Selecting the right website host can make the difference between a successful business and a nightmare of lost productivity and revenue. When you consider that nearly 7 websites are built every second, there’s never been more of a market for website hosting—or more confusion about the best one to pick!
We’re going to tell you all the right questions to ask when you’re choosing a website host so you can get your website up and running with ease. The most obvious must-haves for every host should be reliability and uptime (the time your site is operating online), but here are a few other basics you should familiarize yourself with:
- Security features
- Flexibility and scalability
- Customer service and support options
- Cost efficiency of your hosting plan
- Website backups
- WordPress compatibility
Also, you’ll want to make sure that the host has all of the technical capabilities you need, such as handling multiple websites, supporting your desired technology, the ability to manage expected traffic levels, and appropriate data size limits.
By the end of this article, not only will you have a better understanding of what matters most for choosing a website host, but you’ll also be equipped with the knowledge you need to find your ideal website host.
What is a Website Host?
A website host is a company that stores your website on its servers. They provide space to store all your web pages and associated content like images, videos, and documents. When someone visits your website, they connect to the server where it’s stored and download its contents.
Along with web hosting, you’ll also need a domain name for your site, and a domain host is where you buy your URL (your “dot-com address”). These are much less complicated to find, and you can often shop around for the best price. It’s usually easier to keep both your web hosting and domain hosting in the same place, but remember: the quality of the web hosting will affect performance and user experience, so make sure it’s a good fit.
Some of the most popular web hosting providers are:
- GoDaddy. This is one of the biggest names in the web hosting biz. GoDaddy offers easy-to-use and affordable plans, but can have drawbacks compared to other providers.
- HostGator. You can choose from several standard hosting packages for all kinds of sites, from shared to VPS, but you have to pay for additional features.
- Bluehost. A potentially appealing option for new websites due to its low pricing options and good uptime, but its dashboard is hard to navigate for some customers and there are better options for similar price points.
- WP Engine. Excellent for WordPress users who need a secure and optimized hosting environment. Speed, reliability, and customer service tend to be top notch.
- SiteGround. They provide an excellent range of features, including free SSL certificates, automated daily backups, and excellent customer service.
It’s worth taking the time to look at all the options. Although GoDaddy and Bluehost are the most famous, they may not be the best for you. Developers and web admins more commonly prefer WP Engine and SiteGround because of their quality service. (Psst: these suggestions come from people who use hosting services regularly rather than marketing teams!)
Evaluate Your Needs
Just like snowflakes, no two websites are the same, and what’s perfect for one customer may be totally wrong for another. The first step in choosing a website host is to figure out what you’re going to need to run the site you’re after. Ask yourself the following:
- What type of website do I have?
- What are its specific requirements?
- What is the purpose of my site? Is it purely informational, or will it be selling products and services?
- How much traffic do I expect to see every day?
Once you’ve got your basics covered, here are some more detail-oriented questions that can be very helpful to know when you’re choosing between your best options:
- Do I need a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress for my website?
- Can I easily customize my web design with a template, or do I need to hire a web designer?
- How much storage space and bandwidth will I need for my website?
- Will I be able to manage the hosting account myself, or do I require someone with technical expertise to help me?
- What type of customer support is provided by the hosting company?
By answering these questions carefully, you’ll be in a much better position to pick the website host that’s right for you. New website owners may want to start with shared hosting—a much more affordable option than other types of web hosting—so they can get their feet wet in the online world without breaking the bank.
What to Look For
Now that you know what you need, let’s elaborate on what you might want from your website host. These are all the bells and whistles that can make day-to-day life with your website much easier to manage.
A good website host should provide all the necessary tools to create and maintain your site. This includes email accounts, web applications such as WordPress, and FTP access. Make sure that the host offers the suite of features you want before signing up.
Subscription and Renewal Prices
The price of a website hosting package may vary based on factors such as the number of users, disk space, and bandwidth. It’s essential to compare the cost of different plans before deciding on one. Additionally, many hosts toss in discounts or special offers during renewal, so make sure you check those out too.
A slow website can cause visitors to leave in frustration. Double-check that your host has good loading speeds and is equipped with caching technology like Varnish or CloudFlare to help speed up page loading times.
Remember when your computer crashed and you lost all your work? Imagine that’s your entire website. Ouch.
The last thing you want is for your site to go down due to an unexpected issue with no backup available. Look for a website host that offers daily or weekly backups, and ensure they have a clear policy on how quickly they can restore any lost data.
Nothing is worse than being stuck with an issue and customer service is nowhere to be seen. Make sure the hosting company you choose provides quality support 24/7 through email, live chat, or phone.
Downtime occurs when servers are down for maintenance or have technical issues. Look for a website host that offers uptimes of 99% or higher so your site will stay online even during unexpected outages.
Security is critical for any website, and you’ll definitely want a host with reliable security measures in place. This includes SSL encryption, firewalls, and malware scanning.
As your business grows, you may need to upgrade your hosting package or add additional resources such as storage space or bandwidth. Choose a host that offers scalability options so you can easily adjust your plan when the time is right.
When choosing a website host, it’s vital to research the company and look into its reputation. Do a little poking around online, and make sure you browse through those reviews!
Many web hosts offer additional services such as domain registration, marketing tools, analytics, and e-commerce features. Make sure you know exactly what these are, and check if they suit your needs before signing up.
A website host is no good to you if it doesn’t offer enough bandwidth to handle all your visitors. Too little bandwidth may cause slow loading times or temporarily crash your site when traffic increases.
Ease of Use
Choosing a website host that is user friendly and simple to navigate is critical. Look for one with an intuitive interface and helpful tutorials.
Find out what the refund policy is before committing to a web hosting service. Some companies offer money-back guarantees, while others only offer refunds within a specific timeframe. Be sure to read the fine print before signing up.
Who to Go With?
As alluded to earlier, if you’re building a website using WordPress, at Buddy we most commonly recommend WP Engine due to its performance, ease of use, customer service, and backups. It’s a smidge more expensive than providers like GoDaddy or Bluehost, but for the performance and peace of mind, we feel like it’s well worth paying a little more.
In second place for WordPress sites, we commonly recommend SiteGround. While we find WP Engine to generally be a slightly better option, SiteGround’s price point – at least for the first year – is typically lower than WP Engine, and also, if you’re hosting multiple websites, SiteGround can often be a less expensive option.
Ready to Make a Choice?
So there you have it: our handy list for choosing a website host! Once you know what to look for, you’ll be well on the way to running the website you’ve been dreaming about.
At Buddy Web Design and Development, we are passionate about helping our clients create outstanding brands and online experiences that engage their audiences. We aim to do great work and be great to work with. Reach out to us any time, and let’s team up to craft the perfect website hosting solution for you.