Searching for a host is like searching for Mr. Right. There’s a lot out there, and they all have attractive features – but it’s only when you get into bed with them that you know if they’re the right fit, figuratively speaking of course.
If you’re lucky, you’ll pick a host who’ll be there to support you (or more specifically, your website) 24 hours 7 days a week 12 months a year. They’ll always be there to listen, phone, chat and answer your late-night questions. If you’re unlucky, your host will be a flake – never there when you need them most and at worst, leaves you feeling trapped or misled.
Depending on your website size and the number of visitors you expect per month, hosting can start from a very reasonable monthly fee of as low as £6, usually via a cloud host or through a virtual private server. Bigger sites will need more power and support, and can cost thousands of pounds – so finding the right balance between cost and support is crucial.
Great hosting is all about the 3 intertwined S’s: Support, Security and Speed. Support is good, but if turnaround takes days, then it lacks speed. If the host’s speed is slow (increasing load times that eventually turns users away) then it’s robust security is no use when nobody is using the site in the first place.
When selecting a host, you need to first decide how much hand-holding you need. If you’re illiterate to code (and most of us are, let’s be honest), then a system that has immediate response support when something goes wrong is a great idea. Employing a permanent system manager can be even better – especially on eCommerce sites where many orders and changes to stock online are processed every day.
Estimating the amount of traffic is also important for two reasons. First, if you know your average traffic turnover, then you can avoid being overcharged for bandwidth you never use. Second, it eliminates certain low-end server hosts that would be crippled under extensive traffic surges.
Another important factor is the server type. Cheap servers such as shared servers often share the hosting in one space, limiting server capabilities, limiting uploads and what programs you can run on your site and even prevent shell access. These are fine for small 2-3 page websites with little functionality, but anything bigger and my team at Myk Baxter Marketing would suggest investing in a dedicated server or a cloud server.
Dedicated servers exist in your own space, but you’ll need a dedicated system manager to maintain it. Cloud servers (often the most popular choice) usually run out of the giant public clouds such as Amazon or Microsoft. Remember the extensive traffic surges I mentioned earlier? Well, cloud servers get around this by seamlessly scaling – simply pay more and get more bandwidth. No migrating or rebuilding necessary.
There’s a lot of hosts out there, and each one has its rightful place with websites suited to all kinds of servers. However, some hosts seem like a great idea, but once you’re married in with a contract, they’ll throttle your performance or even shut you down. Sadly, just as there are in the real world, hosts can quickly become ghosts if you’re not careful.
For my business, we offer hosting and can recommend hosting depending on the service our clients are looking for and we remain impartial to ensure our clients get exactly what they need, and not what we can sell them.