Choosing a good web host is an EXTREMELY important decision in my opinion. I’ve experienced many different hosts over the years largely due to services I would offer to clients that required me to log into the hosting server of their website. Many of these hosts may have tried to improve their quality over the years, so I don’t want to come up with a name of hosts to avoid as much as I want to steer you toward the few that have had the greatest reputations and those that I’ve had consistent and positive experiences with.
What I recommend to look for in a host:
• Experience (10+ years around)
• Hosting plans that can support the growth of your site • Great service
There are a lot of website hosts with one of these qualities or even a few, but when you choose a host I highly recommend making sure ALL are there. Price is likely an issue with your choosing, though I believe you’ll find the better hosts are still extremely affordable and just a dollar or two a month more than the cheaper competitors.
Experience is important for very obvious reasons, but also because of how much has changed in technology. Changes are occurring so fast that proper understanding of servers as it relates to backwards compatibility and security. Choosing the wrong host often means a slower website, possible hacking and virus issues, slower fixes when restoring server backups, and probably a lot more things than that.
Hosting plans that can support the growth of your site
If this is your first website then likely you’re aiming for one of the cheaper packages because your site isn’t going to start very big. That’s a smart way to go actually. Though make sure that once it gets a lot bigger you can easily upgrade to something that receives more traffic.
Businesses that are service based and aim exclusively for local business (i.e. landscaping, cleaners, home services, etc) I’ve found typically don’t build their websites very big. In fact, they’re often very small and little is done to maintain them over the years. If that’s the case and you know it then this issue is the one that is not as important for you.
If your website has plans to grow, is product based, or has intention to have a very active blog then you will definitely want your host to have upgradable hosting plans.
There are 3 common types of hosting
Shared, Virtual Private Networks (VPS), and Dedicated Servers.
I liked how Brad Markle, at In Motion Hosting, described the differences between these 3 hosting plan types. Shared hosting is comparable to renting at an apartment complex, VPS is comparable to owning a condo, and Dedicated Servers are comparable to owning a home.
The apartment complex is shared with tons of residents and your experience is influenced by the quality of them. Shared hosting plans are typically slower and usually more for sites that begin receiving higher volumes of traffic. Most hosts will also limit the amount that they receive to protect the other websites in the shared server, though that means your site could be temporarily suspended (not available). For small sites these plans are usually cheap and sufficient. These usually cost in ranges of $4-$10 a month.
The condo is still shared by others, though not nearly as much and you have more responsibilities with the property. VPS hosting is great for larger websites and often can support many websites receiving a high volume of traffic. As your website(s) grow you may wish to upgrade to a VPS. These typically cost closer to $20-$50 a month.
Owning a home is just you. Dedicated servers are not shared with other websites and have the highest speeds and backend tools. These typically cost closer to $120-$200 a month and up. Likely this will not be needed by you, but if you think your idea could be that big then it’s great to have a host that can support it.
You will be contacting your host. If you plan on building several sites you may be contacting your host a lot more. If you plan on building them for others as a service and hosting them for your clients then you could be calling your host a lot lot more!
I personally like 24 hour support that is not outsourced. Regardless, be sure to check reviews on whatever host you choose and see what their customers are saying. Great service typically means you’re doing business with a company that is successful and is going to last.
Though not as important, though another preference of mine, is I like to see great tutorials on their website that are easily searchable either on their website’s search engine or through use of Google. I’m not a phone person so saving myself a phone call and finding the information on my own is a big plus to me… maybe not to you though.
A popular website Control Panel software that is used by many hosts is Cpanel. I love Cpanel, but probably because I’m used it. I do remember my first time using it and it was a bit overwhelming, though once I got used to it I found it quick and powerful for lots of great features on my server.
To access Cpanel you would type in the name of your website /cpanel and this will take you to the login screen. Often this username and password are the same as your FTP username and password, though that is not always the case.
In Motion Hosting
I have been using hosting for years now through In Motion Hosting and have been extremely impressed with every single one of the categories I listed. I currently run a VPS and love it. I also host several clients’ sites with a very high volume of traffic and never experience slowdowns or downtime (on their sites or my own).