In our previous post, we provided a brief introduction to web hosting and discussed the pros and cons of choosing the least expensive web hosting plan.

Not All Hosting Is Made Equal

A web hosting provider is a third-party company that provides the hardware, software, and infrastructure necessary to host a website. Very few companies, even large corporations, still own and administer their own web servers as it is simply cheaper and more efficient to outsource this function to a web hosting company. Unfortunately for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and business managers who aren’t IT or Internet experts, not all web hosting providers are equal or provide equal services, and choosing the wrong provider can result in poor and intermittent service, vendor lock-in, wasted money, and even a hacked or defaced website. It is important to learn exactly what kind of plan, options, and features you need in order to choose the right hosting provider and plan from the beginning to ensure that your website is up, functional, secure, and within your price range.

The Golden Rule Of Choosing A Web Host

There is a “golden rule” when it comes to selecting a web host: your web hosting provider should offer support via telephone, even if that support line is not available at all hours. Unless you have the education, knowledge, experience, and access to the server to manage all aspects of hosting your own website, you will likely need access to your hosting provider’s technical support team, and you need them to respond immediately or at the start of the next business day. Be extremely wary of any hosting provider that only offers support services by email or support forum, as there is no guarantee that if you are experiencing a problem, the support team will respond to your request in a timely manner or offer an immediate solution.

Choosing The Right Hosting Plan

The majority of cheap or “discount” web hosting plans are shared hosting plans, which means that multiple websites are hosted on the same web server. While shared web hosting can be offered at a very low rate, there are many problems with shared web hosting, including limited bandwidth and server space, reliability problems, and issues with security. On the other end of the spectrum are dedicated server plans, in which a server is dedicated to a single hosting account. As the server is not being shared with other outside websites and accounts, the service is usually more reliable, more scalable, and more secure. However, a disadvantage of dedicated hosting is the cost, as service is usually significantly more expensive than shared hosting. Whether you choose a shared or dedicated hosting account largely depends on how important your website is to your overall business plan. If your website does not play a significant role in either facilitating the sale of a product or service, generating new sales and leads, or collecting and storing client data, shared hosting may be acceptable. If your website handles any of those functions and is vital to your business, dedicated hosting is usually the better option.

Should I Utilize Other Services Provided By My Web Host?

Most web hosting providers also provide additional services to their customers, including email hosting, domain registration, and online marketing services. Although many companies relied on their hosting company to provide email services in the past, cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) providers such as Google Apps and Office 365 now provide more reliable and convenient email hosting and services. While there is nothing wrong with using the same company to register your domain and provide web hosting, it is never a good idea to package those two services, as you never want to suddenly lose your web domain if you choose to switch to a different web hosting provider.