How to Choose a Suitable Hosting Company

This is a guest post by David Murton.

The usability of your site largely depends on the quality of your hosting company, as well as the services included in your web hosting package. If you choose a high-bandwidth dedicated hosting package to serve a tiny blog, you’ll probably be paying for services you don’t need. Alternatively, choosing a hosting package based on cost alone can leave you with a site that’s constantly bogged down during peak hours, driving away traffic and ruining your search engine rankings.

1. What Do You Need the Web Hosting For?

The web hosting company you choose depends entirely on the needs of your site. Some hosts offer shared hosting, ideal for smaller-volume sites with lower traffic levels, while others offer dedicated business hosting, ideal for e-commerce sites and large-volume multimedia blogs. Pricing is usually commensurate with storage space, bandwidth allotments and more technical factors, such as supported programming languages. Any good hosting company’s tech support team should help you determine the most cost-effective solution in terms of a hosting package.

2. Storage Space

Web hosting packages usually list a maximum storage space capacity. When that capacity is exceeded, you’ll be required to upgrade your service package or pay an additional charge for each gigabyte required. The initial storage space allotment in a web hosting package is of little importance so long as the hosting company offers easy scalability. This allows your site to grow naturally and contain more text and multimedia content as your demands increase. Good scalability is defined as a hosting package that grows with your company seamlessly, with very little downtime and few performance issues.

3. How Much Bandwidth Do You Require?

Required bandwidth can be significantly more difficult to predict than required storage space, since you can only estimate the amount of traffic you’ll receive before your site actually launches. Scalability is key in this area as well. Choose a web hosting company that allows you to increase your bandwidth allotment at will, and install a metrics package such as Google Analytics to constantly monitor traffic levels. This will let you determine whether a bandwidth upgrade is justified.

4. Is it Secure and Reliable?

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Common misconception: web hosting security only matters for e-commerce sites. In reality, security is crucial even if your site isn’t selling products or services. It only takes one hacker to dismantle an unsecured site, leaving you with downtime, deleted backups and a time-consuming mess. Choose a hosting company with powerful 128-bit or higher SSL encryption, as well as SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) file sharing if you plan to offer downloads. Ask your potential hosting company for their policy on backups: do they back up your site automatically? How often is this done? For how long are the backups saved?

5. Control Panels

Control panels, also known as administrative panels, allow you to manage your site or several sites using an intuitive interface. cPanel VPS Hosting is among the best control panel solutions, since it allows you to graphically configure control panels related to security, domains, databases, files and logs within a virtual hosted environment. cPanel services are usually only included with commercial hosting packages.

6. Secure Connections for Stores

If you plan to launch an e-commerce site, consider a hosting company that offers an HTTPS domain name instead of the standard HTTP domain prefix. HTTPS adds an additional layer of encryption that prevents man-in-the-middle and eavesdropping attacks, which can intercept sensitive data and damage your site’s reputation. Although web hosting companies offering HTTPS are preferable, the effectiveness of this security measure is partially dictated by the end user’s web browser configurations.

7. Support for Web Programming Languages

Different hosting companies support different web programming languages, such as Ruby, Perl and PHP. Perl is extremely powerful and versatile, but many programmers rate it poorly in terms of usability and readability. Ruby offers far cleaner code, and nearly as powerful for those familiar with OOP (object-oriented programming). PHP offers many advantages such as clean, readable code and the ability to produce quality web applications efficiently. Your choice, however, may ultimately boil down to whichever language you or your programming team is already comfortable with.

8. .htaccess Configuration

.htaccess is a configuration file that allows you to manually override your host server’s configuration. .htaccess files can be configured to accomplish a number of technical tasks, such as:

  • Creating password-protected directories
  • Setting up custom 404 pages
  • Preventing directory listings of your site
  • Preventing bandwidth theft
  • Changing your default page
  • Blocking bots, such as search engine bots, from crawling your pages (not recommended for those seeking higher search engine rankings)

.htaccess configuration is a standard offering of most commercial hosting companies, while free hosting services often omit this service.

9. Customer Support

It’s important to choose a hosting company that offers customer support through multiple channels, such as live chat, email and phone. In the case that your site is experiencing unexpected downtime, you should be able to file a ticket directly to the hosting company’s support technicians, and receive a solution within 12 hours or less. High quality web hosting companies offer free support as part of their hosting packages. If a hosting company assesses extra fees for customer service, or is repeatedly unavailable for service inquiries, it’s wise to simply find a new hosting service.