Are you setting up a new website or planning to move your existing website to a different web host? If so, you might be overwhelmed by all the available web hosting companies and their various hosting plans. Prices can range from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars per month, so it’s important to identify what you need from your website so you can find the most suitable and cost-effective solution for you.
Start by asking yourself these 4 questions:
1) What type of hosting do I need?
- Shared hosting
This is the most common and least expensive hosting plan. Many companies offer shared hosting for $5 to $25 per month. With shared hosting, multiple sites are hosted on the same server. Shared hosting is sufficient for most small companies, but if you think your website might grow significantly or experience high traffic at times, make sure your web host offers the option to upgrade in the future.
- Virtual private server (VPS) hosting
This is a hybrid between shared and dedicated hosting plans. With VPS, you’re paying for space on a server that is divided (or partitioned) into multiple virtual machines. VPS hosting offers more control and bandwidth than shared hosting, so it’s a good option for people who want some of the advantages of dedicated hosting but need a more cost-effective solution.
- Dedicated hosting
This is the most expensive and most customizable hosting plan, so it’s ideal for large websites or sites with high traffic. The cost can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per month. In addition to faster speeds and better performance, dedicated hosting is considered the most secure since there is only one site on the server.
2) What features will my website require?
Some web hosts advertise rock-bottom prices but then charge fees for even the most basic features. These fees can add up quickly, so it’s helpful to know what features you might need before you commit to a host. For example:
- Will you be selling products or services on your website? If so, you’ll need a secure site with e-commerce functionality and support.
- Do you want a blog? If so, a web host with WordPress support is something to consider.
- Do you need your web host to provide email hosting for your domain? If so, look for a web host that offers this service for free or at a reasonable rate.
3) How reliable do I need my server to be?
If you’re just planning to publish a simple, informational website, it probably wouldn’t be a crisis if your server is down for an hour or two. But if you’re using your website for e-commerce or if you have time-sensitive information on your website, server uptime is critical. Most web hosts advertise 90 to 99.99 percent uptime. While that might seem like a safe range, keep in mind that 90 percent uptime translates to around 16 hours of downtime per week, while 99.99 percent uptime translates to a mere 10 minutes of downtime per week. If server downtime could result in lost revenue or frustrated customers, it’s worth spending more for a host with a higher uptime record.
4) How much customer support will I need?
Some web hosting companies offer free 24/7 customer support via email, phone or chat, while some only offer a database of support topics and charge a fee for personalized customer support. Some only respond during normal business hours, which could leave you without help for an evening or a whole weekend. If you’re not adept at doing your own problem-solving, you might want to look for a host that’s known for offering reliable customer and technical support, even if it costs a little more.
Ready to shop?
Once you’ve determined what you need from your website, you’re ready to start shopping for web hosts! I typically begin by reading reviews on reputable sites like CNET or PCMag. Every year, they list their top web-hosting companies, comparing hosting types, prices, uptime, support and other features. After perusing a few of these lists, you should start to get a sense of which web host is right for you.