How To Choose a Web Hosting Provider – An Introduction
Whether you’re building your own website, or having someone design and build it for you, choosing a Web Hosting Provider is a hugely important part of the process. Your hosting provider is responsible for ‘hosting’ your website files on their servers, making it available to users of the internet through their browsers.
If you’re investing in a website, you also need to invest in good website hosting. Choosing a reliable, fast hosting provider is essential to providing your users with a smooth experience, as well as making the Google algorithms happy and allowing your site to have the best chance at good search engine rankings.
This post will outline how to choose a web hosting provider, based on a few important factors.
Do I need Website Hosting?
If you’re using a website building platform like Squarespace or Wix, these platforms have hosting built into your monthly subscription. While this can seem like a good deal, it doesn’t allow you to shop around to choose the best hosting you can find. Instead, you’re reliant on their servers, so make sure to do your research about whether a site building platform is best for you.
Most website designers use WordPress, and can either guide you towards a reliable web hosting provider, or will have a hosting plan that you can join. My WordPress Care Plan includes fast, secure hosting, website maintenance and support, plus loads more. If you have a WordPress website, you can join my care plan even if I didn’t build your website.
Check out my article ‘WordPress Vs Wix’ to understand more about these site building platforms compared to a content management system like WordPress.
Web Hosting Essentials
The most important web hosting essentials are: Security, Uptime and Speed.
I know that your budget may be a priority for you, but if you take anything away from this article it should be this: Please don’t go for the cheapest option! If you don’t want to do too much research, just bear in mind that you get what you pay for!
In a world where cyber attacks are becoming an increasing concern, you need to make sure your website is hosted on secure servers. If you’re planning to make your website an important part of your business, getting hacked could lead to dire consequenses, including loss of site users, a decrease of trust in your brand/product, and ultimately a lack of revenue. You’ll also need to pay to have your site ‘cleaned’, which can be a costly process.
I won’t go into all the ways a hosting provider can be as secure as possible, but if you’re interested, there’s a great article here, explaining how web hosts protect their servers.
For now, when considering how to choose a web hosting provider, one important thing to check is whether they provide an SSL certificate for your website. SSL ensures that your website uses a secure connection between the server and the browser. These days, all sites should use SSL and have a certificate to prove it.
Some hosting providers will give you an SSL certificate for free, whereas some will only provide it in their higher tier plans, or make you pay extra for it. Please don’t skip it if given the option!
Another thing to check is the hosting provider’s policy on backups. Being able to take regular backups of your site is important in case anything goes wrong, your site is hacked, or you just want to revert back to an old version of your site (for example if a software update is incompatible).
Again, some hosting providers let you take unlimited backups, some will backup your site automatically every month, and some only include backups in their higher level plans.
While you might only work from 9am till 5pm, the beauty of your website is that it should be working for you 24/7. However, that will only happen if you choose a reliable hosting provider with good ‘uptime’.
Uptime is the amount of time that the server hosting your site is up and running. It’s usually displayed as a percentage. If your server is down, it means your website won’t load, and nobody wants that!
Just like getting hacked, if your website doesnt load at all, this will also lead to a loss of users/customers, and a loss of faith in your brand. There is so much competition out there – the minute a potential customer clicks on your site and it doesnt load, they’ll jump over to somewhere else without a second thought.
To ensure that your website is accessible for the maximum amount of time, it’s essential you choose a web hosting provider that has at least 99.9% uptime. If you want to check a list of hosts and their uptime, you can view a list here.
Not only is uptime important for user experience and accessibility, but Google also likes sites that have a high uptime, and you’re more likely to rank higher on search engines if your site is always available.
Website loading speed is a huge factor when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation. While there are plenty of things you can do on the front end of your website to make it speedy, it will all be for nothing if you choose a slow web hosting provider.
Just as with uptime, a website that is slow to load will also lead to a loss of visitors, and ultimately, revenue. Internet users are impatient, and there’s always another site that is faster to load and to give them the information they’re looking for.
It’s important to check the location of your hosting provider’s servers. If the servers are located in the US, but most of your visitors are located in Europe, this might cause a delay in your website loading.
Some hosts have servers all over the world and use a CDN (content delivery network) to show visitors your site from the server closest to them. If you have visitors from all over the world, it’s advisable to go with a hosting provider which uses a CDN.
The best (and speediest) hosting providers use the most up to date equipment and technology, and have ample server capacity for all the sites they host. You may pay a little more for this kind of hosting, but it’s worth it if you’re serious about your website.
More things to consider
If you’re wondering how to choose a web hosting provider, I’m sure you’re doing your research! You’ve probably come across numerous lists of ‘Top Hosting Providers in 2022’ or other titles along those lines.
Personally, I would be wary of these lists. Many of them are lists of affiliate links, or sponsored links. They might also be including price as a high-rating factor in their comparisons, and I would urge you to take price out of the equation while you’re doing your research.
Real User Reviews
The best thing to do would be to look for real reviews from people who are using the web hosting providers you’re considering. Try to find reviews from users who have been hosting a website with them for at least three months. If any issues have come up with downtime, crashes, security or anything else, people will definitely be mentioning this in the reviews.
If you’re relatively new to hosting, the tech support from a hosting provider can also be a factor in your choice. Sometimes you’ll encounter an issue that is too risky to try to figure out by yourself, and having easily accessible and reliable tech support on hand can give you peace of mind that they’ll help you to sort the problem.
When reading the reviews, check what they say about tech support. If the support is good, it’s usually something that people appreciate and will want to mention in their review.
My experience – switching from Bluehost to Siteground
I’m not going to try to give you a list of the best hosting providers, because I’ve only personally used two of them, and all I can do is give you the advice I’ve written above.
What I will do is outline my experience, and the differences I’ve noticed between a ‘bad’ hosting provider and a ‘good’ one.
When I first started building websites, I didn’t really know how to choose a web hosting provider, and I have to admit I went for one of the cheapest hosts around – Bluehost. This was before I became a web designer professionally, and I only did a small amount of research before getting sucked in by Bluehost’s amazingly cheap three-year introductory offer.
The first thing I noticed that I didn’t like was the time it would take my websites to load. Not only was it frustratingly slow on the back end, for admin and site building, but my sites were embarassingly slow on the front end too. I carried out a few website speed tests, and did everything I could to optimise the speed. But the main bottleneck kept appearing as the hosting provider, and begrudgingly I admitted that there was no more I could do to make the sites faster.
Bluehost offers free ‘staging’ sites, where you can edit a staging copy of a website, and make sure it’s perfect before pushing the changes to the live site. This is a great feature, and as a web designer it’s something I use all the time.
However I started to encounter numerous issues with the staging sites, to the point where I almost lost an entire website because of a database problem when pushing the changes across to the live site.
Of course I was chatting with the live tech support quite a lot at this point, and I have to say I wasn’t impressed! They would often say that they were very busy, so they would try to fix the problem in the next couple of days and email me when it was fixed. But often the ‘fixes’ they provided seemed to be lazy solutions to the problem, which led to me looking unprofessional in the eyes of my clients.
Eventually, I took the advice of a web design professional I admire very much. He uses Siteground, and although it was going to be a lot of work to move all my clients’ sites over, I felt that it was worth the time and money investment if I wanted to provide the best service for my clients.
During the switch, I made use of Siteground’s tech support to guide me through some of the more technical processes. They were super helpful and extremely knowledgeable and patient.
Afterwards, I noticed the difference immediately. My sites loaded so much faster (Siteground scores amazingly for uptime and speed) and Siteground also offers a similar staging site feature, but it’s a lot smoother and easier to use. I haven’t actually had to use tech support again since I switched, which is great!
My WordPress care plan
If you choose to join my WordPress care plan, you’ll benefit from excellent hosting through Siteground. I use a higher level plan which would be less affordable for a single website, but it comes with great features such as the use of site backups.
As well as the hosting, you’ll also have me as your dedicated website person, making sure all your software is up to date, providing great security and spam protection, and I’ll also take care of any content edits and updates you need in the future.
If you’re a small business owner with a website, I’d highly reccomend some kind of website hosting and maintenance plan, as it means you can take care of running your business, knowing your website is in safe hands.
How To Choose a Web Hosting Provider – A Summary
Hopefully you now feel you have a little more knowledge on how to choose a web hosting provider!
Here’s a short summary of the points above:
- Don’t go for the cheapest web hosting provider out there!
- Choose your hosting provider based on Security, Uptime, and Speed.
- Be wary of ‘top 10’ lists.
- Look for real user reviews.
- Take tech support into account when making your choice.
Has this article given you a little more clarity on how to choose a web hosting provider? Let me know!