A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing a Web Host for your Online Store
When launching a website for your business, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is choosing the right web hosting company. The number of web hosting companies in existence is virtually impossible to calculate, with each offering very similar products, services, and even prices. Because of this, it can be a difficult decision to make.
Although choosing a hosting provider might not exactly be a life or death decision, it’s still a big deal nevertheless. Opting for an inappropriate hosting company can have far-reaching consequences for the success of your online business; it could even cause you to lose money and damage your reputation.
In this guide, we’ll be covering certain important considerations you should take into account when choosing a web hosting provider for your website. The aim is to provide a comprehensive guide that will share the information that’s relevant for all your hosting needs.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the knowledge needed to filter through the many hosting options available and be confident that you’ve made the right choice.
What is Web Hosting?
For those who don’t know, web hosting involves renting virtual space on one or more servers owned by a web hosting company. This is where the files that comprise your website will be located. It’s from this point your website is delivered to visitors who access your website by entering your unique domain name (in the address bar of their browser) or those who arrive by clicking on a link from another platform, such as a search engine or social media post.
You’ll need to tie a unique domain name to your website before visitors can gain access to the content within. Your web hosting account is associated with an IP address, which is a string of numbers that can be used to access your site. However, this can be difficult for visitors to remember, which is why it’s necessary to associate your website with a catchy and easy to remember domain name.
Things to consider when choosing a web host
There are several considerations to take on board when choosing a hosting provider for your business. This is especially important, as not every host will be ideal for your particular needs. Some web hosting companies might actually provide great services, but due to them not meeting your project requirements, you could think that they’re not good hosts.
The first step in this process is identifying your website’s requirements. Once you know exactly what you’ll need, it will be that much easier to get it.
The following questions will help define your website requirements:
What type of website do I need?
This is the crux of the matter. Although each web host has enough resources to meet the basic requirements for every website, there are some that need more than the host can provide. For example, every web host will be able to cater for a static website, but it takes a certain type of equipment and software to host dynamic websites.
What technical requirements do I need?
From the above, you’ll be able to see that different types of websites require different technical infrastructure. If you’re creating a dynamic website, you’ll need a web host that allows you to create databases. The database requirement could also differ, based on the type of dynamic website you want to create. For example, WordPress (which is the most popular CMS in the world today) needs a particular type of server environment in order to function properly. Incidentally, not many web hosts can meet these requirements.
What level of security do I need?
Security is very important when it comes to running an online business. You’ll need to define the level of security that will be adequate for the type of website you’re building. If you plan on running an e-commerce operation, you’ll need a web host that offers a very high level of security. This is because you’ll be sent the personal records of your website customers and this information needs to be kept safe from hackers and identity thieves. If you’re just running a simple personal blog or an information-based website, you might not need that much security.
How much space do I need?
Initially, you won’t require much space to host your files; however, as your business grows and your website becomes more popular (and you upload more content), your storage needs will increase. You’ll need to decide from the beginning just how much storage you’d be will likely to use. This is because certain web hosts have a limit to the size of storage they allocate to customers. If you happen to work with such a host and eventually grow to the point where you need more space, you might have to migrate to a new host and a new server. Subsequently, this will cost you time, resources and can even take your website offline for a period.
What is my web hosting budget?
How much are you willing to pay for web hosting? This is an important question you’ll need to answer before choosing a web host. If you have a limited budget, you might have to make do without some of the frills that usually come with web hosting. Your budget will also determine whether you should start with a shared hosting package or opt for a more reliable one.
What is my level of technical expertise?
Even if the design of your website is contracted out to an expert, you’ll likely be required to resolve one or two issues yourself as you go along. For instance, are you technically savvy enough to find your way around the complicated world or file permissions, root folder, .htaccess, FTP and other hosting protocols? Ultimately, your level of technical expertise will determine whether you need a web host with a strong technical support team, although it’s always advisable to opt for a host with 24/7 technical support.
Different types of web hosting
You might be familiar with the different types of web hosting available, but then again, you might not. Different web hosting packages are unique in their own way and ideal for certain websites. So much so, it can be confusing when differentiating between them and choosing the right one. So, let’s spend a few minutes looking at the popular ones in brief:
- Shared web hosting: Shared web hosting refers to a hosting system whereby multiple websites are hosted on one or more servers, sharing the same storage space and resources. Shared web hosting is beneficial for small websites that don’t receive lots of traffic. It can also work well for website owners who have a limited budget. If you decide to start your online journey using a shared hosting platform, it’s important that as your website grows, you begin to make plans to move to a more reliable system.
- VPS hosting: VPS hosting is a more reliable version of web hosting and is ideal for websites that attract lots of visitors. Using a Virtual Private Server (VPS) means that you won’t share hosting resources with anyone, while you’ll have full control over your server and can customize it to your heart’s content. VPS is beneficial for people who have a strong technical expertise or are willing to hire someone else who does.
- Dedicated hosting: Dedicated hosting is a more professional form of hosting, whereby you purchase, own or rent the server where your website files are hosted. You won’t share any part of this server with anyone and will have full control over what happens on the server. Dedicated hosting is usually used by large organizations and popular websites.
- Cloud hosting: Many people still see Cloud hosting as the ‘new kid on the block’, even though this concept has been available for a while now. Cloud hosting is a system of hosting whereby your website pulls server resources from a series of networked servers, located far and wide. Cloud hosting is ideal for websites that require optimum performance, high speed, and improved security. Cloud hosting is also the only scalable hosting model, whereby you can seamlessly integrate more resources as your website needs an increase.
With Cloud hosting, you can be sure of 100% uptime as this system is fully loaded balanced and redundant. You’ll also only pay for what you use, unlike with other hosting systems. Certainly, Cloud hosting has become the preferred hosting method for forward-thinking businesses, looking to gain a competitive advantage. It’s no surprise then that many small businesses – especially in New Zealand – are choosing The Cloud host for their websites with Freeparking, one of NZ’s top web hosts often a preferred choice.
Choosing the right web host
Just because a web host appears on a Google search results page does not necessarily mean it’s a reputable company; it simply indicates they carried out their search optimization effectively.
When choosing a web host, it’s important to go for one that meets your website requirements perfectly. Your preferred web host should be able to provide suitable answers to the questions asked above. Also, note that buying a web host is like buying real estate; you have to be sure that you’ll be comfortable there, and that it’s a place in which you can grow. Therefore, when considering a hosting provider, choose one with a proven track record. Be sure that the company is actually focused on hosting.
The following tips may help you identify a strong web host:
- Check online reviews: Take some time to visit their social media accounts (as well as other third-party review sites) and read what other customers have to say about them. You can gain valuable insight about a company from the comments people post on their pages.
- Test the support system: A good web host is one that has support staff available 24/7. For instance, you wouldn’t want a company that takes days to resolve a particular issue on your site. The best way to check for this is by sending an enquiring email to their support desk or opening a support ticket. Just ask any technical question and see how fast they reply and determine whether they know what they’re talking about.
- Check uptime record: It’s usually prudent to verify a web host’s claim of 99.9% uptime. Mostly, a lot of what’s written on their website is just marketing spiel; therefore, you’ll need to carry out your own research. There are certain online tools and resources that you can use to verify a server’s exact uptime.
- Read the TOS carefully: There are often many finer details that you’ll not be aware of when buying a hosting plan. Unfortunately, a lot of people fail to read the small print. The TOS will contain all you need to know about using a particular web hosting service; therefore, it’s important to read it carefully, so that you’ll know just what you’re getting involved with.
A web host could be the difference between the success and failure of your online business. For this reason, it’s vital you conduct due diligence before choosing a hosting provider. Ensure the hosting company you opt for has a proven record of best practices, including security, backups, emails, and storage. Also, see that it meets the general and specific requirements for your website.
I hope the information contained in this guide will be able to help you in your search for the right web host. Good luck!