The process of choosing a proper hosting service for your website is fairly straight-forward. First, you'll need to have an idea of the type of site you are aiming for. While you don't need to have every single page in mind that will be on your website, having good estimates will mean that you'll be able to properly gauge what type of hardware and software a web hosting server will need to be able to host your site.
During this planning phase, you'll also need to think ahead to how your website might grow, and what new hardware and software needs the site may have in the future. With this information in hand, you're prepared to start looking for a hosting service.
Some websites require support for various programming languages, like PHP or Ruby on Rails. These different programming languages are used to create certain aspects of a website. If, for example, your website will require the use of business hosting, then you'll need to make sure that the web hosting company you're considering provides business web hosting plans.
While you're deciding on a host, you'll also need to decide which method you'll be using to upload your website's files to the servers. The most common method for uploading a website's files uses the file transfer protocol, known as FTP for short. An alternative method is a web-based file manager. If you plan to use FTP to upload the necessary files for your website, then you should make sure the hosting company you have in mind allows you to use it.
Another reason it's so important to have an idea of the size and scope of your website is that it directly affects the hardware requirements needed to be able to effectively host your website. When you're comparing hosting companies, there are two main hardware measures that matter for your website: disk space and bandwidth.
The first hardware consideration is how much disk space on the server you'll be allowed to use. This is disk space just like on your home computer. The files for your website will take up disk space on the hosting company's servers, and there are limits to how much disk space you can use. You'll want to make sure that there is plenty of space on the server for all of your files, with some extra space to allow your website to grow.
The second hardware consideration is how much bandwidth you will be allowed to use each month. Bandwidth is a measure of how much information is being transferred to and from the servers the website is hosted on. The more website traffic you have, the more bandwidth you will need. Other factors affect bandwidth as well, like how many files your website uses, and what the size of those files are. If you go over your bandwidth limit, then your site will suffer downtime and users will not be able to access your website for the rest of the month. Having such a long period of downtime can hurt your SEO efforts by causing crawling errors, and can also get your site penalized in the search engines.
Security and Reliability
There isn't much point to having a website if the servers that host it are down all the time. To find out how reliable a web hosting company's servers are, ask about the uptime over the past six months. This will tell you what percentage of the time people were able to access websites and other files on the servers, and anything under 98% is unacceptable. A low uptime can cause crawling errors from search engine spiders, and lead to your website not being well-indexed, which can drastically damage SEO efforts.
You'll also want to make sure that your website will be secure, and that the web hosting company has an active security team that keeps all software updated with the latest security patches. If you're going to be handling the personal information of your readers, then you might also need access to secure HTTPS connections. These connections enable you to encrypt your users' information in a way that makes it much more secure. Using an HTTPS connection is a must when handling their personal and private information.
For most small and medium-sized websites, shared hosting is going to be the best option. Shared hosting will host a number of websites on one server, and there are plenty of high-quality shared hosting plans for under $10 per month. For large websites, or websites that offer specialized services, dedicated hosting is another option. Dedicated hosting will run only your websites on a single server, and generally starts around $100 per month.
This is a guest post by David Murton, who has been helping companies build and maintain their online relationships with customers since 2006. He is also a professional writer and blogger, with a particular interest in the open source Drupal platform. On a more personal note, David is an avid piano and accordion player, drawn especially to music of the classical and romantic periods.