7 Obvious (And Not So Obvious) Things To Look For When Choosing A Web Host

Although many of us might have much more fun designing and crafting our websites, the hosting and technical side of things is important, too.

Your site’s reliability and performance shouldn’t be overlooked. After all, fast-loading pages have been proven to keep people on a website for longer.

With a huge range of web hosting companies competing for your attention and money, it can be hard to narrow your options down to a single web hosting service.

It’s like having to choose only one dessert from an expansive buffet; all the cakes look good on the surface but it’s often what lies underneath that counts most.

Selecting the right web host from the start can save you a lot of headache and hassle in the future.

With that in mind, here I take a look at some of the considerations you should take into account when you’re deciding on a web host.

1. Hunt Around for a Free SSL Certificate

Visitors stay longer on websites they trust. If they happen to see a small green lock logo, they know that the site is secured and safe.

To know if a page you’re on is secure, encrypted sites begin with https:// and non-encrypted sites with <http://.

In the past few years, you wouldn’t have came across a guide to web hosting that made a request for an SSL certificate, but they’re becoming increasingly important.

With Google’s announcement that secure websites have a potential advantage when it comes to search engine rankings (albeit slight).

Google made things very clear in a recent Chrome update that now relay a ‘not secure’ message on applicable websites.

Their primary reason for ‘forcing’ webmasters to keep their sites up to date, is safety. With encryption, information that is transmitted between a browser and a web server is kept safe.

This is particularly important for sites that deal with sensitive information from clients and visitors.

Not all web hosts offer free SSL certification, and many that do only offer it for a trial period before a payment scheme is imposed.

Look for a web host that offers SSL certification as either a very low fee, or for free (they do exist).

2. It’s Not Sexy, But Availability (Uptime) Is Critical

Though my first recommendation wasn’t a must-have, this second one is. Within the hosting industry, availability is the term used for reliability. The web host that you eventually settle on should offer high availability.

The end goal is a website that stays online and doesn’t fail because of any errors on the part of the hosts’ servers, or get subjected to long periods of offline maintenance.

Ideally, you should aim to find a host that offers an uptime (the percentage of time your site is online and operational for) of around 99.95%. Even 99% is considered low.

As you can imagine, having a site that’s frequently offline or non-operational will reflect poorly on your business’ reliability, and may mean that your important clients lose faith and trust in you as a provider of goods or services.

On the internet, you don’t often get a second chance to make a good impression on your users. The last thing you want to be is offline when a user lands on your website.

3. One-Click WordPress Installations

If you’re a beginner webmaster or even a seasoned website-building-veteran, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll want to install software like WordPress, the popular blogging platform.

While WordPress isn’t too tricky to install and setup manually, creating databases and assigning users to them can get very boring, very quickly, if you’re going to host a lot of sites.

Make sure that the web host you choose offers cPanel as a minimum, and either Softaculous or Fantastico to go with that, for one-click installation of the most popular software that webmasters use.

4. Live Chat Can Be a Life-Saver At Times

Websites can be very tricky things to run, particularly when the technical side causes you problems. Some issues you might be able to solve yourself, for others you will need the support of your host to fix.

Aim to choose a web host who not only offers technical support 24/7 via phone and email, but has a live chat option as well.

This is especially important if you are new to online selling or exposure, or have little technical knowledge.

Keep in mind that just because a host has live chat when you’re going through the sales process, it doesn’t mean their live chat team can help with your technical issues.

Some hosts have much more availability before you part with your cash then after it.

Try to open up their live chat box and see if they have a category available for ‘technical’ support or troubleshooting. If they only have a pre-sales option that’s not a good sign.

If they don’t have any options (which is rare), simply open up live chat to see if they can solve technical problems there and not just via support tickets.

5. Bandwidth Limits Should Be A Thing Of the Past, But They Aren’t Always

Bandwidth describes the amount of data that is sent from your server to the client or visitor’s browser. Each time a user loads a page from your site, you use up some of your bandwidth.

Media heavy sites that feature higher a lot of images or videos etc., use more bandwidth than others.

Going over an allotted bandwidth may mean that you incur additional charges. Some web hosts offer a limited amount of bandwidth allocation each month.

Others offer an unlimited amount – a note here that unlimited doesn’t always mean unlimited, so do read the fine print.

Ask yourself how much bandwidth you really need before selecting a host and/or package. If you’re going to be hosting videos, offering file downloads or streaming things like podcast episodes from your own server, your bandwidth requirements are going to increase dramatically.

This isn’t a concern you should really be having in 2017, but it is one more thing to consider before you pull the plug on a host.

6. Don’t Forget the Basics Like Storage, RAM, and the Hard Drive for Your Server

Many web hosts offer unlimited storage, or at least a large amount of storage that small business owners will not come close to reaching the limits of.

Others offer a personalised amount of storage that will suit your needs. When assessing the storage capabilities your potential web hosts provide, look out for SSD, or ‘solid state drives’.

These are much faster and generally more reliable, although they do usually incur additional charges.

Traditional hard disk drives are more common in the unlimited plans because they often have a higher capacity.

Much like your home computer or laptop, RAM determines the processing speed of stored data. This hardware component interacts with storage drivers and speeds up page loading times.

Before selecting your web host, try to estimate your needs and select a host that will fulfil those, without going over the top.

If, for example, you’re creating a small website designed for exposure which has 10 pages or so, it’s unlikely that you will need 100GB of disk space.

7. Check The Number of Domains You Can Host

You likely know the popular saying “You get what you pay for.” In my experience, it most certainly applies to the world of web hosting. Don’t get sucked in by hosts that allow you to put unlimited number of websites online.

Keep in mind that they will allow this for every other customer as well, meaning they likely have servers which host hundreds if not thousands of websites.

I actually prefer shared hosts which put a limit on the number of sites you can host (often one, three or ten) as it means they’re more likely to not crowd their servers as much as possible.

If you’re really on a budget, then getting a $4 or $5 per month server won’t make you worry about your bank balance, but it may mean your website is unbearably slow at times for users.

On the other hand, opting to pay a few bucks per month more for less features (no, really) may mean the difference between a bargain that is cheap for a reason, and finding a great deal.

The Most Important Thing to Remember Is To…

Know your hosting needs, before letting any company dazzle you with what they have to offer.

Equipped with the knowledge above and an understanding of what your website is for and how it will be used, you’ll be better much informed when selecting a web host.

Do seek out independent user reviews from well-known websites like this site, FinancesOnline.com. From these you’ll be able to get an idea of whether the host will be a good fit for your site and for your needs.

Remember that there’s no such thing as the perfect web host because each client’s site and needs will differ, instead, you’re looking for the web host that is perfect for you.

I hope this article helped somewhat on your journey, and be sure to ask us any questions in the comments if I can help.

Category: B2B News

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