Reliable and high-performing web hosting is a crucial part of any successful website. When you’re thinking about building a new website, your choice of host is probably one of the last things on your mind. But, neglecting to choose the right host can have disastrous effects on your website—and your business.

With so many choices it’s easy to simply opt for the cheapest option. However, web hosting should be seen as an investment in your business. Think of your host as the foundation of your site. You wouldn’t build a home on a shaky foundation, and neither should you build a website with a low-quality host behind you.

Below you’ll learn how web hosting works, what to look for in a quality host, and finally, why web hosting is important for your site.

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What is Web Hosting?

If this is your first time building a website, then you might not know what web hosting actually is. Here’s a quick breakdown.

When you create a website, you essentially create a bunch of different files. These files need to be stored somewhere in order to be accessible on the Internet. You pay a hosting provider to “host” these files for you on one of their servers. This is the monthly fee that you’ll pay to a hosting company.

Hosting companies have collections of servers also known as datacenters. Beyond the servers, there are a lot of additional elements like backup power supplies, network connection equipment, security measures, air conditioning systems, and a lot more.

Best of all, when you host your files on a hosting company’s web server they’re available 24/7, so your website will always be accessible on the web.

Your web host is also responsible for things like server maintenance, keeping the software and hardware up to date, troubleshooting, and more. As you can see, there’s a huge operation behind getting your website online.

What to Look for in a Web Host

Now that you know what a website hosting service is, let’s examine what you should look for in a web host. There are virtually hundreds of hosting companies out there, and a variety of hosting types like shared, WordPress and Dedicated Server Hosting and you definitely don’t want to choose one at random.

Here are the benefits of using web hosting:

1. High Reliability and Uptime

Reliability and server uptime refers to how often your website will be available online. Most hosts stick to the rule of 99.9% uptime. This leaves room for any necessary server maintenance that might temporarily bring your site offline. Some hosting companies will even reimburse you for any time that’s over their guaranteed uptime.

Before you decide on a web hosting service provider make sure to verify their uptime policy and if they offer any sort of uptime guarantee. After all, there’s no point in building a website if it’s going to be offline when you need it the most.

2. Bandwidth and Storage

Bandwidth translates to the amount of traffic and number of page views your website can handle every single month. It’s becoming common practice to offer unlimited bandwidth. However, there’s a chance this could get throttled down, or your site could go offline if you’re experiencing a massive traffic surge—such as during a holiday sale or if one of your blog posts just went viral.

If you’re on a shared hosting plan that offers unlimited bandwidth, keep in mind that unlimited might not really mean unlimited. Generally speaking, a site on a basic shared hosting plan can handle up to 30,000 visitors per month before you’ll notice that your loading speeds start to increase and your site performance starts to drop. However, if you’re at that level you can probably afford to upgrade to a better hosting package.

The other consideration is storage. The limits for storage vary widely across hosting companies and platforms. However, unless you’re storing videos, collecting and storing user data, or a ton of media content, you can probably get away with using minimum levels of storage.  

3. Solid Customer Support

Customer support is something you really don’t think about until it’s too late. For some reason, your website is offline and no matter what you do you can’t it back online. You’ve tried contacting your hosting company’s support team and they’re non-responsive. Plus, you’ve got a big launch the next day. That scenario doesn’t sound fun for anyone.

For this reason, you’ll want to test support yourself before selecting your hosting provider. Submit a question or two and ensure their methods of support work for you. For example, some companies only offer email support with a ticketing system, while others include live chat and phone support.

Lastly, a solid host will have an educational blog, along with a resource library, that should be able to help you work through any issues you may be experiencing.

4. Domain Management Tools

When you first purchased hosting you probably only needed a single site. But, as your site grows, you may need to  register more domains or set up subdomains for your existing domain.

Your host should be equipped with tools, such as cPanel, which allow for easy domain management.

Plus, when you’re purchasing hosting look for the ability to add multiple domains to a single hosting account. Some hosting providers will limit you at a single domain depending on your hosting package. However, it’s usually a wise decision to select a hosting package that allows for unlimited, or at the very least, multiple domains.

5. Clear Pricing

Hosting price increases are pretty common practice—unless you end up purchasing hosting for multiple years at a time.

Price variances will happen, but they shouldn’t come as a shock. Make sure you select a hosting company that has clear pricing terms, so you know if and when a price increase is going to happen.

6. Ability to Scale

Finally, you’ll want to look for a host that can grow with you. Hopefully, your site won’t stay the same size for its entire life. If you’re starting a site, then you probably want it to be a success. Usually, this means more traffic.

Over time, what you require from a host will change. If you started with a basic shared hosting plan, then you might eventually need to upgrade to cloud hosting, or you may need web hosting for your WordPress site.  

When choosing a host make sure they offer scalable packages, or the ability to upgrade to a different hosting plan in time. You always have the option of migrating hosting providers, but it’s often much easier to find a host that you can stick with for the long-term.

Why Choosing the Right Web Host is Important

Your choice of host will influence the overall success of your website. It might not seem like a big deal, but choosing a low-quality host can harm your site in a variety of ways.

Here are some of the biggest influences your web hosting provider will have on your site:

1. Your Security Is on the Line

Website security is easy to overlook, and usually something we only think about once it’s too late. But, just like you buy alarm systems for your home or insurance in case of an accident, you’ll want to invest in proper security measures before anything bad happens.

There isn’t a completely fail-safe solution for keeping your website secure. However, there are steps you can take to build a wall around your website, like firewalls, security plugins, keeping your site software up to date, and more.

But, none of this will matter if your host doesn’t prioritize security. It’s like having the world’s best security system for your home, but then you leave the front and back doors wide open.

A high-quality host will have things in place, like regular website backups, firewalls, and other methods to not only protect the web server but the datacenter as a whole.

2. You’ll Want Support for When Things Break

Having your site go offline, or stop working altogether is no fun. Sometimes this is due to an error of your own, such as editing your site’s code and taking it offline. But, on occasion, this can be due to your host as well.

Whenever an issue like this arises you’ll want to have a dedicated support team behind you. Trying to resolve site issues yourself can be quite the hassle. Especially if you don’t have any technical skills to rely upon.

Think of the support team like the lighthouse on a dark night. Helping bring your site back to its fully-functional state.

3. You’ll Minimize the Loss of Sales

If you rely on your website to generate leads, or you’re selling products, then every minute your site is offline, it’s costing you money. There are a variety of reasons your site can go offline.

However, your host does have an impact on this with something called uptime. Uptime is how often you can expect your site to online. Most hosts have an uptime guarantee of 99.9%, which means your site should be online 99.9% of the time.

If you constantly find your site offline, due to no error on your own, then it might be time to upgrade to a better hosting package, or even switch hosts entirely.

4. You’ll Boost Site Performance and SEO

Your site’s loading speeds and overall performance have a correlation to your search engine rankings. If your site takes too long to load, then you’ll have a high bounce rate, and deliver a poor user experience to your visitors.

Sometimes this is due to your own site. For example, you might be using a poorly coded theme, or have too many plugins installed. However, a lot of times it can be the fault of your host as well.

If you’ve taken the time to optimize your own site, and still find that it’s running incredibly slow, then it’s probably time to switch hosts. There is the case that your site could simply be getting too much traffic for your current hosting package, but if this is consistent you’ll usually get an email from your host talking about an upgrade.

5. Your Site Content Will Be Secured

It’s unfortunate, but file loss does happen. Maybe you decided to host your site with a brand new host who ends up going out of business? Or maybe the host’s backup protocols failed and all of your site’s backups are lost.

This is one of the big advantages of choosing an established host, as you know that this will never happen. Sure, you might be able to save money up front by going with a new host, or one with a less established track record, but you might be hurting yourself in the long run.

Always consider the trustworthiness of a host when making your decision.

Closing Thoughts

As you can see, the decision to invest in hosting matters more than you might think. Instead of jumping at the cheapest deal, or the first host you come across, spend some time researching all of the web hosting options you have available.

You can always upgrade to a new host in time, but it’s always easier to make the best decision the first time around. It’s easier to find a host that can scale with you over the long-term instead of having to switch providers and migrate your entire site every time your site grows.

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of why you need web hosting, what to look for from your hosting company, and you’re on your way towards choosing the best web host for your needs.

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.