The Lighthouse Blog

Explainer: Choosing a Web Host

Screenshot from PC Mag's "The Best Web Hosting Services of 2015"

There are lists upon lists out there, ranking the “best” web hosting services, chock-full of promising statements like “unlimited,” “guaranteed” and “100% uptime.”

Owners of basic websites can often get away with picking a top-rated, paid provider and be done with it. But sometimes, there’s more to it than that.

Choosing the right web host means picking a provider that best serves your needs, not necessarily everyone else’s. There are tons of companies to choose from and it’s important to do some light research to ensure you’ve covered your bases.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before engaging a hosting provider:

Does your site use a CMS (like WordPress or SiteFinity)?

If you use a content management system, make sure your host supports it. It’s important to understand your CMS’ software requirements and make sure they jive with what your prospective host provides. In some cases, the software might require you to modify the web server, which often requires direct access to the box — meaning you’ll need to a dedicated web server. This qualifies as a higher tier of hosting, a level above the regular shared-server hosting.

Does your site need to accept payment?

If you’re engaging in eCommerce, you need to make sure your host supports SSL certificates. Some hosting plans even include them. If yours doesn’t, make sure you factor the cost of an SSL certificate into your budget ($5-1,500/year, depending on your security requirements and the certificate authority).

What are your traffic and storage requirements?

Bandwidth and storage is a big deal. Beware of claims of “unlimited” transfers or disk space. Believe it or not, this usually means quite the opposite. Bandwidth and file space are limited.

Here’s a great example of how this mysterious (misleading) enigma can exist (from hostgator.com):

There are no set limits on the disk space or data transfer (bandwidth) that we provide in our shared and reseller hosting plans. We want you to have the resources you need to build a great online presence.

That being said, we do require all customers to be fully compliant with our Terms of Service and utilize disk space and bandwidth in the normal operation of a personal or small business website. While it is rare, we may need to put constraints on accounts that are using resources that impact other customers on the same server.

This is not unique.

Also keep an eye out for hosts that give you “unlimited” space but cap your number of files and/or transfers.

How secure do you need your data to be?

Normal hosting means sharing space on a server, or “box.” Shared boxes inherently put your data in a more vulnerable environment as opposed to virtual private servers, which run their own operating systems, or dedicated servers, which run on separate hardware.

 Some extra must-haves:
  • FTP access
  • A control panel for administering your email accounts and settings
  • More space than you could conceivably require
  • No file type or size limitations
  • Guaranteed uptime of 99.5% or higher
  • 24/7 technical support

If you’re hosting a complex site or web application, choosing a secure, reliable and robust host becomes even more important. Here at Urban Lighthouse, we provide our clients with hosting services through a dedicated datacentre. If you have any questions, or if you want to discuss hosting, contact us today.

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