How to choose the best web host?

Updated: August 2020

You start a blog and put hard work into blogging. Soon you find that you need more web resources - space, bandwidth, security - and you look for a web host better than the one you have. 

This happens often with the blogger buys a basic web hosting plan and the blog grows faster than the blogger's expectations. 

Not much is lost if you face this issue. Most web hosts these days are glad to upgrade the hosting plan for a fee, especially for cloud-based hosting plans. Yet, it is better to try projecting the blog's requirements for at least 2-3 years. 

Choosing the right web host

Consider various factors that are relevant for your website/ blog, and then 
pick the web host that suits your needs. I discuss below some key points that many bloggers miss while looking at the numbers flaunted by web hosting companies to lure customers.

What makes a good web host? A big name is no guarantee but it helps.

Generally speaking, big web hosting companies maintain a minimum acceptable standard of resources and services. Though many users complain on web hosting forums, that big web hosts don't bother about small bloggers/ website owners, I still feel that they are much better than the one offering you a re-seller plan at half the cost offered by the big company.

Choose the right web hosting plan: shared hosting is usually the best for bloggers.

There are numerous web hosting options available in the market. Some common ones are: 

Shared web hosting 

In this type of web hosting, a server is shared by many users, and this option itself has many variations. This is good for users who don't want to spend a lot of money on web hosting plans and don't mind some of the traffic and data transfer limitations of the shared plan. 

VPS hosting 

This gives the user an independent virtual space on the web hosting server. This plan is great for businesses that want more power than shared hosting, but don't want to deal with dedicated hosting's prices. 

Dedicated hosting

This web hosting plan is both powerful and pricey; it is reserved for sites that experience incredibly high levels of traffic per day - bloggers and small businesses do not need this type of web hosting plan.

Managed WordPress hosting 

This web hosting plan is for those who want to build their sites on the back of the popular WordPress content management system (CMS), but don't want to bother with a lot of the back-end stuff (such as updating the apps and CMS, and enabling automatic backups). The web hosting company provides the necessary technical support.

Cloud hosting

In this type of web hosting, you pay for only as many resources as you use but is at present more expensive than shared web hosting. In fact, most big web hosting companies now provide cloud-based web hosting for all types of plans.

Small businesses and bloggers can run their websites for a long time on a cloud-based shared web hosting plan - and being on the cloud, they can ask for bigger resources if they need in the future. This is the plan you should look for.

There can be a catch in any type of shared web hosting plan that you choose: some web hosts start charging exorbitantly once you upgrade; some companies are not discreet and allow shady websites that can hurt the entire server; some have too many websites sharing the server, so when the traffic in some of them spikes, other sites are badly affected. 

Therefore, look for reviews of shared web hosting plans offered by different companies. Again, big companies with high reputation are less likely to be indiscreet.

There are numerous websites telling you which website hosts and which of their plans are the best. Some bloggers on web hosting recommend a specific web host. I can't dispute their reviews and recommendations but caution you that in many cases, such reviews and recommendations are colored; they have some commercial relationship with the web host they recommend 

When choosing a web hosting service, check server location

In olden times, you could buy hosting plans from 
only one location where the server of the web host was located. Now, most big guys have servers in many countries, at least one in each continent (except Antarctica, of course) - and they direct visitors to their country's office. 

For example, if you are not located in the US and click on a link on a web host's advertisement appearing while you read this article, there are chances that the advertisement takes you to the web host's site meant for your country, and the rates might be better than what are seen on the ad. But if it takes you to the US or Germany while you are in South Africa or New Zealand, and visitors are also located near you, the distant location of the server will be an issue.

How to choose the best web host

Ideally, your web servers should be located near your audience so that the website/ blog opens fast. As site speed is a positive SEO signal, this also helps in search engine optimization of the website. In most cases, it is also more cost-effective to buy from a server in your location; it might also give you better customer service and in your native language. 

But be doubly sure that the local guys are as good as the main web hosting company. Check online forums and review sites, make local inquiries and also call them up. Why I emphasize this is because I have seen many reports that some hosts have unreliable franchisees or inefficient local units outside their headquarters.

Another advantage of big web hosting companies is that they offer cloud hosting. The server location would not be an issue as their servers near you will automatically host your blog.    

If your blog is on Wordpress, try for Wordpress specific plan. It will make your life easy.  

It is quite likely that your website/ blog is created on Wordpress. If so, you do not need a website builder if the web host is giving you the website builder at a cost
Small businesses and all bloggers will seldom need a website builder that has features beyond what Wordpress CMS can give. 

If your website has been built on a website creation software, e.g. Wix, Weebly or Joomla CMS, check whether the web hosting company gives you the required hand-holding support. It should not happen that you buy the plan and then realize that hosting the website/ blog is creating issues and there is nobody in the web hosting company to give the basic technical support you need.    

A good web host gives high site uptime, saves your data, robust security and SSL certificate - usually all free

All web hosting companies boast of a fantastic uptime, but many websites/ blogs suffer because web hosting companies do not abide by their commitment on uptime
This is one more reason I support big web hosting companies. Though there are reports of poor service when their servers sometimes go down or get slow, they still are the most reliable lot. Small, local, web hosts might have a problem here.  

Security of the website is very important. That includes server security, secure connections, security certification, and data backup and recovery. Your website/ blog is at serious risk if the web hosting company does not care for these. Some web hosting companies do not provide SSL certification (HTTPS layer protection to the website/ blog) or charge for that; some do not back up your website/ blog in cheap shared web hosting plans. Do not compromise on your website's security even if you have to pay a higher sum for this. 

Choosing the right web host and plan: the final word

Do not go by the fancy 'star' ratings or '4.5 out of 5' type ratings given by review sites. They usually do it for monetary consideration. Even 
comments on review sites and forums may be manipulated. That is a reason I suggested above that you choose from one of the top web hosting companies operating in your country and then go for the best plan that suits your requirements and your budget. When analyzing your requirements, think of at least 2-3 years from now.


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