The Art of Choosing a Web Host

When it comes to choosing a web host most of us don’t even know where to start. There are hundreds of companies out there each promising 99% uptime, unlimited everything, and knowledgeable support. While it’s tempting to just sign up for a free host, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind, and you’ll often find that a paid host is much more beneficial in the long run.

How do you decide if a web host is reliable? There has to be a way to make an accurate decision. Let’s consider some basic criteria to help you choose the best plan.


Cost

This is the aspect most of us will look at first when choosing a hosting provider. Shared hosting can cost anything from $1.99 per month. But jumping on the cheapest offer isn’t the best idea. What you need to think about is, what can a web host realistically offer for this sum of money?

Hosting company that charges $1.99 per month is unlikely to offer quality 24-hour support and hardware. So take a closer look at the features that each host provides, and THEN compare prices. Choose the best combination of cost and features.

You should expect to pay at least $20 per month for the web hosting that will provide decent, prompt, professional support and a fast, reliable service.

Renewal Prices

Renewal prices for cheap hosting deals are normally much higher than signup prices. It is considered a norm. Unless you are willing to switch hosts every time the contract expires, there is no way to dodge the high renewal prices. So, simply to avoid any unpleasant surprise, you should check the TOS and make sure you agree with what you are getting before signup.

However, you may be lucky to find decent companies that offer “renewal price locked guarantee” and promise never to raise the renewal rate for your web hosting.

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Refund Policy

What is the hosting company’s refund policy? Are there any cancellation charges?

Every decent web host offers at least a 30 day money-back guarantee period. This should give you plenty of time to test the features and customer service. Be aware that some hosting companies may subtract the cost of the “free” domain name and SSL certificate fees if you cancel. Avoid web hosts that charge unreasonable cancellation fees.


Uptime

Obviously, server reliability should be crucial in your decision. Who wants a site that goes down on a regular basis? If people aren’t able to reach your site the first time, they may not try again. As a general rule, don’t work with providers who give anything less than a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Find out how reliable your prospective host is:

  1. It would be a wise to google and see what other users have said about the host.
  2. You can simply track your web host with server monitor tools. There are dozens of such tools available online. Some run simple HTTP checks to confirm whether your site is running, while others perform very complex back-end jobs.

Storage and bandwidth

When reviewing web hosts, look out for the “unlimited” line or its contemporary equivalent. “Unlimited” in web hosting lingo usually does not really mean “unlimited” when it applies to disk space and bandwidth. The exact meaning varies from host to host. Read the fine print.

In general, you can’t use the “unlimited” space in one go for any purpose you choose. You can use an unspecified amount at first, and then add more. But who gets to decide how much you can use each time? The web host, of course.

So choose only web hosts that tell you upfront what you are getting in order not to get a headache later. Make sure you know what you can use before buying.

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Add-on Domains

Find out whether your web host will let you host multiple domains. Most people own dozens of domain names these days and these domains need extra hosting space. Often, there will be a limit on how many domains you can have on one account. Generally, most hosting companies allow at least 25 add-on domains but you can never be sure. It would be a pain to have to manage a hosting account for each site you own.


Extra Applications

Several hosts offer setups for social features like forums, bulletin boards, mailing lists. If you’ll be running an online store, you might need setups for eCommerce solutions, SSL certification, dedicated IP, and one-click shopping cart software installation. These are only some of the essential features.

If you see a web host that offers something you need or find important, that can be a good indicator that you should look into using that company.


Site Backup

Unfortunately, there are times when a site crashes. You’ll need to back up both your site files and databases.  There is nothing to worry about when these incidents happen if your web host does site backups regularly. If they don’t offer backup, the only way is to figure out how you’ll be able to do it yourself.

What backup options does your host provide? The best advice is to perform your own regular backups. Only this way you may be comfortable if your host has limited backup strategies or happens to lose all your files. ­­­


Server Upgrade Options

Most of us start with a shared hosting plan in order to save money but later the business starts to grow, and demands the hosting plan to grow too.  An important thing to consider about your hosting provider is whether or not they will be able to easily upgrade your account once you start getting some good traffic. Does the host have VPS or Dedicated Server solutions? Do some research and make an informed decision.

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Email

Many web hosts also offer email account for your domains. Find out how many email accounts they’ll let you set up.

Don’t forget to also look into or ask about your provider’s spam solutions and general email practices beforehand. If you have a spam problem, then it may be because your hosting company doesn’t provide an adequate solution to stop it.


Customer support

This one is extremely important! Before you sign up with a host look into their reputation for customer support. Find out exactly what your prospective host offers. Can you phone them 24/7? Do they have a support email address? A ticket system? What’s their response time? Do they have a live chat? Do they have library of help articles? Don’t choose a host until you know exactly what support they offer.


Customer reviews

If you want to find quality, you will have to roll up your sleeves and do some research. What you need, is a trustable source to tell you which hosting company to go with and which to ignore.

  1. Search for Trends tabs on every company with graphs on a per month basis to see how a company is done over the past 12 months.
  2. Don’t forget to check what current or former customers are saying about your prospect web host. Use our site for reliable opinions.

Real usage experience is one of the most useful guides you may find.


When you are choosing a hosting provider, remember that it’s not about finding the best web host in the world, it’s about finding the hosting service that suits your needs.

Do you have questions or have great tips for choosing a web hosting solution? Welcome to the comment section!

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8 thoughts on “The Art of Choosing a Web Host

  1. From giant to small hosting companies are offering attractive prices (starts from $.99 cents per month) but when it comes to renewal they scene is different. But I consider few points when i chose the hosting providers even though it cost me little more – uptime guarantee, Customer & technical support.

  2. Todd Palmer III says:

    Great article! I just commented on one of the previous articles on this site and it was about shared hosting which I am not a fan of. This article is full of great information regarding how the hosting industry works. Yes for your first 12 months your probably going to get a greet introductory price. Remember if you want to grow and possibly monetize your blog its going to take time to do so. You have the titans of the blog-space like Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas who have grown their blogs into podcast which allows them to make the big bucks from the comfort of their own homes (big bucks = Over 1 million dollars annually). Take your blog serious no matter what its about and you can show people how serious you are by picking a reputable web host. You never know how your blog is going to be viewed and its potential if your constantly on the phone with a shared-host trying to figure out why your site is down. You can have the best content in the world but do know that there is no certainty with a shared host.

  3. Whatever I buy (especially online) I first make sure I do a proper research before spending money. I always look for what people have said about the service a while back and try to see if the issues have been fixed or not. Support is extremely important for a service like hosting and if this isn’t stellar I don’t even bother looking at anything else. I want to count on their chat support and know they will be there when/if I need them.

  4. Nice post. It will be helpful fo choose a best hosting company for my site. I currently looking for best web hosting company. Thanks