One of the most important decisions you make when setting up a website is choosing a web host. The many different types of service and the wide range of packages on offer can leave a newcomer bamboozled when it comes to selecting the right service provider. To help you out, this post will give you an insight into the most important criteria you need to consider.
Availability is the technical term used in the industry for reliability and what you need to look for is a web host that can offer high availability. In other words, they will guarantee that your website will stay online and won’t fail due to errors with their servers or be taken offline for long periods during maintenance.
The industry standard for availability is 99.5% but this still equates to your website being offline for over 3 hours every month. Ideally, you want a high availability provider that can offer uptime of 99.95% and higher. At eUKhost, we offer this level for our shared hosting whilst offering 100% uptime for our business packages, VPS and dedicated servers, and cloud hosting.
Choosing a high availability host is essential if you want your website and business to have a reputation for reliability. It helps your customers trust you and guarantees that your site is always there to generate income and maintain the services you offer your customers.
2. Bandwidth limits
Bandwidth is a term used to describe the amount of data you send from your server to your visitors’ browsers. Every time someone loads one of your pages on their computer or smartphone you are using up bandwidth. If you have a site that has lots of heavy content, such as large media files (videos, images, music, etc.) you may use quite a lot of bandwidth.
Some web hosts or hosting packages set a limit to the amount of bandwidth you can use each month – this is known as bandwidth allocation. For websites that don’t have a lot of visitors, this is not an issue, however, if you find your traffic growing or if there is an unexpected spike in demand (perhaps one of your posts gets a lot of shares on social media) you may find that you go beyond your allocation. When this happens, there are two possibilities, you may find that your host prevents your website from displaying for the rest of the month or you may find yourself being charged for the extra bandwidth you have used – similar to what happens if you go beyond your data allocation with your mobile phone.
Neither paying for extra bandwidth or being taken offline are desirable options, especially as going beyond your bandwidth limit is a sign that your website is doing well. What you really need to look for is a web host that provides either unmetered or unlimited bandwidth on smaller (shared) hosting packages and bandwidth allocations on bigger (dedicated server) plans which are so high it’s highly unlikely you will ever surpass them.
3. Disk space allocation
The amount of disk space you will need depends entirely on your personal circumstances. If you are a small business wanting to run nothing more than a website, then you are not going to need huge disk space at all. However, if you are a large enterprise collecting enormous amounts of data and running powerful applications you will certainly need much more space for all the information and programs you need to store.
As most hosting packages have either disk space limits or file number limits, you should carefully assess your requirements and future needs before picking a package that will provide you with the disk space you require. At the same time, you need to make sure you don’t waste money buying space you will never use. If your website is only going to be a few hundred MB in size, there’s no point buying 20GB of disk space.
4. All day, every day, technical support
Managing a website can get quite technical and sometimes problems occur that either you don’t know how to solve or which need solving by your web host. For this reason, you need a web host that provides 24 hours a day, 365 days a year technical support. You don’t want your website going offline on Friday night and not being able to talk to someone until Monday morning.
Do note that the emphasis here is on technical support. There are some hosts that advertise 24/7 support but all you get is put you through to a call centre that handles general enquiries. Here at eUKhost, however, you will get complete technical support no matter when you get in touch or whether you communicate by phone, online chat or email.
5. Technical freedom
To enable your website to function in the way you want it to, there is a range of technical operations that you may want to carry out. Whilst, you may not have come across such things as FTP, PHP, .htaccess, MySQL, or cron jobs yet, it is likely that you will as you develop your knowledge of running a website.
FTP allows you to upload and download files to your website directly from your computer
PHP is the language that many websites are written in, but sometimes you need to use certain versions which are compatible with the software your website is built on.
.htaccess is a configuration file which can be edited to achieve many things including helping with site security.
MySQL is a form of database needed to run applications like WordPress
Cron jobs are tasks you set up to run certain processes automatically at prescribed times.
Some web hosts or some of the packages which web hosts provide do not give users the freedom to use all these services and therefore restrict what they can do with their websites. Ideally, you want to be able to use all of them and should look for a host that enables this. This is especially important for those looking for shared hosting as it’s these packages where most restrictions can be found.
6. Ability to use SSL
In simple terms, SSL is a small piece of software that enables websites to encrypt data sent from a user’s browser to your server. You can recognise sites that have it as they have an address that begins with https instead of http. If you run a website that takes payments or personal information from customers, then it’s likely that you will require an SSL certificate – especially now that Google is warning customers that websites without https are not secure.
You will find that some web hosts’ servers are not configured to enable the use of SSL certificates and this should be checked before signing up. At eUKhost, we provide a range of SSL certificates to meet the security needs of a range of different businesses.
7. Great email
When you are purchasing a hosting package, you should also check out the email service that is provided with it. You need to make sure that you can set up email accounts that have the same domain as your website (e.g. email@example.com) and that you can use a range of access methods such as POP3 and IMAP. In addition, you want a service that can be accessed anywhere online and which allows you to set up email forwarding, autoresponding and email newsletters.
You should also look to see how well the service providers protect your email. Do they filter spam, monitor for viruses and malware, and check to see if your email address has been blacklisted? If not, you may want to choose another provider.
8. Do you get a control panel?
A control panel is the place where you manage your website and server. It allows you to make changes to your site, add new features and install new software and updates. It’s also the place where you can upgrade your account and add new hosting services if needed.
Some hosts provide a control panel which only gives you a few options and restricts what you can do, forcing you to go through customer services to do things like add new email accounts or change your password.
Ideally, you are looking for control panels such as cPanel or Plesk which are user-friendly, offer lots of options and which can be learned intuitively.
9. Security is key
Web security is becoming more and more important and your choice of web host can make a big difference to how well your site is protected. You need a web host that can offer strong firewalls, intrusion protection, and monitoring to defend against malware. In addition, your host should provide a backup service so if your site is taken offline, you can restore it easily and in no time at all.
In this day and age, if a web host doesn’t provide robust security you should stay clear.
10. Choosing the right operating system
In general, most web hosts offer either a Linux or Windows operating system for their websites. The confusion for most new users is that whilst Windows is the predominant OS for home computers, Linux is the main choice for running websites. For many, there isn’t a choice as the software you use to create your website will determine which system you have to go with. So, for example, if you are going to build a WordPress website, you’ll need to choose Linux.
When considering your web host, first make sure that you know what software you will be using to build your website and then check that the appropriate operating system is available from that provider.
From reading this article, you should now have a much clearer picture of what you need to look for when choosing a web host. You should understand that there are quite a few technical considerations you need to think about as well as looking at the service and support offered by the host.
One of the things you should do is look at the reviews that the web host is receiving on social media and on platforms like TrustPilot. These will give you a clear indication of what the host’s current customers think of their service.
If you are looking for a web host that can offer all the things mentioned above and which constantly gets five-star reviews from its customers, take a look at the range of packages offered by eUKhost. We providing hosting for all, whether it’s a personal website or an enterprise class system. Find out more by visiting our homepage.