One of the most crucial choices when building a new website, be it a personal blog or a business-related platform, is choosing the right hosting provider. It’s like finding the perfect pair of shoes – the type you need in the long run. They should be comfortable – following the shape of your feet, and providing support for your spine, so that you can go a long way.
In other words, your hosting provider is the backbone of your website. The stronger it is, the healthier your site will be. In this article, we will go through some of the essential criteria that a hosting company needs to cover to make its customers happy. In the long run. Getting the right hosting provider for your needs will make your customers happy. If you make the wrong choice in terms of this particular service, you will most likely have a slow and unresponsive site and server downtime. These issues will surely affect your SEO and your brand negatively.
So, to avoid this from happening, what web hosting criteria should you be looking at to find your perfect match?
Most Important Web Hosting Criteria (Features) to Consider
Excellent technical support
The web is full of tips on how to select the best hosting company for your needs. Usually, most guides put technical support at the end of the list of important criteria. We, however, believe that quality technical support should be your top priority.
Even though technical issues don’t occur that often (thankfully), you will be more than happy to know you have adequate and professional support along the way. If you overlook the importance of good technical support, the hell of the internet may unleash upon you. Yes, this sounds a bit exaggerated but inadequate technical support will harm you in ways you don’t even suspect exist.
If your site goes down (and this does happen), you should know that a real person will be on the other side of the line. Yes, you should be able to call your technical support agent over the phone. Email should also be an option.
Long story short, to make sure you get adequate technical help, make sure to inspect the hosting provider’s customer support. What reputation does the company have? Is the support 24/7? Is there an online chat available? Will they answer the phone regardless of the time you call? Is the support outsourced?
Make sure to get answers to all these questions before you purchase your host plan.
Imagine that your site is constantly going offline. Such a repetitive event will harm your reputation in the long-term, chasing away your visitors, and will surely impact your SEO ranking. This drop will inevitably affect your sales, too.
That is why having a hosting provider with impeccable uptime should be a top priority on your to-do list. Shared hosting providers usually offer an uptime guarantee of 99.95%. If you have chosen a more sophisticated hosting plan, like dedicated or VPS, aim at higher uptime availability of nearly 100%, or 99.99%.
The security features of your web hosting plan shouldn’t be overlooked. Even a single, minor vulnerability in your site could lead to various cyberattacks. Let’s list some of the most popular website attacks that each website is exposed to, if not properly protected:
Website defacement – this type of attack usually is carried out by hacker activists. If your site suffers a defacement attack, its visual appearance will be changed. To do that, hackers break into a web server and replace the hosted website with one of their own.
Malware infection – hacked sites can be exploited to deliver malware. Malware can be hidden within an article, for example, as a hyperlink linked to an executable file. Some sites can even be re-infected with the same malware, a risk that highlights the importance of excellent security features even more.
Spam link distribution – cybercrooks can generate profit by inserting spam links in unprotected sites, thus generating income based on user clicks and interactions.
These are just a few examples of attacks against websites. Today, hackers can easily get equipped with various hacking tools to help them scan millions of sites and networks in search of vulnerabilities.
To avoid this from happening, you need a hosting provider with robust security. Your provider should be able to provide a range of security tools to protect against cyber threats. Strong firewalls, intrusion prevention, spam protection and removal, SSL encryption, email scanning all should be included in your plan. When you think of security, think of prevention.
Is your hosting plan scalable? Scalability is a major factor in many businesses, especially those who rely on cloud hosting. This type of service enables your business to grow steadily, allowing you the chance to cover any spikes in traffic and demand.
Yes, such spikes don’t happen daily but they do happen. Perhaps you remember the curious case of Cambridge University’s website which literally broke down when they released Stephen Hawking’s Ph.D. online. Demand for the thesis, entitled Properties of Expanding Universes, was so great that it caused Cambridge University’s repository site to go down.
Scalability in terms of web hosting means that you can pay for it when you start needing it. You don’t need to upgrade to a larger package, not until the time for a larger package comes. If you aim at growing a large website that should be able to handle increased activity, ensure that your provider offers scalable resources.
Does your hosting provider and plan offer pre-installed apps?
Pre-installed applications are specific widgets that will aid you in building your website quickly.
Furthermore, with these apps’ help, it will be easier for you to manage your site. Let’s say you have chosen a shared hosting plan that includes a control panel, which is in fact one of the most basic apps.
And a very helpful one! With it, you will be in charge of server processes via a user-friendly interface. cPanel is perhaps the most wide-spread control panel but there are other options as well, including Webmin, Virtualmin, and Zpanel.
The control panel itself offers more pre-installed apps and add-ons. If you are running an eCommerce site, you will be able to add crucial functions related to payment, shopping, etc. There may also be the option of installing a CMS like WordPress via an automatic installation.
So, if you are building a site that needs all these functions, make sure that your hosting provider offers them.
Some web hosting companies provide control of the domains they register. This way, the domain owner has the ability to transfer the domain to another registrar. You should pay close attention to the Terms and Conditions of your provider, especially the part related to privacy and additional fees, when it comes to transferring to another registrar.
Programming languages available
What server-side languages does the provider offer, and more importantly, do these languages work for you?
This is an important thing to know prior to starting your website, because you may need to shift from one language to another.
So, do your research and check whether the languages you will need are listed in the provider’s supported frameworks.
Keep in mind that PHP is nearly omnipresent but it doesn’t mean you won’t need another language. So, make sure that you have choice on the matter.
Storage and disk space
This is another essential aspect to consider while “hunting” for the best provider to address your specific needs. Disk space is needed to store your databases, files and media. The bigger your website, the bigger disk space it will require, and vice versa.
A few gigabytes are sufficient for small and medium-sized sites. However, websites grow, so make sure that you have more than what is primarily needed.
In terms of web hosting, bandwidth is considered the amount of data your site can transfer to your visitors in a particular amount of time. Many hosts offer unlimited bandwidth plans. However, it is important that the host manages well that feature, as it can affect your traffic speed and site’s performance, respectively.
What does it mean, if your plan offers limited bandwidth? It means that once you’ve reached that limit, your provider may not allow any more visitors to your site, or you may be charged extra per megabyte. That is why bandwidth is a very essential criteria to look at when choosing your host.
Or the various types of web hosting, including dedicated, cloud, shared, VPS, etc. This choice stems from your budget and the type of website you are building.
Shared plans work perfectly for smaller projects, as you share the resources (such as RAM and CPU) with other sites hosted on the same server.
Shared plans are typically perfect for beginners, as they come with numerous handy tools, such as website builders, WordPress hosting, email, etc.
However, note that even though a shared plan is generally the most affordable option, it could bring security implications. If you want to play bigger, then a VPS plan may be more suitable for you – it is somewhere in-between a shared and a dedicated server.
VPS gives you more control over your site. Furthermore, your site has its own space on the server, even though it still shares the same server with other sites. You will have more customization and storage space, but you may not be able to handle higher spikes in traffic. In other words, your site’s performance can still be inflicted by the rest of the sites hosted on the server.
This is where we get to dedicated servers, giving site owners ultimate control over the server which is exclusively available only to you and your site.
This condition gives you full root and admin access, and the ability to administer everything, improving your security tenfold. Of course, this level of control comes at a certain price.
Dedicated hosts are quite expensive, as they are suitable for large sites with high volume of traffic. Furthermore, dedicated hosting requires a broader technical skillset and knowledge. So, keep in mind that you may need to hire a web developer to help you maintain your site.
An important tip about price
While researching, you will most certainly come across companies that offer free plans. Please, consider the complexity of web hosting before falling for such a claim. In order to work like it is supposed to work, hosting should not be free.
If you come across a host that advertises its services this way, be alert as there might be a catch. A professional service needs resources and finances to exist and be competitive on the market.
We hope that we have provided you with a detailed insight into the most important web hosting criteria to look at when making this choice. Bear in mind that you should not only think about how you start your project now but also about its future.
A final tip we can give you is choosing your hosting locally, especially if you want to target a specific region or country. In this case, make sure to check the reviews and opinions of your hosting’s local clients. Consider the local currency and regulations, too.
Speaking of regulations, carefully go through the service level agreement (SLA) of your chosen provider, especially the clauses regarding service details, cost and availability. Uptime may also be mentioned in the SLA, which, like we said, could be 99.95% or 99.99% depending on the chosen host package.
Whichever hosting company or plan you decide to go with, make sure that it fits your site’s specific needs.