8 qualities you must look for when choosing a web host

This post has been updated as of October 2018.

All blogs - for that matter, all websites - need to be hosted on the web so that they can be accessed by people looking for that blog. When you create a blog on a free platform, the platform (e.g. Wordpress.com or Blogger or Tumblr) hosts it for you. But when you create a 'self-hosted' blog by using a website builder or blogging software (e.g. Wordpress or Joomla), you have to put it on a web host and pay to the hosting company for this purpose.

When the blog is hosted free, it has all types of limitations: how much you can post, how much bandwidth you get, what content you can post and what not, etc. But when you host it by paying to the web hosting company, you get what you pay for. So, these companies come with numerous plans - starting from a very inexpensive one but with not much space etc... to the most expensive one with which you can run an ecommerce site or a portal.

As a blogger, you must assess how much resources and services you want and then decide the web host and plan. This post would help you check the resources and service levels of the web hosts to make a good decision. You should not ignore this one-time exercise because a bad web host can ruin your blog's traffic and earning potential while a good one can enhance them manifold.
A large number of website hosts have come up in the recent years, some big and some small; some global and some local; some plain vanilla and some giving you so many frills. However, you need to check whether the host is giving you the following:

1. High uptime

The host must be running at all times, and its  servers MUST NOT be down except for a very short period in a year or so for maintenance. In general, the service must be on at least 98% of the time.Many hosts claim to give you 99% uptime; check user reviews to ensure what they claim is true.

2. Top security

The web host must have strong firewalls and protection against viruses, other malware, hacking and spam. It must back up data every day or every few hours. It must also give you alerts in case of any suspicious action in your account.

3. Sturdiness and speed

The host must have enough server and processing capacities, and bandwidth, so that the site does not crash or hang with heavy traffic. It must provide you enough speed, and even if your blog shares the host's bandwidth with other websites/ blogs, the speed given to you must be reasonable.

Web hosts have different plans for shared hosting (cheapest), virtual hosting and dedicated hosting (costliest) depending upon whether your blog/ website would be hosted on a server along with others or will have a separate hosting space. The more resources you demand, the costlier the packages are. In general, it is desirable to go for a package that gives you about 30-50% more than what you require right now.

4. Bundled software and ease of customization

Ideally, if you are a small blogger, you should look also for good, user friendly blogging software bundled with web hosting. This software should be such that you are able to make quite a few changes to your blog.

Some hosts provide a full website builder software, which a blogger may or may not need. In the case of most bloggers, it would be the ease of doing hosting rather than having to learn languages. So, if you have a free blog on Blogger or Wordpress, and you want to host it somewhere else, look for easy steps to transfer the existing blog

The website builder software lets you start the blog from scratch. It will, in most cases, come with hundreds of templates and some bundled stuff (banners, buttons, images, etc).

If you are hosting a website or blog with complex features (e.g. for e-commerce or with big databases), or you will have such features in future, explore these facilities in the packages offered by the web host.

5. Scalability

The host must give you the facility to expand in terms of space, processing, bandwidth. Most big hosts offer these; however, some might arm-twist you into buying a more expensive plan to get even slightly better services.

6. Claims and offers

Also look at individual host's claims on its own website. Some big hosts may be giving excellent service in one country but poor in other places. Look carefully at the demo and feature-list given on the website. Claims, guarantees and features are valuable pieces of information as these bind the company into delivering good services, but these may be exaggerated. Check reviews, from near-by users if possible.

7. Customer service and customer satisfaction
Please search the web for reviews on different hosts. Be careful about the genuineness of reviews. If you come across reports about nasty surprises, cheating, giving poor bandwidth and poor support, downgrade that web host.

The web host must offer all-time support through email, phone and online chat. Customer support also includes initial hand-holding and trouble-shooting. If  the web host’s website has video tutorials, that’s one step that the host has taken towards meeting customer needs.

8. Base price and freebies

Look for a web host that offers money back guarantee; however, this might be limited to certain months and may have strings attached.

Check carefully for details when a host offers bundled services or discounts. Freebies and frills look fine, but are they being served just to jack up the base price? Some hosts will offer you free email accounts, domain name registration and advertising credits. Do you really need them? And to what extent?

Keep the above in mind in choosing your blog host. In addition, go to reputed tech sites to get their views on different web hosts. Take a very well-informed decision, because this single decision may make the difference between a happy web hosting or a frustrating experience.

Look at this review of major web hosts to see how really do the biggest web hosting companies fare.

Some of our related posts on the subject are:

Giving your blog an independent domain name
Blog hosting on an independent server
Having a blog beyond Blogger and Wordpress