Selecting a web host is confusing. There are literally hundreds of hosts – from small mom-and-pop shops like Orange Geek to national operations like GoDaddy, HostGator and BlueHost. (For the record? Bigger IS NOT always better.) These hosts offer an array of hosting plans that can range in price from $3-300 a month. With so many options how does a creative entrepreneur know which option is best?
A poor host can lead to security and malware attacks, page downtime and loss of revenue, all of which can have a negative impact on your site’s SEO. Don’t believe me? Read through Pat Flynn’s experience. He lost about $12K when his site went down. Rather than taking a stab in the dark, be sure you understand the eight things to look for in a good web host.
Things to Look for in a Good Web Host
Understand the Hosting Options Available. Hosts typically offer three types of plans. The cheapest type of plan is typically on a shared server. These plans start as low as $3 a month. The next step up is a Virtual Private Server (VPS), which start at $30-50 a month. Finally, high traffic websites may be best served by a dedicated server. A dedicated server starts at around $150 a month. It’s important to understand what type server is best for you and/or if it might be time for an upgrade.
Accessibility. On rare occasions, a web host may serve as a webmaster, but for the most part, a website owner needs to be able to quickly and easily access the back end of a site to make changes or adjustments. This is typically accomplished via the administrative features generally accessible from the control panel (CPanel). Access to this function should be provided without question upon signing up with the host.
Support. The internet never sleeps, so it’s important for a web host to provide excellent customer support around the clock. Look for a company that offers a local or toll-free phone number and AT LEAST one other contact method. Look into promised response time, options for live chat, etc.
Tip. Have your host’s phone number in your phone and don’t be afraid to call at the first sign of trouble.
Back Up + Security. Don’t think that a web host is any less affected to data loss than your own personal computer.
Power issues, software bugs, hackers and server failure can cause a website to lose data. It’s vital that backups are stored of all site information. You should keep a copy, but you should also look for a hosting company that backs up files regularly – some providers do this throughout the day, while others process a back up every 24-hours.
In addition, look for a host that provides a CPanel with an easy way for you to download a backup copy of your files anytime you want to.
Uptime Guarantee. Uptime is the percentage of time the hosting server has been up. Every host encounters equipment failures, power outages or loss of service which can result in downtime for clients. Just last fall Amazon’s servers were down which caused a ripple affect that cost over $5 million and affected sites like Tinder, Instagram, AirBnB and Netflix!
A good web host will offer 99.999% uptime or better (even 99% still allows for up to 100 minutes of downtime EVERY WEEK). In addition, web hosts should compensate customers for significant periods of downtime.
Scalability. It’s likely you’re hoping your website traffic will grow. Today it may receive 100 visits a day, but in the future it may receive many thousands or millions of visits. Databases, email accounts, site plugins and heavy imagery may eat up additional storage space. Entertain a web host that can offer the ability to upgrade your account to accommodate changes. Be aware that even if a company promises”unlimited bandwidth” they may not have the ability to handle huge spikes in traffic or millions of pageviews.
Reputation. Often hosts share testimonials from customers. Try contacting these listed clients and ask them of their experiences with the host. In many cases those endorsements may be outdated or a result of early customer experiences and may not be consistent after the client has been hosting there for a longer time period.
Beyonce may really drink Pepsi and your favorite blogger might actually use Bluehost, but it doesn’t mean that you should too. There is a chance that they really believe in the product they are endorsing, but there’s a chance they’re doing it just to make a quick buck (or a cool $50Mil in the case of Queen Bey). Take those endorsements with a “grain of salt.”
Price + Add Ons. Most bloggers gravitate to a shared server plan. Why? Because it’s cheap and SEEMS like the best option. However, there’s truth to the phrase “you get what you pay for.” Be sure you understand the differences between servers and when it may be time to make an upgrade.
In addition, watch for hidden fees, overage charges, add ons and non-refundable deposits and payments that can really add up if you’re not paying attention.