Are you confused about how to choose a web host company? Don’t worry; we will help you to choose the right one based on your requirement.
If you’re reading this, you probably develop websites. We don’t make websites to let them sit on our computers: we set them free on the web.
While it’s often more fun to create the website than to worry about hosting it, web hosting isn’t a decision you should make lightly. Here you will get the answer to “How to choose a Web Host Company?”.
After reading this article, you will not need anyone’s help in deciding how to choose a web host company?
Table of Contents
1. Amount of Storage
When choosing your web hosting, one of your primary concerns will be, “How much data can I store?” For most small and medium web sites, you’ll find that several gigabytes should be plenty of storage.
Some hosts may offer “unlimited storage”!
If you read the fine print (usually, the Terms and Services), you’ll find that it’s unlimited until you go over the “normal site usage.”
If you think you might be close to or over whatever “normal” is, make sure you know what you can use before buying … or go with a host that sets clear limits.
2. Amount of Bandwidth
When looking for a web host, you’ll often see storage and bandwidth hand in hand.
What is bandwidth?
It’s the amount of data that your host will let you and your visitors upload and download (cumulatively) in a given month.
Say your website is 1 megabyte of data, and your monthly bandwidth is 10 MB. At the beginning of the month, you upload the entire site; now, you’ve used up one MB of bandwidth.
If a visitor to your site views every page, they will have downloaded 1MB of data. That means you can have up to 9 visitors in that month (assuming each views your whole site).
After that, your web host will either not allow any more visitors or (more likely) charge you extra per MB.
Of course, your bandwidth is something you’ll want to keep an eye on, especially if you run a fairly popular site or do something media intensive (like host your video or high-res photos).
Just like storage, some hosts offer “unlimited” bandwidth; again, if you think you’ll be in a grey area, find out the limits or choose a host that sets the bar where all can see it.
3. Number of Domains and Subdomains
Once you’re running one site, there’s a good chance it won’t be long until you’ve got a second one up and then a third.
It would be a pain to manage a hosting account for each site you own, so make sure your web host will let you host multiple domains.
Often, there will be a limit on how many domains you can have on one account; make sure it will accommodate you!
Usually, there will be a section in the admin panel to add your domains and choose which sub-folders each one will point to. The same is true for sub-domains.
4. Email Accounts and Features
Many web hosts also offer email account for your domains.
You’ll want to know how many email accounts they’ll let you set up; also, don’t forget to check out their selections for receiving that mail.
Do they have a webmail interface? Multiple ones that you can select from?
How about integration with Google Apps (for the Gmail interface)? Can you get your mail in your client of choice via IMAP, or do they only offer POP?
5. Database Support
Nowadays, even small websites seem to have a database on the back end. You’ll want to make sure you can use the type of database you’re comfortable with.
Most hosts today offer MySQL; that’s probably enough for most people, but if you’d prefer PostgreSQL, Oracle, SQL Server, or another flavor, don’t settle for anything less.
Remember, if they aren’t advertising it, they probably don’t offer it!
6. Framework Support and Easy-Install
A lot of web hosts offer support for popular frameworks, blogging systems, or CMSes.
I think it’s safe to say that the majority of Nettuts’ readers are WordPress fans: it’s always lovely when your web host offers a one-click install (or at least a super easy setup) for WordPress or your CMS of choice.
7. Mobile App or Website
For most people, this will probably be a nice extra; however, I’m sure there’s something who will find having a mobile app to access your site administration/statistics on the go indispensable.
While I only know of two hosts (MediaTemple and SliceHost) that currently offer iPhone and Android apps (MediaTemple’s Android app is forthcoming ), I’m sure most hosts will follow their lead. Both offer mobile websites as well, and I’m sure other hosts have the same.
8. Tech Support
Tech Support is essential: find out exactly what your prospective host offers as tech support: can you phone them? At what times? Do they have a support email address? A ticket system? What’s their promised response time? How about a live chat? Do they have a wiki or library of help articles/tutorials?
Please don’t choose a host until you know exactly what support they offer; you’ll be happy for it later, trust me!
9. Shell Access
If you’re a little more advanced, you might want to consider choosing a host that offers shell access: that’s logging into your server from the command line over SSH.
You’ll be able to securely copy files up and down, change file permissions for whole groups of files quickly and easily, and perform a multitude of other tasks. If you want this feature, you’ll know all that you do with it!
10. .htaccess Files
Here’s another important one: you’ll want the ability to add your .htaccess files to your directories.
What’s a .htaccess file?
It’s a configuration file used by the Apache server. You can use them to password protect directories, re-write URLs, redirect pages, and more.
11. Cron Jobs
Cron jobs are another great feature to have on your web host (and there’s a good chance you’ll have them if you’ve got shell access).
Cron is a “time-based job scheduler” (thanks, Wikipedia) that you can use to perform tasks on the server at given times.
12. Language Support
This should go without saying, but make sure the host you plan to choose offers support for the server-side languages you want to use.
If you plan to pick up Ruby on Rails in the next few months, you probably want to see it on the list of supported frameworks.
If you want to use Django, make sure there’s Python support.
Don’t lock yourself into having PHP as your only option (unless you’re sure that’s all you’ll ever want or need!).
13. Free AdWords
While not necessarily something you need, it’s something you’ll probably want to take advantage of: many hosts offer some Google AdWords credit (usually ~$50, I’ve found) or some other form of advertising.
Even if you’d instead use another advertising proxy, you can’t beat free: you might as well use it!
14. Site Backup
Don’t think that your web host is any less susceptible to data loss than your computers; remember, servers are just big computers that everyone can read files from!
What backup options, if any, does your host provide? You’ll want to back up both your site files and databases.
If they don’t offer backup, figure out how you’ll be able to do it yourself: this might be one of the places that shell access and cron jobs come in handy!
15. Choice of OS
For most people, this won’t be a big issue. Of course, if you’re developing in ASP.NET, you’ll need Windows hosting; that’s a little harder to find and often a bit more expensive, but if you’re a Microsoft developer, the extra cost will be worth it.
If you’re using an open-source language, you probably won’t need to worry about which Linux/Unix distribution you’ll get; however, some hosts give you options, and some developers may have preferences, so it’s worth mentioning.
16. Extra Applications
We already talked about content management systems, but sometimes you’ll want something more.
Several hosts offer setups for social features like forums, bulletin boards, mailing lists. If you are running an online store, some hosts provide setups for eCommerce solutions.
If you can, find out what software versions the host you are considering offers.
Some hosts aren’t quick to upgrade to the latest offering, while others will let you choose which version you want.
There are few things worse than signing up for a year of hosting only to discover your host is running PHP 5.x (yes, I’ve made that mistake).
I’m sure I don’t have to convince you that it’s essential to know that your visitors will be able to get to your site when they try!
Please find out how reliable your prospective host is; when you’re doing this, it’s essential to read the fine print.
Often, hosts will stretch the truth a bit (claiming 99.9% uptime, not counting almost everything that could go wrong), so make sure you understand exactly what “100% uptime” means.
It would be wise to google around and see what other users and reviewers have said about the host.
19. Free Domain
While you may already have a domain name, there’s no such thing as too many of them. Most hosts offer this, but all else being equal, a shiny new domain name is a good enough reason to go with one host over the other.
Conclusion: What’s your tip?
I’m sure you’ve got some great tips on how to choose a web host company.
If you do, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments! Also, let us know what hosts you’ve found reliable and which ones have come back to bite you.
You may like to read the HostGator Review that we have written. It is one of our recommended web hosting company.