5 Must-Haves When Choosing a Hosting Provider

The right web host is critical, whether you’re running an enterprise-level e-commerce site or hosting a personal blog. The wrong providers charge too much for too little and leave you wondering why you decided to go online in the first place. Here are five must-haves when choosing a hosting provider:

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1. Price

It’s obvious, but it’s true: Price is a critical factor in web hosting. Some companies offer hosting for free, but you’ll have to deal with limited functionality and a large number of on-site ads if you go this route. It’s also possible to find extremely cheap hosting — think $2 per month — but you won’t get much in the way of technical support if something doens’t work as advertised. Well-known hosting companies charge anywhere from $5 to $10 per month and may also offer value-added services like domain name registration, e-commerce shopping carts, or FTP managers. Going for the most expensive option doesn’t guarantee success, however; look for a comparison of available services and see which one best meets your needs.

2. Server Type

Your website needs to be hosted on a server, and there are three types of hosting plans available. First is shared hosting, which has your site’s data on the same server as other websites. This lowers the cost per month but can cause problems if one site starts eating up too much bandwidth. Dedicated hosting is the other side of the coin — here, all of a server’s resources are dedicated to your site, meaning you won’t need to worry about other clients stealing your bandwidth. The trade-off? Expect to pay a lot more per month, between $30 and $200 depending on what you want. The last option is a virtual server. Here, all hosted sites are on the same server but a hypervisor partitions them such that they can’t “see” each other and sets limits on their resource use. The cost falls between shared and dedicated hosting.

3. Linux Versus Windows

You also need to consider which operating system (OS) you want to run. Linux servers are the most popular, and therefore cheapest, option available. Windows servers are more expensive but may be necessary if you plan to run certain applications, for example anything using the .NET language. Functionally, these server types are almost identical, but Linux has a large number of variations, also known as “flavors,” to choose from and may be the better choice if you prefer customization over familiarity.

4. Solid Hardware

Before you start paying a monthly hosting fee, ask your potential provider about their server hardware. What brand of servers do they use? When were they purchased, and how are they secured? If the company can’t answer these questions or starts getting defensive, find another provider. Without the right hardware, your website will load slowly, your e-commerce shopping cart may fail, and consumers will quickly become irritated.

5. Customer Satisfaction

When choosing a hosting provider, the hope is to find one that won’t leave you stranded with a site that doesn’t work and a help line number that’s always busy. Always do a Google search for any company you’re considering and see what other customers have to say. In addition, check out the company’s Facebook page and Twitter feed — unhappy customers often take to social media to get a quick response. Take a look at how the company handles concerns and see if problems are immediately addressed. If you can’t find the company on any social media sites, chances are they’re not a good fit.

When you’re choosing a hosting provider, you have to make sure they’ve got what you need at the price you want.

Photo credit: Flickr/4nitsirk