Every website owner will at some point have to select a website hosting package, usually once their website has been completed by their web design company, but what are the factors to consider when choosing a hosting supplier and what importance do these have on having a successful website?
When selecting a website hosting provider there are several factors website owners may consider:
2) Level of service
3) Resources available for your hosting package (for example bandwidth or disk space)
4) Ease of switching supplier
5) Network uptime
6) Recommendation from a peer or web designers
The truth is that there are so many different reasons why we favour one website hosting provider over another and as everyone’s budget is different, we normally go with what we can afford and we consider a reasonable price. Consider your hosting platform as your shop or office rent. If it is not very accessible to your customers or the building is closed down once a week for maintenance, whilst your basic rent may be cheap, the times when your office or shop is inaccessible will end up costing you more in the long run than if you went for something a little more reliable. There are many hosting providers that are able to offer cost effective and reliable solutions and it doesn’t always follow that the more you pay for your hosting the better it will be. However do consider this when deciding on cost, your website will be sitting on a server in a datacentre. The server is an expensive piece of hardware and running it in a datacentre does incur costs, especially if the datacentre is well equipped (redundant systems, experienced staff, bandwidth availability, etc). The cheaper the hosting package, in order for your provider to cover running costs and make a profit, they may need to do all or several of the following:
1) Oversell or cram the server with hosting clients. For example if they need to turnover £10k a year per server and are charging £100 a year for a hosting package, the server will need to host 100 clients. If they are charging £20 a year on hosting, whilst you think you are getting a good deal, your provider will need to host 500 clients. Your site sitting on a server with 99 other sites will have more resources available than sitting on the same server with 499 other sites
2) Use inferior hardware. In order to lower costs, unbranded or inferior hardware is an option. Using slower hard disks, installing less memory, all this will impact on your sites speed and reliability. Do you want to risk your site being hosted on a server that has constant failing parts?
3) Skimp on redundancy and disaster recovery plans. These both cost in terms of equipment and staff. Without proper recovery solutions in place, you may enjoy paying less than other website owners you know but should the worst happen, how long before your website is back up and running?
Level of Service
This factor in choosing the correct hosting provider is extremely important especially when things don’t always go to plan. As a customer you want your hosting providers to be proactive and to help you every step of the way, especially when there is an issue with your service and you need your website up and running ASAP. A proactive approach will always ensure that you are notified of issues and proactive server maintenance will reduce downtime.
Resources available for your hosting package
All of our website needs and requirements are different and selecting the package that has the right resources is important. A brochure type website will utilise less resources than an e-commerce website. Do you really need unlimited bandwidth or disk space for a site that may consist of 10 pages and attract 1000 visitors a month? One thing to bear in mind is that unlimited isn’t really truly unlimited as disk space and bandwidth cost your provider money. If every client on the server used unlimited disk space, your provider’s storage costs will overshadow their income. The same is also true for bandwidth costs.
Ease of switching supplier
Sometimes we stay with the same provider as it is easier and we worry about downtime and DNS propagation. A quality website hosting provider will be able to help you plan when and how it is best to migrate your website, online applications and emails. It may mean paying a little more for the service but a smooth transition will result in zero downtime and minimum inconvenience.
Like any hardware that hosts your website the reliability and speed of the network it is connected to is important. A poorly managed network will result in bottlenecks and over-subscription of resources, ultimately slowing down your website. With Google preferring quicker loading sites within their search results, a poor performing network will impact on the success of your website.
Recommendation from a peer or web designers
Your web design company should be able to offer you impartial advice, although many web design agencies will offer website hosting or perhaps be an affiliate of a larger hosting company. It is a good idea to speak to people you know who do host websites. Ask them what experiences they have had when migrating a site or how their providers reacted when there was a hosting issue. Find out how quick their providers are to respond and how helpful they are with general enquiries and support questions, which may not be 100% server or hosting related. Find out if they have had any major outages and how reliable their hosting is. By asking the right questions at least you could eliminate some of the less desirable providers out there.