What are Web Hosting Services and Which is Right for You?
Website hosting services are basically the plot of internet land that your website storefront sits on. If you have a website, it needs to be on the web, and these hosting services are the landlords that put your site and keep it running so your customers can access and see it when they type in your URL.
There are many types of hosting services for businesses of all sorts. Some web hosting companies can do everything from building your website to marketing and selling it; while other providers only provide the space, infrastructure, technical support staff and equipment so you can build a website on your own.
Depending on your business model and size, you’ll choose a hosting company based on the factors explained below. Once you understand the terminology, you can weigh features and select the service that works best for your company’s needs.
Exploring the Different Types of Web Hosting
The larger or more complex a website, the more comprehensive a configuration package it's going to need. The main ones are broken down as follows:
Shared Web Hosting: Affordability and Simplicity
Shared web hosting is the basic package that services offer. Your website sits on the same server along with many other websites, so you're sharing the server, and any other resources, such as memory or CPU.
These are good for basic website needs such as email sending, file sharing, and base level e-commerce sites. Shared web host plans are the cheapest and, therefore, smartest option for smaller or startup businesses.
VPS Hosting: Balancing Power and Flexibility
A virtual private server is designated for your direct purposes, more than a shared server. You still may be sharing an actual server, but the service creates a virtual server of your very own, especially if it's a shared VPS.
That means all the resources are yours alone, from memory storage to processing power and beyond. This is a safer and much more reliable option that keeps your site separate from the others while still maintaining affordability.
Dedicated Web Hosting: Maximum Control and Performance
Dedicated hosting is on another level. In addition to getting your own server, dedicated hosting lets you take full control over your server. That means you have full administrative access and can set things up the way you like it.
This type of hosting package comes with a royal suite of features that may not be necessary for all types of businesses.
WordPress Hosting: Optimized for WordPress Websites
WordPress provides shared hosting plans that cater to a more specialized clientele. The servers themselves are optimized differently and have features that are particularly attractive to performance, such as faster load time, a WordPress installer, security features that work specifically with WordPress sites, and host WordPress updates. This is useful for businesses that have websites created on WordPress.
What Is Included With a Web Hosting Service?
With a web hosting service, you'll get tools to design your site, hundreds of templates, blogging and eCommerce functions, email marketing, analytics & reporting, cloud hosting services, and more. Web hosts centralize everything into one service that will let you launch your site online, maintain its smooth running status, and store data securely.
Web Hosting Pricing and Value Analysis
Some choose web hosting companies based solely on price. While that's not a great strategy, you should certainly take pricing into consideration. The best providers offer plans for every budget, and in some cases, signing up for longer subscriptions (rather than paying month to month) will qualify for extra discounts.
Also, leave some room to grow. Choosing a web hosting plan that meets your website's current needs is great. But, with any luck, your site will grow and expand over time, and your needs may change. Since switching to a new web hosting provider is a major hassle, consider one that offers a wdie range of scalable plans.
Meaning, you should be able to upgrade to another plan easily once necessary. Low prices are always nice, but if the low price comes with a limit on space or bandwidth, you need to be sure the deal is really worth it.
Along the same lines, you may want to pay attention to how many email accounts are provided. Whether or not you believe you'll need dozens of email addresses, it's nice to have the option to create as many as possible down the line.
In most cases, larger numbers of email addresses are included in more expensive plans. This feature, while not very important to some, is critical to others.
Should You Consider Free Hosting?
In general, free hosting plans aren't worth it, as they can create more issues than benefits by cutting corners and compromising your site's speed, security, and scalability.
With a free host, the SEO of your site will be impacted by slow run times. Your website may not even show up on the search results page. Your site’s security may also be compromised since free hosts usually don’t have protection against cyber attacks. In the end, there won’t be anybody to turn to for help as customer support is near non-existent with free hosting plans.
Essential Web Hosting Features You Need
Hosting quality is affected by several factors that are important to weigh during your decision-making process. Some of the most significant factors include:
Uptime Guarantee: Ensuring Reliable Website Availability
If you're looking into web hosting, you'll hear the term uptime guarantee a lot. That makes a lot of sense, considering it is one of the most important factors when choosing a service. Uptime, which is the percentage of time that a hosting service is up and running, will be guaranteed by various companies with a certain percentage of time to be up.
That doesn't mean they will definitely go down for the other percentage of the time, but they can say without fail that they will be up for at least that amount of time.
The reason this is important is because you don’t want your site constantly being unavailable or unreachable to your customers. Otherwise, why have a website at all? A high uptime percentage ensures that your audience can see and interact with your website more often.
Quality brands like InMotion Hosting, HostGator and Bluehost offer a more than 99% uptime guarantee, and that’s really good for your business.
Load Time Optimization: Speeding Up Your Website
Load time is also really important. Recent studies show that the average attention span has shrunk over the years to smaller than that of a goldfish! So, if your website takes even a drop too long to load a page, your business is dead before it’s even started.
To keep yourself in the running, be sure your domain hosting service has a fast load time. A2Hosting will deliver a 360ml load time for pages, the fastest in the industry.
Customer Support: Reliable Assistance When You Need It
Because having an issue with your website is nothing to take lightly, you want to make sure customer service is available, knowledgeable, and easy to work with. More on this below.
Server Location: Choosing the Right Geographical Server
The number of servers and location plays a huge part in the speed of your website loading and service. Obviously, the more servers available, the faster the service, but where those servers are found in the world will also affect the quality.
Look for servers in substantial locations close to you, such as the UK, US, or Israel, depending on your location.
Email Hosting: Managing Email Accounts with Your Hosting
Email hosting is another way to expand your business's reach online and provide employee-specific mail addresses to all your employees. Most web hosts have email hosting tools that can help you manage accounts and communications from one spot.
Security Features to Look for in a Hosting Package
In the United States alone, 30,000 websites are hacked with malware every day. A large number of those are small business websites which are targeted because they don’t have the cybersecurity protections that large enterprise IT teams can put up.
But there is still plenty that small business owners can do to ensure the safety of their accounts. Check if your hosting provider offers any of the following, all of which can help ensure that your account does not become the next statistic.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Strengthening Account Security
Also called multi-factor authentication (MFA), 2-factor authentication adds a second security credential to the login process. If you’re on a managed hosting plan, then you probably know that cPanel is where your technical staff can configure all aspects of their hosting accounts.
Because cPanel is so powerful, the risks of a hacker getting in are far more damaging than gaining access to, say, an FTP account or a WordPress backend. That’s why it’s extremely useful if your host offers 2FA on logins to cPanel.
Free SSL Certificates: Securing Data Transmission
If your small business operates multiple domain names, then you’ll find it particularly helpful if your hosting provider offers free SSL certificates with their hosting package. An SSL certificate is a guarantee from a Certificate Authority (CA) that traffic to and from the website will be encrypted by Transport Layer Security (TLS).
You might be more familiar with this as https:// rather than http:// before certain domain names. Using TLS gives your customers peace of mind that data they send to and from your website will be encrypted over their local networks.
Because your customers’ user credentials could conceivably be used to brute force your own digital infrastructure, it’s in your interests too to make sure this is offered.
DKIM, SPF, DMARC: Enhancing Email Security
Email spoofing is a real concern for any small business. To combat this, look for a host that offers 3 email authentication tools on its hosting packages: Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Domain-based Message Authentication, and Reporting & Conformance (DMARC).
These are configured as DNS records in your cPanel and mean that recipients can see that the email was authenticated by your organization and is not the result of a fraudster impersonating you.
Easy Update Manager: Streamlining Software Updates
If your small business is using some popular web-hosted scripts such as the WordPress Content Management System (CMS), then you should know that you’re wide open to any vulnerabilities in the code base. Because of how widely these systems are deployed, they’re lucrative targets for hackers.
A one-click script installation and manager means that you can ensure that any such cloud-hosted programs are updated automatically and at regular intervals—without having to ask your IT staff for help.
How to Choose the Best Web Hosting Company?
Without the best web hosting, your ability to run a successful website is going to be seriously hindered. There is a dizzying array of web hosting providers competing for your business.
How can you pinpoint the best one? Start by keeping the following points in mind:
The first thing you need to do when shopping for a web host is to evaluate your disk space and bandwidth needs. If your site features lots of graphics, dozens of pages, and large amounts of traffic, you're going to need unmetered bandwidth and disk space. Unlimited plans are available, and they make life easier. If your site is going to be simple and not generate a huge amount of traffic, you should be able to get away with less disk space and bandwidth.
Keep compatibility in mind, too. In the excitement of looking for a website hosting provider, you might overlook one critical thing: the type of operating systems that are supported. You're not going to want to switch operating systems, so double-check this point before settling for a provider.
Reliability and availability are critical characteristics to consider when shopping around for web hosting. The best web hosting companies offer availability rates of 98 and 99%, frequently referred to as “Uptime.” It's easy to make such claims, though, so make sure to see if they make good on their promises.
Security is also an essential concern. Choosing a web hosting provider without learning about its available security features is a big mistake. Things like firewalls, daily backups, free SSL certificates and user authentication should all be included and easily accessed in the control panel. It's also nice to receive notifications whenever changes are made because they can alert you to suspicious activity.
Take a look at how we choose the best web hosting sites in the industry in order to make a better decision about which is right for you.
Exploring Additional Offerings Beyond Web Hosting
While providing the basics like bandwidth and disk space are a given, good web hosting plans will also have at least a few extras.
If you're running an online store, keep an eye out for providers that supply Ecommerce solutions. If you want to be able to implement quick and easy updates, find a provider that offers content management systems. Make sure that they'll give you access to statistics about your site, as well.
Another feature you may want to pay attention to is how eco-friendly a web host is. Data centers use intense amounts of electricity. There are a few web hosts today that run their platforms using green technology.
Website Builders: Simplifying Website Creation
Beyond just hosting your site's free domain, you need to actually have a website. Website builders help get all the visuals and info up on the internet without no coding needed. They provide users with hundreds of templates that are easy to play with and edit. You can straightforwardly drag and drop content into the templates, and adjust your site according to your industry.
If you have little-to-no background in site design, website builders can let you design your dream site with ease.
Assessing Customer Service and Support from Hosting Providers
Even if you're a natural at setting up websites, it's nice to know that help is available if you need it. Confirm that the web hosting provider you choose has 24/7 support and make sure that there are several ways in which to get support, preferably including phone support.
The most reliable providers will provide support through email, phone, and online chat, giving you the choice of convenience.
The best support plan includes customer freedom. Review the providers' policies to ensure that there is a clear, money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied with the product.
After narrowing down the search to just a few candidates, search for online reviews about each of them. Ideally, the reviews should come from actual customers on review sites and not a list of published testimonials on the web hosting providers' own websites.
It should be pretty easy to get a feel for how a web hosting provider treats its customers from the word on the street.
More Web Hosting Services We Reviewed
We have some good news for you if you feel like your web host search isn't over. Our web host experts went beyond the 10 brands featured and reviewed on this page.
Check out these additional brands to get a better idea about all your web host options:
Additional Articles of Interest
We have you covered no matter if you're new to web hosting or are trying to find streamlined ways to improve your existing site setup.
All things considered, take a look at these articles our hosting experts wrote and find the best ways to manage your site online.
- Best Web Hosting for Small Businesses
- How to Choose a Web Hosting Service
- 10 Tips for Determining Your Website's Bandwidth Requirements
- Our Essential Guide to Shared Web Hosting
- The Best WordPress Hosting Services
Conclusion: Making an Informed Decision for Your Web Hosting Needs
Our picks for the top 10 best web hosting services are Bluehost, IONOS, HostGator, Hostinger, DreamHost, A2 Hosting, Web.com, Network Solutions, rocket.net and InMotion.
As tempting as it may be to choose a web hosting provider quickly and just get on with your life, it's undeniably better to take your time. In doing so, you'll be able to find a provider you can stick with for the long haul.