A Guide to Choosing a Web Host Provider 

A Guide to Choosing a Web Host Provider 

Kerry Leigh Harrison of UK Web Host Review talks us through the process of choosing a web host provider, covering the different types of website hosting available and how to prioritize functionality

By Kerry Leigh Harrison

If you're setting up a website for your small business, one of the first steps to consider is choosing a web host provider. From GoDaddy to SiteGround, there are so many different options available, so how do you narrow down your search effectively? We talk you through the process step-by-step to help you decide which web host provider best suits your unique needs. 

What type of hosting do you need?

Before you can start looking for a web host provider, you need to consider what type of hosting your business website needs. Your main options are as follows:

1. Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is ideal for small to medium websites. With this solution, a number of sites and customers will share the same server. This makes it a good option if you are starting out. A lot of businesses then decide to move onto a dedicated or VPS plan at a later date. Shared hosting is cheap and straightforward, but as you are going to be sharing the server resources with various sites, performance can suffer.

2. VPS Hosting
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. This is the middle ground between shared hosting and having a dedicated server. With a VPS, the server will be divided into virtual machines, which act as independent dedicated servers. However, the difference is there are much larger portions per customer and you will have more control. You are able to add and remove additional computing resources when required.

3. Dedicated Hosting 
Finally, there's dedicated hosting, which is suitable for high-performing websites. You will have an entire server to power your applications or website. This means every configuration need can be catered for, as you will have full control over the doting architecture. This means you can customize everything from load balancers and operating systems to security systems.

What resources do you require?

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of hosting solutions, you need to consider what resources you need and how many of them are required. This all depends on the nature of your business. For example, you may prioritize email functionality over storage. However, a developer may need stringent security and high bandwidth rates. So, let’s take a look at some of the key features of most packages…

1. Security and support
There are many elements that make up the security of your website, including password strength and administrator behaviour. Nevertheless, the infrastructure of a hosting company can be a major weak link if you don’t choose with care - 40% of websites are compromised due to a host’s vulnerability. It's therefore imperative to find a host that offers security add-ons, including monitoring services and firewalls. You will also need to look at the support that is provided - it's worth noting that 24/7 support has become the standard for hosting companies today.

2. Reliability and uptime rates
Downtime can be extremely detrimental to any business, especially ecommerce. It can mean lost productivity, damaged brand reputation, and missed sales opportunities. Most hosts will guarantee you 99.9% uptime, and if there are any unplanned outages beyond the service-level agreement, they will reimburse you. 

3. Domains and email
Web hosting and domain registration are two different services, although they are commonly lumped together. Your domain name (your website's address) does not need to be registered with your hosting company. Nevertheless, some people prefer to keep everything in the one account, and you will find a lot of hosting companies offering deals with regards to domain registration and transfers. You may also want to find a host that provides email hosting, including advanced email features such as auto-responders and forwarding / filtering services. 

4. Data transfer and bandwidth
Bandwidth accounts for the quantity of data uploaded or downloaded from your site. It can have a big impact on the performance of your website. Essentially, the bandwidth will dictate how quickly users can access information on your website. A higher bandwidth equates to a higher number of people who can view your website at the same time. Therefore, your level of traffic will play a big role when it comes to this.

5. Storage and RAM
Let’s end with one of the easiest hosting features to understand: storage (or disk space). For shared hosting providers, they will often offer unlimited hosting packages. When you move to dedicated and VPS packages, you can configure your storage as you go. The most important thing to look for in this regard is SSD – solid state drives as they are reliable and fast. In terms of RAM, in web hosting this provides a similar purpose to the RAM of your PC – it quickly processes data that has been stored, and so this is another factor to consider.

What about the price?

Finally, you need to consider the price. Free hosting is widely available, but it is not always a wise idea, as you may miss out on a number of beneficial features. When it comes to price, there are a few things to take into account. Firstly, think of the future and what your requirements are likely to be in a few years time. You need a host you can grow with. Moreover, discover what the price will be year-on-year, as a lot of hosts entice people with a great start price and then put their rates up.

As you can see, there is a lot that needs to be considered when it comes to choosing a web host provider. If you carefully consider all of the points that have been mentioned above, you should be able to find the best host for your situation. And don’t forget - you don’t have to be tied down to the same web host provider forever. As your needs change and your business grows, you may find that another host becomes more suitable. 

About the Author 

Kerry is an experienced content writer, with a First Class Hons Degree in Multimedia Journalism. She currently works for UK Web Host Review, providing content on SEO, web hosting, web performance, UX, web security, web design, and much more.