With number of web hosting service providers in the market and their various plans, it would be a tough job for you as a beginner to choose among
them. In this article, we try to explain to you the best way to choose the most appropriate and best web hosting service for your website easily but efficiently. We hope that this buying guide would be sufficient for the purpose. Let’s begin.
How to choose the best web hosting service for your website?
Firstly you must first decide upon the type of web hosting-shared, VPS or dedicated- required for your website depending upon the expected number of visitors, the control you want, how tech-savvy you are, etc. For a better idea, you may study the types of web hostings in our previous article.
Then there are several parameters you must look for in each of the web hosting services at hand before choosing one. We are stating all those factors and explaining them. This should surely help you to make an informed choice even as a novice.
Factors & Parameters to look for in a Web Hosting Service before choosing one
Speed (Load Time)
Webpage load time is among the most important parameters to analyze a hosting service. Load time anything around a second is acceptable. Around 500 milliseconds it is good and satisfactory. Still faster ones can give you load time of around 250-300ms and that’s matched with the time you take to blink. What else you need!
But this is not absolute and therefore no provider will state the figure for load time as such. So there is no way to determine the exact load time beforehand. But you may check a few factors on which the speed highly depends.
Location of the server is one such factor. Closer it is to the visitor, lesser is the load time. So your server must be located near the source of your maximum traffic. Several providers have their servers at multiple locations. They will offer you options to choose from while doing a new subscription and may be afterwards when your maximum traffic area shifts.
Server Hardware Specification is also an important factor for speed. The most important specification to look for is the type of storage drive it is using, i.e. Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive(SSD). The SSDs are considerably faster.
Content Delivery Network(CDN) if used speeds up the delivery of the heavy contents. CDN shifts the load of images, videos and other heavy contents to its own server located near the user and delivers it significantly faster through catching. Many hosting providers offer CDN with their hosting plans and some others do not. Look for it.
You would expect your website to be accessible 24/7/365. But no system is perfectly reliable. The reliability of a web hosting service is measured in terms of uptime which is the percentage of time the server was up and therefore the website was live. Failure or non-working time of a website is called downtime.
Uptime of around 99.9% would mean that the service is reliable.It would imply downtime of around 10 hours in an year. Many good services guarantee 99.99% of uptime.
Bandwidth in a web hosting service refers to the amount of data that the web server delivers to the website visitors in a given time period. It depends upon the content of the site and thus differs for every website.
The providers usually mention unlimited bandwidth among their features. But this is generally not true. It’s based upon an assumption that normally you will not go over the limit. But if you actually cross the hidden limit they have,then either your site would be temporarily blocked or you may be overbilled or you may be asked to upgrade.
This information you can find in the Terms and Conditions section. The better practice is to purchase the amount of bandwidth you need after estimating it through web tools. This is in case your site contains heavy contents otherwise text will never reach the limit.
While building the site, compress your content before uploading so that less bandwidth is required. Also note that the CDN service would reduce your bandwidth requirement. You should surely go for it.
The hosting providers offer differing amounts of storage space that you can use to store your website data. It differs for different providers and their different plans. Usually you will find data storage specification as one of the following-5GB/10GB/20GB/30GB/50GB/100GB. Again there is so-called unlimited/unmetered storage which is misleading. They will limit you at some unknown point and ask you to upgrade.
You should have an estimate of the data storage space your website will require beforehand. If your website is for blogging purposes and that implies articles with images only, then 5GB storage would be more than enough. Otherwise choose your plan wisely.
You may tend to ignore this feature as a beginner but it is of great importance. Imagine that you have written an article. Would you like to write it again? Then how about rebuilding the site you have worked upon for years? Moreover you will lose all the authority you gained over the period. This situation may arise due to some random mistake or perhaps your site may get hacked.
So you need frequent backing up of your website. Not all web hosting providers provide this essential service. But several do provide it but for a price and some others for free with their hosting plans. Do not ignore this if you are serious about your website.
Number of Websites
You may use a single subscription to host multiple websites if your host offers you to do so. Hosts allow a varying number of websites depending upon the plan. Some may offer unlimited number of sites but in actual it will automatically get limited by the data storage and bandwidth limits.
Sometimes you may also want to have sub-domains. For example, you may like to have sub-domains like blog.example.com, shop.example.com, etc for a domain www.example.com. This means your host must allow multiple websites and not restrict you to one.
After owning a website you would not prefer to use your old Gmail or Yahoo email account to connect with your visitors. For having unique email addresses, email hosting service is the solution. It is normally a paid service but web hosting providers offer it for free with their plans.While your domain is www.example.com your email address would look like email@example.com. Unlike free email services where you have to choose among the available ids, you can have any arbitrary name in place of xyz.
This not only makes you look unique and professional but it’s more reliable too. You may also need multiple email addresses for different purposes such as info, support, suggestions, etc. For this, check your host for the number of email accounts it allows. You may also check other features like spam control, technology/protocol used for messaging, etc.
The most widely used OS in the web hosting industry is Linux. It is an open source operating system. They run their own GUI upon it to simplify its use.
Windows is preferred only when Windows-specific softwares are to be run. The hosting costs more if it is Windows based.
Applications & Add Ons
As you know, the basic job of a web host is to provide space on its server to host your website data. But you need more than that to build and maintain your website. Web hosting service may provide add on tools and plugins for a price or as extra perks.
Such add ons include 1-click install for content management systems(CMSs) like WordPress, Joomla & Drupal, security related tools, SEO plugin, analysis tools, and several others.
Your website data rests with the web server of the webhost. The web server must therefore be secure from all kinds of attacks at all times. For this the web hosting provider must follow the best web hosting security practices.
The best web hosting security practices include- diligent network monitoring, firewall, Web Application Firewall (WAP), malware scanning, antivirus protection, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) prevention, access restriction, password protection, software update especially the third-party softwares, etc.
These are the provisions to secure the web server. The communication between the website and the web server must be secured through encryption by Secure Sockets Layer(SSL) or its advanced version Transfer Layer Security (TLS). The web hosting providers do provide it for a sum and some may offer it free. After all, it’s your job to install it. Do not neglect it!
Through a control panel, all the jobs you need to perform with the hosting service get simplified. It provides a simple graphical user interface (GUI) to do all you want without having advanced technical knowledge.
There are several control panels which are provided by the hosting providers. The most popular ones are cpanel, plesk, webmin, direct admin, etc. Some hosts offer several options to choose from. Some may have to be availed for a price.
Each control panel basically does the same thing but you will find differences when you go deep inside. For example, cpanel works only on Linux based platforms while plesk can be run on Windows also.
Some third parties offer trial versions to experience different control panels before choosing one of them.
Customer Support Service & Knowledge Base
Your site and server may face problems on an occasional basis for which you may have no solution. Then the only option at hand is to refer to the knowledge base or contact support and talk to an executive.
You cannot afford malfunctioning or disruption for long so the customer support must be active 24/7/365 and solve your problem immediately. It is you who is at loss as you have already paid for an year atleast.
So, after other features mentioned above, you must also review the customer support service. You should see the methods used for communication, promptness of the service and ability of the representative to solve the issue.
Several providers have their extensive knowledge base which you may refer to learn and solve or prevent issues yourself. It’s a desirable feature.
When it comes to pricing, you may experience a significant mismatch between the price tag and the actual bill. The brands want to lure customers through their price tags and use several business tactics for attracting. So you need to know the practices prevalent in the web hosting industry so that you do not fall prey to them.
Long Minimum Subscription Period: The price tag usually displays the rate as pounds or euros per month. But the minimum subscription period to avail the service at that price is generally not a month but an year or maybe two or three years.
High Renewal Price: The price indicated by the price tag is the introductory price valid only for the first subscription. When it ends you will have to pay the undiscounted amount which can be two or three times higher.
Upselling: Some hosting providers may attract you through extremely low price tags to finally tell you in the shopping cart that you need to purchase some other product to be eligible for the offer price.
Extra Perks: They would offer extra addons as perks to lure you. See whether what they are offering is valuable or not and whether it is being offered by a provider or by all providers. For example, if they are offering a free domain name or an SSL Certificate or so, then it’s considerable.
Money Return Policy Conditions: There may be a few-day money back guarantee in case you were not satisfied after using the service. But terms and conditions apply here. Some have no-question full money return policy.
In short, beware of them and instead of falling prey through attractive price tags make an informed choice.
Most probably, you will choose the service based upon your current needs and expectations. But what if your website boomed and began attracting huge traffic? Then you will need to upgrade the hosting service.
Upgradation is possible only when your provider has room for it. Do analyse thoroughly the plans superior to your plan-both its features and its pricing.
We consider the above-mentioned parameters to be sufficient to analyse any hosting service efficiently. Let’s sum up the method.
You have to follow the following steps to choose a hosting service:
- Select the hosting type-Shared, VPS or Dedicated- depending upon your needs.
- Make a list of all the above parameters. (As given in figure)
- Gather data for all the parameters from all the web hosting providers.
- Make the best choice.
Parameters for analysis of web hosting services for choosing
We are also reviewing the most popular web hosting services and will present the results subsequently. We hope to do it in a way that would make it sufficient enough for you to decide straightaway from here.
Some Best Web Hosting Services