Just the Tips: How to Pick a Website Host

Web Hosting

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting is the act of storing something such as a file, a picture or a website online so people can connect to it via the Internet.

Your website is stored on a web host so people can visit it when they go online and type in your website address.

A web host is simply a computer hooked up to the Internet; this called a Server.

There are various types of web hosting services and it all depends on what you want to accomplish in building your website or App, for yourself, or for your business.

Figure out what exactly it is that you are looking to do and at the different options, which will depend on these following factors:

LET’S GET STARTED

Let's Get Started

1) What are you building?

The hosting solution you require is dependent on what it is that you are building. Apps and software will have specific requirements that may be completely different than an HTML website.

We are going to be focusing on Just the Tips for Website Hosting.

2) Are you tech savvy?

Are you tech savvy? Are you looking to become tech savvy? Are you not tech savvy at all and want help?

Being honest with yourself and assessing the situation will really help you get started on the right foot. Whatever it is you are looking to do, there is most likely a best-case solution and hosting provider waiting for you.

3) What is the complexity of your project?

What is the complexity of the website you are building?

Make sure the provider has all the software, tools and packages that you require available in the hosting environment. This is pretty much the most advanced question you will need to deal with. If you are just building a basic website or blog, you should be good to go.

If you do not know the answer to this and your website is going to be complex, read the “6) Help Me” section below.

4) What tools do you require?

Are you setting up a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal? Are setting up a database like MySQL or Redis?
Do you require email?
Do you require a domain registrar to buy your domain name?
Do you want to add an SSL Security Certificate?
Do you want cPanel or a similar management GUI?

There are a lot of possibilities of what people are looking to do online building their website, so make sure the hosting provider you choose has the tools that you need.

There is a chance that the tools are as easy to setup as clicking a button and having an installer walk you through the process. If not customer support is often willing to assist you.

5) “Shared Hosting” VS “VPS” VS “Dedicated Server”

Shared Hosting
If you are starting a small website, blog or small business, chances are you will be fine with a, “Shared Hosting” plan. Shared hosting accounts for the majority of consumer advertising you will come across, when you see hosting starting at $1.99 /Month, etc. This refers to, “Shared Hosting” packages.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) 
VPS stands for, “Virtual Private Server”, this means that a server (an Internet computer) has been divided up into smaller private computers, that way you can have a private computer all to yourself without having to pay for the whole expensive computer. A VPS is usually when thy take a big powerful, expensive computer and turn it into a whole bunch of little computers to rent out.

This is jut like an apartment building, many tenants in one place.

Dedicated Server
A dedicated server is a whole Internet Computer dedicated to one account, one person, one company, one app or one single website, etc. Like an apartment building but with one family taking the whole building.

This is often expensive and only required for large websites.

6) Budget

Let’s keep it real, everything has a budget. What is your budget?

There are solutions that start as little as, “FREE” and can cost as much as $$$ Millions. You can run a great blog for, let’s say $1.99 /Month, yet Netflix has so many users streaming video everyday that it costs them $$$ Millions every month to keep their service running.

The best advice here is simply pay for what you want and what you need. It is not worth putting up with a bulls**t web host and a broken website to save $1 /Month if you are serious about what you are doing.

7) The Mutha F***in Cloud

The cloud is just a cool way of saying a bunch of computers networked together (working together as a team) to form a giant computer system.

The abilities of cloud computing and the cloud hosting services that are available now are absolutely incredible. You have Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. offering the public technology that they actually use for their stuff, sick!

Chances are, you will not need a cloud system to get your blog up and running but maybe one day.

8) Help Me Please

If you have no idea what you are doing there are many options that can help you. Here are some helpful resources:

i) Hosting Providers
Hosting providers fight for your business and will go out of their way to earn you as a client, keep you as a client and help you get your project online with them, so contact customer support and milk them for all they are worth, they are there to help.

Web Hosting is an extremely competitive business, an absolute bloodbath, just like Fight Club, so whatever you do, never talk about web hosting, jk.

ii) Forums
There are a lot of web forums to help you get started and talk to similar individuals with similar problems, don’t be shy, Google your questions, find some forums, join and talk. StackOverflow is an amazing resource for developers; it is geared towards users beyond the basics and advanced users but is a wealth of knowledge, check it out.

iii) Talk to a Developer
Talk to a developer about your project. Everybody pretty much knows someone who works on the Internet now, just ask, don’t be shy, everyone starts somewhere. IF you do not know anyone, ask around, chances are you will find someone that is more than willing to have a quick pow wow with you and discuss your idea.

iv) Contact a Small Agency
Most cities have a bunch of small boutique agencies that are willing to work with small businesses and help them get, “On the Line”. Small agencies are very affordable and usually filled with people looking to help.

Check out this web agency.

CHOOSING A WEB HOSTING PROVIDER

Web Hosting Provider

Now let’s get down to finding an actual web hosting provider. How do you choose a provider when there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of hosting companies to choose from?

It is like going through the yellow pages trying to find the perfect Burger Joint. There are so many to choose from that your chances of nailing the tastiest piece of mouth watering ground beef from a phonebook ad is pretty dang slim.

We’ll offer up some tips (just the tips) and info here to help in your decision-making.

LEARN THE BASICS

Learn the Basics

1) Uptime

It is extremely important to get it up and keep it up! A website is completely useless if you can’t get it up and use it. When selecting a web hosting company make sure to checkout the percentage of server uptime.

99% to 99.9% uptime is the dream standard for server uptime, 65% is unacceptable and now a days, anything advertised below 99% is just weird, steer clear. The higher the downtime of a server, the lower the potential of traffic reaching and engaging in your website, and overall a lower possibility of you being successful with your project.

Do not lose because your web hosting company is a loser, that can’t keep it up.

2) Disk Space

Make sure you get that hard drive! You must take into consideration how much space is provided for the files that will make up your website. Packages can range from Megabytes (MB) to Petabytes (PB), the average person does not need Petabytes, and so we’ll keep things realistic here.

The average disk space offering right now is 10 Gigabytes (10GB) to 100 Gigabytes (100GB). Some companies are even offering UNLIMITED. Chances are you will not require anything more than 10GB if you are just starting out, but the more the merrier.

Having to upgrade and migrate when you outgrow your hosting plan can be a burden, so if you are more of a grower than a show’er, make sure your provider can offer the hard drive you need.

3) Bandwidth B**h

How much bandwidth is in your package? Bandwidth is the amount of data packet transfers you are allowed to make in and out of your website. This means that every time a visitor, visits your website data is used (just like when you use data on your mobile).

Visitor need to transfer data to view and use your web site, so make sure your provider has a lot of bandwidth so your website can handle being busy like you want it to be.

Some providers limit the number of visits you can receive such as, 10,000 /month, and if you exceed that, they will charge you.

It is common now for hosting providers to offer multiple Terabytes (TB) which is a lot, more than enough for a medium sized website, or many now offer UNLIMITED bandwidth.

With today’s changing trends in web hosting services, it is important to get adequate server space and bandwidth. This will allow for necessary updates and increased traffic to your site as it becomes more popular without the hassle of migrating or changing accounts or any other weird scaling issues you might have to do.

4) The Need for Speed

Speed is a big deal, do not let anyone tell you differently. No one likes to wait around for a website to load and the hosting service plays a major role in the speedy delivery of your website. There are many services available and some of them are free or $0.49 /Month and some in regards to some of them, that is still over priced.

The speed of your website is important and should be taken seriously. Google is also obsessed with speed and actually factors in the speed of your website in it’s ranking algorithm.

When it comes to load time, a quickie is a good thing.

Checkout this sweet tool when you want to look up stats like load times:

Pingdom Tools

5) Security

A crucial feature necessary for doing e-commerce is an SSL Security Certificate, or Secure Socket Layer. This encrypts all order and credit card information until it reaches you. An SSL certificate can be purchased from most web hosting providers or 3rd party providers, just make sure your host allows you to install it.

It is extremely important that the web hosting company you choose is reputable and secure. It is not uncommon for small fly by night hosting companies to setup shop take your money and stash you on an old server that no one is maintaining. Outdated servers and software can open you to attacks and exploits, your website can get hacked, stolen or infected with malware that in turn can get you blacklisted by search engines, browsers and spam filters, NOT GOOD.

6) Maintenance

Servers require regular maintenance, as mentioned above without it you are susceptible to hacks, viruses, malware, etc. The software on your servers also requires updates to remain compatible with contemporary systems and tools.

Maintenance also applies to your actual website and the software that you choose to run with your website. Some high end hosting solution take things to the next level and help with keeping your website itself up to date and secure.

If you are the hands off type or just short on time this can be a very nice feature.

7) Other Tips

Free Hosting
Not worth it… Free hosting services usually suck and mess with the User Experience (UX) of your visitors. They might add advertisements, pop ups, redirects, content locking, and just overall undesirable stuff.

Their goal is still to make money, if you are not willing to pay for the hosting they will try to make some money off your users, and on top of that the service, speed, performance, etc. sucks.
Stay away, remember nothing is free; you will pay for your decisions in other ways.

There are many service providers to choose from. If you do your homework, youíll find some good deals that will fit your budget.

Operating Systems
The majority of servers you come across will be running a Unix based operating system or Microsoft. Different features, options and software run on different operating systems. Choose the one that suits your needs.

In most instances on small websites, this will not be a factor, but if you require a certain piece of software to run, make sure your operating system is compatible.

Access
Depending on your needs, there are different levels of access that are available from your web hosting provider. Features such as FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access, SSH (Secure Socket Shell) access are often needed.

For noobs it is a great feature to have an administration panel with a nice GUI (Graphic User Interface), this way you can perform the tasks you need to perform without having to program anything or talk to a computer using the dreaded, “Command Line Prompt”.
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Business or Pleasure
If you are just getting started with a new personal blog or learning how to build a website, most popular shared hosting packages provided by reputable providers should do the trick.

But… If you are a business, small or large it is advisable that you step up your game and choose a provider that offers a high end or business solution. You deserve to not lose money because your hosting provider stinks. When your website is slow, offline or malfunctioning you could be losing money, losing reputation or just plain old annoying your potential customers. Step up and act professional.

Perks & Bonuses
Web hosting is very competitive and many companies offer bonuses and perks for signing up. You can get stuff like $150 towards Google Adwords, money towards other advertising programs like Bing, Facebook, etc.
Free email, free domain names, referral programs, free months of hosting and all kinds of offers and incentives to get you to join.

That is a simple 101 of web hosting basics, after reading this you should be able to make some choices and get up and running.

Below are a few words about some different hosting solutions. We started building a comparison chart, but the packages and prices change so often that it might make more sense to just give some recommendations.

RECOMMEND

Recommend

SHARED HOSTING

There are a lot of great shared web hosting providers, it is recommended to stick to the reputable brands. The days of letting your nephew host your stuff is pretty much over, let a professional handle the technical aspects of your website and focus on what matters, building something of value.

GoDaddy
GoDaddy is the big dog on the block of consumer web products and services. They are a multi-BILLION $$$ corporation that have literally made a fortune off getting bloggers and small business online, “Cats with Hats” and small biz is their target.

The good news is that they are extremely affordable, reliable, have a plethora of tools and software, and they are very secure, and have great customer service.

Overall, you are not going to get a high end hosting solution, not recommended for a business solution but they are solid and work hard to make sure you have the basics to get up and running.

GoDaddy => BANG FOR THE BUCK!

COMPARABLE SOLUTIONS

DEDICATED WORDPRESS SOLUTION

If you are looking to start a blog or website that is going to use the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS) WordPress, than you have some additional great options to choose from.

WordPress.com offers hosting, WordPress setup and lots of help getting you started with your new website on WordPress.

There is another fantastic company out of Austin, Texas that goes by the name of WP Engine. They specialize in self-hosted WordPress installations. They offer top-notch customer support, a Content Delivery Network, a custom caching solution, SSL installation, regular upgrades and maintenance and pretty much everything you can think of when it comes to running WordPress.

They are absolutely fantastic, if you have a business or an important website that is running WordPress, this is where you want to be. It is a pricey hosting solution but if you need reliability and would appreciate help with WordPress, it pays for itself very quickly, there is always someone there to talk to.

WP ENGINE => RELIABLE SERVICE WITH A SMILE

VPS & DEDICATED SERVERS

This is where hosting really gets fun and competitive. When you are setting up your own servers and scaling things up for heavy traffic and performance there are some great companies offering some cool stuff.

AWS
Amazon Web Services the current Heavyweight Champion of Web Hosting Solutions. Amazon started packaging and selling the services and software they built and use all the time for their business. They have so many mind blowing services and toys it is a story of it’s own that will be a follow up.

AWS is the technology leader but does come with a bit of a hefty price tag, as they are the big brand and tech leaders in web hosting.

AWS => THE HOST WITH THE MOST!

DigitalOcean
DigitalOcean is awesome and we use them all the time. At the time of writing this for ShakaBot.com, we are on DigitalOcean. DO offers solid, basic servers, ran on solid hardware, with great maintenance, an easy provisioning interface, excellent private networking, lots of Data Centers all for a great price.

100% recommend if you like to get your hands dirty and manage your servers yourself.

DigitalOcean => THE BASICS DONE RIGHT!

COMPARABLE SOLUTIONS

Get started, just make a decision and start building. Try not to caught up in analysis paralysis, starting your project is what is most important.

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