Picking the best web hosting service is essential to the overall success of your website. If you pick an unreliable host your site won’t be available for your users’ error-free.
There are several features that can help you determine whether a web hosting company is a good choice, but the best web host also depends on your specific needs.
Here are details on how to determine your needs, and how to know which web hosting services are good by taking a look at the features that make for the web host. We’ll also share common pitfalls to avoid when searching for the best web hosting service.
Table of Contents
The Essential Way to Find the Best Web Host
When you’re looking for the features that are the mark of the best web host, it’s essential to first understand that the best web hosting service is subjective because it depends entirely on your specific needs.
If you don’t require much and you choose the best web hosting plan with an abundance of resources and features, the web hosting company you chose will seem great.
On the other hand, if you expect too much from your web hosting service and you get a plan that’s insufficient for your needs, the reverse is true and that same web hosting company can seem terrible.
So, it’s necessary to know what you need in the best web hosting service.
Determining Your Minimum Requirements
Before you can find the best web hosting service for your specific needs, it’s essential to figure out what your requirements are for your website. That way, you’ll know the number of resources you require and you can get a web hosting service that can provide at least a bit more than the bare minimum.
You need more than the merest requirements because you’ll likely add to your site as time goes by, and you’ll get more traffic. Your web hosting service needs to be able to handle this reliably. You also need to consider how much and how fast you expect your site to grow.
If you know you’ll grow fast in the next few months, it’s worth to upgrade right away to a better web hosting company or plan to save you from having to migrate your site later since it’s a lot of work.
Types of Requirements to Consider
Websites all vary so their needs are all different, but here are general requirements that you can consider to help you determine your minimum terms. After that, you can consider the features that make for the best web hosting company and you can find the best fit.
1. Disk Space
Disk space is the storage room where you’ll keep all the files, databases, scripts, and other content that makes up your website.
You don’t need to look to the best web host for disk space. Every web hosting service has this feature.
You need to aim for having ample storage for your site that goes beyond the size of what your site would currently use. This is because you’ll likely add to it over time.
Here are a few points to help you determine what you need:
- What programs and scripts will you install?
- How much storage is needed just to have them on your server?
- How many images, blog posts, documents, videos, available downloads, and other content do you want on your site?
Not only do you need enough disk space to cover all of this, but it’s also worth considering that the more storage you need, the more it will cost. So, be sure to thoroughly consider your requirements when choosing the best web hosting service.
For example, if you’re planning on uploading videos to your site or you want others to do that, it may be worth reconsidering your needs. Video files are typically large and will take up a lot of disk space no matter which web hosting company you choose.
Unless you’re planning on setting up your own video-hosting service, you probably don’t need to self-host your own videos on a web hosting service. Instead, try using video-dedicated hosting platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, or other similar options.
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred from a server to the end-user. This shouldn’t be confused with the bandwidth of your internet connection, which is how fast data is sent to your computer from around the web.
You need a sufficient bandwidth allowance in your web hosting service plan. Otherwise, your site’s data won’t be transferred and no one can view your website.
To get an idea of how much bandwidth you need from a web hosting company, multiply the disk space your site will use with the amount of traffic you’re expecting.
Keep in mind that this is just a general calculation and won’t be exactly how much you’ll go through. It depends on which pages people actually visit and how much data needs to be transferred so the pages load.
But, it should give you a good starting point when you’re browsing different web hosting services to choose the best web host for your site.
Don’t forget to consider how much bandwidth you’ll need in the future as your site grows, not just what your current needs happen to be.
3. Server Software Type
Servers run on software that manages and facilitates the data on a web server for a web hosting service.
There are different kinds to choose from including Apache, Nginx, Microsoft IIS, Node.js, Lighttpd, Caddy, and others. Consider which one you want or need so you can make sure it’s readily available in the chosen web hosting service.
No matter which web hosting company you choose as the best web hosting service, it will use one of the abovementioned types.
Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the hardware in a server that executes specific procedures so data can be loaded. The more CPUs you have, the faster data can be processed and displayed.
So, if your site is going to be huge, you’ll need to plan for having more than two (or maybe even four) cores depending on just how big your site is or will be soon.
Be sure that the chosen web hosting service has the option you need and suits your website size.
Random Access Memory (RAM) refers to physical chips in your server that can remember the data a user pulls up on your server for quick access next time it’s requested.
It’s often referred to as “memory” because that’s what it does. It remembers data that was recently used so it can be displayed quicker each time it’s needed after that.
The more RAM you have, the more data can be stored in its memory, and the faster it can load that data next time.
If data is accessed frequently on your site, you likely need more RAM than a small website.
In practical terms, this looks like a larger site that sees a lot of users and user interactions like comments, uploading files, or similar engagement.
For example, this could be a social media site, an educational website with courses and student interactions, or an eCommerce site with high traffic, reviews, user accounts, products, orders, and more. It may also be larger websites like video, music, or file hosting websites.
There are also other types of sites that aren’t listed to see a lot of engagement and a large transfer of data on a regular basis.
Ask yourself if this describes your site when you’re considering your minimum requirements for RAM. Be sure to choose the best web hosting service that has the amount you need.
A database is a bank of data that your site needs to efficiently draw from so that the data can be quickly and dynamically displayed on your site. The data that’s rendered on the page is dependent on a variety of possible factors that a user could initiate.
In practice, this looks like a website that has user accounts. For example, where someone is able to log in and see content that’s specific to their account. Instead of hard-coding several pages for each user and having to update each page every time you want to make even the tiniest of changes, you can use a database.
All the unique user-specific data would be saved to the site’s database. The rest of the data that rarely changes can be placed in a regular file on your server.
When the file loads to display the page, a call is sent to the database asking for only the data needed for the specific user, then displays that on the page. Databases save a lot of time and resources in this way.
This isn’t the only method you can use a database, either. You can store any data that doesn’t always need to be displayed or data that’s displayed based on what the user chooses.
But, do you need a database for your website?
You do if you want to store data for retrieval later, but also want to be able to dynamically edit or display them, as previously mentioned.
This includes the following types of data:
- User profile details
- User credentials
- eCommerce orders
- eCommerce products
- Blog posts
- Blog post categories
- Page and blog post archives
- Form submissions
- Downloadable files
- Many more types of data
There are also different types of databases to choose from including MySQL, MariaDB, Redis, Amazon DynamoDb, Amazon SimpleDB, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, and others. They all include different features so if you want to use a database, check them out to see which one’s a good fit.
Every web hosting service won’t necessarily have all of these options so be sure to note this when you’re looking for the best web host.
7. Programs, Scripts, and Versions
Beyond all the requirements above, it’s also essential to think about what programs or scripts you want to use and what versions you need. Some of them are also dependent on other software or scripts to run so keep that in mind as well.
Examples of typical programs and scripts you may need include:
- PHP version 7
- MySQL version 5+
- WordPress version 5+
- MediaWiki or other online learning platforms
- Third-party APIs
- eCommerce program
- Security programs and scripts
There are other necessary security measures to take into account such as installing an SSL certificate and a server-level firewall if your web hosting company doesn’t provide it with unmanaged, dedicated servers.
There also may be other programs or scripts that you need, this is just a short list to get you thinking about the specifics.
8. Other Factors
The above mentioned requirements are not the only ones worth considering in the best web hosting service. There may be other important things that you may need as well such as:
- Shared or dedicated IP addresses
- Root access
- SSH support
- SFTP access
- Other requirements
What Type of Server is Best?
Once you have a good idea of what you need so you can choose between web hosting services, it’s time to decide on the type of server you want.
There are four main types of servers: shared, VPS, dedicated, and cloud.
In a nutshell:
- Shared hosting is a web hosting company that splits one server into smaller segments so many users can host their website on the one server.
- A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is similar, except a lot fewer users are allotted to the same server so you get a lot more resources. It’s also considered more secure because there are fewer people using it.
- A dedicated server is one server that only you get access to use for your website.
- Cloud hosting refers to sites hosted on a virtual server. It’s different from the servers above because a virtual server is actually a cluster of servers that can dynamically offer resources on-demand. That way, you won’t have to worry as much about your website not being available because your resources run out. There are other servers in the network that can carry the load.
Different web hosting services include one or more of these options so it’s important to know which one you need. You also need to consider if you need managed hosting. These are web hosting services that take care of most or all of your server’s maintenance and upkeep.
Best Features of the Best Web Hosting Services
Now that you have a better idea of what you need in a web hosting service, here are the top features that make for the best web hosting service.
Uptime is the percentage of time that your website is available to visit. The higher the percentage, the better.
The best web hosting services can guarantee high uptimes because their servers are efficient and reliable.
Keep in mind that the uptime guarantee that a lot of web hosting services offer is only typically available to users who don’t exceed their hosting plan’s resources. Each web hosting company is different so be sure to check the fine print for details.
2. Available Server Locations
You can often pick where your server is located when you get set up with your web hosting company of choice. Your server’s location is important because users physically near it will have faster speeds than those located on the other side of the world.
This isn’t a big deal if you have a local audience and your server is located near you. But, it’s not so great for global audiences. In such cases, consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) which is a cluster of servers distributed around the world that can all display your site for faster speeds no matter where your visitors live.
Each web hosting company is different so be sure you pick the best web hosting service that has the server location you want.
A backup is a copy of your website that is stored safely. If your website erupts in errors, you can restore your site using a backup, rather than being forced to redo your entire site.
The best web hosting services offer regularly scheduled and automatic server backups. The best web host will also include your website in the backup as well, though, sometimes this is only offered in managed web hosting services.
The web hosting company you choose should also make it effortless to recover your server. This is equally as essential as being able to back up your site because, well, why back up your site in case of emergency if you can’t even use it when you need it, right?
4. Server Security and Compatibility
Your choice for the best web hosting service should also offer servers that are secure. This means implementing various security measures such as a server-level firewall, encryption, and other security tactics.
Your server should also be compatible with all the programs and scripts you want to run. Otherwise, your website could be error-prone and possibly also vulnerable to hackers.
5. Speed and Optimization
When it comes to the best hosting services for your website, speed refers to how fast your site loads for users.
As previously mentioned, this has a lot to do with RAM, but also optimization. Your web hosting service should automatically include and execute optimizations like various forms of server-level caching.
In short, caching means saving website data to memory so it can be quickly retrieved on subsequent page loads.
This will ultimately help speed up your site, which offers a better user experience.
6. Monitoring, Stability, and Scaling
Great web hosting services should monitor your server for uptime so if it’s down, it can attempt an auto-restart either your server or the services and optimization programs it offers. This adds to the overall stability of the best web hosting company or web hosting service plan.
When a web hosting service provider is stable, it means your website is developed on a well-built and well-maintained server. This entails updates to core programs, support, and updates for coding languages, hardware and software optimization, and proper maintenance practices.
This helps ensure that your website can be reliable and consistently available to your visitors.
What may also be important for you is the options available to easily scale your site for growth. This can mean the ability to easily upgrade your web hosting service plan as your site grows and needs more resources.
What this also means is that you shouldn’t have to start out on the largest plan that’s offered by the web hosting services you’re considering. Or, this could also mean you should be able to adjust your bandwidth allotment, as needed.
Some niche web hosting services may also offer other options as well that help you scale your website more efficiently.
7. Software Improvements
The best web host should strive to use up-to-date technology both in the software versions and as well in relevant future upgrades.
If the web hosting services you’re considering haven’t kept up-to-date for years, then they’re not the best web host and you’ll want to go with a different web hosting company.
A Domain Name System (DNS) is a protocol that pairs a domain name to a server’s IP address so a website can be displayed.
Your website is primarily accessible through an IP address, which is a unique series of numbers and periods that identify a server and the website on the server. It’s like a website’s home phone number.
But, those numbers can be difficult to remember and clunky to type so domain names are used instead, for example, hostingfacts.com. They’re like speed dial, but for a website.
A DNS is what connects the domain name to the correct IP address so your website can be visited without typing in a long, complex series of numbers.
Most web hosting services will include these in their hosting packages. However, you may not necessarily want to host your DNS in the same place where you host your site.
For small to medium-sized websites, it’s usually fine. But, for large, enterprise sites or certain other sites, this can quickly become a hassle. If your web hosting service or server has issues, you won’t have access to your DNS, either.
This means you can’t quickly update your DNS so your site, email, or similar content points to a different page or server while you troubleshoot and resolve issues. Your website won’t be available to your users until the web hosting company fixes the problem.
You can also consider using a CDN. This can help as well if you don’t want to host your DNS separately from your website.
9. Technical Support
The best web host should have top-notch technical support. The reason being is that if you have issues with your website or server, you ideally would want helpful experts around that can quickly resolve the problem.
This doesn’t just have to include fast turnaround times and quick replies.
It can also include:
- Live chat instead of a ticketing system or email-based service
- Knowledgebase filled with well-written documentation
- Helpful tooltips that are available throughout the site for quick explanations
- Customer and billing support so you don’t have to worry about your site going down due to your credit card expired or something similar
- A lot of self-serve options so you can update a lot of settings on your own such as billing details, upgrading your hosting plan, changing passwords, and more
You can test the level of support offered by the best web hosting services on your own, but be aware that pre-sales customer support can sometimes be so much better than the support you’ll get after signing up.
Try to find reliable reviews to help you determine which of the best web hosting services have reliable support.
10. Other Useful Features
You may also need other features that the best web hosting services typically include such as email, domain hosting, control panel, and similar options.
Keep in mind these aren’t always necessarily free and built-in. Sometimes, it may not be a good idea to host your website in the same place as you get your domains and email. The reason being that if your web hosting service or server has issues, your credit card expired or failed, you may lose access to all of these.
So, be sure to consider this before going all-in for all these additional features.
Beyond that, there may be other useful features worth considering like for example, migration services, or the option to install scripts and programs in one-click. You may need this if you’re not familiar with the install process or want to streamline your workflow.
Beware of Empty Promises in a Web Hosting Company
No matter which best web host you go with, be wary of the language they use in their marketing. Some offer “unlimited” resources or a 100% uptime guarantee, but this is impossible.
No matter the server type or which of the best web hosting plans you choose, there’s always going to be a limit to how much the physical server can handle. Just like your computer, there’s a limit on how much you can store on it and how fast it can run.
If you read the fine print, it usually says there’s a cap, but it’s usually enough resources for typical users. Many web hosting services don’t provide hard numbers and are vague. So, be extra vigilant because, at any moment, even the best web host with the best web hosting plan could decide you’re no longer a typical user and limit your resources.
Most options for the best web host guarantee 99.9% uptime, which is practically 100% so be sure to verify if this is actually true.
It may help to look at reviews for the best web host and best web hosting plans, but everyone’s needs are different so experiences may vary as well as levels of honesty.
Try to find case studies or reviews that give hard data and do what you can to do thorough research on the web hosting company’s reputation. This will help you narrow down your options to find the best web host and best web hosting plan for your website.
To Sum Up
By now, you have a better understanding of what your needs are and what to look for when searching for the best web host and the best web hosting plan.
Here are some additional resources you can check out:
- Top Cheap and Best Web Hosts (Top 7)
- 7 Free and Best Web Hosting Sites (2020)
- Best Managed WordPress Hosting Services
- Best Web Hosting (2020)
What are your picks for the best web hosting services? What features are most important to you when looking for a web hosting company or the best web hosting service? Do you think you found the best web host for you? Share your experience in the comments below.