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Need all the info on web hosting without having to wade through tons of blog posts? This is our ultimate cheat sheet on website hosting—everything you need to know to make a smart choice, in one easy-access, quick-scroll guide.
Before you even look at web hosting companies, you need to nail down a few specifics about your own needs. Taking time to understand these things will help to streamline the process of choosing a host and help you choose one that’ll actually work with you towards your goals.
What’s your website for? This is important to help you figure out your exact needs. A blog website will need SEO tools, for example. An ecommerce website will need a storefront, payment gateways, and extra security. A business site might need an appointment-setting tool, and so on.
Do you need an email mailbox, social media integrations, SEO tools, certain plugins, or any other special considerations to help your particular kind of business run smoothly? List your needs so you can easily cross-reference against web hosting options and leave out the ones that don’t offer what you need.
Target Audience Location
Are you targeting locals or visitors across the world? Local businesses should opt for a web host with a server location in the same place their audience lives, or at least very close to. If you’re aiming to reach people all over the world, choose a host with a content delivery network so your content is distributed worldwide.
Your Expected Website Growth
Are you planning on growing fast? Do you expect your website traffic to skyrocket over time? Thinking ahead now can save you from annoying issues in the future. A well-made business plan will give you some projected numbers. Choose a web host that can handle your expected growth, not just your current size.
Your Technical Knowledge
Do you or someone else in your team have the necessary technical knowledge to manage the backend of your website? If not, managed hosting will be your best bet. If yes, will you/they have the time to dedicate to managing the website? Unmanaged hosting would be a good choice if so.
Settle on your budget upfront. This will help you to significantly narrow down your choices, making the choice easier. But remember—you get what you pay for, so be realistic but don’t settle for less than what you need.
What Your Web Host Should Offer
A good web host will tick certain boxes. Here’s the minimum you should accept, in addition to any special features your business needs, as mentioned above.
- 99.99% Uptime: Don’t settle for less here—this is the standard.
- Robust Security: A good host will have multiple security layers.
- User-Friendly Control Panel: Easy to understand and intuitive to use.
- Simple Scalability: The ability to easily move up a tier if and when necessary.
- Auto-Backup & Recovery: Non-negotiable. Check upfront, you don’t want to find out the hard way!
- Content Delivery Network: If necessary. Brings your content to the world.
- Easy Transfers: One-click transfers if you’re moving from one host to another.
- Helpful Customer Service: Available 24/7, in multiple ways (phone, email, chat).
Website Hosting FAQs
You know what your website needs. You know what your web host needs to provide. Now let’s tackle some of the most commonly answered questions about website hosting.
Do I Need A Domain Name With Web Hosting?
You can have a website without a domain name, BUT it’s not practical. Your domain name is your website’s easy-to-remember address—without it, your website is “named” by an IP address provided by your web hosting, which is long and hard to remember.
So a domain name is highly recommended. The good news is that many web hosts allow you to buy a domain name through them, making the process easier and quicker.
What’s the Difference Between Bandwidth and Storage?
In a nutshell, bandwidth is about moving data and storage is about storing data. Your bandwidth is the amount of data that can be moved from one point to another in a certain period of time. It’s measured in bits per second (bps), kilobits per second (Kbps), megabits per second (Mbps), or gigabits per second (Gbps).
Storage is the disk space your web host provides for you to hold all your website’s files, like images, video, themes, plugins, HTML files, and so on. It’s measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB).
Can I Host Multiple Websites On One Hosting Account?
Many hosting providers allow you to host more than one domain on your hosting account. You’ll need to check their policies upfront if this is something you’re considering for the future.
Can I Have a Website Without Web Hosting?
You can. But it won’t be accessible to the public unless it’s hosted somewhere on the internet. Technically, you can host your own website on your own server, which means you won’t need to invest in hosting—you’ll be your own hosting. However, it’s expensive, difficult to maintain, and time-consuming.
What Are the Best Web Hosting Companies?
There are hundreds of web hosting companies out there to choose from. Your options will be narrowed by your initial examination of your own business, but here are some reputable options that come recommended by many.
- Hostinger: Extensive range of features, excellent pricing.
- SiteGround: Well-rounded variety of options to suit almost everyone.
- A2 Hosting: Excellent customer service.
- iPower Hosting: Mid-level web host with solid track record.
- WP Engine: WordPress-specific hosting.
- HostGator: Good choice for shared hosting, light-on-resource websites.
- InMotion Hosting: Surprisingly good money-back guarantee.
- Bluehost: Good for new sites, WordPress, and beginners.
- Hostwinds: Great for content-heavy websites.
- Interserver: Robust and reliable security features.
Website hosting is more important than you think. Don’t just pick the first affordable web host you find on a Google search. Do your research, read real-people reviews, and take time to compare web hosting companies side by side to discover whether or not they meet your needs.
It might sound time-consuming, but trust us—you’ll be glad you took the time to get to know your own business better and to partner with a web host that helps you grow, keeps your website safe, and allows you the freedom to build the online business you really want.
About the Author
Paul Wheeler runs a web design agency that helps small businesses optimize their websites for business success. He aims to educate business owners on all things website-related, at his own website, Reviews for Website Hosting.