There’s a ton to consider when you’re building a website, but the solid foundation that every website is built upon is its web host. Because of this, choosing a web hosting service is the first step in building your website and one of the most important too.
But how do you choose a web hosting service? There are a ton out there, and it can quickly get confusing.
In this article, I’ll discuss some of the most important factors when it comes to choosing a web hosting service and help you choose the right one for your project or business.
Summary: How to choose a web hosting service?
- There are a ton of factors to consider. First, you’ll want to choose which type of hosting you want for your website. The most common hosting types are shared hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, and VPS hosting.
- Then you’ll need to consider factors such as price, server types and locations, areas of specialization, subscription features, and more.
Types of Hosting Offered
There are a lot of different types of hosting that you can choose from, and it’s important to educate yourself on the options available and decide which one is best for your needs before choosing a web host.
Different web hosts offer different types of hosting, and some excel in specific areas or fall behind in others.
To help you with your research, let’s do a quick breakdown of the main types of web hosting offered by most hosting providers.
– Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is pretty much always the first option offered by web hosting providers since it’s the cheapest and the most popular for clients just getting started on their website building journey.
As its name suggests, with shared hosting, your site will be hosted on a server with other sites and share the same resources.
This means that fewer resources will be allotted to your website at any particular time, but if you don’t anticipate that your site will receive high levels of traffic right away, then shared hosting is a great, budget-friendly option.
– Dedicated Hosting
With dedicated hosting, your website has a server and all of its resources all to itself.
Dedicated hosting is understandably a pricier option and is generally only necessary for large websites that receive a lot of traffic.
Of course, everyone hopes that their website will someday be so successful that they’ll need to upgrade to dedicated hosting. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your web hosting service makes upgrading easy – but more on that later.
– VPS Hosting
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is a sort of hybrid option between shared and dedicated hosting.
It uses virtualization technology to host your website on a virtual server shared with other websites. However, your site will still receive dedicated resources.
– Cloud Hosting
With cloud hosting, your website will be hosted in the cloud rather than on a physical server. Cloud hosting has its pros and cons, but it’s an increasingly popular option.
Another option is Cloud VPS Hosting, a hybrid between cloud hosting and VPS that offers dedicated resources, great scalability, and incredible speed.
There are other types as well, such as WordPress hosting (specifically designed to be compatible with the website building tool WordPress) and reseller hosting. However, most people will choose one of the types listed above.
Servers may seem like an annoyingly technical aspect of web hosting, but they’re extremely important.
As such, it’s important to educate yourself and make sure you know what you’re getting when it comes to the server options offered by your web hosting service.
One of the first things to consider is the location of the servers used by a web hosting service because it affects the speed of your website.
Some have servers located in multiple countries around the world, whereas others are restricted to only specific countries or geographical regions.
Let’s say your target audience is Australians, but your web hosting provider only has servers in the U.S. If your site’s server is far away from your target audience, it will load more slowly for them.
This not only diminishes the quality of your audience’s experience but will also damage your site’s SEO performance.
To ensure the maximum possible speed and reliability, make sure you choose a web hosting provider with servers in the right location.
– Type of Server
There are different types of servers that a web hosting service might use to host clients’ websites, and it’s important to know which type your web hosting service is using.
This is because not all servers are created equal. A server is a piece of hardware or software that hosts your website and handles client requests, delivering your website when a client requests it (i.e., when someone enters your domain into a search engine).
In other words, a server is the necessary bridge between your website and its audience. Different types of servers will have different levels of speed, stability, and reliability, so it’s important to know what your website is getting.
Although Nginx and Apache remain the industry standards, some web hosting providers such as GreenGeeks have started offering LiteSpeed servers with all of their price tiers.
– Reliability and Uptime Guarantees
In addition to speed and location, reliability and uptime guarantees are two important factors you should consider when weighing the pros and cons of different web host services.
On its website, a good web hosting provider should include information about its servers' uptime guarantee. This percentage reflects how much time (measured within a 24-hour period) a server is up and running.
For example, SiteGround has a 99.9% uptime guarantee and even offers a month of free hosting if their uptime ever dips below that percentage.
Areas of Specialization
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and web hosting services are no different.
While some providers like Bluehost try to appeal to as broad a customer base as possible, others offer niche specialization or special features that may be especially attractive to particular clients.
For example, web hosting services like GreenGeeks top the market when it comes to environmentally-sustainable hosting.
If your head is spinning from trying to decide between too many options, then considering which type of hosting you want and which areas of specialization matter to you is a great way to narrow things down.
Price and General Feedback Online
Price is perhaps the most obvious consideration for most of us: it goes without saying, but if you can’t afford it, then it’s not the right web hosting service for you.
It’s also very important to remember that what you see isn’t always what you get.
Many web hosting providers offer a heavily discounted subscription price for the first year, and customers are often unpleasantly surprised by the steep price hike when it comes time to renew their subscription.
To avoid this, make sure you do the research and figure out if the plan you’re considering will still be affordable for you after the first year.
Wisdom is often gained through experience, and it’s incredibly important to read the reviews and comments from current and former clients before committing to a web hosting service.
Reviews can give you a warning about hidden costs and renewal price hikes, and they can also offer a wealth of insight about aspects such as user-friendliness, customer service, and site performance.
Pretty much every web hosting provider will offer customer service to their clients, but not all customer service is created equal.
24/7 live chat, email support, and ticketing are some of the most common forms of customer service across the board. While phone support used to be standard, it’s rapidly becoming less common.
However, some web hosting services do still provide phone support, and if this added human touch is important to you, you’ll want to make sure it’s something your web host offers.
Website Building Tools
If you don’t already have a website building tool you’re committed to using, you may want to consider web hosting services that include website building tools.
Many web hosting providers bundle access to popular website builders into their subscription price. For example, the industry leader HostGator offers a native website building tool.
Another great option is SiteGround, which includes WordPress and the drag-and-drop website building tools Weebly and Woocommerce across all of its subscriptions.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with choosing to have a separate website builder and web host.
However, finding a web host that includes a website building tool can help you cut costs and streamline the process of getting your website up and running.
Domain Names Included?
A basic but very important question is whether a free domain name is included with your subscription.
This is something that many (but not all) web hosting providers offer, and it can save you the time, effort, and cost of trying to buy a domain name through an outside domain registrar or broker.
And, if you see that a particular web host does offer a free domain name(s), make sure that the particular price tier you sign up for offers it as well, as this may only be an option with higher tiers.
Transfer of Existing Websites (Free Migrations?)
Let’s say you’re a veteran of the website building game. You already have a website up and running, but you’re not happy with your web hosting service and want to switch to a better option.
The good news is, this is totally possible. Many web hosting providers include “free migrations” in their list of features, meaning that they’ll allow you to transfer your website (and often even do it for you) free of charge.
If you are looking to transfer an existing website (or websites), just make sure that free site migration is indeed one of the services that your new web host offers.
Ease of Use
This may seem obvious, but you should be honest with yourself about your level of knowledge and experience when it comes to website building/hosting and choose a web hosting provider that fits your needs accordingly.
I rank Bluehost as the best web hosting service for beginners because it features a user-friendly dashboard and a simple, drag-and-drop WordPress website builder.
However, there are also plenty of other beginner-friendly web hosts on the market, and reading professional and/or customer reviews should help you get a feel for whether a particular web hosting service is within your comfort zone.
Your website may be just starting out, but you have big dreams and a plan to see them through.
If this sounds like you, then you’re going to want to make sure that you can upgrade to a different payment tier or even to a different type of hosting if necessary.
A good rule of thumb is that it’s time to upgrade when your website has started getting higher levels of traffic and featuring larger amounts of content.
Good web hosting services will include information on your website about how to upgrade and even how to know when it’s time.
Backups are an often overlooked aspect of website hosting but a very important one. Why?
Backups prevent important information from being lost forever if your website is hacked or compromised in some other way.
Most web hosts will offer daily, weekly, or monthly backups for your site, but you should read their policies carefully. These may be automatic, or you may need to manually conduct backups or set them to be conducted at a specific time.
This is particularly important to consider if you live in a country where certain payment methods are blocked or restricted.
The good news is, most web hosting services now accept a very wide range of payment methods, including Paypal, all major credit cards, and even (in certain regions) checks and money orders.
Terms of Service
It’s common knowledge that the most important details are always in the fine print – and, unfortunately, are often the things that we don’t pay much attention to.
Here are a few important terms of service details you’ll need to pay attention to when you’re choosing a web hosting service.
Which Sites Will They Host?
Depending on how you’ve chosen to build your site, you’ll need to make sure that the web host you’re looking at will support that particular type of site.
For example, WordPress is pretty much the industry standard, and most web hosting providers will host WordPress sites – in fact, many will even offer subscriptions for WordPress-specific hosting.
However, if you’ve used a less common website builder like Django, you’ll want to read carefully and make sure that your web host will support your site.
How Do They Treat DMCA Requests?
A Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request is a formal request that content or links be removed from a website due to copyright infringement.
You may not have done this intentionally – it’s easy to accidentally link to copyrighted material without even realizing it. It is the web host’s responsibility to the DMCA request.
Every host will have slightly different policies and protocols when it comes to responding and complying with DMCA requests, so you should educate yourself about your host’s policies before you sign up with them.
What Are Their Refund Policies and Guarantees?
Things may seem perfect at first, but you never know when you might change your mind. Especially if this is your first time using a web hosting provider, you may realize that you made the wrong choice and want to get out of your contract.
As such, even if you feel totally sure that you’re not going to back out, you should still educate yourself about your web host’s refund and guarantee policies before you sign up.
Many web hosts offer a generous 30-day money-back guarantee, but be sure to read the fine print and make sure that there aren’t hidden fees or charges for terminating your contract within 30 days.
As you can see, there’s a ton to consider when it comes to choosing a web hosting service. From the type of hosting you want to specialization, servers, and terms of service, it can get overwhelming fast.
To simplify things, you can use this article as a checklist when you’re shopping around for a web hosting service.
You can also check out my site for comprehensive, honest reviews of many of the major web hosting providers on the market. We choose the products we recommend carefully and always with the customer’s needs in mind.
If you’ve put in the time and research to consider all these factors, you’ll be in a great position to choose the right web hosting service for your website.
List of web hosting services we have tested and reviewed: