How do I pick the right web hosting?

You may spend thousands of pounds and many hours on building the right website, but where you choose to serve that site from can have a big impact on running costs and performance. This article gives you some pointers to consider when picking the right hosting environment and host, but it’s only a guide. If you’d like to discuss your individual website, get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.

What is web hosting?

Put simply, web hosting is a service which makes your website available on the internet. You could store your website on your office computer if you wanted to, and it would run perfectly find on that local server environment, but no one else would be able to access it. That’s why we upload to a specialist host, who has servers in data centres specifcally for the purpose of serving out our pages to anyone with the correct address.

What are the different types of web hosting?

The four main types of web hosting are shared, VPS, dedicated, and cloud.

Shared hosting

As the name suggests, you share a server with lots of other websites. Shared hosting is widely used because the majority of sites don’t warrant their own server and would only use a fraction of its resources. By sharing a server, site owners can keep their costs down.

Within shared hosting, quality varies widely depending on factors such as the number of sites using the server and the resources allocated to each hosting account. It’s a fantastic value option for most entry-level websites, so long as you are discerning about your host and the package you opt for.

VPS (Virtual Private Server)

One step up from shared hosting, if you have a VPS you’ll still be sharing a server, but the number of sites will be greatly reduced. The server is split into a number of virtual compartments, hence the name, and you’ll have more control over resources.


Having a sever to yourself means you get all the resources, but that you’ll have to pay for them.

Cloud hosting

Unlike all the other options, cloud hosting doesn’t make use of a single server, but instead a network of virtual and physical servers. This makes it flexible and easy to scale, because more resources can be allocated when needed.

Which is right for my website?

Most small business websites are hosted on shared hosting accounts, because their needs are modest and there is little advantage in paying more when you’ll only use a fraction of the available resources. However, if you run multiple websites, expect a lot of traffic, or have a resource hogging site, you may want to consider paying more for a VPS, dedicated or cloud hosting account.

Once I know which hosting type I want, does it matter which provider I go with?

When buying anything, there are going to be grades of quality from service to service. Hosting is no exception. A few factors to consider when picking a provider and package are:

  • Not necessarily who is the cheapest, but who is best value for what they’re offering.
  • Especially within shared hosting packages, quality of hardware and the number of sites using each server will vary massively. This is important, because how fast your website loads is directly impacted and can affect user experience and search engine rankings. You can build the fastest site in the world but if you put it on a sluggish server, it’s all for nothing.
  • This is about the volume of data your account will process. If you expect only a few dozen visits a day, viewing simple pages and filling in a contact form, you will require far less than a site serving out lots of media files to thousands of visitors.
  • This seems an obvious one, but check how much storage space your website is going to take up and make sure you have enough, with room to grow as you expand.
  • Check what measures are in place to protect your account from cyberattacks.
  • Will your hosting account be automatically backed up at server level? Will you have the ability to take your own backups easily? Whilst backups may seem like an afterthought, they won’t be if you ever experience a major issue.
  • Does your account come with an SSL certificate? And if not, are you allowed to install your own? Especially with the cheaper shared hosting accounts, you may be forced to pay for this as an extra and be tied to using their services.

If in doubt, seek advice from your web designer. However, be cautious about letting them set up an account for you. Any account you have with a host should ideally be in your own name, and not owned by a third party. Otherwise you can have problems if you need to request support, move your site elsewhere, or make amendments.

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