The moment you choose a web hosting service is one of the most consequential decisions you’ll make when launching a new website. Your host is responsible not just for keeping your site up and running—which is critical—but also for giving you the flexibility to grow and modify your website over time.
While picking the right web host is rewarding, picking the wrong one can be severely damaging. If your hosting provider can’t meet your needs, you’ll end up spending twice as much time and money to start over again with another host. It's worth checking out our guide to the best web hosting services to see which providers we recommend too.
So, it helps to understand what you should be looking for when you're set to choose a web hosting service. In this guide, we’ll cover seven key points you need to consider to get the right host for your site.
1. Type of hosting offered
Most hosting providers offer multiple types of services. For a new website with relatively modest traffic, shared hosting can provide a low-cost option. But if you need more bandwidth, or need additional computing power to run software on your website, look for options like VPS (virtual private server) and cloud hosting.
You will also want to consider whether they offer managed hosting. With managed hosting, you don’t have to worry about things like security or software updates—your hosting provider takes care of all those details for you. This may be an especially good option for newer webmasters.
Even more important, look for a hosting provider that lets you switch between its service tiers seamlessly. Having the ability to upgrade your hosting plan without downtime is critical if, for example, your website sees a spike in traffic thanks to a viral marketing campaign.
To find out more about VPS hosting, read our feature VPS: Everything you need to know.
Responsive support is one of the most critical things your hosting service can provide. If your website goes down or you’re experiencing a malicious attack, you want to be able to talk to someone who can help as soon as possible. Every minute your website is offline can cost you visitors and sales.
With that in mind, be sure to check what support options a prospective host offers. Many have 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support, while others only offer one or two channels to get in touch. Before you sign up, try giving the support line a call to see whether the customer service team is knowledgeable and helpful.
Hosting providers differ a lot in what features they offer with their plans.
To start comparing features, look at how your data will be stored. Many budget providers are using hard disk drives, which are cheap but prone to mechanical failure. An ever-growing number of hosts are switching to solid state disks, which are much more reliable and can speed up your website thanks to faster data transfer operations.
Another thing to look for is whether your hosting plan comes with automatic backups. Having backups of all your content and static pages is absolutely essential for recovering quickly after a server failure or hack on your website.
The software that your host provides is also worth considering. Many hosts enable you to manage your site using the cPanel software, but others have proprietary control panels that can differ in functionality. Also, be sure to look for one-click installers to help you get your website up and running more quickly.
To learn more about cPanel, you can read our cPanel hosting panel review.
4. Server locations
The closer your host’s servers are to your audience, the faster your pages will load for visitors. So, it’s worth checking where your host’s data centers are located and whether you’ll have the option to choose among multiple server locations.
If you have a global audience, you may also want to consider a host that gives you access to a CDN (content delivery network) such as Cloudflare. A CDN stores a cached copy of your site on servers around the world so that visitors from anywhere can experience fast page loading.
5. Areas of specialization
While hosting providers are generalists by nature, some companies specialize in certain types of hosting. For example, you’ll find hosts that dedicate most of their infrastructure to managed WordPress hosting, which can make sense if you’re planning to use WordPress as your content management system.
Other hosting providers focus on cloud hosting, which offers more flexibility to scale your hosting resources up or down. Think carefully about what you need, and then see if there’s a hosting provider designed to cater to that purpose.
Website security is more important than ever before thanks to the growth of cyberattacks. If your website is compromised by malicious actors, your visitors’ computers as well as your own could be affected. Worse, you could be liable for damage that originates from your website, even if it resulted from a security breach.
It’s also worth noting that your website can be flagged by Google and other search engines if you share an IP address with compromised or spammy websites. So, even if your website isn’t directly affected by a breach, your traffic could suffer from choosing a host that doesn’t take security seriously.
So, it’s important to carefully scrutinize the security features that different web hosts offer. Some hosts have closely guarded data centers with 24/7 performance and threat monitoring to protect your website. Others take a much more lax approach and leave it to you to manage your website’s permissions.
7. Price and general feedback online
Once you have a shortlist of potential hosts, you’ll of course want to compare their prices. Depending on your budget, price may be more or less important relative to other features in your final decision.
This is also a good time to look at online feedback from webmasters who have used these hosts. Reading about other peoples’ experiences with a hosting provider can give you an indication of whether it’s as good as it seems on paper.