If you are new to web hosting, the wealth of information you have to take in can be a little daunting. Not only do you have to absorb a lot of information, you then have to use it to make the right decision. If you don't, not only will you have spent money on a service you aren't happy with, your poor choice of web hosting could potentially impact your website's performance in search engines like Google. So what do you need to know before you choose a web host? Which questions do you need answering before you can make a wise decision. Below is a list of 9 questions, the answers to which we think will give you the ammunition you need to make a decision. There are others you could ask, but we think these are the basics.
1. What sort of web hosting do I need?
There is very little point choosing a web host that offers great service but which doesn't offer the type of hosting you need. The assumption is that if you are so new to web hosting that you need advice on which web host to choose, your website is probably going to be pretty basic and won't need all the bells and whistles some websites need. If this is the case, then you will probably need shared web hosting. This is where a web host has a web hosting server (similar to a computer) and allows several users to rent space on the machine. The users put their websites in the space they rent. Obviously, if a machine is shared, all of the capacity and resources that machine offers is shared, too.
For small websites that are html based with a limited number of pictures, or smaller websites with databases, shared web hosting should be fine. However, this assumption might not be the case. You may need a larger website with lots of images and a number of databases, in which case you might need more power, and you might opt for Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting. This is where a machine's resources are shared like in shared web hosting, but the number of users restricted and the resources available to a machine shared equally amongst the user accounts. However, for a big website that has all the bells and whistles, it might be better to opt for dedicated hosting. This is where a single user rents a machine and all rented resources can be directed at a single site, or shared between a number of sites as per the renter's requirements.
Of course, that is just a very basic overview, and you need to look into this more. Things are complicated by the arrival of Solid State Disk (SSD) hosting, which is hosting using a hard disk that has no moving parts. SSD is much faster than standard hosting so shared SSD hosting might be enough for a site of a reasonable size. In addition, cloud hosting has complicated things further. You can get shared, VPS and dedicated cloud hosting, but where it differs from traditional hosting is you don't rent a physical machine. Instead of renting a server, you rent server capacity. But with cloud servers, if a site for some reason needs additional capacity, then it can be added and taken away on a scalable basis (at additional cost, of course). That might make you scratch your head a little, so you need to look at as many tutorials and training videos as possible before you make a decision on the type of hosting you need. The more effort you put into this, the better a choice of web hosting you will make, and ultimately, the better a choice of web host.
2. What do I need web hosting for?
This is another question that once answered will guide your choice of web host. Is your site simply for pleasure – a little hobby of yours? If so, shared hosting is likely to be enough. And if it isn't going to be extremely important if your site is down for a couple of minutes now and again, there are a number of free hosting services you could use. But if your site is going to underpin your business (in the sense that it is an ecommerce website, or it provides vital advertising for your products and services) you might have greater peace of mind with VPS or dedicated hosting.
3. Can I upgrade a web hosting account as my needs increase?
A blog can become a website, and a website can go viral and become an international success. When it does it can become your chief source of livelihood. With hundreds of thousands of visitors a day and masses of pictures and videos, you are going to need something more powerful to support your site than shared hosting. But the web host you selected only offers shared hosting. Make sure a provider can take you all the way (from shared to VPS to dedicated – and then even to the cloud), otherwise you might find that as your site grows, you are moving from provider to provider – an experience nobody wants to go through.
4. This web host promises 99.9% uptime – is that true?
If your website is 'mission critical' and drives your business, then it needs to be available to visitors 24/7. There is no point having a high power dedicated hosting service if it is offline on a regular basis. Look at a web host's records. How do you get them? Well, ask the host. A good would have such records. If you are dubious about how reliable this might be, you need to look at community websites like FindUKHosting's forum and ask users to give their comments. Again, this is going to take a bit of investigation, but it will be worth the effort. Keep in mind the for a website that uses a typical database-driven Content Management System (CMS) like Joomla or WordPress and receives around 45,000-50,000 visitors a day, you might well be pushing the limits of a shared hosting account, and you will therefore need to upgrade to VPS, or even dedicated hosting.
5. Does this web host keep putting prices up?
You build a website. You get a web host and you factor in the cost of the hosting over the next ten years, right? Wrong. A number of web hosts offer very attractive prices to start off a service, but buried in their Terms of Service (TOS) documents you often find clauses that push prices up when you renew. Look at a web host's TOS carefully and again, hit the forums, especially the FindUKHosting forum. Find out as much as you can about a host's renewal costs.
6. What happens if I am not satisfied?
You did all your research, you talked to other users, and for some reason all the advice you got was wrong. The web host you chose is just dreadful. Some web hosts offer a 30-day, 60-day and even 90-day satisfaction/money back guarantee. But once again, is that offer all encompassing? Look at the web host's TOS – carefully. Find out exactly the situations when you will get your money back, and the situations when you won't.
Many webhost's offer unlimited hosting with an unlimited number of websites. In addition, they offer unlimited bandwidth and server resources. Does this mean that you can host the entire Internet on their servers if you chose to do so? Obviously not, and careful scrutiny of the company's TOS will probably show that once your website is impacting other website's in an adverse way (i.e. reducing server performance because it is using too much of the available server resources, etc.) it will be pulled. It might be difficult to get a clear answer from the company on this so, once again, hit the forums. Talk to other people who have used a web host's services. You might be surprised what you find out.
8. How often does this web host backup its servers?
Things go wrong... Accidents happen... We are all only human... etc., etc. None of these responses will provide much comfort when there is some form of disaster and a web host's servers go down, and they don't have a backup. Daily backups would of course be best, but again, do your research and find out other user's experiences as far as this is concerned.
9. Does this web host provide good support?
When you need to know how to do something with your web hosting account, you need feedback from the host. Although many offer 24/7 support, that might mean listening to the same piece of music for 2 hours before you get through to Customer Service. Check each host out before making a decision because this issue is the one that is most likely to cause you aggravation. Choose a host with great customer service!