What to Consider When Choosing a Web Hosting Service
Whether you are a startup coming out of the gate with a new website, or you have an existing website that’s a bit slow and clunky, don’t neglect giving some serious thought to your website hosting service.
For those not already aware, web hosting is the service that your website is built on (think of it as the foundation to your home), and makes it available for viewing on the web.
There are a lot of options today for hosting your website — from a DIY server in your garage to a service somewhere in the cloud. Yes, you can run a server from your office or even your home, but unless you are an experienced server administrator and network administration whiz (and don’t care too much about a reliable connection), this is a very bad idea.
Instead, most people opt for a web hosting company to host their website, handle all of their server administration tasks, and provide redundancy (backup servers) for reliability. And with good reason.
So what should you consider when selecting a web hosting company?
How is your website built? If you’ve built your website on HTML5 /CSS3 or any nonspecific framework, this is less of an issue. However, if you’ve used WordPress, consider a managed web hosting that handles more of the administration tasks for you. For instance, some managed hosting services offer specialty services fine-tuned to support WordPress sites, and they include updates to core code and plugins. Similarly, you will find web hosts geared toward support of Drupal and other specific types of Content Management Systems (CMS).
The cost of a web hosting service will depend on your needs. The bare bones, no frills basics are often covered for as little as $5 per month — but if you want high quality service or require other specialized services, you may spend closer to $100 per month.
If you have a simple, small business website with basic functionality that isn’t anticipating thousands of users per month, a cheaper hosts often work fine. Many of them do offer good service for a low price. Check customer reviews!
You want to be sure your webhost is doing everything possible to maintain security on their servers. For instance, it’s a good sign if a host doesn’t allow FTP access — only SFTP. Security is not a simple undertaking in 2014. Be sure to read up on each host’s policies and procedures.
You will need to back up your site files and databases, and you should always have more than one current backup of them stored offsite (on a different server than the one your site lives on). You can do this yourself, and upload your backups to a cloud storage service like Box or Amazon S3. Or you can choose a web host that will maintain backups for you to save time and effort.
CDN is a way to send cached versions of your site out within a system of distributed servers in various locations, providing speed and reliability to your users. Opt for a host that will provide this service, especially if you have a global audience.
Most websites are built in pieces and assembled on the fly. The average website you visit may have to call for dozens or more parts and pieces before it can render a page for you (headers, footers, fonts, scripts, images, content probably all live separately on the server). Caching means the server builds a pre-assembled page for each URL, so users won’t have to wait as long to access the page. Look for this feature if you run your website using a CMS framework.
You should have a good idea of what your website’s bandwidth needs are for launch. That’s enough for now. No need to plan for a year from now; you can always start with a basic plan and upgrade as your visitor numbers grow.
Web hosting isn’t an undifferentiated commodity product. Different businesses have different web hosting needs. A slow, insecure website that gets knocked offline from time to time can have a major impact on user impressions and SEO. Take the time to do some research to determine the best host for your website.
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