Website hosting is a very important subject. There are numerous companies now a days that specialize in web hosting within very affordable price range. All of these companies provide essential tools to manage and host websites. It becomes increasingly difficult to compare and differentiate the various offered services and chose the right hosting company.
We have compared some features and are presenting six primary categories with guidelines and recommendations on what to look for and which companies offer it the best possible way.
Check what different platforms are offered and supported by the hosting company. The very common and universal platforms are Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Blogger etc. All these platforms are very highly developed content managements systems (CMS) and are capable of performing complicated tasks for you in a fraction of time. Without these being supported, you may save some nickels and dimes but the time you will spend on making and then maintaining your website is humongous and is not worth! Additionally for the platform, confirm that the possibility of auto-updates exists or not? Auto update, for most of the times is helpful!
Ask or read how many FTP (File Transfer Protocol) accounts will you get? Unlimited number of FTP accounts is not necessarily what you need but anything less than 5 accounts is generally not advisable. The purpose is if you are a team of multiple people working from far away locations, you each will like to have your own FTP account for convenience and security purposes. Key rule is get +5 accounts than your actual need to suffice for now and future development.
PHP / MYSQL Version
As a norm, most companies keep it updated with the latest version of essential scripting / technical languages and open source database. The version of supported PHP / MYSQL is generally mentioned in the detailed features of all the hosting plans. Make sure you go through it and the company is supporting latest version.
Upload File Size Limit
Don’t confuse the unlimited data transfer limit with the upload file size limit. These are two different parameters. In general FTP can take care of any upload file size, but if you are uploading a template in wordpress .zip format and php.ini file sizes are set to a limit where upload limit<template file size, you will have trouble increasing that limit! It’s good to discuss this in detail and have the maximum upload limit available at your convenience.
The single most important feature is uptime! After all no matter how good looking and feature rich a website is, if it is not working when customers want it, it is of no use! Ensure that the uptime of the service provider is technically listed on their website. A guiding resource is uptime.netcraft.com. It measures any outages and failures and can show the failures measured in intervals of 15 minutes. If the company you are about to host with, appears on this page, it is a good idea to check more data and rethink.
Website loading speed is the most wanted feature after the uptime. As a general rule, after clicking a link, now a days the page should be loaded in full within a blink of an eye! Literally! The hosting company servers, the number of scripts present on the page, the size of the background image (yes!) and the size of the images over all affect the loading speed. Use http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ to test the loading speed of a website. Better yet, find a website hosted by a prospective hosting company server and test that website. The guideline is:
Loading time in between 0.5 to 4s : Widely accepted. (Benchmark is Google with a time of 0.3s)
Above 4s and up-to 6s : Slow but livable! Sometimes ignored sometimes punished relation!
From 6s to 8s : Chances reduce significantly that a person will stay on the page.
Beyond 8s : No chance that a person will stay on the page and will even come back on the page.
If you primary business is in US, it makes sense to have your business website hosted on a server that is geographically located/present in US. No matter in nano-seconds, but it helps to load your website faster.
C-Panel (Control Panel)
It is a good practise to check what type of control panel is provided by the hosting company. The most famous and function-rich is cpanel.net. All good size hosting companies provide this as an added service and this really makes the life easy! There are a lot of features in this c-panel that are loaded and unloaded with one click and saves a lot of time and energy. Some examples are loading joomla with one click, checking website stats, accessing file manager, etc.
I always primarily want to know about the two functions in media support. First thing is if multiple media files upload is supported directly through the web browser rather than loading files one by one? Second thing is to check that what types of media file are supported? For example .png, .jpeg, .tiff are common file but what about .pdf files? What type of audio and video files are supported?
When you make a website, there are many unexpected issues that can take up your time and money! In many cases you will want to have a support 24/7 to solve such sudden, unexpected challenges. Is your hosting company providing technical support 24/7? Is it for a specific hosting account type or all hosting accounts get 24/7 support? What are the support mediums? Phone? Email? Chat?
For me it is very important to know that in how much time will I get the first response? To be clear here, I am not at all referring the automated email here! I still need a human response. I believe this is a winning or a losing ball as far as the support is concerned! The company with the fastest 1st response time is the winner from my side!
If a hosting company can provide fastest 1st response time and a satisfying solution in the 1st response, I truly believe that their business will grow unconditionally. Even if the solution is requiring some time but there is a human acknowledgement that the issue is looked after with the possible time span to solve it, most of the people get satisfied! Of course the issue has to be dealt professionally within the referred time span.
When ordering the hosting package, make sure that you are entering a suitable agreement as far as service time is concerned. The support must be available 24/7 for the entire length of your hosting time plan and not only for the first year or month or so!
Data Back Up
When we have ensured everything else, data back up is one of the parameters we should consider before finalizing our orders. A free included data back up at a given time frequency can be very useful and handy in addition to the back up you might like to do manually. Mostly the data back up features are given in the details of a hosting package.
The idea here is not to settle with the minimum number of email accounts. Your website can really pick up fast and you will quickly outgrow your email requirements. Don’t have just 2, 3 or 5 email accounts to begin with. The add-on charges in many cases can be flat out more than buying it during initial purchase. I would like to have at-least 20 emails to start with.
There are many hosting providers that provide root level access to .htaccess file. (Hyper Text Access). There are some who don’t provide. I know for sure that yahoo does not provide this access. This file is used to control many functions. For example grant or deny access, use custom error pages, SSI inclusion and more. The use though complicated, but can come in handy if you need it for your website. It is good access to have than not.
A good start is 20 GB and I will highly recommend the promotion plan of above 20GB disk space if a company is offering it. If you are going to operate a single website, 20 GB will take care of the disk space requirements for a long time. Keep in mind that when you load your media (Audio, Video, Images, .pdf etc.) files, the space goes quickly so use smaller size file. There are methods and softwares available that can reduce the file size without compromising any content.
Practically all the hosting providers now a days provide unlimited bandwidth but some. Yahoo has a limitation on bandwidth. Bandwidth essentially means how much data transfer (Upload and Download) will be allowed via your website? Think it in terms of how many times and what size of data will you upload and how many website visitors will you have? If you have unlimited bandwidth, you don’t have to worry about these questions.
Price surely matters a lot! Over the recent years, it has become more competitive and many hosting providers offer great pricing and packages to attract customers. All nearly fall in the same range but what we should check is first the deal is not temporary for the 1st year and second, the extras are included with the price. (For example private domain registration can be a part of the hosting deal or can be not). One fact as all wise people say here, we will get what we pay for is surely true! Though the companies may trick us where we end up paying more and still not get what we pay for!
Discounts and Deals
We must check if there are any discounts available. Many hosting companies offer discount to first get the customer as they know it is not an easy process to change the host later. If you pay yearly hosting fee in one payment, there are certainly discounts offered by all the hosting providers. In addition if you buy multiple years hosting in one go, the discounts can really be high!
Money Back Guarantee
30 day money back guarantee is a norm and it a good idea to confirm that the hosting company under consideration is indeed offering it.
Search Engine Credits
Many hosting companies offer up-to $100 google/bing/yahoo credit to kick-start the advertising campaign of your website. It is not an essential feature but nice to have.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is usually required when creating an online store / an e-commerce website where customers are making a payment or creating an account. It is designated by https:// in the browser bar. You will not need it for a regular website but the log-in section of your account of the hosting service provider must be SSL.
Reviewing a hosting provider under these six sections will reveal the best hosting service provider for your needs.