By Michael Dunlop

It doesn’t matter what your business is: you need to have a presence on the internet.

If you are distributing goods, the market share owned by those selling online has exceeded that owned by in-person retailers. If you’re more service-oriented, people want to be able to look you up on the internet before they come in. They want to know where you are, what your hours are, and what you’re offerings are. For example, if you operate a restaurant, people want to review your menu before they set foot inside.

Choosing a Hosting Provider for Your Website

There’s a lot that goes into setting up a website, but we’ll focus on one thing in particular: selecting the best web hosting service for you.

When getting started, you’ll need to work with a web hosting provider to purchase the resources you need to make sure that your website is available to the internet. The web hosting provider operates data centers featuring powerful computers (called servers) and connections to the internet so that people can see your website whenever they’d like. When you, as the customer, purchase web hosting services, you are essentially renting small portions of these resources.

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right provider for you, but the top criteria include:

  • Budget
  • Resource allocation
  • Customer service

In the following sections, we’ll take a closer look at all of these criteria so that you’ll know what you need to know to make an informed decision.

Budget

Prices for web hosting range from a couple of dollars per month to thousands of dollars per month. Given this expansive range, how much should you expect to spend on web hosting?

The most inexpensive option available is shared hosting plans. With shared hosting plans, there are a large number of websites that utilize the resources of a single physical server. Because of this setup, the host can amortize the cost of running the server among a large number of users. The upside is that the host can pass the savings on to you, but the downside is that you won’t see top-tier performance like that offered by higher-end web hosting types.

For most users, shared hosting is nevertheless sufficient. Prices for these plans typically range from about $3-5 per month up to $20-25 per month for plans that offer a bit more in terms of resources and bonuses (like security suites and marketing tools).

If, however, you are looking to launch an online store (see guide here), you may need to upgrade to virtual private server (VPS) hosting. VPS hosting is similar to shared hosting but offers greater security and website isolation. These are necessary to set up the secure environment needed to process payments.

Web hosting providers tend to be upfront about how much their services cost, so you’ll know right away if the company is an option for you or not. However, do be aware that lots of listed prices are valid for the promotional period only — renewals will result in a jump in what you pay.

Resource Allocation

Once you’ve found a company that offers options to fit your budget, you’ll need to decide on a plan.

In most cases, web hosting providers will tell you the best use for a specific plan. That makes it reasonably easy to choose the best option for you. However, providers will sometimes list resource maximums (e.g., the plan comes with 5 GB of storage or supports 100,000 page visits per month). If you know what your website usage needs are, you can make a decision based on this data.

If you’re worried about choosing the wrong plan, know that many hosts offer scalability options so that you can adjust your resource allocation at a later date. Some hosts will let you upgrade plans with ease, while others will allow you add individual items (e.g., RAM) as needed.

Customer Service

Websites can go down at any time, day or night, which is why many hosting companies offer 24/7 customer support that’s reachable via email, support ticket, live chat, and more. Because so many companies provide around-the-clock support, we recommend being wary of the companies who do not. Again, issues with your website can pop up at any time, day or night, and if you can’t fix it yourself, you’ll want to be able to talk to someone who can help.

Nevertheless, around-the-clock support doesn’t mean good support. It’s difficult to gauge how helpful a company’s service team before you purchase your hosting plan, but this is where reviews written by actual customers can help you. They’ll let you know what their experience with the company is like.

Summary

Choosing a web hosting provider can be overwhelming. For most people, however, there are three primary factors they need to consider: budget, resource allocation, and customer service. That’s not to say that everything else is unimportant — it is not, but when selecting a provider at first, these are the criteria with which you should start.