How to choose a web hosting service

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Choosing a web hosting service is an incredibly important decision to make when getting ready to start a website. Choosing one of the best web hosting services, like choosing one of the best website builders, is part and parcel: the host you choose is responsible not only for keeping your site online, but also for keeping your site online. its flexibility, so that you can modify and develop your website over time.

It can be rewarding to choose a web hosting service that works perfectly for your site, and similarly, choosing the wrong web host can be seriously damaging to your business. If a web host can’t meet your site’s needs, you could end up wasting more time and money without having to start your search again.

Therefore, knowing what to look for when choosing a web hosting service is the right way to go. Here we cover seven key points you should consider in order to find the right web host for your website.

1. Type of accommodation offered

Most web hosts offer several types of services. For a new website with relatively modest traffic, shared hosting can be an inexpensive option. But if you need more bandwidth or extra computing power to run software on your website, look for options like VPS (Virtual Private Server) and cloud hosting.

You’ll also want to determine if they offer managed hosting or unmanaged hosting. With managed hosting, you don’t have to worry about things like security or software updates – your hosting provider takes care of all those details for you. This can be a particularly attractive option for new webmasters.

Even more importantly, look for a hosting provider that allows you to switch between their service levels seamlessly. Having the ability to upgrade your hosting plan without downtime is essential if, for example, your website is experiencing a spike in traffic thanks to a viral marketing campaign.

2. Support

customer support agent talking on headset

Web hosts with responsive customer support are your best bet (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Responsive support is one of the most critical things your hosting service can provide. If your website goes down or you’re the victim of a malicious attack, you want to be able to talk to someone who can help you as soon as possible. Every minute that your website is offline can cost you visitors and sales.

With that in mind, be sure to check out any support options offered by a potential host. Many have phone support, live chat, and 24/7 email support, while others only offer one or two channels to get in touch. Before signing up, try calling the helpline to see if the customer service team is knowledgeable and helpful.

3. Features

Hosting providers differ a lot in the features that they offer with their plans.

To start comparing features, take a look at how your data will be stored. Many budget vendors use hard drives, which are inexpensive but prone to mechanical failure. An ever-growing number of web hosts are turning to SSDs, which are much more reliable and can speed up your website with faster data transfer operations.

Another thing to look for is whether your hosting plan comes with automatic backups. Having backups of all your content and static pages is absolutely essential for quickly recovering from a server failure or a hack on your website.

The software provided by your web host is also to be considered. Many web hosts allow you to manage your site using cPanel hosting panel software, but others have proprietary control panels whose functionality may differ. Also, be sure to look for one-click installers to help you get your website up and running faster.

4. Server locations

a server rack with its security door unlocked in a data center

The location and ecological footprint of your host’s servers deserve to be studied (Image credit: Timofeev Vladimir / Shutterstock)

The closer your host’s servers are to your audience, the faster your pages will load for visitors. So it’s worth checking out where your host’s data centers are located and whether you’ll be able to choose from multiple server locations.

Some web hosts also give you the option of hosting your website in an environmentally friendly data center, like GreenGeeks: read our GreenGeeks review to find out more.

If you have a global audience, you might also want to consider a web host that gives you access to a CDN (content delivery network) such as Cloudflare. A CDN stores a cached copy of your site on servers around the world so visitors from anywhere can enjoy fast page loading.

5. Areas of specialization

While web hosts are generalists by nature, some companies specialize in certain types of hosting. For example, you will find web hosts who devote most of their infrastructure to managed WordPress hosting, which may make sense if you plan to use WordPress as your content management system.

Other hosting providers focus on cloud hosting, which provides more flexibility to increase or decrease your hosting resources. Think carefully about what you need, and then see if there is a hosting provider that is designed to meet those needs.

6. Security

man sat at dark desk working on laptop and desktop

Your site could be punished for being on the same server as a hacked site (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Web site security is more important than ever with the growth of cyber attacks. If your website is compromised by malicious actors, your visitors’ computers as well as yours could be affected. Worse, you could be held liable for damages that originate from your website, even if it is the result of a security breach.

It should also be noted that your website may be flagged by Google and other search engines if you share an IP address with websites that are compromised or contain spam. So even if your website isn’t directly affected by a breach, your traffic could suffer from choosing a web host that doesn’t take security seriously.

It is therefore important to carefully consider the web hosting security features offered by different web hosts. Some web hosts have tightly monitored data centers with 24/7 performance and threat monitoring to protect your website. Others take a much more lax approach and let you manage your website permissions.

7. Prices and general comments online

Once you have a shortlist of potential hosts, of course you will want to compare their prices. Depending on your budget, the price may be more or less important compared to other features in your final decision.

This is also a good time to review online reviews from webmasters who have used these web hosts. Reading other people’s experiences with a hosting provider can tell you if it’s as good as it looks on paper.

Further reading on web hosting

Be sure to read our buying guides outlining the best VPS hosting and the best cloud hosting, to find the best web hosts for these types of web hosting packages.


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