Types of web hosting and how to choose a web host that is best for your website?

You start a blog and put hard work on 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 when the blogger buys a free or cheap 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 web hosting plan that is best for your website or blog

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.

Note that most big web hosting companies have many plans, starting from cheap to very expensive ones, and their level of services may depend upon the money you pay for web hosting.

In web hosting business, 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, going by my own experience and what I have seen on web hosting forums and chat groups, they are usually better than the web hosts offering you a re-seller plan at half the cost offered by the big company.

web hosting services

Different web hosting plans

Choose the web hosting plan after proper scrutiny of the web hosting services available in your area. Among plans, shared hosting is usually the best for bloggers and small website owners. These days, cloud based shared web hosting is very popular as it has the good points of both, the cloud hosting and shared hosting.

Let us discuss in brief different types of web hosting services/ plans. The following list is generic; different web hosts have their own plans, sometimes with features taken from more than one type of web hosting. 

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 traffic and data transfer limitations of the shared plan. 

Reseller web hosting

This is perhaps the cheapest web hosting solution but I will not recommend it. In this type of web hosting, someone buys a bulky web hosting plan from a big company and then sells its resources in retail to others. In most cases, it fails on most parameters listed later in this article.

VPS web 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 the much more costly dedicated web hosting. 

Dedicated web 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 web hosting

In this type of web hosting, you pay for only as much resources 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.

Cloud based shared web hosting is often the best web hosting plan for small businesses and bloggers whose business is growing. Being on the cloud, they can ask for bigger resources if they need in future. 

There can be a catch in any type of shared web hosting plan that you choose. The most basic shared web hosting plans are cheap but some web hosts start charging exorbitantly once you upgrade. Some companies are not discreet and allow all types of shady websites in their servers. If they do something fishy, that can hurt other websites/ blogs hosted on the same server. Some web hosting services carry too many websites on a single server, so when the traffic in some of them spikes, other sites are badly impacted.

Free web hosting

I will not recommend this type of web hosting for a professional/ business blog or website. If you are still interested, I have dealt with free web hosting in a separate article linked here.

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 - usually the US or Europe. 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 server will be an issue. 

Other things being equal, go for a web hosting service available on a near-by server. 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.

In case you have shotlisted local service of an international web host, be doubly sure that the local web hosting provider is 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 sometimes big web hosts have unreliable franchisees or inefficient local units, especially in developing countries.

Web hosting review sites: should you trust them?

You will not be changing your blog/ website's web host again and again. Therefore, you should chose the best web hosting service that you can choose. Review and comparison sites can give important inputs for taking the decision. 

There are numerous websites that do web hosting comparison. You just have to use this expression on the searchbox and you will get a hundred. In addition, many blogs that deal with web hosting recommend a specific web host. I can't dispute the comparisons, reviews and recommendations but caution you that in many cases, these are colored; they have some commercial relationship with the web host they recommend. 

Do not go by the fancy 'star' ratings or '4.5 out of 5' type ratings given by review sites. They might do the ranking for a monetary consideration. Even comments on review sites and forums may be manipulated. 

How to compare different web hosting plans

There are many things you should look for in your web host and his web hosting plan. Based on your present and future requirement, you should go for a fairly good level so that you do not run out of them and pay heavily for upgradation.

Space is important. If you go for a small space, you will need to upgrade soon. If you will host losts of videos, the space will run out soon. Cloud based web hosting plans with automotic upgrades are good if you are likely to grow fast. 

Bandwidth is equally important. Low bandwidth means your site will hang when a large number of people visit your website simultaneously. Espceially if your website has some server-end calculation feature, the impact will be more. The same might happen if you have heavy resources that people will download.

Uptime. This is the time out of 100, for which your website will be available to visitors. Even the smallest web hosting services these days claim to have uptime of 99.9%. But this much uptime means, the site is likely to be down for 0.1 hour out of 100 hours or 10 minutes in a week. That may not be good for your site, so go for a higher number such as 99.9995.

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.  

Data backup. Does your web host back up your data regularly and provide the same to you?

Website security. Your website must have a basic level of security so that your data is not leaked and the users do not get 'insecure website' warning on their browsers. See whether the web hosting provider that you are selecting give you a free SSL certification? If not, how much does he charge you for a basic level of SSL security? Will he keep charging you year after year for that?

Control panels. The web host must equip you with control panels so that you can monitor the resources and perform some tasks to keep your website in good health. Not all web hosting providers are not equal in this. 

Hand-holding for setting up the website. 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 blog is on Wordpress, try for Wordpress specific plan. It will make your life easy. 

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. 

Some web hosts have their own website-building software. That helps as it would be optimized for their resources, but it should not be poor in features as compared to Wordpress etc. If you want to open a simple personal website, perhaps you can consider this.  

Continued support. Some franchises and almost all resellers fail in this respect. However, even the big brands are known to be less responsive to small customers. Local search on the web and social media can help in a big way because people tend to share their negative experiences on the social media.

How to choose the right web host and plan: the final word

New bloggers and website owners often confuse whether to first see sites doing web hosting comparison or go by the brand name or look for inexpensive ones and then choose the best among them.

I will suggest the following sequence:
  1. Consider your present requiement and what will it be 2-3 years from now.
  2. Which plan you should go for: it will mostly be shared web hosting or shared cloud hosting. Decide what is the minimum level of hand-holding support, space, uptime, bandwidth, security, service level below which you will not go. Do you have the blog or website built on Wordpress or other website builder or CMS?
  3. What are the web hosting companies operating locally in my country (or city). Check on Google.
  4. What is the market reputation of the ones available locally: look at Google search, social media, forums, etc.
  5. If there is none available locally, go for international brands. Choose the web hosting provider that has a server near your client base. If none, go for any brand, but shortlist the best based on other factors.
  6. When you have shortlisted a few, see their plans and compare them. 
  7. Go to sites that do web hosting comparison. Do they help or confuse? If they do not help, leave out their inputs. 
  8. Finally compare web hosting plans of the best short-listed web hosts, for all parameters and cost. 


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