applications you will definitely require more disk space for the programs and information that you need to store.
Most of the hosting packages have either file number limits or disk space limits, which is why it is important to assess your future needs and requirements carefully before you pick a package that can provide you with the required disk space. At the same time, it is important to ensure that you don’t waste your money on disk space that you never actually use. If your website will only be several hundred MB in size, there isn’t any point to buy 30GB of disk space.
- Technical Support All Day, Every Day
Managing a website can get quite technical and problems may occurs sometimes that you either don’t know how to solve or that require your web host to solve. It is due to this reason that you should find a web host that provides technical support 24 hours daily, 365 days a year. You don’t want a website going offline at the start of the weekend on Friday evening and not being able to talk to technical support until the following week on Monday morning.
It is important to note that technical support is the emphasis here. Some web hosts advertise 24/7 support but only put you through to a call center responsible for handling general enquiries. A good web host should provide complete technical support irrespective of when you get in touch or whether you use email, online chat, or phone to communicate.
- Technical Freedom
To ensure that your website actually functions as you would like it to, you may want to carry out a range of technical operations. While you may not have encountered terms such as PHP, FTP, MySQL, .htaccess, or cron jobs yet, you are likely to as you develop your knowledge of running a website.
FTP lets you upload or download files to your website from your computer directly.
PHP refers to the language that most sites are written in, but you may sometimes need to use certain versions that are compatible with the software the website is built on.
.htaccess refers to a configuration file that you can edit to achieve many things such as helping with website security.
MySQL is a type of databased required for running applications such as WordPress.
Cron jobs refers to tasks you set up to run particular processes at predetermined times automatically.
Some of the web hosts or web hosting packages offered by web hosts don’t give you the freedom to use all the services listed here and thus restrict what you can do with your website. You should ideally be able to use all and you should find a web host that enables this. It is particularly important for the people looking for shared hosting since it is in such packages where you will find most restrictions.
- The Ability to Use SSL
Simply put, SSL is a small piece of software that helps websites encrypt data sent from the user’s browser to your server. It is easy to recognize the website that have it since their address starts with https rather than http. If your website collects personal information or payments from customers, you are likely to require an SSL certificate considering that Google is now warning customers that websites that have not implemented https are not secure.
You will discover that some of the servers of the web host are not configured to allow for the use of SSL certificates and you should check this before you sign up. A good web host provides a range of SSL certificates that meet the security requirements of various businesses.
- Great Email
It is important to check the email service that comes with a particular hosting package before you sign up. You should ensure that you are able to set up email accounts with a similar domain to your website (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) and that you are able to use a variety of access methods like IMAP and POP3. You also want a service that you can access anywhere online and that allows you to set up autoresponding, email forwarding, and even email newsletters.
You should also find out how well the service providers actually protect your email. Do they monitor for malware and viruses, filter spam, and check to find out whether your email address has been blacklisted? If they don’t you are better off finding a different provider.
- Will You Get a Control Panel?
A control panel is where you manage your server and website. It allows you to make alterations to your website, install new software and updates, and even add new features. It is also where you can upgrade your account or even add new hosting services if you so wish.
Some web hosts provide a control panel that only offers a few options and limit what you can do, which can force you to go through customer service to do things such as changing your password or adding new email accounts.
You should ideally be looking for user-friendly control panels like Plesk or cPanel that also offer many options and can be learned intuitively.
Web security is becoming increasingly important and the web host you choose can make a big difference to how well your website is protected. You should find a web host that offers intrusion protection, strong firewalls, and monitoring to defend against malware. Your host should also offer a backup service so that you are able to restore your website quickly if it is ever taken offline. If a web host does not provide robust security, you should just find another one.
- Select the Right Operating System
Web hosts generally offer either Windows or Linux operating system for their websites. For many new users the confusion is that while Windows is the predominant operating system for home computers, the main choice for running websites is Linux. For most people, there is no option since the software used to create your website determines the system you have to use. For instance, you would need to choose Linux if you are planning to build a WordPress website.
When considering a particular web host, first ensure that you know the software to be used to create the website and then ensure that the provider supports that operating system.