While I highly recommend choosing a Green Web Hosting Provider, because they are as reliable, fast and secure as the ones not using renewable energy, without raising the prices above average – let’s take a look at what is important when choosing a web host – any web host.
Web hosting makes it possible for us to make our websites accessible to all at all times. Theoretically we could create and save our websites on our own computers. Visitors could then visit our websites only when our computers are switched on and connected to the internet. Since that is not very practical, we rent disk space on a server that hosts our websites.
What is Web Hosting?
With a web host in place our websites can be reached at all times, plus it saves a lot of energy compared to keeping our individual computers on 24/7. In addition to that the provider makes sure, that your website is safe and loads quickly – or not.
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you will not be able to tell if you’re really getting a great deal, as the providers always claim, or just a cheap option that robs your website of its full potential.
What is important when choosing a provider?
The typical answer to this is: it depends. How many people do you want to reach, do you want to reach them locally or globally, how complex is your website? All this determines who is a good web hosting provider for you.
In my posts I focus on the experience I have from running my own business, but also on the experience I get from working with different clients.
There are a couple of things we all have in common: our target audience is close to us, either locally, if we run a shop, practice or studio or ideologically if we specialize in a certain topic or have found our very own niche in which we (plan to) strive.
But beyond that immediate reach we would also like to reach new audiences, tell more people about our work and the topics that move us. Does that sound familiar? Then this is for you.
Essential services your web host should offer:
- You will need a domain. The domain is the address of your website, the address under which visitors can find your website. You can register your domain separately from your web space, but in most cases it is easiest to register your domain through your web hosting provider. One or more domains are usually included with each web hosting package.
- When choosing a web hosting provider make sure to check in advance if the provider offers the ending (.net /.com /.eu /…) of your choice.
- When using WordPress and other Content Management Systems (CMS) you need to use a database which stores the data from your website. Usually this is a MySQL database.
Extra: If usage of more than one database is provided within your web hosting package, that means that you can host multiple sites simultaneously in one package.
- You will need PHP, which is a a server-side language and provides dynamic content through scripts. It’s included in all managed server packages. PHP makes sure that interactive functions such as comments and contact forms work on your website.
- You will also need SSL encryption, because it is required by the GDPR and most browsers won’t load your page without a warning if your page is not encrypted. This is to protect users and the data they may submit through your website. This is generally included in every web hosting package in 2020.
- Most websites are relatively small. 10GB of web space is more than you will ever need.
Tip: Big files such as videos should be stored on platforms that specialize in that form of content e.g. Vimeo or on cloud servers e.g. Nextcloud. Images should also be optimized so that they don’t slow down your site, which will happen when visitors have to load large image files.
- When someone visits your website, the data from your website is loaded onto your visitors device. This can add up to quite a lot – that is why traffic should be unlimited, or set high, so your website doesn’t break down when more people start visiting.
- Log Files will be generated automatically by your web server. This is to see who has visited your website and to protect your website from unsolicited visitors that might want to harm your and other websites.
- And you will also want to have your own email address(es). Email hosting is included in almost all web hosting packages. With this you can create emails for yourself and others (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org)
These are the essentials we need from a web hosting provider – no matter if your website is huge or small, how many people you (aim to) reach or where you are located.
This still leaves us with a huge amount of possible options, though. So let’s take a look at which offers we can rule out right away:
Which is the right service for you?
There are four different kinds of hosting services providers usually offer:
- Shared (Managed) Hosting
- Cloud Hosting
- VPS Hosting (also available in a managed version)
- Dedicated Server Hosting
Shared Hosting is what you will be looking for when you just start out. In this case several websites are hosted on the same server, which means the hosting is cheaper, you have full customer support, but you also share traffic with other websites. This means once you reach more than 20,000 visitors per month, you might want to think about an upgrade. It’s good to look in the beginning that upgrading is easy with the provider you choose.
Cloud Hosting means that your website is hosted in a cloud, on several servers simultaneously, so your website can get the resources it needs from the server that has availabilities. Not all providers offer this (yet.) With those that do prices are a bit higher than on a shared server, but this could definitely also be considered as an option, especially as you can add-on resources dynamically.
VPS is a Virtual Private Server. This means you have something like your own server, though not quite. It’s still cheaper than a dedicated server and gives you more capacities than a shared server, or cloud hosting, but you will have to expect to pay the equivalent of around € 70 for a managed VPS per month. Or you can get your own VPS and run it yourself, which means you will need somebody to put in the extra work to update and keep the virtual server running and safe.
With Dedicated Hosting your website has it’s own server but this comes at a much higher price, and will often mean you have to do the work of managing the server. If you have several thousand visitors a day, you will need this. By then, you should also be able to pay one or two people to maintain the server for you.
To sum it up: If you want a website, you need a web hosting provider which offers the above. Until you’ve reached the limit of around 20.000 visitors per month, you will be looking for web hosting providers which offer shared or cloud hosting, with an option to upgrade.
Advice: You can save costs here, if you start with a smaller package and an option to upgrade. The money you save this way you can then invest in getting the best website to represent your business. That way you will create a solid foundation for your business and your website to grow on.