How to Choose A Web Hosting Service

How to Choose A Web Hosting Service

This guide, “How to Choose A Web Hosting Service” will take you through the decision-making process of selecting the best web hosting service for your personal needs. Make the right decision before going with a web host, and eliminate disasters before they happen!

A Quick Introduction to Choosing a Web Hosting Service

So, you’ve chosen a great domain name or two (or fifty) and are ready to start building away. Looks like it’s time to take the plunge and enter the super-saturated world of web hosting! What fun.

Before you even think about signing up for a web hosting service. You’ll need to find out more about what you want right now, and what you’ll most likely want in the future. You’ll also have to get a quick budgeting plan ready, too.

What Do I Want to Accomplish Right Now?

Choose a web hosting service that covers all your needs!

You’ll have to decide what it is you want. Before you even start looking at web hosting services and their plans. What you’re looking to do will greatly affect what you should or shouldn’t sign up for! (All of these links zoom down to their respective places on the page)

  • What kind of site(s) will you be managing? A blog? Small business site? Video sharing site? Social networking site? Online gaming site? Web directory? An affiliate store? Or, are you looking to get into the hosting business, yourself?
  • Are you moving a website over? Or are you simply looking to create new websites from scratch?
  • What’s the most you’re willing to spend, per month? $5? $25? $100? $250? Nothing? Or is money not an object?
  • Do you need your own server? Or, would you mind having your website(s) reside on a server box with dozens of other customers, to save on cost?
  • Do you know how to install a website? Or, would you prefer using a program that will do it for you?
  • Do you need someone to manage the server for you? (i.e., reboot the server when it crashes)…or, are you a quick learner, and good with computers on at least an intermediate level?

What Do I Want to Accomplish In the Future?

Think ahead.. save yourself from a potential headache!

As in a chess game, it’s important to think ahead. Things change. With high success comes high profile issues, and higher operating costs. What would you do?

  • Do you know how to back up a website and database? Do you have an immediate solution in case your website goes down, is accidentally deleted, or is hacked?
  • When your site gets real big, will you be financially able to take on a more expensive monthly hosting plan? (mainly because you’ll have no choice!)

What kind of site(s) will you be managing?

Website hosting requirements

This question is the very first step for anyone looking to choose a web hosting service. Certain sites traditionally use more server resources than others. Two major resources you’ll need to know about are bandwidth (which is the data rate outputted by your site .

It’s measured every time someone views pages, watches videos, hears an MP3, or even downloads things), and disk space (simply, the amount of stuff you’ve uploaded into your web space… much like the amount of stuff you have on your computer’s hard drive).

While disk space is never a problem for most sites (except for video sharing sites that offer have thousands of videos). Bandwidth is usually the first thorn in your side as a site grows.

A good rule of thumb states that if your site typically involves the usage of many large files, like videos, music, print-ready graphic files. Or allows for user-uploaded and downloaded content – your bandwidth is going to crank into overdrive if it gets popular enough.

Here’s a list of various kinds of websites, with an approximation of how resource-intensive they are*. Find the category your site is in. And you’ll have a better idea of where your site is headed (*Your results may vary!):

  • Low Bandwidth Sites: Blogs, personal or mostly text-based web sites, small business sites, informational text-only sites, affiliate sales sites, online stores, web directories, small to mid-size forums.
  • High Bandwidth Sites: Social networking (like facebook) & all user-submitted content sites, video sites (like YouTube), Gaming sites, large forums.

As you may have guessed, more bandwidth and/or disk space means a higher monthly cost!

Are you moving a website over? – How to Choose A Web Hosting Service

Perhaps you’ve purchased a fully-functional website through a private sale or auction. Or have had a freelance web developer create a site for you. You’re now looking to choose a web hosting service and move it over.

If your situation is the first scenario. You must find out the current bandwidth rate (per month) that the site outputs. And simply go with a plan that covers it. So, if the site uses 1 GB of bandwidth per month. You’ll know that a plan offering a maximum of 3 GB will do just fine.

If the latter scenario applies to you, you’ll most likely want to find the lowest plan out there. Brand new sites always start off utilizing very little bandwidth – unless you become the next overnight internet success, that is!

What’s the most you’re willing to spend per month?

web hosting monthly budget

Don’t get me wrong. There is such a thing as free hosting – but typically at the cost of forced pop-ups or pop-under ads, forced advertising or “Powered By” links, and other annoyances. Not to mention – customer support will be nearly non-existent.

The only choice for any legit, serious website is paid hosting. Plans can range from $1/mo to hundreds per month, depending on what your site(s) require! It’s up to you to create a quick annual budget. Check them against your income, and determine what the most you can spend will be.

I’ll be repeating this many times. It’s insane to start off with a new site and NOT choose the cheapest available web hosting plan. I’ll explain why, later.

Web hosting services always charge extra for, well, “extras.” These may include the cPanel administration interface, additional e-mail addresses, additional subdomains, the type & brand of processor chip your server has, additional RAM, and much more. The most expensive of these “extras” is typically RAM.

Do you really need your own server? – How to Choose A Web Hosting Service

own hosting server

There are basically two main categories of hosting, shared and dedicated. With Shared hosting, you’ll be “sharing” space on a server box with other customers. It could be dozens of other customers – the limit is set by the web hosting service themselves. And they usually stop adding customers to a server when they believe it is ‘full enough.’

Dedicated servers are technically yours, and yours alone. You don’t actually own the server hardware. Nor will you ever see the box in person – but you’re the only one who uses that box. You have the option of managing the box itself through an administration panel (for an extra price).

All of the resources being used on the server box (memory, disk space and bandwidth) are only being used by your sites alone.

You may have already thought that “shared” hosting sounds pretty awful. But in actuality, a site running on a shared server and a comparable one running on a dedicated server may have an unnoticeable performance difference! It depends greatly on the hardware you’re using.

And in the case of the shared option. How much its resources are already being used by your colleagues (which you’ll never know as a non-current customer).

The only practical time to get a dedicated server is when you are running a massive site. Especially a video hosting site or any other high traffic + high bandwidth site, that is a resource hog. Otherwise, you will be spreading your profit margin very thin.

As the cost of dedicated hosting typically starts at approximately $500 per year! Determine how long it will take to break even with such a cost, if you intend on doing so.

Do you know how to install a website? – How to Choose A Web Hosting Service

If not, you might want to look into a web hosting service that offers a program called Softaculous within its hosting plan. This server-based tool for cPanel will allow you to instantly install one of many popular website content management software packages, like WordPress and Joomla.

Some web hosting service providers offer software installation (as you’ve probably guessed, it’s never free).

Do you need someone to manage your server for you?

Managed Server

It doesn’t stop at simply shared or dedicated servers – there’s yet another option for dedicated server subscribers: managed servers. If you choose to go with a managed server. All of your administrative issues will be taken care of by a representative of the web hosting service provider.

So, if your server box goes down or experiences other service interrupting errors. An administrator will notice and fix the situation for you. Otherwise, it is up to you to monitor your own server, and address or fix issues as they arise.

These issues are simple if you have access to cPanel, or any other backend administrative login. However, if this admin login fails, your hosting company should still be able to restart your server for you (usually after you’ve submitted a ticket, and waited for a response).

It’s a good practice to go with managed server service if you’re computer illiterate. Or are scared of having to fix server and site-related issues in the heat of the moment. You can always stop the managed service after a pay period, too.

However, if you’ve used for computers for years and get the ‘gist’ of how things work. Managing your own server isn’t rocket science.

Do you know how to back up a website and database?

Things don’t always run smoothly. There absolutely will be instances where your site or server goes down, for whatever reason. Therefore, it’s important to know how to backup your site! Thankfully, this is a fairly simple process. If your web hosting service allows you to do so . You can set your website for daily automatic backups. And simply revert to the most recent backup in times of a disaster.

Alternately, if you have no other options – you can backup your website files to your server via an FTP program (which becomes tedious for sites that have hundreds of videos or other large files).

You manually back up a database through phpMyAdmin. An interface that lets you browse through, edit, delete or copy databases. Through this service, you can copy your databases directly to your desktop as a raw text file, or a ZIPped file.

When your site gets real big. will you be able to afford it?

Many webmasters would call this a “good problem” . Unless, of course, we’re talking about a site that uses a lot of traffic but pays out very little. While web traffic does not always equate to big payoffs, it may result in big expenses.

The three categories of websites that are infamously known as being expensive to upkeep and difficult to monetize are video displaying or sharing sites (similar to YouTube), social networking sites (similar to facebook) and gaming sites (similar to minecraft).

All three, when well developed and heavily visited, will surely result in high operating costs just for the bandwidth alone. Don’t forget, if your RAM isn’t what it used to be. You’ll be paying a very hefty amount for an upgrade.

Can you afford it?

That’s the question of the day. The best way to handle a situation like this is to take the web hosting service you’ve decided upon. And look at all of their pricing tiers. Calculate the annual cost of each plan, as compared with the annual revenue from your sites.

And see if you’re happy with your current profit margin. Do the sites pay for themselves, or are you going into the red? Can you kick in the cost through any of your other income sources?

If your site is exceeding the contracted bandwidth limit. You’ll assuredly get an immediate email from the hosting company.

In these cases, you’ll have to either remedy the issue (which is usually impossible to do). Or be forced to upgrade your hosting plan to the next tier…or else.

This is the fate that has befallen anyone who has unexpectedly achieved a first page ranking on Google for a major keyword. Or a major news source has mentioned it, resulting in many days of residual traffic and exposure. In other words, it can happen anytime, any day!

VPS Hosting: When You Need More Muscle

VPS Hosting

VPS hosting is the ultimate alternative to buying an expensive dedicated server. It’s affordable and much more resourceful than a shared server plan. Look into it if you’re planning to be the webmaster of many websites. Especially if some or all of them will get hundreds of visitors per day at some point!

What’s the Catch with “Unlimited” or “Unmetered” Bandwidth or Disk Space?

Unmetered bandwidth…sounds awesome! Right? Wrong… as your intuition may have suggested. There’s no such thing as “unlimited” anything, as it all comes from somewhere and does something once it becomes “too much.”

One of the biggest trends in webhosting was the “unlimited bandwidth and disk space” hook. While this may be true. There’s a good deal of fine print behind it, as there are OTHER attributes being monitored and limited. For instance, unlimited providers will typically cap off the number of “inodes” (files) being accessed per month.

In this sense, a “file” is being defined under Unix lingo as “any file, directory or file system object.” As you might have imagined, you’ll be using an awful lot of these things. As your entire site is made up of them, and is being accessed constantly, multiple times, by every visitor who visits your site every day.

Another attribute that unlimited bandwidth plans secretly limit is your CPU usage. Most hosts will throw a red flag if you’re using around 20-25% of the shared server’s CPU for more than a minute, up to a minute and a half. If you’re using a decent host, you’ll get fair warning. Many others will simply shut your site down, and you’ll really be in hot water.

This, of course, is all food for thought, and hopefully explains the “red tape” over the attractive word known as “unlimited.”

What’s the Best Web Hosting Service?

web hosting recommendation

By far, the overall favorite web hosting service around is Interserver . It’s difficult for other services to hold a candle to their unlimited accounts for under $7/mo deal. Coupled with their great customer service and reliability.

Keep in mind that even with a brand new website. You can very easily earn back the small plan’s monthly fee through advertising programs like AdSense, Which run text or banner ads on your site, conclusively giving you 100% free hosting 🙂

What Other Options Are There?

There’s a dizzying number of other web hosting services out there today .A few things you’ll want to look for are uptime and reliability (having a service that is up and running all the time), getting the best “bang for your buck” (the most options at the lowest cost), and good customer support (a web hosting service that cares about you as a customer – and not just a dollar sign). While Interserver continues to excel in all of these competencies .

Some web hosting services have notoriously been known for poor customer service, unexpected account closings, hijacked domains and other issues. I hate bad-mouthing any service of which I have not experienced myself.

To Sum It All Up…

When looking to host brand new websites, choosing a web hosting service and plan is a simple task: get the smallest shared web hosting plan with the smallest price (anything less than $10/month would be ideal), and simply upgrade only when absolutely necessary!

If your website(s) require more muscle, dedicated hosting is the way to go. Use your site’s existing server data to help decide on a plan that is financially and technologically feasible for your means. As always, never go for “overkill” in terms of server requirements. Only pay for what’s necessary, and upgrade when you have to!

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