It is very easy to waste money on a poor web hosting company. Having had more than a decade of experience in operating websites (and wasting money on hosting!), here is my guide to the factors you need to look for in a good value web hosting package:
If you are starting a new website then I would almost always choose a basic package because you can upgrade if you start pushing at the boundaries of what you have available. If you have an existing website then you will probably already have some idea of the factors listed below, but if you are not getting good service from your hosting company then it is very easy to switch to a better provider.
How much data- web pages, pictures, video etc – can you store with your hosting package? A couple of gigabytes is usually far more than you will ever need unless you are expecting to upload thousands of high resolution images. I remember the first website for which I bought hosting cost about £10pa per megabyte and now it costs less that this for a gigabyte! Gone are the days of needing to save space by carefully compressing every single image, although you do still need to remember that not everyone has high speed broadband so keep an eye on file sizes especially for images. This leads nicely on to the second thing you need to consider…
How much Bandwidth will you get with the hosting package?
This is the amount of data that your hosting company will allow you to upload and download in a given period. If you are starting a new website this is unlikely to be an issue unless your website absolutely explodes onto the scene and you start getting thousands of visitors looking at lots of pages. In this case you will then need to upgrade although this is a nice problem to have!
Easy installation and framework support
You’ll probably want to get on and launch and manage your website and unless you are a skilled developer or web designer you won’t want to hand code the entire (or any) of the website. There are plenty of content management and blogging systems that are widely used on the Internet, so there is no point in ‘re-inventing the wheel’. WordPress is used by tens of millions of webmasters and has thousands of plug-ins for just about everything you’ll want to do on your site. If your hosting company offers a nice ‘one click’ WordPress installation then you are 20% of the way to building a good website!
Domain name management
Most online businesses and bloggers end up owning a range of different domains, so make sure that the hosting company will allow you to have multiple domains on one package. Ideally the host should have a user friendly admin panel for adding domains and choosing where they all point. When you buy and host a domain(s) with a company they will ‘usually’ send reminders of when the domain name expires. However, you should still keep a spreadsheet with all the domain ‘expiry’ dates on it. Even as recently as last month I heard of a web manager who lost one of his ‘family’ of domain names because the hosting/registrar company didn’t send a reminder. The hosting company was one of the top 10 (probably even top 5) providers in the UK and once someone else has bought your domain it’s basically ‘game over’ for that domain name!
Email accounts and databases
It is always useful to have more than one email address for a website so the hosting company should offer a webmail interface, desktop mail clients and mobile access. It’s also very helpful to have things like email spam scanning, mailing lists, forwarders and auto-responders. Most websites will have a backend database (eg if using WordPress) so as well as offering technical support ensure that the host can also provide multiple databases on each account plus tools like PHPMyAdmin to help administer them.
Good Technical Support
I would say that 90% of web hosting problems that I’ve experienced have been at weekends. Gone are the days when I’m prepared to wait until Monday before things get fixed. Check that 7 day support is available and also look to see if you can find a phone number on the host’s website! Most good hosting companies will have a search function for the common technical problems but failing this, knowing that you can speak with someone outside standard office hours is a huge bonus.
Over the years I have probably used 4 or 5 different hosting companies but I have recently started using Vidahost. In may experience they excel at all the services mentioned above and offer a 24/7/365 support as I found out recently when I called them on a Saturday evening (when I had deleted a file by mistake). They were really helpful and quickly sorted out my mistake. The basic Vidahost package starts from just £17 per year – details here.
MoneyMoz Author – Richard Bloomfield