If you’re building a new website for your business and wondering how to choose a website host, a quick online search yields thousands of results, as hundreds of experts and pseudo-experts compete with advice about which provider is best.
We’re here to cut through the noise.
At the end of the day, what matters most is that your web host anticipates the needs of your site, your business, your budget, and your own level of technical savvy.
Keep in mind, the most popular website hosts aren’t necessarily going to give you the best results or experience, e.g. GoDaddy and Bluehost.
Your Website Needs
Begin your search for your website host by clarifying the type of features that make the most sense for your business.
How many visitors do you expect to get? An established company might anticipate high rates of traffic compared to a small business that’s just starting out.
If you need to accommodate lots of visitors who are downloading files and watching videos on your site, you’ll need more bandwidth.
Bandwidth is basically the amount of data transferred between your site and your users at any given time. Let’s say you have multiple pages on your site with a lot of content, like videos, images, downloads, the works. Then you would need more bandwidth than a site that has only one page and minimal content.
When calculating bandwidth, take expected traffic into account. More visitors exploring more pages means you’ll need more bandwidth. If you don’t have enough bandwidth to cover your visitors browsing your content, your site will be extra slow and might even get booted offline. By comparison, if you have too much, you’re wasting money.
Our advice is if you’re just starting out with a small site, don’t worry about bandwidth until your audience grows. However, if you’re expecting a lot of visitors, and those visitors will be viewing lots of content-heavy pages, shoot for at least 5GB of bandwidth a month to cover your bases.
Nobody likes a slow website, and that includes Google. If the images and text on your page load at a snail’s pace, your site will rank lower in search results.
Users don’t have the patience for slow load time, and will abandon your page if they’re forced to wait. Each second of lag time costs you money and clients. But, there’s good news. You can choose a host known for site performance, which is especially important if you expect a lot of traffic.
Bonus tip: this is also important for how well your site ranks on Google. Here’s some more guidance for how to improve website speed.
Uptime is an excellent indicator of a provider’s reliability. It measures the amount of time a host’s servers stay up and running. Why does that matter? Because it relates directly to the amount of time your own site is up and running.
Users won’t bother with a site that’s down too often, so don’t settle for anything less than 99% uptime. 99.9% is best.
Unlike bandwidth, which is all about the data transfer between your users and your site, storage measures the amount of data on your website.
Your site’s storage needs are proportional to your anticipated traffic. If thousands of users are accessing pages upon pages of content every day, you’ll need significantly more storage than if you expect a few hundred visitors checking out your brand-new site.
If you’re a small business, you shouldn’t need more than 2 MB of storage. Unless you’re Youtube, it’s unlikely that you’ll need more than 5 MB, at most.
In an age of cyberattacks and endless spam, a web host’s security features had better be top-notch. Read carefully through your proposed provider’s guarantees and whether they keep their customer data safe with regular threat monitoring, security updates, and backups.
Bonus tip: Check out our video talking through website security tips for additional considerations on this front.
If, or when, things go wrong, it’s helpful to have your website backed up. This might mean backing up your website before making and launching changes to your site, or just being proactive in the event of hacking or other errors or issues that might arise.
Backing up your website can be a bit of an intimidating process if you’re doing it manually. Fortunately, some web hosts will provide free, automated backups of your website on a regular schedule, alleviating this worry for you.
If you’re a business owner, the odds are you’re hoping to grow. As your site traffic increases, you’ll have to upgrade your service or risk undermining site performance. On the other hand, if you’re stuck in a slow season, it’s nice to have the flexibility to downgrade your plan.
Now that you have some idea of your site requirements, it’s time to tackle what you need from a web host as a business owner, addressing everything from pricing to support.
What’s your budget? While hosting services will vary in price, from just a few dollars to thousands of dollars per month, most are in the ballpark of a reasonable $10 per month. Depending on the level of support and features you’ll need, that cost can go up. The more expensive it gets, the more likely it is that the host offers a 30 or 90-day trial run with a money-back guarantee. Don’t forget to check renewal rates.
Bonus tip: Check out our blog post about how to create a website budget for other guidance on what costs you should expect for your website.
Not all website hosts offer round-the-clock customer support. If your site goes offline for whatever reason, it’s critical to connect with someone who can resolve it ASAP. Your best bet is a provider that is available by telephone or live chat any time of day.
Be realistic about what convenient day-to-day use looks like for you. Will you update the site content? Can you customize it? Depending on your technical expertise, you might prefer having a pro on call to take care of regular updates and adjustments.
Cancellation and Refund Policies
If you select a web host and two months down the line decide that you aren’t satisfied with the service, how much will it cost to cancel your subscription? Check the refund and cancellation policy carefully before committing.
Whether you’re building your site from scratch or giving it a facelift, it might make sense to bundle your services. That way, you get a site and a host in one package.
For many businesses, it’s smart to have the same web and email provider, too. After all, linking your email to your domain name is more sophisticated than using a generic Google address. If email is part of your package, then you don’t have to pay for a separate email host. Remember, though, that bundling your email may limit your bandwidth.
Understand Different Server Types
Now that you have a clear picture of your site requirements and day-to-day operating needs, it helps to familiarize yourself with server types.
The most affordable server is one that’s shared. Good for small sites or startups that don’t expect a lot of traffic, you’ll be sharing a server with other sites. This can limit performance since you never know when your fellow websites will experience a traffic surge. What you gain in cost-effectiveness, you lose in uptime and loading speed.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
If you’re bigger than a startup or just don’t want to risk performance, consider a VPS. While you will still share a server with other websites, there are fewer of them, which means your site will load more quickly and have a better uptime rate. VPS hosting is more-or-less scalable, so you can upgrade when you’re ready.
If you want to go for the gold with your web hosting service, then a dedicated server is for you. You don’t have to share resources with other sites, so you’re guaranteed stellar performance and high-level security all the time.
Obviously, your own personal server won’t come cheap, and you had better polish up your technical skills to fiddle with the server settings—or be prepared to hire a systems management expert to do the fiddling for you. A dedicated server makes most sense for large enterprises with consistent revenue.
Cloud hosts run on public clouds and provide the same functionality as physical servers. They are a popular alternative to conventional hosting services.
The best thing about cloud hosting is that your content will be stored across multiple servers, which means that you’ll have better performance and scaling capability than, for example, VPS hosting can deliver. Plus, your data is safely backed up in the cloud.
The downside to the extra flexibility is that cloud hosting tends to be more expensive than shared hosting. Also, if you or your host lose Internet connectivity, you lose access to your data.
Get to Know Portable Content Management Systems
Unless you want to write all the code for your site yourself, you’ll need to rely on a content management system (CMS) to build your website. A CMS is a tool that allows you to publish, edit, manage, and maintain content on your site without having any programming knowledge.
There are lots of CMS options out there. Wordpress, Wix, and Weebly are some of the most popular. Keep in mind, though, it’s a good idea to opt for an open-source rather than a proprietary CMS. Why? First, it’s more affordable. Second, it’s portable. If you decide to make changes to your site code or switch to a different hosting service, it’s critical that you can access the code or export and move your data.
The top open-source CMS options are Wordpress, Joomla, and Drupal, with Wordpress being the easiest to use.
If you’re going with a platform like Wordpress–perhaps the most widely-used CMS–many hosting providers offer a Wordpress-specific hosting plan that makes Wordpress setup and integration simple and effective.
Advice from Buddy
While everyone’s idea of a good host is different and depends on what you’re looking for, Buddy does have some favorite options
Like many other reputable developers, Buddy most often uses the Wordpress CMS for website development. It’s robust, widely-used, and easy for non-developers to make website updates.
With Wordpress, we–along with many other developers–recommend WP Engine as the best in class for Wordpress website hosting. WP Engine is a great option because of its speed, security, daily backups, support, and overall ease of use. Its Managed Hosting plan comes in at $25 per month.
If budget is a large consideration, our second recommendation is SiteGround. SiteGround is another very reputable and reliable option, but WP Engine edges it out as best-in-class. If going with SiteGround, we recommend using its Managed Wordpress Hosting. In particular, SiteGround’s GrowBig plan gives you all the robust features that separate SiteGround from its competitors. The GrowBig plan currently costs $6.69 per month.
In the digital age, your website is where your brand flourishes. This is why it’s so important that your site is developed and designed thoughtfully and creatively. At Buddy Web Design & Development, the quality of our work is as important as the experience of our customers. We help you have a true understanding of the options available from how to choose a website host to the color palette on your site.
We build and design websites that function seamlessly and look exactly like they’re supposed to–making sure to exceed our client’s expectations.