When you get into the process of choosing a web hosting service a lot of questions would haunt your mind -
These are just few of the questions.
This article describes the most important criteria that you must consider while selecting the right hosting plan and the right hosting service provider.
If you expect a high volume of traffic and you have a large number of web pages that use excessive graphics, you will need substantial bandwidth allocation for your website. The amount of bandwidth you would require would depend broadly on the following 3 factors:
You may need to check if any particular web page of your website contains very heavy data. Also, check whether your website contains heavy graphics, animations, audios, videos, heavy downloads and other things which need large bandwidth. Multimedia files are quite huge in size, and their transmission over the internet consumes lot of bandwidth. You will need large bandwidth also if you are targeting, and are successful in getting, great amount of web traffic to your website. It would be wise to review your website content and try to reduce on embedded graphics and multimedia objects so as to keep your bandwidth requirement low in the first place. Besides, people do not like to wait for a page to download. So, heavy graphics that take time to download would tend to drive away site visitors.
After you have roughly estimated your required bandwidth, you can look for a hosting plan that will provide you the desired bandwidth. Typically during the initial few months after launch, a 5-10 GB/month bandwidth would suffice for most average websites (that do not have videos). You will find a lot of relatively inexpensive hosting plans that provide for unlimited bandwidth. It is a good idea to opt for such a plan, if you can afford it, as your bandwidth usage will not be metered. However, you should be aware that shared hosting service provides you limited access to other resources such as CPU time and main memory usage. Hence, you should not expect a truly unlimited bandwidth when you are opting for a shared hosting plan. When your website gains traffic over a period of time you will require to eventually move to a semi-dedicated or a dedicated hosting service where you are provided with a fixed known quantum of CPU and memory resources.
When selecting a hosting plan with a limited bandwidth, you would also need to find out what upgrade options are available should you exceed your allocated bandwidth, and how quickly your web host can apply the upgrade. Your web host should also provide you a facility in the hosting control panel where you can see how much bandwidth you are consuming. If you are planning a product launch and are expecting bursts of increased web traffic, you must prepare for this by having the right amount of bandwidth allocation.
The speed at which a website downloads is very important. When potential customers have to wait for content and images to download, it irritates them and they tend to move away. Also, your search engine rank is negatively affected as search engines penalize websites that are slow to download.
First you should design your web pages to be efficient and light in size so that they can download faster even over a slow internet connection. Remember, not all website visitors are connected through a high speed connection. Next, look for a web host who can provide you space on a server that is not heavily loaded and is connected to the internet through Giga bit lines. You can visit some of the websites hosted on your choosen web host's servers to get a first hand feel of download speed. Visit these sites at different hours to check performance during peak and off-peak hours and also during the week ends.
Quality hosts ensure good uptime and availability and you can rely on their servers. Server uptime is measured as a percentage. Typically, an uptime of 99.9% is decent and acceptable. What does this mean?
This means that the server will be down only 0.1% of the time in 1 year. Here is the formula to determine the downtime in hours:
1 year = 365 days/year X 24 hours/day X 60 minutes/hour = 525,600 minutes Total duration for which server will be down over a period of 1 year = 525,600 X 0.1% = 525.6 minutes = 21.9 hours
This roughly averages to a 1-2 minute down time every day, which is fairly acceptable.
No one can claim 100% uptime which is completely impractical. Check the uptime guarantee offered by your web host. If a server is able to achieve a 99.9% uptime it can be considered reliable.
Servers go down and websites crash. Your web site hosting service has to provide some guarantee of reliability. If you lose all your files and customer data, your business will suffer. Selecting a hosting service that has a weekly backup policy and provides backup restoration service would be advisable. Web hosts also provide facility in their control panel to enable you to carry out backups yourself as well. It is wise to take periodic backups in your own computer as well.
Any good web host will make their backup policy publicly available on their website. You must read it carefully as it would give you an idea about their backup policy and will also tell you whether they backup only the website files and databases or also backup the emails stored in email accounts. Most providers do not normally backup email accounts. Here is a typical backup policy that your web host should provide.
It is common sense that You get what you pay for. If you are paying too less, do not expect a good service. Stay away from free hosting services. While there are several free hosting providers on the internet, a free service is not indeed free due to various reasons:
It definitely pays to opt for paid hosting service. You can demand quality service and quick support. Again, opting for very cheap providers could be as risky as opting for free services. So, beware. Carry out your own research about the reputation of the hosting company before placing an order. It may be hard to tell which service provider is more experienced and what is their service reputation. So, you may need to spend considerable time reviewing their website to be able to apply your judgment more precisely. Read their terms & conditions carefully to understand what restrictions are imposed on resources, emails, type of content, etc. Hosting companies that have a strict policy have more stable servers and give you more peace of mind. Ask your friends if they have an experience with a good or bad service provider.
Do not be hesitant to pay a bit more for a reputable service. Remember - quality service and support come at a price. However, watch out for hidden costs or extras. Some web hosts charge additional money as setup fees and have other hidden costs.
Stay away from cheap hosting providers. Opting for a cheap hosting service would prove disastrous and eventually expensive. It is not worth saving a few hundred rupees when your business reputation is at stake. Frequent server outages result in lost business opportunity and bad reputation, eventually driving away customers. This is the price you pay when you opt for a cheap hosting service.
You can reduce your hosting cost to a great extent by choosing the right plan. Evaluate your needs carefully and opt for a plan that closely meets your needs, slightly on the upper side. Remember that most hosts have quick upgrade options and you can always upgrade to the next higher plan the moment your resource requirements increase, as your website gains traffic with time. Costs go up when increased bandwidth and server space are needed. If you have just launched your website it will not immediately attract traffic and hence you would be better off choosing a lower plan. By understanding what your website's needs are in terms of capacity, support, and security, you will have a good understanding of what web hosting package to select. Go for a web host that can accommodate your business as it grows.
Evaluate your requirements of number of email accounts carefully. If you are on a tight budget, work out a configuration where you do not need to buy too many email accounts. Further, make sure that your web host provides POP access to their mail server so that you can configure your local email client such as outlook and download all your emails in your own computer. This will substantially reduce your hosting space requirement and hence the price. Be wise - reduce your hosting cost by selecting the right plan and not by selecting a cheap web host.
Get your web applications developed on LAMP platform which require Linux server. Linux hosting costs less than windows hosting, hence avoiding windows specific scripts will help reduce your hosting cost.
Now-a-days, an unlimited disk space and unlimited bandwidth plan is provided by most web hosts at affordable price. You can opt for such a plan if it is within your budget. I personally recommend that when you launch a new website, opt for a budget plan with 1 GB disk space and 5-10 GB monthly bandwidth. Here is the hosting plan I recommend - check for Budget plan on the page.
Hosting your website on a secure server is very important. Check what security systems and anti-virus software are installed by your web host. Web servers are frequently subjected to attack by hackers. Good web hosts implement policies and closely monitor their servers to prevent such attacks. Also, emails often carry viruses that may harm the server. Hence it is imperative that a good anti-virus software is installed on the web host's server that can protect it from virus attacks.
Good and quick technical support is very important to keep your website up and running with minimal issues. Check that the web host that you choose are technically sound and respond to emails quickly. Also, check that they provide 24x7 support. Watch out for various ways of contacting them such as email, phone no. and live chat.
CEO, Computer Solutions
Rajeev Kumar is the primary author of How2Lab. He is a B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur with several years of experience in IT education and Software development. He has taught a wide spectrum of people including fresh young talents, students of XLRI, industry professionals, and govt. officials.
Rajeev has founded Computer Solutions & WebServicesWorldwide.com, and has hands-on experience of building variety of web applications and portals, that include - SAAS based ERP & e-commerce systems, independent B2B, B2C, Matrimonial & Job portals, and many more.