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A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their website accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server owned or leased for use by clients, as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center. Web hosts can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for other servers located in their data center, called colocation, also known as Housing in Latin America or France.
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How to chose up the right web host
1. Know Your Own Hosting Needs
You can never get the right web host without knowing what you need. Forget about our general list of top 10 web host for a while and think thoroughly on your own needs.
- What kind of website are you building?
- Do you need Windows applications?
- Do you need a special version of software (ie. PHP)?
- Does your website need special software?
- How big (or small) can the web traffic volume go?
These are some of the basic questions to be answered. Have a plan with your website and try figure out what will happens next for the next 12 months.
For newbies, the general basic rule is to always start small with a good shared hosting account. A shared hosting account is cheap, easy to maintain, and sufficient for most new sites. Plus, you can always upgrade to VPS or dedicated hosting in the later stage when your site grows bigger.
2. Server Uptime Record
Nothing is more important than having a 24x7 operating web host. You need a web host is operating on a powerful server and stable network connections. 99.5% and above is the recommended uptime score; anything below 99% is unacceptable.
There are a number of different ways to obtain a web host uptime info. For one, we features latest hosting uptime score in most of our hosting reviews.
3. Multiple Addon Domains
Domain names are cheap – so cheap that it is hard to resist not owning more than one. In fact, most webmasters own dozens of domain names these days. To host these domains, you will need extra hosting space. And this is why it is important to have a hosting account that allows adding multiple domains.
Generally, most hosting companies allow at least 25 addon domains in one account nowadays but you can never be sure. Some years ago I was careless and signed up on a web host that allows only one domain. And, I was holding more than 10 parked domains at that time! Do not repeat my mistake – always check the domain capacity before you make a purchase.
Server Upgrades Optionsp>Shared web hosts are pretty powerful these days. On a very rough guestimation, a shared hosting account should be sufficient to support a proper-optimized WordPress blog with 30,000 – 40,000 monthly unique visitors. You should be doing alright on a shared host if you manage to limit your concurrent database connections below 20 (this is why I said it’s always best to start with a shared hosting if you are new).
However, if you expect your website to grow really big in next two or three years, then you should consider picking up a web host with room to grow. By grow, I mean upgrading your web host – from shared hosting to VPS to dedicated server – for more processing power, memory capacity, disk storage, and better security features.5. Renewal Prices
Hosting deals, shared hosting especially, are normally selling very cheap on signup prices but charge much higher on renewals. It is an industry norm. Unless you are willing to switch host every two or three years, there is no way to avoid the high renewal prices.
In general, we think any price tag below $10/mo is acceptable but you might have a lower tolerance. So, to avoid any unpleasant surprise, you should check the TOS and make sure you are okay with the renewal prices before signup. One quick way to do this is to click on the hosting company’s TOS link (usually at the bottom of homepage), press Ctrl + F, and search for kewyord “renewal” or “renew”.
For your reference, here are the price comparisons for some of my favorite hosts – note the gap between promotional prices during signup and standard prices for renewals.
6. Refund Policy
Should you choose to cancel your host within the trial period, does the company provide full money return? What is the hosting company’s refund policy after the trial session? Is there any cancellation charges?
These are some basic questions to ask before signing up.
It’s important to know your hosting provider handle customer refunds so that you don’t have to lose too much money when things go wrong.
There are some hosting companies that charge absurdly high cancellation fees when users cancel their account during trial period. Our advice? Avoid these hosting providers at all cost. On the other hand, some hosting companies provide anytime money back guarantees where you can ask for a pro-rated refund after your trial period (good eh?).
7. Cron Jobs, Auto Script Installer, .htaccess, and Server Side Include
We are surprise that some web hosts out there still do not offer these basic hosting features these days. You need Cron for day-in-day-out operations, Auto Script Installer (like Fantastico, Simple Scripts, and Quick Installer) for time saver, .htaccess access for security/page redirects/etc purposes, SSI for easier site maintenance (when you are building a static site), and FTP access easy file.
Unless you are signing up on a specialty host like WP Engine, else these basic features are must-have and you shouldn’t settle with hosting providers that do not supply them.
8. e-Commerce Features
Are you running an e-commerce website? Do you need to process business transactions on your website? Are you using any specific shopping cart software?
If yes, then it is important for you to pick a web host with sufficient e-commerce features support. SSL certification, dedicated IP, and one-click shopping cart software installation are some of the essential features/supports you will need.
9. Account Suspension: What Are the Limitations on Your Hosting Accounts?
Here’s a money tip that most hosting review sites will not tell you: Hosting companies will pull the plug and suspend your account if you are using too much CPU power (yes, unlimited hosting is not unlimited) or violating the rules.
Before you sign up on a web host, it is important that you read the rules and know your limits.
For examples, here’s what written in iPage’s TOS. Note the underlined sentences.
User agrees that User shall not use excessive amounts of CPU processing on any of iPage’s servers. Any violation of this policy may result in corrective action by iPage, including assessment of additional charges, disconnection or discontinuance of any and all Services, or termination of this Agreement, which actions may be taken in iPage’s sole and absolute discretion. If iPage takes any corrective action under this section, User shall not be entitled to a refund of any fees paid in advance prior to such action.
And here’s WebHostingHub’s TOS.
Company (WebHostingHub) agrees to provide resources necessary to run actively scripted websites on our stated software stack, providing CPU time, bandwidth and disk space that fits the profile of the average website running our systems.
i. CPU and Disk I/O – Company’s shared systems allow for significant bursts in activity, but resources must be shared among all clients. Computationally intensive or long running scripts are not permitted; generally speaking scripts should complete execution in 1-2 seconds at most. Database queries must also complete quickly, and databases should not be larger than is appropriate in a shared environment. No script or database queries should perform excessive disk reads/writes or maintain I/O patterns that cause performance issues for other sites. The Customer should promptly act on any notice received from Web Hosting hub regarding resource usage. Any notice received should not be considered indicative that Webhosting Hub will manage any site’s traffic, code, or databases – the Customer must take responsibility for optimizing their sites and databases for the traffic they receive before they affect other users. Webhosting Hub reserves the right to suspend any site whose resource.
Why read hosting company TOS?
Knowing your account limits help you understand two things:
- How Generous (Or Stingy) Is Your Shortlisted Web Host – Should you go with that web host, or the other ith looser restrictions?
- How Transparent Is Your Hosting Company – Can you trust the words coming out from your hosting company? Honest hosting company normally will have very clear guidelines on account limitation.
10. Environmental Friendliness
Having an eco-friendly website host is the primary concern for some webmasters.
According to scienc studies, a web server on average produces more than 630kg of CO2 (which is a lot!) and consumes 1,000 KWh of energy annually. A green host on the other hand, theoretically produces zero CO2. There is indeed a huge difference between a green web host and a non-eco-friendly web host.
If you care about the environment and wish to cut down on your carbon footprint, pick a web host that runs on renewable energy (or at least, a webhost that offsets its energy consumption via green certificates).
If you wish to host email accounts together with your website, then you should look at the email feature before signup. Most hosting companies will come with the ability to host your own email (something like [email protected]) but hey, it’s always better to check and be sure of it, yeah?
In case email feature is not provided, no big deal. There are a number ways you can own an email account at your own domain ([email protected]). Google Email Apps, for example, is a free and easy one – you get the first 10 email accounts for free and $5/account/mo moving up (at this time of writing). I wrote a detail email hosting guide some time ago, go check out if you need help.
12. Hosting Subscription Period
Do not be surprise if you discover some web hosts force their customers to take up unreasonably long contracts. Lunarpages, for example, changed their pricing structure in June 2009 and lured customers to take up a 5-year hosting contract in order to enjoy the $4.95/mo deal. Lunarpages no longer offers such a deal now but still this is a good example in our case.
Should you commit to long term hosting contracts? Our answer is no – Never signup web host with more than 2 years upfront unless they provide clear anytime money back guarantees.
13. Site Backup
There are times when a site crashes. Perhaps a hacker got into your WordPress blog and replaced your index.php file, or your entire database got nuked, or the server had a severe hard disk failure.
If your web host does site backups regularly then there is nothing to worry about when these incidents happen. Your hosting provider should be able to restore back your full (or at least, a big chunk of) site in no time.
On backups, here are a few key questions to ask your web host:
- Does your web host provide full backups regularly?
- Can site backup be done easily via the control panel?
- Can you create auto backup your site easily via cron job or other program?
- Can you restore your backup files by yourself easily (so you don’t have to wait for the support staffs to do it for you during disaster time)?
14. An Easy-to-use Hosting Control Panel
A user-friendly and functional hosting control panel is very, very important.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a cPanel or a Plesk or a third party control panels (like what we have at GoDaddy) – we are okay as long as it is user-friendly and come with all the necessary functions. Without an adequate control panel, you will be left at the mercy of the hosting tech support staff – even if all you need is some basic server changes.
I once had an account with IX Web Hosting, though it’s not a bad host – multiple dedicated IPs at a very reasonable price plus great tech support – but I had to cancel my account because it’s custom control panel is such a pain in the ass.
15. Does The Web Host Provide 24/7 Live Chat Support?
Personally I prefer live chat over phone, feel free to change this factor to “24/7 Telephone Support” if you think otherwise. What we want is someone who can throw us the life saving rope instantly when we press the S.O.S button.
Bonus Tips: Ignore Disk Space and Data Transfer (bandwidth) Capacity
Here are two reasons why disk space and data transfers are barely meaningful nowadays.
One, if you check, almost all shared hosting providers are offering “unlimited” storage and data transfers but in reality, the term “unlimited” is nothing but a marketing gimmick.
Two, if you think about it, disk storage and bandwidth hardly matter these days. Images can be stored on Flickr; videos on YouTube and Vimeo, large data files (doc/pdf/etc) on Box. And furthermore, if you want your site to load fast, you are very likely to support your web host with a CDN*.
In other words, you don’t need to care that much on your hosting storage or bandwidth.
* CDN = Content Delivery Network = connected data servers deployed in various data centers so that users in different locations can access to the data in a faster speed.