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How to find the perfect web host for your needs

When you set up a website, choosing the right web host is one of the most important decisions you will need to make. With so many types of services and packages on offer, small business owners might find themselves slightly confused and overwhelmed with which host is right for them. 

Worry not! Here are some top tips on the things you might need to consider when choosing a web host provider.

1. Look for reliability

In the industry, it's technically called ‘availability’, but what that really means is how reliable you web host’s service is. It’s one of the first things you need to look at when choosing your provider. Availability means that a host will guarantee that your website will stay online for a certain percentage of the time you are using their service, and won't break down due to server failures or maintenance periods.

Availability is quantified in percentage terms, and the industry standard is 99.5%. However, it is worth considering that this percentage means that your website could be offline for over three hours every month. Does this sound reliable to you? If not, then you want to look for a provider that has a higher reliability percentage of 99.95% or above. 

2. Check limits on bandwidth

Bandwidth is the amount of data that you send from your server to your visitors' internet browsers. This means every time an individual loads your website pages, either on their computer or on their smartphone, your bandwidth use goes up. If you have a site with lots of content, big graphics and images, then you may be using a fair bit of bandwidth and you’ll need to choose your host accordingly.

Some hosts and packages have a limit on the bandwidth you use each month. They call it, ‘bandwidth allocation’. Websites that do not have loads of visitors will not have an issue, but if your traffic starts to grow or you experience a spike during a very busy period, then you may find you hit your limit. This could result in your host cutting your website off from the world until your bandwidth limit resets, or you could be charged for the extra bandwidth you've used.

So, if you don't want to get into the position of being made to pay extra or being taken offline, you should look for a host that gives you unlimited bandwidth or bandwidth allotments that are high enough for you not to worry about this possibility.

3. Consider levels of support

Managing a website can be quite a tricky ongoing issue for many business owners. If you're not particularly tech savvy you may want to find a host that gives you the technical support you need. Many web hosts provide 24/7 support all year around for their customers and that's probably what you're going to want.

It's wise to check the fine print on support before signing up to a web host though, because while many say they offer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that may only mean you'll be able to get hold of someone who answers general, rather than technical, queries at any time.

4. Calculate your disk space needs

Disk space allocation is important because it refers to the amount of data you can keep on your web server. The quantity you will need will depend entirely on your circumstances and the website you are looking to host. As a small business, if all you want is to run a website, then you are unlikely to need a massive amount of disk space. Larger organisations that are collecting information and data and running high-powered applications will understandably need a larger amount of space to store everything.

Almost all hosting packages have disk space limits or file number limits, and so you need to evaluate what you will need now and in the future before selecting a package. Don't go over the top with your disk space allocation though, as you don't want to waste your hard-earned cash on space you'll never use. For example, if your website is only in the hundred MB of size, you are not going to need 25GB disk space!

5. Allow for an SSL certificate

We spoke about this in an early blog post in much more detail, but when choosing a web host, you'll definitely want to check that you are able to use SSL. SSL is software that allows websites to use data encryption when sending information through browsers and servers. Websites that use the https:// instead of http:// are considered much more secure, and many customers will now only pay for things through websites with this security. In fact, Google now warns customers that sites without https are not secure.

It's important to see whether a web host's server is configured for SSL certificates as some are not. So check before you hand over money.

6. Is email included?  

When choosing a web hosting package, it is very wise to look and see whether email is included. You'll want your email accounts to have the same address as your website and that you have a variety of access methods, such as IMAP and POP3.

You'll also want to make sure you can access your email anywhere online, and have the ability to organise auto responses, email forwarding, and send newsletters. One very important thing to also check is whether you are well protected from viruses, malware, and spam.

7. Only the highest security

Following on from the above, you'll also want to make sure your website is as well protected as your email address. With hacking a real and every present threat, your web security is critical and can be influenced by who you choose for web hosting.

The package you go for will need to give you high-level firewalls, excellent protection from intrusion, and should be constantly monitoring against malware. You also want a host that gives you a backup service, in case you are the victim of an attack and your site goes down. With backup, you will be able to restore your files and data and website quickly and easily.

8. Under control

When choosing a web host, you'll want to consider what kind of control you get over your website. A standard control panel will always be included with your package and will be the place where you can look after your website and your server. You should be able to edit your site, update or create new features, and install updates or any new software. You should also be able to add any hosting services and upgrade your account from here.

Some web hosts will give you a control panel, which has limited options and is too restrictive. They may make you call customer services to do simple things such as change passwords or create new email accounts. You want something user-friendly, like Plesk or cPanel, that gives you lots of options.

Once you've gone through these points and got an idea of which web hosting packages you are most interested in, it's worth checking out what others think of them too! Look at reviews on platforms like TrustPilot, and see what people are saying about your chosen hosts. Of course, there are always going to be some negative reviews, but those who experience much more of the positive are likely to be better candidates.

Want to learn more about web hosting? We can help! Get in touch now to discuss your requirements.

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