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Choosing a Web Host

Selecting a web host is a key step in making your website a success. A web host determines your site’s performance, security, and reliability. This guide is to inform you of your options and to help you choose the best option for your site.

What Is a Web Host?

Every website requires the implementation of specific protocols and services in order to be found on the Internet. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about all the nitty-gritty that goes into this implementation. Instead, we rely on a web host to provide these technologies and services.

When Internet users search for your website in their browser, their computer will connect with your web host and ask to see your website. The host will respond (with a heck yes!) and return your website to the user’s browser.

What Makes a Good Host?

Because a web host is so important to the success of your website, there are many factors to consider before choosing one. It is highly recommended to consult an expert to help you choose. The following are some things to consider when making host decisions.

Rates

Finding a host that charges a reasonable price can be difficult if you are not an expert. It is a delicate balance between what your website requires and how much you can afford. Depending on the hosting plan, rates can range from being free (yes, it’s true) to several hundred dollars per month.

Also, hosts like to raise their renewal rates. They may advertise extremely low rates for the first year to get you to bite, but then, sometimes without warning, they raise their prices as you continue with their services.

It’s important to know that hosts will sometimes advertise certain features as being unlimited. For example, “We offer unlimited bandwidth, memory, and cpu resources.” If you select a shared hosting plan, this is not true. Your resources are most definitely limited, and hosts will make sure you upgrade hosting plans if you surpass their resource limits.

Uptime

It can be argued that the most important job of a host is to make sure your site is accessible to the world through the Internet. Unfortunately, some hosts struggle with this task more than others. When your site isn’t up, you are losing business. Therefore, it is recommended you find a host that has an uptime percentage of 99.0% or higher.

Developer Features

If you have a web developer or are one yourself, you may prefer certain features that web hosts provide. Some hosts try to be more user-friendly for non-technical website owners and will often limit your abilities to change server settings to prevent you from breaking things. On the flip side, some hosts give you complete control of the software installed and server settings.

As a web developer, I prefer hosts that allow a little more control on software and server settings. This way I don’t have to contact them to change things for me. However, for a person without experience, I recommend a host that limits the technical jargon and requires changes to be made through their customer support. It is a good idea to choose a host that allows more control if you plan on hiring a web developer to take care of host settings for you.

Customer Support

It is inevitable that you will need support from your host at one point or another. If you are unable to receive support in a timely manner from an expert, then you will become frustrated and may never resolve important issues your website is experiencing. Find a host with great customer support reviews. You will certainly be glad you did.

Technology

If your host doesn’t allow you to control the software on your server, please investigate the current software they support and have installed. Technology is moving quickly and not all hosts like to keep up. Hosts may be slow to update, which can negatively affect your site’s security and performance.

PHP 7

A quick note: For WordPress users, I highly recommend finding a host with at least PHP 7 installed. PHP is the programming language that WordPress is built in. PHP 7 came out in December 2015, so there is no reason a host shouldn’t have updated by now. With PHP 7 you will definitely see performance and security gains. Also, in the near future WordPress plugins and themes may not support earlier versions of PHP.

Free SSL with Let’s Encrypt

Securing your site is a must, and one way to do this is by activating an SSL certificate on your web host. Not only does SSL make your site more secure, but it also improves your site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Also, modern browsers will now warn users if your site is not secure with SSL, which can cause them to lose trust in your site and to stay away.

Luckily, not all SLL certificates cost money. Let’s Encrypt is a way to get a free SSL certificate. Not all hosts support Let’s Encrypt and may add an additional service charge to your hosting plan monthly expense. Not only does this increase your monthly bill, but it also contributes to the web becoming less safe for everyone.  How?  Because when website owners find out they have to pay for SSL to secure their site, they are discouraged from using SSL.  But there is a simple solution: Choose a host that supports Let’s Encrypt!  By doing so, you help make the web a more secure place for everyone.

Conclusion

Choosing a web host is extremely important. Either consult with an experienced developer or make sure to do some research before you choose.

Lee Stratman

Owner, Stratman Web Development

Lee Stratman is a Web Developer from Madison, WI. He helps small-to-medium-sized businesses build effective websites that utilize the popular content management system WordPress.

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