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The Ultimate Guide to Selecting a Web Hosting Provider

Posted by admin in Resources
16
Feb
2015
The Ultimate Guide to Selecting a Web Hosting Provider

Welcome to the PickupHost ultimate guide to selecting a web hosting provider, where you’ll find comprehensive strategies for successfully choosing a host for your next web project. Our experience rating web hosting providers has afforded significant insight into ways users can efficiently find a hosting provider that will meet the specific needs of their website. We offer users the unique opportunity to browse ratings of thousands of top web hosting providers from around the world in an efficient, streamlined process.

Our mission has always been to make the process of choosing a web hosting provider simpler and more effective than ever, which is why we’ve compiled a definitive guide to finding the right hosting provider, at the right price. In our eBook, you’ll find:

 

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  • An explanation of why quality hosting matters
  • Descriptions of various hosting platforms
  • Discussions of which hosting servers work best for various customers
  • Criteria to guide your search
  • Tips for navigating the PickupHost site
  • Why user reviews matter

Why Web Hosting Matters

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A web hosting service can’t be that important, can it? Yes, I need it to host my website, but doesn’t the success of my site depend on the factors that I control, like design, content, page optimization and a user-friendly interface? Why bother investing time searching from among hundreds of thousands of hosting providers?”

These questions are often posed by those seeking a web hosting service for the first time, yet are unfortunately misguided. While the success of a website does depend on numerous factors, the service received from a hosting provider matters far more than many realize.

The quality of service a web hosting provider offers can significantly affect critical components of website function, such as:

 

  • The time it takes for visitors to your site to load a page
  • The amount of RAM, disk space and bandwidth your website can use
  • Website performance during various amounts of traffic
  • Data security
  • Quality of technical support/Risk of service failure and downtime
  • The extent to which applications software can be removed or modified

 

As online sales gain increasing portions of the market, and as the nature of marketing in general continues to focus more heavily on social media and digital content, maintaining a successful online presence matters more than ever. Even the smallest of brick and mortar shops are beginning to recognize the value of establishing a website to drive brand recognition and increase customer base. Whether or not your aim is to promote a business, the success of any website will largely depend on the service provided by a web hosting provider.

Making an Informed Choice So we know selecting a reliable web provider is important, but that doesn’t mean users should simply use popularity or price as a measure of web hosting quality. An informed decision requires an understanding of the various types of hosting servers (there are many) and the ways in which they would be of benefit to a specific website.

Before you embark on reviewing individual web hosting providers, you’ll need to determine which type of general hosting server will best fit the needs of your company. Options for hosting servers include: shared web hosting, dedicated server hosting, virtual private server hosting, cloud hosting, unlimited hosting, reseller and CDN hosting. Each is defined by unique features and services.

Shared Web Hosting

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If you’re interested in getting a website up and running quickly without breaking the bank, shared web hosting will be a highly viable hosting option.

Just what is shared web hosting?  A shared web hosting service allows numerous websites with different owners to use the same hosting server; that is to say, the server’s resources are shared. Though the hosting server will be divided among various users, each user’s website will be partitioned from other sites on the server, and the cost of running a shared hosting server is divided between users (which often equates to lower costs).

Shared web hosting is probably one of the more simplistic ways to host a website. For smaller sites, a shared web hosting service will likely be just right for the amount of RAM, bandwidth etc., needed. A shared web host also extends the benefit of taking care of general hosting maintenance; individual users won’t need to spend time attending to security updates or fixing technical issues, as the hosting provider will attend to these responsibilities.  In addition, many shared hosting services also have a technical team to answer any questions its users may have about their website, an added benefit for those just starting out.

Shared web hosting also typically provides unlimited disk space to users, which is certainly beneficial to rapidly expanding companies. However, take care to look into the specifics of these guarantees, as some providers oversell their services.  Websites using shared web hosting can further acquire free domain names along with occasional discounts and coupons for service.

Shared host sites are also beneficial for their added perks, like customizing open-source applications and easy-to-use web builder tools, which you wouldn’t find if you were to purchase your own host.

However, if you’re in need of specific software or hardware and seek the flexibility to change them at will, a shared web host service is probably not your best bet, as most don’t grant access to making any change that would affect other users on the host.  Shared web hosts also typically place limitations on the amount of RAM, bandwidth and disk space a site can use, as these resources are shared between everyone on the server.

Dedicated Server Hosting

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A dedicated hosting server is a server rented exclusively by an individual or company. In many ways, a dedicated server as the opposite of a shared web host server, as its costs and resources are not shared with others and instead, are solely devoted to one website. Though a dedicated server is rented for exclusive use, the actual server will be stored with the hosting provider.

One of the primary benefits of dedicated servers is that they offer maximum user control over administration and hardware to afford greater customization, and significantly eliminate the security risks that can come with of sharing the host with others.

Dedicated servers also afford greater server power (as power is not being distributed among many) and increased flexibility: the server can be tailored to your company’s specific needs without limits on resources and usage.

Note that while dedicated servers do permit unparalleled user control, most providers offer customers the option of managed or unmanaged hosting. Unmanaged hosting allows a customer to retain full control, while managed hosting means that the hosting provider will maintain general administrative issues and server upkeep. Managed hosting serves as a great option for busy companies or those with less technical expertise.

A dedicated server will likely work well for a user that:

 

  • Needs the flexibility to add or remove software
  • Anticipates utilizing resources that will exceed those available from  shared web hosting providers
  • Is concerned about security and overall server speed and reliability
  • Has the budget to pay more for this type of server    

Virtual Private Server (VPS Hosting) When companies experience increases in web traffic and usage, they will often upgrade from a lower level hosting platform (like shared web hosting) to a virtual private server (VPS), a virtual machine that runs a copy of its own operating system (or several) and permits individual use of an operating system. Users of VPS hosting have elevated administrative access and do not share resources like RAM and disk space with other users who access the same VPS hosting server.

Though VPS hosting is very similar to dedicated hosting, VPS hosting is generally less expensive and still shares its hard drive with other users of the VPS provider (although each user has its own operating system and resources). As opposed to renting an entire physical server, as one would with dedicating hosting, users of VPS hosting purchase a share of a physical server that operates virtually as if it were its very own server.

VPS servers traditionally offer users the choice between utilizing two operating systems: Linus and Windows. When deciding between the two, keep in mind that a Linux OS will probably be cheaper because it’s open source (you only have to pay for additional support options), works well with numerous programming languages, and affords a respectable amount of user control with options for things like Debian and CentOS.  Be sure to rely on a Linux OS when developing a site in the PHP scripting language.

Consider using a Windows OS if your website requires a DOT NET software framework or if your company has relatively minimal technical expertise, as a Windows OS is considered more simplistic and has an easy-to-use interface. A Windows OS on a virtual private server also works well for MS SQL databases, includes regular updates and support from Microsoft, but is more expensive than a Linux OS.

Cloud Hosting

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Cloud hosting refers to the use of a server that operates with cloud technology, the latest form of virtual private service hosting. This elevated form of hosting allows data to be stored and transferred over a large network of online servers, permitting the sharing of resources among multiple users. Individuals only need a browser and permissive access to use a cloud server from any location. Sites like Facebook, Flickr, Google Drive, Twitter and many others operate with cloud technology.

Because cloud hosting uses the internet to provide access to software, a company’s employees can work from anywhere in the world, which spells impressive gains in efficiency. And, not only can employees clock in from any location, they can work in collaboration on the same tasks simultaneously.

Cloud hosting servers also afford greater user control and flexibility, as they can run specific software that works best for individuals and can easily upgrade packages for more resources. In fact, rather than paying a monthly fee, users of cloud hosting only pay for the space and resources they use.

Further, cloud servers are also considered to be less vulnerable to delays and disruptions, as any jeopardized website will automatically run on other servers in the cloud network until service to the original server is restored.

CDN Hosting

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CDN (content delivery network) hosting refers to a network of cache servers in dispersed geographic locations intended to increase uptimes and provide more reliable service to end users. CDN servers help combat latency (slow upload speeds) for rich media files like video and audio as well. A CDN network ensures that the individual visiting a company’s webpage from Europe will receive the same user experience as the individual visiting the company webpage in the United States.

On a CDN network, the content of a webpage is copied multiple times across various edge servers so that information travels a shorter distance from a server to viewer’s browser. This means that the geographic location of edge servers in the CDN network is crucial; if a company intends to improve user experience to customers in Seattle, the intended edge server should be relatively close.

CDNs can also help minimize time outs, decrease bandwidth load and mitigate the chance of routing issues.

Look for a CDN hosting provider that offers support for various media types and applications, provides access to performance analytics and guarantees exceptional technical support. CDN hosting networks aren’t typically known for direct administrative access to things like content upload, but look for a provider that does make effort to grant a degree of user control.

Did You Know? Google now uses page speed as a factor when ranking web pages. This means that not only could a CDN host help a business improve user experience, but it could contribute to a high search engine ranking as well.

Reseller Hosting Reseller hosting refers to a type of hosting in which the provider is someone who has rented or purchased a server, and is selling his or her remaining resources and space to others. Those who host their websites from a reseller will therefore not interact directly with the main hosting provider.  Reseller hosting is generally low in cost and typically offers the right amount of space for the average small business or personal website.

Though users of reselling hosting depend on the reseller for server support (which may or may not be as reliable as the larger hosting company itself), reseller hosting can be an ideal option for those just starting out. Some may also be interested in functioning as a reseller themselves; if you know you’ll use less that what you’ll pay for from a hosting provider and are comfortable with the responsibility of selling to others, reselling can be an easy way to earn extra income.

General Guidelines for Determining Hosting Level

For Large Companies When considering which type of host to utilize, prioritize quality over cost. While every company runs on a budget, a large business that depends on 100 percent reliable service on a daily basis should never sacrifice exceptional quality hosting just for a deal. The lost revenue and expense of technical repairs as the result of shoddy service will never be worth a low monthly payment. For the company with heavy international traffic, prioritize a host that resolves latency issues and uptime speeds.

Recommended servers: cloud hosting, dedicated hosting, VPS hosting, CDN hosting

For Small Businesses Even if your small business isn’t concerned with the cost of a host server, why pay for resources you’ll likely never use? For the small business with average web traffic, minimal need for specific software and no plans for significant expansion in the near future, a more basic web hosting service will work just fine. However, be careful not to sacrifice needed quality or resources for price either.

Recommended servers: shared web hosting, VPS hosting, reseller hosting

For Personal Websites/Blogs

If you’re seeking a web hosting service for something other than a business website—say, for a personal website or blog (although a business is wise to have a blog, too)—look for hosting providers with packages that support web design and web building tools on content management frameworks like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.

Recommended servers: shared web hosting, reseller hosting

Criteria to Guide Your Search

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Now that you have a better idea (we hope) of which specific server will work best for your website, let’s review the detailed criteria that can help you find the right provider within a server category.

Though it’s difficult to say definitively which criteria matter more than others, as ideally, your perfect web hosting provider will meet all criteria, when it comes down to it, any compromises should be made in light of your website’s hosting priorities. Before shopping for hosting providers, prioritize the hosting features that matter most to your business to have a clearer idea of what to look for.

As a general rule of thumb, don’t let price be the determining factor in your decision, as you’ll likely forgo needed quality of service as a result.

Search Criteria Include:

 

Location Location should bear significant weight in your choice of a hosting provider as it can affect uptime, the level of technical support you receive, etc.).  If the provider you’re considering is out of the country, it’s probably best to find another.

Cost For many, cost is a determining factor in choosing a web hosting provider. While we suggest evaluating all attributes of providers, even exceptional providers offer incredibly low monthly fees. Keep in mind that shared web hosting can be acquired for as little as $10 a month, while more advanced hosting platforms will run upwards of $500 a month. The cost of cloud hosting is unique, as customers will only pay for what they use, rather than a flat monthly fee.

As you evaluate providers, be sure to note if there are any overage charges and in what circumstances they would be applied (particularly for shared web hosting).

Data Transfer Always anticipate projected growth to attempt to forecast how your website may need more data transfer capacity (things like disk space, RAM and traffic) in the future. While it can be impossible to know the exact level of something like site traffic, it’s important to at least be able to know when a provider’s limitations are too high or too low. If you expect significant growth during your contract with a hosting provider, be sure to inquire about options for scalability.

Web Creation Tools If you’re interested in tools to help with web creation and design, be sure the hosting server and package accommodates the right program. As mentioned, common web creation tools include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and Magento (for e-commerce).

Technical Support Look for tech support that guarantees multiple methods of contact (and not just email) 24/7, including the opportunity to converse with a live technician to get an up to the minute report on the status of your service.

Automatic Installation of Scripts Always be sure the hosting provider you’re interested in guarantees automatic installation of popular scripts, including: PHP, SSI, FTP, MySQL and Perl. Be wary of providers that say you need approval before these scripts can be installed; business shouldn’t be affected while you wait for something as minor as script approval.

Easy-to-Use Control Panel

With a truly easy-to-use control panel, users won’t need to rely on support staff to handle basic control panel adjustments for their website.</>

SSL Security Look for providers that guarantee SSL security protocol in a hosting package; this is especially crucial if your website will manage ecommerce, so as to protect the sensitive information of both your company and your customers.

Navigating Pickuphost.com Now that you have a better idea of the purpose of reliable web hosting service, types of hosting platforms and important search criteria, it’s time to get to work. At the PickupHost website, users will benefit from a simple, streamlined process of comparing various hosting providers. Here’s what you can expect to find on our site:

Hosting Options:

Find objective information and ratings on all major web hosting platforms: shared web hosting, dedicated web hosting, cloud hosting, VPS/VDS, CDN and reseller hosting.

Ratings of popular CMS (content management systems) providers are also available on our website, and include: WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Moodle, Forum, Unlimited, Free Unlimited, e-commerce and Magento.

Ratings Charts Each type of web hosting platform on our site features a comprehensive ratings chart, where thousands of the top hosting providers are ranked in an interactive listing. The name of each provider will be accompanied by icons indicating:

  • Rates
  • Location of server
  • Low Budget
  • High Demand
  • Test Period

You’ll also find information regarding specific capacities for web traffic, RAM and disk space, as well as a graphic of star ratings. A direct link to each provider’s website is also included in the chart for those interested in even more information from a provider site.

As you review a ratings chart, you can customize your view of the listings based on the following criteria: highest ratings, lowest prices, disk space and RAM.

Coupons and Discounts: As you view the details of each hosting provider, note the coupon tab in the top right corner of our display box. Here you can easily find current discounts on a provider’s web hosting packages—don’t spend more than you have to!

8speedThe Speedtest: A web hosting provider may look great on paper, but the real measure of its service can be determined using an online speedtest. Our speedtest allows users to determine ping and actual response time of a particular host provider based on the server’s location.

By using a speedtest, you’ll never have to wonder if you’ll get what you agree to pay for when it comes to server speed.

Resources:  Check out the resources tab in the navigation bar for even more information and explanations about web hosting servers and ways to determine which type of server will work best for your website.

The Value of User Reviews Even with detailed information about what a hosting provider can offer, it can be challenging to know if they’ll truly deliver on their claims of exceptional service.  A visit to a provider’s website can be helpful at times, yet they all tout guarantees of unbeatable hosting. Potential customers need real, honest, and objective information about providers that aren’t skewed by biased advertising or promotions. This is why user reviews matter. Before agreeing to purchase from a provider, check out what others who have personally used their service have to say. User ratings are a quick, yet incredibly insightful way to determine just what type of service you can expect from a provider to avoid disappointment and wasted expense.

On the PickupHost website, you’ll find thousands of authentic, objective reviews from customers that are monitored by our professionals based on how helpful our users find them to be; if a review won’t be worth your time, you won’t find it on our site.

Take Action It’s now time to begin your search for a top web hosting provider that will work best for you. Start with a visit to the PickupHost website for even more information, ratings, reviews and professional support!

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