How to Choose the Best Web Hosting Provider

February 6, 2014

9:00 am

A 2012 study showed that 53 percent of companies can’t offer a clear reason why they choose one hosting provider over another. In addition, 27 percent chose their current provider after a word-of-mouth recommendation.

Much of this can be attributed to a widespread lack of understanding about what to look for in a potential hosting provider.

Choosing the wrong provider can pose problems for any business that has an established web presence. Insufficient server speed and load capacity are common problems that plague many websites, and contribute to lost sales as well as decreased performance in search engines. Here are the most important factors to consider when choosing a web hosting provider.

Dedicated vs. shared hosting

To find a web hosting service that your organization can be happy with, experts suggest that you start by determining which type of hosting plan your firm needs. Shared hosting plans, often cheaper and more flexible than traditional IT solutions and private cloud hosting, group many different domains, owned by a variety of different customers, all sharing the same server.

Customers can’t see each one another’s data or files; the contents are kept separate and secure. The advantage of shared hosting is that it’s inexpensive and easy to set up. For small businesses, this is often the best route to take; however, larger organizations might find this type of set-up insufficient for their needs. Load times tend to be slower, and resources are spread more thin.

Dedicated hosting plans allow a single website to be hosted on a single server. These servers are generally much more powerful, have more dedicated resources, and allow for a greater amount of storage space, which can be essential for larger companies.

The downside is that dedicated hosting is much more expensive than shared hosting plans, and requires more maintenance activity on the part of the customer.

The best of both worlds

There’s a hybrid that operates between the two, though: the virtual private server hosting plan, in which each customer runs its own virtual private server.

In this plan, many customers will share the same physical server, but specialized virtualization software makes it look as if each hosted customer is on its own separate server. Some plans offer flexible pricing, where customers can choose how much space and processing power they need and can even have the option to scale this as their company grows.

WordPress-specific hosting is becoming much more popular as well, due to the rise in popularity of WordPress as a CMS for company websites. Personally, I highly recommend WordPress as a CMS, and many other experts do, too. Hosting that’s specifically designed for WordPress can further improve speed, response time, and uptime.

Other considerations

Once you’ve made a decision about what kind of server you need, it’s time to start looking at other elements. How the provider handles security is always of concern, especially for companies who are looking to handle credit card transactions over their website.

Another consideration should be the uptime guarantee. Customers often assume that their website will always be up and running; however, most providers offer a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee.

In most cases, there’s no reason why clients should expect anything less than that, but it’s important to find out what you’re entitled to if your server uptime falls below the guaranteed level.

Customer Support

Finally, one of the most overlooked aspects of choosing a hosting provider is the customer’s ability to interact with the provider itself. Can you pick up the phone and call support, or is everything handled via support tickets?

Does your host charge for support calls? Can you reach company representatives through social media channels? Many companies will have a variety of social media profiles through which they offer quick support (as seen here), but be sure to monitor how they’re used and how responsive the company is. If they’re active on social media, that’s a strong indication that you’ll be able to contact representatives with ease.

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Drew Hendricks is a professional business and startup blogger that writes for a variety of sites including The Huffington Post, Forbes and Technorati. Drew has worked at a variety of different startups as well as large advertising agencies.

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