How to choose web hosting - featured

How to choose web hosting?

I once told during a presentation that web hosting companies are holding the entire internet up and running. That’s not far from the truth, and I still believe that. We’ll get to tips on how to choose web hosting in a second, I first want to explain why I might be the guy worth listening before you do choose a web hosting company.

Before starting WhoAPI Inc. I ran a web hosting company for around five years. I decided with my business partner that it was time to go all-in with WhoAPI, and we’ve decided to sell our web hosting company. It’s been more than ten years since I’ve sold that business but I’ve remained directly and indirectly involved in the web hosting industry.

Web hosting plays a fundamental role in bringing websites to life. It serves as the foundation upon which websites are built, providing the necessary infrastructure and resources for online presence. In this article, I will explain the concept of web hosting, exploring its definition, components, and importance in the digital environment. Finally, I will explain what is a good way to choose web hosting.

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What is Web Hosting?

At its core, web hosting refers to the service that enables individuals and organizations to make their websites accessible on the internet. Websites consist of various files, including HTML documents, images, videos, and other multimedia elements. These files need to be stored on servers – powerful computers specifically designed to handle the storage, processing, and delivery of website content to users across the globe.

Components of Web Hosting:

  1. Servers:
    • Servers are the backbone of web hosting. They store website files, process user requests, and deliver content to visitors’ browsers.
  2. Data Centers:
    • These are facilities housing a multitude of server racks and servers. Data centers are equipped with advanced infrastructure, security measures, and redundant systems to ensure uninterrupted website operation. 24-7-365 at the industry standard of 99.9% of the time with an upward trend..
  3. Internet Connection:
    • Web hosts maintain high-speed internet connections to ensure fast and reliable access to websites. The quality of this connection directly impacts a website’s loading speed.
  4. Software:
    • Web hosting companies use specialized software to manage server resources, allocate bandwidth, and handle various tasks related to website management.
Software as a service runs on cloud hosting
Software as a service runs on cloud hosting

How Web Hosting Works:

When a user types a website’s domain name into their browser, the domain is translated into an IP address by the Domain Name System (DNS). This IP address points to the server where the website is hosted. IP address is essentially like a server’s physical address.

The server then retrieves the request for files and sends them to the user’s browser. Once the browser gets the files (code, images, videos) the user can view the website and its content.

Types of Web Hosting:

  1. Shared Hosting:
    • Multiple websites share resources on the same server. It is cost-effective but may have limitations on performance and customization. Some servers load upwards of 500 websites. Depending on the server and the websites.
  2. VPS Hosting:
    • Virtual Private Servers provide dedicated resources within a shared environment. This offers more control and performance than shared hosting.
  3. Dedicated Hosting:
    • Entire servers are dedicated to a single website. This provides maximum control and performance but is more expensive.
  4. Cloud Hosting:
    • Sometimes it takes more than one server for a single website. Resources are distributed across multiple servers, offering scalability and flexibility. Users pay for the resources they consume.
Hosting company works hard to protect you
Web hosting company works hard to protect you

Importance of Web Hosting:

  1. Website Accessibility:
    • Web hosting ensures that your website is available 24-7-365. This allows users to access it from anywhere in the world at any time.
  2. Performance:
    • The choice of web hosting directly impacts a website’s speed and performance. Faster loading times contribute to a better user experience.
  3. Security:
    • Web hosting services include security features like firewalls, DDoS protection, encryption, and regular backups to protect websites from cyber threats.
  4. Scalability:
    • As websites grow, the right web hosting solution allows for easy scalability to accommodate increased traffic and data.

Web hosting is the invisible force that brings the digital world to life. Whether you’re running a personal blog, a small business website, or a large e-commerce platform, choosing the right web hosting service is essential for a seamless online experience. Understanding the basics of web hosting empowers individuals and businesses to make informed decisions and establish a strong and reliable online presence.

How to choose web hosting

Choosing the right web hosting for your website is crucial for its performance, security, and overall success. Here are some key factors to consider when purchasing web hosting:

How to choose web hosting - small

Type of Hosting:

  1. Shared Hosting: Cost-effective, but resources are shared with other websites on the same server. The one bad apple in a basket rule applies here. In reality, this means that if one website is hacked or one of its scripts goes haywire, this could impact your website. Because of its affordability, this is how most websites work.
  2. Virtual Private Server (VPS): Provides a dedicated portion of a server with more resources than shared hosting. This also reduces the chances of problems that your website causes. It also means that it’s a bit more expensive (starting at $5 per month), and more work for you. Maintaining a server could be out of your league and could incur additional system administration cost.
  3. Dedicated Hosting or Dedicated Servers: Offers an entire server exclusively for your website. Very similar to Virtual Private Servers. Think of VPS as a dedicated server that’s been split into 2, or more virtual sections. There’s even more work involved, it even more expensive and you would do it only if you are making a lot of money with your web project.
  4. Cloud Hosting: Resources are distributed across multiple servers, providing scalability and reliability. Think big and technically challenging projects such as Netflix, Reddit, Faceebok and other top 1000 websites.

How to choose the best web hosting provider?

Different web hosting providers, specialize for different types of web hosting. Digitial Ocean, Amazon Web Services (AWS) are strong players in the Cloud Hosting and Virtual Private Servers.

Hostinger (my review) , Green Geeks (my review) are focused mostly on shared hosting.

I’ll go out on a limb and assume that if you are reading the “how to choose web hosting” article, that you are not an expert on the subject, so you are probably looking for a shared hosting provider. Why do I make that assumption? Well, if you had massive requests, and really need a dedicated server or cloud hosting, you would sooner or later become proficent at this topic out of necessity.

Someone could argue that Virtual Private Server could be a great option. And I would agree. But then again the advice I will write now, can also be aplied to both choosing a shared web hosting, and choosing a Virtual Private Server.

Performance and Speed:

  1. Consider the server’s hardware specifications, such as CPU, RAM, and storage type (SSD is faster than HDD). Most web hosting providers now use SSD, so if you don’t see SSD, steer clear.
  2. Check if the hosting provider uses a content delivery network (CDN) to improve loading times.
  3. You can do your own tests by ordering a trial.

Reliability and Uptime:

  1. Look for a hosting provider with a high uptime guarantee (99.9% or higher).
  2. Check for any history of downtime or server outages.
  3. One of the ways to do this is by setting up a trial account, and then setup website monitoring to see if there’s any downtime during the trial.
More website downtime tips
Downtime is expensive

Scalability:

  1. Ensure that the hosting plan allows for easy scalability as your website grows.
  2. VPS and Cloud hosting is often scalable, allowing you to adjust resources based on your needs.
  3. If you want to stick with shared hosting, just ensure that you have enough disk space, bandwidth, addon domains for additional projects and so on.

Security Features:

  1. Look for hosting providers with robust security features, such as firewalls, malware scanning, and SSL certificates.
  2. I’ve mentioned Green Geeks; well, they have very easy automatic and free SSL installation. You can do it yourself, even without a technical background.
  3. Malware scanning is also a common practice. I know a Web hosting company in Croatia is doing automatic malware scanning (included in the basic price).

Support and Customer Service:

  1. Choose a hosting provider with responsive and knowledgeable customer support. There are many challenges when hosting a website, and good support will come in handy.
  2. Check if support is available 24/7 through various channels (live chat, email, phone).
  3. If they are hard to reach during your trial, or search, it will be even harder when you encounter problems.
Importance of customer support
Importance of customer support

Domain name support

  • It’s good to keep domain names separated from a web hosting account. But in some cases, it’s OK to have your domain name with the web hosting company.
  • Some web hosting companies give first-year domain registration for free. But it’s not worth it if they are going to charge you twice the price all the years after. Compare prices to the best place to register a domain name, and decide if it’s worth the extra cost.
  • There’s no extra value in keeping your domain names with your web hosting company. Unless you need to register a country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD – country specific domain extension) such as .it for Italy or .hr for Croatia, or .nl for Netherlands.
Domain name support
Domain name support

Control Panel:

  1. Evaluate the user interface and control panel provided by the hosting provider.
  2. cPanel and Plesk are popular control panels that make it easy to manage your website.
  3. Keep in mind that if you are going with a Virtual Private Server or Dedicated Server, you will have to purchase and install a Control Panel. This is just another benefit of going with shared web hosting.

Bandwidth and Storage:

  1. Ensure the hosting plan offers sufficient bandwidth to handle your website’s traffic. Most web hosting companies worth your consideration offer unlimited / unmetered bandwidth.
  2. Check the storage capacity and consider future growth requirements. Most web hosting companies worth your consideration give unlimited / unmetered disk space (storage)

Backup and Restore Options:

  1. Regular backups are crucial. Check if the hosting provider offers automated backup options. Regular backups are essential for data recovery in case of a security breach. Some web hosting companies offer automatic backups. Otherwise, you have to do it yourself. The wordpress plugin Updraft is a good choice.
  2. Learn the process of restoring data from backups.
  3. Remember that it’s always a good idea to do offsite backups at least once per year. If the website is updated frequently, you should do offsite backups even more often. Datacenters still burn down, and when they do, all data onsite is lost. When I say lost, I really mean irretrievably, forever lost.

Price and Value for Money:

  1. Compare pricing plans and understand any additional fees or renewal costs. Ask the providers to calculate what will the price be when you renew.
  2. Consider the features offered in relation to the price to determine the overall value.

Reviews and Reputation:

  1. Read reviews and testimonials about the hosting provider to gauge customer satisfaction.
  2. Check forums and online communities for user experiences and recommendations.

Terms of Service and Policies:

  1. Read and understand the hosting provider’s terms of service, acceptable use policies, and refund policies.
  2. If you are building a project with specific content, take extra care of terms of service and policies.

By carefully considering these factors, you can make an informed decision and choose a web hosting provider that aligns with your website’s needs and goals.

GoranDuskic

Goran Duskic has been the Founder and CEO of WhoAPI Inc. since 2011, a company that specializes in developing APIs, including the well-known Whois API. He started his career in internet entrepreneurship in 2006 and has co-founded several online businesses, including a web hosting company that he later sold. Goran's work primarily involves creating practical API solutions to meet technological needs.