Web hosting is one of the key ingredients in websites, right after choosing a domain name and DNS provider. Choosing the best web host cannot be overlooked as choosing the wrong web host can make your website slow, produce errors or even worse downtime.There is a lot to consider when choosing a web host, from the website’s requirements to the web host and web host provider. This article is not intended to be like all the others and yes, I know there are tons of similar articles. This article won’t promote unlimited web hosts that offer great affiliate payments, but rather what you should look for and consider when choosing the best web host.

What You Need to Consider

Here are the things you need to consider when choosing the best web host:

  1. Meets the minimum software requirements;
  2. Meets the minimum disk space requirements with room to grow;
  3. Avoid unlimited disk space and bandwidth web hosts;
  4. Server is close to your visitors;
  5. Downtime history;
  6. Server management;
  7. Server specifications can power everyone hosted; and
  8. 24×7 technical support.

You might also want to consider the following:

  1. SSL is supported; and
  2. Types of hosting provided.

Understand Software Requirements

You are most likely going to use a content management system (CMS) or a blogging platform like WordPress or Drupal. So, make sure you understand the minimum requirements for running that software. You should also note any additional requirements so extra features like pretty links, which will require read and write access to .htaccess.

The minimum requirements will be server software and the amount of disk space required.

Websites Grow

Your website will grow over time, so make sure the amount of disk space and bandwidth can support the growth of your website. With this being said, as your website grows so does server resources your website will require. So, having a web host that provided different hosting types is a good thing to consider or be prepared to choose another web host.

Unlimited Disk Space and Bandwidth

You should absolutely avoid unlimited disk space and bandwidth web hosts. There is no such thing as “unlimited” when it comes to disk space and bandwidth. Sure, there has been advancements in space a hard drive can hold, but it’s not free and you are not the only one occupying space on a server.

When it comes to bandwidth, every single GB of data costs money, not a lot, probably $0.10 – $0.50, on average, depending on bandwidth quality and level of web host, i.e. data centre owner, dedicated server provide, reseller, etc…

Web hosts offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth as a marketing tactic and they count that an average website would not use a lot of disk space and bandwidth. If they do, the website would occupy a lot of server resources, therefore the web host would suspend and or request that you offer a bigger web hosting plan.

Server Location

This is critical and many website owners do not consider this. You should make absolutely sure your web host has servers near your visitors and not near you. This will allow for faster websites.

When you start your website, you probably won’t know where your visitors will be coming from, so choose a web host closest to where you are targeting, i.e. if you are targeting visitors in the New York area, choose a web host that provides servers in New York.

Downtime History

Most web hosts will publish a link that contains a history of downtime, if they do not, ask for it. Make sure the downtime history is provided by a reliable third party. If the downtime history is provided by the web host themselves, you can still consider this but I would not weight it as valuable as third party monitoring providers. Your web host should monitor for downtime though – that is necessary for faster response times.

The monitoring of the server should be in five (5) minute intervals. I would not consider intervals that are 30 minutes or higher, as they would not be accurate.

All server monitoring software and providers are not perfect, they will have false positives, so you need to understand this.

When it comes to share hosting, anything below 99.5% uptime is not good and I would avoid that web host. Make sure the uptime is the uptime of the server, as there is a difference between network and server uptime. So, if your web host does not state network or server uptime, make sure you ask.

Most web hosts will advertise 99.9% uptime; this is standard and you should expect that. This is why it is necessary to find out and verify what the true uptime of the web host is.

Server Management

Ask the web host who manages the server – do they manage the server or does a third party. Why? To see if they know what they are doing, so if the server goes down at 3 AM, they can immediately fix it, instead of waiting for someone to do it. Though, this does not necessarily mean the server will be managed poorly. But making sure the server software is updated regularly and the server is managed effectively is key.

Oversold Server

Web hosts are just like any other business – they want to make money – the most amount of money possible, so many web hosts will overload the server with accounts and websites. A typical shared web hosting provider can host 200-300 accounts with thousands of websites. Now this does not mean the service will be sub-par, but it is a possibility. Plus all these websites require server resources, just like your website and the more resources being used, the less your website will have the ability to use and you might need it, especially if there is a spike of traffic.

24×7 Technical Support

Send an e-mail to the potential web host, in the early morning, i.e. 2-5 AM, to see how fast they will respond. You need to know that will your website encounters an error, they will be available anytime to help.

Is SSL Supported?

I always look for a web host that offers SSL support, either free or paid. Why? Because I collect information from visitors, and I want them to know and make sure the information they provide is protected. Plus, I have membership sites and an administration panel to manage my website. If your website does not collect information or does not have a control panel (client or administration), then SSL is not necessary.

Everything Fails

You should be aware that technology fails and you should be ready in case your server’s hard drives fails. Back up your website(s) and pick another web host to use in case of a technology failure with your current web host.

How Much Bandwidth Do I Need?

This is a common question and many make a mistake of picking a web host that offers tons of bandwidth. Bandwidth is calculated based on the total amount of bandwidth that is being transmitted. This is based on web page size and the elements that make help your web page, like CSS, JavaScript and images. So, let’s say your web page is 10 KB in size, CSS file is 15 KB, JavaScript is 5KB in size and you have 25 KB of images. The total bandwidth for the web page would be 55 KB. So, every time that web page is loaded 55 KB of bandwidth would be used. Now let’s say there were 10 visits to that web page, the total amount of bandwidth that would be used, would be 550 KB.

An average website would not use more than 10 GB of bandwidth, so you don’t need thousands of GBs of bandwidth or unlimited bandwidth.

Types of Web Hosts

There are many different types of web hosts: shared, reseller, semi-dedicated, VPS, dedicated and cloud.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting means the server is dividing the server resources across many websites. This also increases that amount of requests the server has to make. A typical shared server can host 200-300 web hosting accounts and contain thousands of websites. Now many web host will have adequate server resources available to accommodate these websites, but not all and this does not negate the fact that a server has to accommodate all of these requests, which can slow down a website, especially if a website on the server is a resource hog, which is quiet common.

Reseller Hosting

Reseller hosting means that you or the web host you are buying from is offering a section of a VPS or dedicated server. This section allows you to create shared hosting accounts.

You should avoid reseller hosting providers, as they don’t offer anything different from shared hosting providers and the technical support will most likely be limited, as they do not have root or admin access to the server.

Semi-Dedicated, VPS and Dedicated Hosting

Other types of server hosting are semi-dedicated, VPS and dedicated. Semi-dedicated hosting is similar to shared hosting, but the server is hosting far less websites. VPS or Virtual Private Server is similar to semi-dedicated, but unlike semi-dedicated hosting, a VPS owns the server resources and therefore the server resources are not shared. Dedicated means, only you own the server.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting means that your website uses resources across multiple servers, thus, in theory, your website will be faster and the uptime of your website would be improved.

Cloud hosting could be server resources, storage, content delivery, i.e. images or a combination there of.

Use a Separate DNS Provider

Many individuals will use the name servers provided by the web host for DNS, in my opinion, this is a mistake. You should use a provider that specializes in DNS. In addition, if your web host suspends your account or if the server fails, it is easier and faster to switch to another web host.

Avoid Buying a Domain Name from the Web Host

Some web hosts will provide a free domain name or you may order a domain name from the web hosting provider as it is convenient. This is maybe a mistake, as some web hosts will hold your domain hostage, disallowing you to transfer it to a new web host or domain name provider or charging your fees to do so.

Who Should I Use for E-mail

Majority of web hosts will provide e-mail hosting, however, if you have the budget I would look for a company that specializes in e-mail server. There are affordable e-mail providers like Google and Rackspace. By doing this, you are also freeing up disk space and server resources for your website to use.

Which web host do I use? I use VPS.NET and I also recommend WP Engine.