How to Choose Web Hosting

The topic of how to choose web hosting is crucial to your website. Your hosting provider is responsible for keeping your website up and running, defending you against online threats, and helping you scale capacity as you attract more traffic, enabling you to reach more customers.

There’s a lot to think about when picking a hosting service. In this guide, we’ll explain how to choose web hosting – and we break the process down into eight easy steps.

Key Takeaways

  • Start by deciding whether you need shared, VPS, or dedicated hosting based on expected traffic levels.
  • Compare hosting providers in terms of how much storage and bandwidth they offer, what uptime rate they guarantee, and whether they have features like website builders or CDNs.
  • When comparing pricing among hosting services, be sure to check rates after any introductory offers.
  • Ensure the hosting provider offers upgrade options that can handle more traffic as your website grows.

Step 1. Decide What Type of Hosting You Need

The first step in choosing a web host is to determine what type of hosting you need. We’ll explore the main types of hosting and help you decide which is right for your website.

Shared HostingVPS HostingDedicated HostingWordPress Hosting
Shared hosting involves sharing a web server with many other websites. Your site is allocated storage space and bandwidth, but the server’s processing power is divided up between all the websites it hosts.

The advantage of shared hosting is that it’s inexpensive. Instead of paying for a whole server, you only have to pay for a fraction of it.

The downside of shared hosting is that your website can run slowly if the server is overloaded with requests from the websites it hosts.

If you have a high-traffic website, a shared server may not offer enough processing power to cater to your visitors.

A good rule of thumb is that if your site has fewer than 3,000 visitors per day, you should have no issues using shared hosting.

Virtual private server (VPS) hosting enables you to purchase a dedicated portion of a server to host your website rather than an entire server.

You’ll still be sharing a server with other websites, but you’ll receive dedicated computing resources instead of drawing from the same pool of computing power as other sites on the server, so your site won’t slow down when other sites experience high traffic.

With VPS hosting, you can generally choose the amount of processing power you need and purchase more computing resources as your visitor numbers increase.

VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting but less expensive than renting an entire web server. Depending on your plan, your site will be able to handle up to 20,000 visitors a day without issues.

If you have a high-traffic website, you may need to rent an entire web server. This is known as dedicated hosting.

Dedicated hosting can be expensive, but you’ll have complete control over your server and won’t be sharing it with any other sites.

Dedicated servers often come with root access, giving you the ability to make changes to how your server processes requests. Root access can be useful for optimizing traffic on very busy websites.

Dedicated hosting is best for high-traffic sites. Depending on the size of your server, your site should handle up to 50,000 visitors per day.

If you have more traffic, you can work with your hosting provider to purchase multiple servers.

WordPress hosting is a type of managed hosting plan designed for websites built with WordPress. You can get shared, VPS, or dedicated WordPress hosting, and the service is offered by most major hosting providers.

The benefit of WordPress hosting is that your web host takes care of maintaining your WordPress installation. Usually, hosting providers will automatically install WordPress updates and security patches and save backups of your site.

Additionally, some providers offer ecommerce plans that come with WooCommerce installed and offer some handy WordPress plugins for free.

WordPress hosting is typically more expensive than non-WordPress hosting for the same server resources.

This type of hosting makes the most sense if you plan to build a WordPress site and want to hand off the work of keeping WordPress up to date.

Step 2. Choose Your Storage, Bandwidth, and Processing Power

Server requirements
Select your server requirements

Hosting plans can vary widely in terms of how much storage, bandwidth, and processing power your website receives.

StorageBandwidthProcessing Power

You need storage space to host content on your website, including any images and videos you want to display for visitors. You may also need storage for downloadable files you plan to host on your site.

Most providers offer between 5GB and 100GB of storage for shared hosting plans and up to 2TB of data with dedicated hosting.

To determine how much space you need, add up the size of all the files you intend to host on your site. Remember to purchase extra space for any files you’ll need to add later.

One point to note is that not all storage is created equally. Most premium web hosts use SSDs (solid-state drives) with NVMe (non-volatile memory express) technology.

These storage drives are more costly but offer much better performance. Cheaper web hosts often use HDDs (hard disk drives), which are more affordable but slower at transferring data.

Bandwidth is a measure of data transferred to your website’s visitors in a given period. Some hosting providers put limits on how much data you can transfer in a month.

For example, a shared hosting plan may only offer 5GB. VPS and dedicated hosting plans usually have much higher limits, running to several terabytes per month.

A growing number of web hosts offer “unlimited” bandwidth for shared hosting plans. These hosting services won’t cut off your site or charge more if you use a lot of bandwidth.

However, you’ll likely see data transfer speeds slow dramatically if your website experiences a spike in traffic.

A server’s processing power is measured in CPUs (central processing units) and RAM (random access memory). Generally speaking, the more CPUs and RAM a server has, the more traffic your site can handle.

Processing power is important when you’re choosing a VPS or dedicated hosting plan. If your website can’t keep up with demand, it’s a sign you may need more processing power.

Step 3. Look for Reliability Guarantees

Your web host needs to be extremely reliable when it comes to keeping your website available for visitors. Any downtime can cost your business customers and drive them to competitors’ sites.

Many web hosts publicize their uptime rates, allowing you to estimate how much time your website might be down. Here’s how uptime rates translate to website downtime over a year:

Uptime rate Downtime per year
99.9% 8 hours 41 minutes
99.99% 52 minutes
99.999% 5 minutes

Generally, it’s best to look for web hosts that can offer 99.99% uptime or more.

Many providers have service-level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee a minimum uptime rate. If your hosting provider falls below the uptime rate specified in the SLA, you could qualify for a partial refund.

Step 4. Get the Hosting Features You Need

Webador-Website-Builder
Webador Website Builder

Web hosts offer basic features that can make a big difference to how easy it is to manage your site. Here are a few features to consider.

Website BuilderSSL CertificatesControl PanelContent Delivery NetworkEmail

If you don’t already have a website and don’t plan to use WordPress to build a site, it’s worth looking for a hosting provider that has its own website builder.

Website builders range from simple tools that let you modify a premade template to drag-and-drop platforms that let you create custom sites.

Most top website-building platforms, like Wix and Squarespace, are also web hosts, although you can’t purchase stand-alone web hosting from them.

Bear in mind that some web hosts charge extra to use their website builders, while others include site-building tools for free with their hosting plans.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption is a necessity for modern websites. It ensures the connection between your site and your visitors is secure.

Most browsers will warn visitors that your site could be dangerous if you don’t have an SSL certificate, which is a quick way to drive away potential customers.

Many web hosts offer free SSL certificates that you can install with one click. If your host doesn’t offer an SSL certificate, you can get one for free from Let’s Encrypt.

There are several popular control panel tools that are commonly licensed by hosting providers, such as cPanel and Plesk.

These control panels are easy to use and offer tons of back-end admin options, so they’re great for hosting complex websites and web apps.

Some web hosts offer their own custom control panel tools instead of licensing third-party tools, which generally isn’t an issue for most site owners.

However, proprietary control panels sometimes lack features like the ability to create custom databases.

A content delivery network (CDN) is a network of servers located around the world. Copies of your site are cached on these servers, allowing visitors to access your site more quickly, regardless of where they live.

Some hosting providers have their own CDNs, while others provide access to major CDNs, like Cloudflare, at no extra cost.

It’s a good idea to choose a hosting service with a CDN included if your business has an overseas audience.

Email hosting isn’t always included with web hosting plans, but many hosting providers offer it as an add-on. This can be helpful if you want to host your website and email at your domain with the same company.

Step 5. Pay Attention to Security

Your web host is responsible for securing your website against hackers and other malicious actors. Look for security features like:

  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) protection: DDoS attacks can take your site offline by overwhelming it with fake traffic. Web hosts can defend against these attacks by using a CDN like Cloudflare.
  • Firewalls: A web access firewall can automatically filter traffic to your site to prevent hackers from injecting malicious code. It can also protect your site’s visitors from malware if your website is attacked.
  • Malware scanning: Automatic malware scans can detect malware in your site’s content and databases and alert you before it causes damage.
  • Website backups: Many web hosts offer automated site backups, creating copies of your content that are stored on alternative servers. Even if your host offers this feature, you should always create your own website backups so you can recover quickly from attacks.
  • 24/7 network monitoring: Many web hosts have IT teams that work 24/7 to monitor their server networks for unusual activity.

In addition to looking for these features, it’s a good idea to check whether your host has ever suffered a major breach.

Step 6. Test Out the Customer Service

While you may never need to contact your hosting provider’s customer service team, it’s important to know that you can get help when you need it. Many providers offer 24/7 phone and email support.

As you narrow down your selection to a few top hosting services, it’s worth calling their customer service line to see how responsive the support team is. You should also look for online resources – like a knowledge base and tutorials – to help you set up your site.

Step 7. Compare Pricing

Pricing is one of the main ways hosting providers compete with one another – which is good news for customers as you can find a deal by shopping around.

Nearly all major hosting providers offer steeply discounted introductory rates for a few months or even a full year, saving you a significant amount of money on hosting while you’re getting started with your website.

You may also be able to get other introductory offers, like a free domain name for one year, which is worth around $10 to $15. See our guide on how to buy a domain name for more tips here.

If you expect to need hosting for years to come, be sure to check the renewal price for your hosting plan. It may also be worthwhile to do a cost analysis to determine what you’ll pay in total to host with different providers over three to five years.

Step 8. Make Sure There’s Room To Grow

A2 Hosting cPanel Login
A2 Hosting cPanel

Before you make a long-term commitment to a hosting provider, it’s important to make sure the provider offers options to boost your hosting plan in the future. That way, if your site grows and you need to handle more traffic, you’ll be able to upgrade without switching to another hosting service.

For instance, if you’re purchasing a shared hosting plan, make sure your provider offers VPS and dedicated hosting. If you’re purchasing a dedicated server, contact the hosting provider to see how it can accommodate your site if your traffic grows.

While you can switch hosting providers in the future, the process can be a hassle and result in unwanted downtime for your site during the transition.

Here are the details of some of the best web hosting providers on the market today:

Provider Domain.com DreamHost Bluehost InMotion
Best for Personal and small business sites Small business Building and hosting WordPress websites Businesses and websites of all sizes
Starting Price $3.75/month for 12 months $2.59/month for 36 months $2.95/month – 12-month plan $2.29/month for 36 months
Domain Free for first year Free for first year Free Paid, free with upgrade
SSL Free Free Free for first year Free SSL
Storage (from) Unlimited 50GB 10GB SSD 100GB SSD
Monthly Visitors Unlimited Unlimited Unmetered Unlimited
Automatic Backups Daily, auto On-demand Free daily backups (first year) for plans above Basic As an add-on
Server locations Not disclosed U.S. U.S., Asia U.S., Europe

Summary – How to Choose Web Hosting

Choosing the right web host is an important part of building a website and providing a positive experience for your visitors.

When choosing a host, start by considering what type of hosting you need, how much traffic your site will handle, and what features are important to you.

Always ensure that the host is reliable, secure, and responsive when you have issues. Finally, make sure the provider offers upgrade options so your hosting plan can grow with your site.

Check out our guide to the best web hosts for small businesses to launch your site today.

FAQs

Do I have to use a web host for my website?

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Michael Graw

Michael Graw is an experienced writer in the business and B2B tech fields. His articles can be found on Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Tom’s Guide, and TechRadar, and cover everything from corporate finance to crypto and international tech regulation. A prolific copywriter and entrepreneur, Michael has worked with a wide range of SaaS and tech companies and has his finger firmly on the pulse of B2B tech and finance.