Picking a web host can be like buying a house, you want to find a nice place for your data to live. Your blog is special to you, and the thought of having the server where your data lives come crashing down can be petrifying. Don’t let the fear paralyze you. Once you’ve decided you want to rent server space to host your own blog, here are seven things to look for when choosing a vendor.
How much space will you need? A family of four needs a bigger place than a single college student, and the same concept applies to web servers. If you’re starting a video blog, you’ll probably need a lot of space. If your site will mostly contain text with only the occasional images, you won’t need as much. Most starter hosting plans offer up to at least 1 gigabyte of storage space, which is enough for most bloggers.
Bandwidth refers to the amount of data your site transfers every month. If your home page has a 500kb of images and 20kb of text, every time someone visits your site the server hands their computer 520kb of data. Why does this cost you money? Think of you server like you do a server in a restaurant, every time they serve you a meal they earn a tip. The server has to work to hand out your site’s data. If your site is super busy, the host is going to want more money to handle the demand, just as a waiter who works a lot of tables gets a lot of tips.
Most starter plans give you ate least 10 or 20 gigabytes of bandwidth every month, which is more than enough for most amateur or beginner sites. If your site is already hosted elsewhere, you can look at your server stats to determine how much bandwidth you’ve used each month. It is important to choose a host that will let you easily upgrade to a plan with more bandwidth if needed. You should also find out what a host’s policy is if you go over the bandwidth limits. Some hosts will cut off your site for the rest of the month and other’s will start charging you extra fees.
Be wary of any site that claims to offer unlimited bandwidth. This is a lie. These sites sell shared hosting, which means you are sharing space on a certain machine with several other customers. If your site takes up a lot of bandwidth and makes the other customer’s sites run slowly, the hosting company will usually demand you upgrade to another, more expensive plan.
A blog is a dynamic beast, constantly updated not only by you but by your readers who leave comments. No hosting company is impervious to server problems. Find out if the hosting company makes regularly scheduled backups of your site. Some companies don’t make any, whereas others will make one daily, weekly or monthly. Once you’ve signed up for hosting, you should also learn how to manually download a backup just to be on the safe side. You’ll be happy you have it if your site is ever hacked by Russians.
You’re not a web wizard, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article. The time will come when you need help. Is the hosting company available to answer your questions 24 hours a day? Will they be able to fix a problem if your site crashes at one o’clock in the morning. Are they polite? Most hosting companies have forums or support ticket systems, and some offer live chat services with representatives. Make sure the level of customer support meets your expectations.
No hosting company can guarantee that your site will be up 100% of the time. Sometimes administrators need to reboot the server, just like any computer, if they’re fixing a problem or upgrading software on the machine. However, your site should be up at least 98% of the time. You can check the uptime of a host company by visiting FindMyHosting.com, clicking on the host, and then clicking on the graph icon that says “Reliability.” If your host has a lot of downtime, you might want to reconsider signing with them.
As someone who works on lots of different sites, I prefer that web hosts use popular and commonly used web programs for server management. cPanel is a leading program that lets you manage basically everything from your blog to email to databases and more. Check to see what kind of control panel your hosting company uses, or if they have one at all. This can make the life of your web designer a lot easier or harder.
Some hosts offer a low rate, as little as $3 or $4 a month, however to get this rate you have to sign up for multiple years in advance, like a cell phone company that gives you a free phone if you commit to contract. I prefer to have the option to leave my host at any time in case their service starts to suffer. Check to see if you can pay month-to-month or if you have to pay annually.
Your project might require specific resources like a programming language or the ability to host many domains on the same site. Look over all the features offered in a hosting plan and make sure the hosting company is offering everything you’ll need.
It’s important to remember that there is no real “best” host, but some hosts are better than others. No one company is perfect, but if you pay attention to these eight items when choosing your vendor, your data will be living happily on a nice server in a good neighborhood for a long time.