Business owners, answer this important question: Does your company have a website? If not, it should. Naturally, online businesses demand websites for marketing and selling products or services, but even brick-and-mortar businesses need to be discoverable via the web. Word of mouth just doesn’t cut it anymore. These days, people discover new businesses via Bing, Google, and Yahoo, search engines that make it incredibly simple to find companies’ products, operational hours, and prices. If your business doesn’t appear in the search results, especially on the first page, it’ll be incredibly difficult for potential clients and customers to find you. The TL;DR? No website, no money. No one wants that. – Web Hosting Services
The first step in building your online presence is finding a web host, the company that will store your website’s files on its servers and delivers them to your readers’ and customers’ browsers. Web hosting services offer varying amounts of monthly data transfers, storage, email, and other features. Even how you pay (month-to-month payments vs. annual payments) can be radically different, too, so taking the time to plot exactly what your company needs for online success is essential. Many of these companies also offer reseller hosting services, which let you go into business for yourself, offering to host your own customers’ websites without requiring you to spin up your own servers.
You should also familiarize yourself with the many web hosting tiers that are available. In your research, you’ll find shared, virtual private server (VPS), dedicated hosting, and WordPress hosting plans. Each tier offers different specs and features that you should take the time to analyze. I’ll break them down.
Shared hosting is web hosting in which the provider houses multiple sites on a single server. For example, Site A shares the same server with Site B, Site C, Site D, and Site E. The upside is that the multiple sites share the server cost, so shared web hosting is generally very inexpensive. In fact, you can find an option for less than $10 per month.
The downside is that all the sites share a single server’s resources, so huge traffic spike on Site A may impact the neighboring sites’ performances.
VPS hosting is similar to shared hosting in that multiple sites share the same server, but the similarities end there. A dedicated web host houses fewer sites per server than shared hosting, and each site has its own individual resources.
As a result, Site A’s traffic surge won’t impact Site B or Site C. As you’d expect, VPS hosting costs more than shared hosting. You’ll pay roughly $20 to $60 per month.
Dedicated hosting, on the other hand, is both powerful and pricey. It’s reserved for sites that require an incredible amount of server resources.
Unlike shared or VPS hosting, dedicated hosting makes your website the lone tenant on a server. The means that your website taps the server’s full power. That said, many dedicated web hosting services task you with handling backend, technical issues.
WordPress hosting is for people who want to build their sites on the back of the popular WordPress content management system (CMS). Many WordPress hosts automatically handle backend stuff, so you don’t have to worry about updating the apps and CMS, and enabling automatic backups.
If you’re not sure of the type of hosting your business needs, you might want to start small, with shared Web hosting. You can always graduate to a more robust, feature-rich package of, say, VPS hosting or even dedicated hosting in the future. Unfortunately, some hosts don’t offer all hosting types. Consider how much you expect to grow your website, and how soon before you commit to anything longer than a one-year plan. It’s worth spending the time up front to make sure that the host you select with is able to provide the growth you envision for your site, as switching web hosting providers midstream is not a trivial undertaking.
Once you decide your price range, you need to consider how long you’ll need web hosting. If it’s a short-term project—say, less than a month or two—you can typically receive a refund should you cancel your hosting within 60 days. Some companies offer 30-day money back guarantees, others offer 90-day money back guarantees. Once again, it’s beneficial to do your homework.
If you aim to have a web presence, you’ve got to have email. It’s a convenient way to potential customers and clients to send you a message, Word document, or other files. Thankfully, most web hosts include email in the price of their hosting plans. Some web hosts offer unlimited email account creation (which is great for future growth), while others offer a finite amount. You, naturally, should want unlimited email.
That said, not all web hosts offer email. WP Engine, for example, does not. In such instances, you must email accounts from a company other than your web host. GoDaddy, for instance, sells email packages starting at $3.49 per user, per month. That might sound like a hassle, and just one more thing to keep track of, but there are actually some webmasters who feel that separating your email hosting and web hosting services is smart. That way, one provider going offline won’t completely bork your business.
The aforementioned features are valuable to the web hosting experience, but none matches the importance of site uptime. If your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services.
Recently, we’ve added uptime monitoring to our review process, and the results show that most web hosts do an excellent job of keeping sites up and running. Web hosts with uptime issues are heavily penalized during the review process and are unable to qualify for top ratings.
One thing we learned in reviewing the services listed here (and much more) is that even though the packages are very similar, they are not identical. Some are more security-focused than others, offering Anti-spam and anti-malware tools. Others offer a variety of email marketing tools. While most of the hosts we’ve reviewed have built-in e-commerce, you may want to consider using a more robust third-party online shopping cart application like Shopify instead.
If you’re ready to select a great web hosting service, check out the chart above to see PCMag’s top picks in the space. When you’re done with that, click the links below to read our in-depth, tested reviews of the biggest and best names in web hosting.
If you’re just getting started in the web hosting services game, make sure to check out our primer, How to Build a Website, and How to Register a Domain Name for Your Website. Contact Musato Technologies today for more information on web hosting services.