How to Choose a Good Web Hosting Provider for your Website
The hosting provider you choose can ruin your online presence or promote the same. One way is through damaging your website’s SEO, we shall soon see how. Below is a list of tips and features for you to consider before you conclude on your hosting provider
Needs Identification and Assessment
The most important thing before you even start looking for the hosting provider is to identify your needs. The needs you identify will guide you on the kind of hosting provider you want. Which kind of website are you trying to host (content management system, static)? Are you hosting a legacy system? Will you need a special software e.g., php? If yes, which version of the software? What king of traffic (website visitors) are you anticipating per month? Will you need automated jobs? Armed with your needs, what are the top 7 features to look out for in?
One of the most critical aspects to look into or consider while trading online is security. It would be so daunting to optimize your website security (using strong passwords for your admin area, hiding configuration files) and then host it with a provider who pays less attention to security detail. The following are the key security features to look out for:
- Secure Socket Layer (SSL): This is where you have an e-commerce website, and you want to handle your customers’ payments details directly, without using a third party service. You would need ULRs with https to boost your customers’ confidence and trust.
Backups – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Because disaster never warns before it hits, it is always good to back up, not only your database but also your website files. A good hosting provider should provide a daily backup plan for your website.
Malware scanners – A good hosting provider should provide a semblance of malware scanners such that they can detect and control malware on your website. Did you know that the SiteLock badge on your website boosts your visitors’ trust? Most effective hosting providers now provide Site Lock as an add-on service to your hosting plan. With this in place, chances of waking up when your website is reading as below, is minimal.
Uptime a measure of the time a server is available. Good hosting providers have an uptime 99.5%, that is to say that the 99.5% of the time the server is up and running. These days anything below 99% is unacceptable. There are many ways to find out what your provider gives, and one way is to read their marketing material or pages. However, the best way to read customer review. Some hosting providers sign service level agreements but never fulfill them.
Server Upgrading Plans
This is another important factor to consider. At the beginning you could estimate less traffic coming to your website and a shared hosting account makes sense. As business grows, traffic might grow to level that your hosting account no longer makes sense and now you want to upgrade, without migrating to another hosting provider (migration, if not well planned, might disrupt your business). Good hosting providers have smooth transition from shared to Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or to dedicated hosting services.
Important to consider also is when server upgrades take place – you don’t upgrades to take place at time you anticipate your site to be busiest. Also a good hosting provider should notify about schedule maintenance so that you can notify your users, where necessary (depend on nature of upgrade)
Many are the times when you will be fixed in a corner and you need an advanced user to come to your aid. Any hosting provider is not available 24×7 to provide you with support is not worth even trying out. I have used Hostmoster and I can testify they mastered this art – ever available to talk, or available to chat! A good hosting provider is one who can close a support ticket as soon as possible (sooner than 2 hours).
Cron Jobs and Shell access
Where you anticipate to carry out automated tasks e.g., your website sending out weekly notifications to your users, you need a provider who can provide with a means to set up cron jobs. Also, good service providers provide you with Shell access so that you can carry out complicated commands which are not achievable via the control panel.
Much as this is hard to measure upfront, I recommend you read client reviews before you sign up for a hosting service. A good hosting provider should have very fast speeds – the time it takes to serve a user request should be no more than 2 seconds (even this is a lot of time). Remember the amount of time it takes a user request for a page (via their browser) and to receive the same should be no more than 2 seconds. Where this is not possible, it has negative implications on your website; the conversion rate is poor and, worst of all, your ranking in Search Engines are negatively impacted.
Most hosting providers claim to provide “unlimited” everything – unlimited disk space, unlimited number of email accounts, unlimited databases etc. This is just a selling gimmick which should not drive you into signing up for their hosting accounts. Please always find out how limited is their ‘‘unlimited’’ — all the said unlimited items usually are capped. The best hosting provider is one whose caps allow a lot of excess!
These are the top seven features I would consider and I recommend you consider before signing up for a hosting account. There are many others to consider, but I consider their significance of limited value. Factors like hosting price, how easy is it to use the control panel, e-commerce features, signup vs. renewal charges and so forth.