How do you decide if a web host is a good choice? Are disk storage features and bandwidth still important? Choosing a web host for your site is almost more of an art than a science. But, there is also a methodology to it all. It is a matter of you defining the process that works for you.
For many, it can be downright tricky. This is especially true if a person doesn’t know what to look for in a web host. It is really helpful to have a checklist to help you get through all that trickiness. Defining the checklist is almost a personal journey, but a little help (qualified, that is) never hurt anyone, or at least that is what they say.
What is the Big Deal About Hosting Companies?
Nothing is more important to your website’s functionality than a reliable web host. Your web host needs to operate on a powerful enough server and have a stable network connection to the rest of the world. The recommended uptime score is anything above 99.5; with the unacceptable rate being anything below 99 percent.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the people factor. That can include the customer service, but also the knowledge level. Many times there is a fair amount of knowledge floating around at a hosting company, but one needs to beware of the hosting companies (usually occurring in the smaller companies more so than the larger, established companies) that have people who are more talented at selling used cars than understanding the definition of DNS.
Tips for Choosing a Hosting Service
If you look online, you’ll find plenty of articles with information about publishing platforms. However, while these platforms work well for building an online presence, a web host can easily taint even the prettiest web page.
Also, keep in mind that the definition of a publishing platform can include user-generated-content (UGC) sites like blogger.com and medium. Those are platforms where you can publish your own content, by virtue of the fact that the owners of the domain/site give you permission to do so. These sites are hosted, yes, but you are not the one that has to deal with the hosting company. Instead, you are dealing with the owner of the site who has given you permission to publish using their publishing platform/software.
In cases such as WordPress, you may have a publishing platform, like WordPress.com or you may be downloading the WordPress software (from WordPress.org) and installing it on your own web host. When you go through the installation process/choice, you have a publishing platform that is called WordPress, but it is a choice of using the WordPress.com (who handles their own hosting issues) or setting up your site and having your own publishing platform installation (downloaded from WordPress.org). In the second case, you are the one who is dealing with the hosting company and therefore, the choice of which hosting company you want.
Does it still sound a bit confusing? Check out this article on the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. That should help clear up the WordPress explanation as well as applying to other similar situations.
We will come back to a discussion that is specifically catering to WordPress in just a bit. But first, let’s return to the discussion about that host of ours, shall we?
How Can the Selection of a Bad Hosting Affect Me?
Many people may initially think that saving money is the end all and all that is important, especially when starting out with a shoestring budget.
Oh, sure. It is important not to be throwing your money at unnecessary doodads, but at the same time, be careful. Many times it is a case of getting what you pay for and if you are not paying that much, think about what you are getting in return.
Choosing the least expensive web host many save you money, but it can also lead to slower download speeds, freezing web pages, and a loss when it comes to the Return-on-Investment (ROI).
You really need to do your homework and find out the answers to your questions, before selecting that host. Not doing your homework beforehand can:
- Negatively affect your ranking;
- Waste your money;
- Affect your online authority.
When comparing web hosts, also remember that bigger doesn’t always mean better. Even the best companies can get so blindsided by their success that they stop paying attention to the little guy. If their hosting solutions don’t suit your specific needs, it’s a good idea to look elsewhere.
Keeping the Hosting Features in Mind
You need to do more than looking for the highest quality at the lowest price. You need to look for solutions. For example, do you need unique software? If so, can the host support it? If you only need a simple WordPress site, be certain that your host can provide managed WordPress hosting. Deciding factors should include these types of features in the list. While things like price are important, these other factors may make or break the deal.
Don’t Forget the Advantage of Online Reviews
Each web host has different features, so to get a feel of how they function, check out their website and look to other online review sites. Use your best Google search methods to find out what others are saying about the hosting company.
Remember to remain impartial and look to see how the hosting company rates overall. Are there more than a few disgruntled customers complaining about the price? Are there numerous complaints about the host’s overall performance? These are the types of questions you need to ask before your purchase a plan.
Considering the Special Needs
We already mentioned that sometimes you have specialized needs for your website. That may be a Drupal installation, a specialized database installation for a specific application, or a case where someone has set up your site in a corporate environment, and now, as you are moving it, you realized that you are not like everyone else on the planet.
The most common specialized need is hosting for WordPress. That said, it is becoming so common that many hosting providers are ready for it and have ways for you to click a button and have the server system software install the WordPress installation for you. It used to be, in years past, that it was not uncommon to contact the hosting provider’s support team and request that they install WordPress.
The key thing, when it comes to the special needs, like WordPress, is to ensure that it is available to you with this hosting provider and that you have the level of technology help that is needed. So, if you are not tech-savvy at all, you want that click-button option. If you are really tech-savvy (as in having run your own hosting company, as we did), you may be willing to sacrifice some technology support (because you don’t want or need it in the first place) for some discount on the price of the hosting.
What Do Other Professionals Say on the Matter?
We asked a couple of SEO experts what they thought about hosting, the companies/providers, and what is most important when it comes to evaluating hosting service features. The following are their answers, compiled through the service at MyBlogU.com.
Q1. What are the most important aspects or features when considering a hosting company for your site or blog?
A1a. Mike Khorev (Independent SEO expert)
I usually host more than one website, and I always look at the number of MySQL databases, available space, and traffic allowance that the host provides. Company reputation and years in business are also important factors as I have had a negative experience with new companies being closed and taking down my domains and website files with them.
A1b. Riverbedmarketing (Senior Inbound Marketing Team Leader)
I would say that some of the most important aspects to consider are the following when it concerns the selection of a hosting company for anyone launching an online business:
- Server Reliability (How does the server handle itself under a heavy load?);
- Hosting space, size, & speed.
- Is there an option for dedicated hosting (not shared hosting) and if so, how much hosting space does the provider offer in those plans
Q2. What tips or insights can you share, when it comes to hosting companies, experiences with hosting companies, and any other tips or insights you would like to share with us?
A2a. Mike Khorev (Independent SEO expert)
I’ve used quite a few hosting companies in the past ten years, and I found one that offers the best pricing, hosting services, and flexibility to fit smaller websites. I host more than ten websites on the same account, and it would be troublesome to migrate them all to another hosting provider, so I am content to keep them running on the same account that I have right now.
A2b. Riverbedmarketing (Senior Inbound Marketing Team Leader)
Minimal downtime and fast response to server issues and inquiries are things that are important to me. A host that provides maximum control to their clients is key. So, for example, a hosting provider that allows us, as clients, the ability to access CPANEL and the ability to hand out logins to our developers freely is very important. That would be the self-service accounts.
Q3. Is customer service a key make-it-or-break-it component when deciding on a hosting company? Why or why not?
A3a. Mike Khorev (Independent SEO expert)
Customer service is of secondary importance to me. The most important factor is how fast my website will load for visitors, and it depends on server CPUs, connection speed, and database. Reliability is more important to me than customer service.
A3b. Riverbedmarketing (Senior Inbound Marketing Team Leader)
Customer service is at the forefront of what I look for when recommending hosts to my clients. This is crucial and critical in order to ensure that downtime is minimalized, especially in the case of e-commerce stores/sites.
The following is a little bit more about our two volunteer interviewees.
Mike Khorev (Independent SEO expert)
Mike Khorev is an Independent SEO Expert with over eight years of experience in web design and digital marketing. Here are a few links to help you connect with Mike:
Riverbedmarketing (Senior Inbound Marketing Team Leader)
Michael Bergen has been working in the digital marketing industry for over ten years. Currently, he has been overseeing his agency’s operations. His technical strengths are in marketing analysis, SEO, content strategy, and inbound marketing. His agency has experience working with quite a number of WordPress sites and typically works with private hosting companies that provide the white glove service. Finding the right fit between client and host is very important. Here are a few links to help you connect with Michael:
Summing Up Those Three Reasons
The three powerful reasons why that host selection is essential:
- When you have an online business, you need it to run smoothly without a hitch.
- When you have technology needs, you need to have a solution that does not involve you pulling all of your hair out of your head.
- You need to ensure that no damage besets you (i.e. reputation, traffic, etc.) because of a poor (or non-existent) decision-making process in hosting provider selection.
As an online business, choosing a web host is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. You already know what features are necessary. Now, focus only on the bottom line, but not so much that you leave out some important factors. If the host has exceptional functionality, supports your specific needs, and has exemplary customer service, follow your gut instinct.
Above all else, never settle for less simply because it costs less.
Now, you might want to grab your favorite drink and sit down in your favorite spot. Next, start making that checklist of important components that you require in a web host. Then, stick to it, ok? 🙂