Finding an Affordable and Reliable Web Host: What to Always Look at Before You Sign Up

With hundreds of IT companies offering all kinds of hosting plans, finding the right combination of price, performance, features, and support can be a challenge. How do you choose the best web host when every company seems to be promising 24-hour customer support, 99 percent uptime, and unlimited everything? Here are a few basic points to consider when comparing plans from different web hosts.

Website Requirements

The first step in choosing the right web host is knowing what kind of website you want to create. A static HTML website, for example, will have different technical requirements than a WordPress blog or a Ghost site. Before shopping around for a hosting plan, it’s essential to know how your website will be designed.

Cost

Cost is usually the first factor people consider when choosing a hosting plan. Prices for shared hosting plans vary widely, with some providers offering deals as low as $0.99 per month. When comparing prices, keep in mind that cheaper hosting providers are unlikely to offer quality software and round-the-clock support. You may find that it’s worth paying a few extra dollars per month for the added assurance of responsive customer service and prompt, professional service. 

Server Uptime

Server reliability is one of the most important deciding factors when choosing between IT companies that offer web hosting solutions. The most reliable hosts use powerful servers and stable network connections to keep uptime scores above 99 percent. There are several ways to research a web host’s server reliability, but one of the easiest ways to do so is to read online reviews. As an alternative, you can track the web host’s server uptime with a free server monitoring tool like Uptime Robot

Renewal Cost

Many shared hosting plans lure customers in with low signup costs but charge high renewal fees when the initial term expires. Unless you’re willing to transfer your website to another web host, you’ll have to pay the fee. Be sure to read the fine print before signing up for a web hosting deal. Doing so will help you avoid the hassle of changing hosts every year. 

Add-on Domains

Most shared hosting plans will let you host up to 25 “add-on” URLs within one account, but some companies don’t allow multiple domains. Make sure the plan you select can accommodate all of the domain names that you want to host. Otherwise, you’ll need to manage a different hosting account for each domain name you own. 

Refund Policy

Avoid web hosting companies that charge exorbitant cancellation fees. Good web hosts offer a 30-day trial period to allow you to test the service. When choosing a web hosting provider, some questions to ask are:

  • Are there any cancellation charges?
  • Does the web hosting provider provide a full refund if the account is canceled within the trial period?
  • How does the hosting company handle cancellations after the trial period has ended?

Understanding the hosting company’s cancellation and refund policies will help you avoid paying unnecessary fees. 

E-commerce Support

If you’re running an online store, you’ll need to choose a web host that offers e-commerce features and support. Before shopping around for a hosting company, make a list of the essential features you’ll need. Will you need shopping cart software? Payment processing support? Some basic e-commerce features to look for areas dedicated IP, SSL certification, and one-click shopping cart software installation.

Data Storage and Bandwidth Limits

When comparing web hosts, watch out for the term “unlimited” — particularly where it applies to disk space or bandwidth. Almost all shared hosting plan providers advertise unlimited storage and data transfers, but the exact meaning of unlimited can vary from host to host. In many cases, there are restrictions on how the space or bandwidth can be used. Read the fine print, and consider only web hosts that are transparent about how much disk space and data you can use.

Server Upgrade Options

In general, a shared hosting account will provide enough bandwidth and storage to support a WordPress website that receives up to 40,000 monthly unique visitors. If you expect your website audience to grow over time, choose a web host that will allow you to eventually upgrade to a virtual private or dedicated server. Dedicated and virtual private servers offer more disk storage, faster processing, more memory, and advanced security features. 

When choosing a plan, remember that there’s no such thing as the perfect host. You may end up having to trade off on a feature that is important to you, whether it’s price, reliability, or data limits. Keep in mind that different websites have different needs; you don’t need to find the best web hosting company in the world, just the one that best suits your own needs. 

Tom Miles has worked as a web developer for many years and has a ton of experience of running his own websites as well as creating sites for clients. He shares his knowledge with those who may be feeling a little daunted by the whole process!