There are many web hosting providers offering different hosting packages leading to a confusing variety of choice. How does one choose a hosting package from the rest?
There are many factors that you should take into account, and not least among these is reliability, type of IT support available, and guaranteed uptime. Before you proceed to sign up with a hosting provider, it’s useful to consider what you need, what you plan to do with your website, and how these requirements can be best met by the types of hosting packages available.
Shared or Dedicated Hosting
Most websites will make use of a shared web hosting service. This means your website is stored on the same server as others though you have a paid account, your website is located under your own unique domain, and you manage the website. Dedicated hosting is more expensive than shared hosting; however, you will have access to unlimited databases, email address, and bandwidth. Dedicated hosting plans may be managed by the hosting company or, alternatively, if the user has a high level of IT know-how and requires maximum control over the server, they may opt for unmanaged dedicated web hosting.
FTP Access is essential if you want to be able to download and upload web pages. This is standard for most paid hosting plans. Advanced users may want extra features such as SSH access to allow them remote access to computers, or MySQL and PHP which allows you to make dynamic web pages – interactive sites with content that changes depending on the user. If you are having your website designed a developer and hosted by someone else, it may be useful to have a discussion with your developer to clarify the kind of operating systems, databases, and content management systems you will be using to ensure your hosting package can support these.
Stability and Reliability: Downtime and Speed
The next thing to do is to check for stability and reliability. Many hosting companies will guarantee 99.99 per cent up time or provide statistics on their reliability history. Note that while many companies offer users unlimited quantity with respect to data transfer, this may not be a guarantee of speed. You can make use of internet forums to check current user experience of hosting companies.
Pricing, Data Transfer and Disk Space
It’s also important to compare pricing given the data transfer speeds and disk space on offer as they can vary significantly. Some specialist hosting comparison sites allow you to compare different hosting companies and their plans in one quick glance. If your site is graphics-intensive, you need to make sure that your plan and hosting company will accommodate the data transfer volume that you require. Other issues such as payment terms – month to month contracts are common among hosting providers – should be considered to avoid being locked into a long term contract.
Support, Security and Backup
Read the fine print to make sure that your hosting company provides a level of business IT support suitable for your organisation. For example, if the hosting package or company offers support only by email, users may find that a two or three hour-wait for the support team to be very costly for their business.
Most hosting providers will provide a guaranteed daily backup of all their servers in case of blow outs or data loss. Additionally, you should check their security policy to identify the kind of monitoring and validation activities they undertake to ensure that hosted websites are protected against malicious attacks, particularly if your website captures private information, such as that stored and sent by eCommerce websites.