Choosing the right host for your professional site can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have a technical computer background. Most businesses make the mistake of just going with the cheapest or most popular webhost they find.
Without all the tech jargon, here’s a layperson’s crash course in choosing a website host. There are three primary considerations:
Speed and Reliability
Loading too slowly (today, that’s a site that doesn’t load in under 5 seconds) or becoming unavailable too often is a death sentence for a website. Poor design is one main cause of such problems, and website host shortcomings are the other.
- There are two major hosting plan categories: dedicated and shared hosting. Unless you have an e-commerce site with millions of monthly visitors, shared hosting is generally the best choice.
- Shared hosting is like living in an apartment complex. Multiple sites have their own space on a single server. You may share with 100 or 100,000 or more websites. Some hosts don’t keep up with demand created by ever-increasing user numbers, and performance suffers on all sites involved.
- Your hosting company should have a large content delivery network (CDN) with servers all over the world. This ensures visitors can use your site wherever they are, even abroad.
- Your hosting company should provide frequent caching of your site. A cache is basically a pre-assembled copy of your website that increases the speed at which the closest server delivers your site to visitors.
Security and Safety
In the past, one downside of shared hosting was that if another site on your server was hacked, your site was also vulnerable. Up-to-date server technology prevents this, but not all hosting companies use it. Make sure your web host can:
- Immediately isolate all the sites on a compromised server.
- Create and implement fixes for security holes in newly adopted software (a common problem that can take the manufacturers a while to address)
- Isolate and help resolve security concerns affecting widely used third-party software (e.g., WordPress, Joomla, Magento, etc.)
- Automatically create backup copies of your site at least once per day and store at least 30 versions in case your site crashes and data and content are lost.
Customer support should be available from your hosting company 24/7/365 to help with any server-related task, such as setting up email accounts and buying or transferring domains. Many website hosts aren’t willing to help with issues involving third-party applications or websites, but others go above and beyond to provide stellar service.
Lots of online resources walk you through comparisons of additional website hosting features, like CPU, bandwidth, disk space, etc., but it can be confusing. Create a shortlist of a few website hosts from information you find online, then talk to customer service reps from each one about your website. Get suggestions, ask about the issues addressed in this article, and pay attention to how friendly and helpful each rep is.