If you have arrived here, probably you are thinking of starting a new online business or thinking of upgrading your existing one. Your website could be an online brochure for a small-medium business or you could be a solely online business.
If your requirements are very basic then you might decide to build your website using a website builder that gives you prebuilt templates plus hosting. However, most of these are very limiting. If you want a bespoke design, then you might employ a developer to build a website for you in a CMS platform such as Wordpress, OpenCart, Joomla, Magento, Drupal, etc. In that case, you would use a hosting company that suits your platform. The price obviously will be the first thing on your mind. However, there are several other things to consider.
The speed of your website depends on several factors such as the speed of your hosting server (server response time), the platform your website is built on, the quality of the coding and several others. Out of these the speed of your server (server response time) completely depends on your hosting provider. You can check how fast your current hosting provider is using a benchmarking tool such as Bitcatcha.
Websites get hacked because of vulnerabilities within the source code or platform of the website. However, sometimes they get hacked because the hosting company has not put proper security measures in place. Some hosting companies have an aging infrastructure with security holes. Choose a hosting provider that gives you protection against DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks and provides security services like Web Application Firewall (WAF). A service such as Sucuri site scanner can check your website as well as the hosting server for vulnerabilities.
3. SSL Certificate
Having SSL (Secure Sockets Layer ) is important for SEO. It helps to rank your website higher and look better on Google search results (or any search engine for that matter). Some hosting companies provide SSL free of charge. These free certificates are issued by Lets Encrypt. If your hosting company provides these and also auto-renew them when they expire, then you won't have to worry about this ever.
4. Customer Support
If you are a newbie then it is highly recommended that you choose a web hosting provider that gives you excellent technical support over the telephone, chat, or email 24x7. Even if you are technically knowledgeable sometimes you might need the support of the hosting provider.
Even the best web hosts experience outages. Your website could be down or slow if your hosting company is experiencing an outage. Continuously monitor your website with a service such as Uptime robot. Anything below 99% is not acceptable.
It is essential that your hosting provides performs periodic automated backups. If you accidentally mess up the website or delete some data, or in the event that your site gets hacked, you can restore the site from the backup.
The first six factors we discussed are non-technical factors. Nows lets look at some technical factors that you need to consider.
7. Web Server Technology
There are various webserver technologies such as Apache and Nginx. The performances of these two are almost similar for dynamic websites. However, Nginx is better if you are hosting a static website (pure HTML). There is also the best of both worlds where Nginx becomes a reverse proxy for apache based shared hosting. We are not delving into IIS and ASP.NET which is beyond the scope of this article.
8. SSD Storage
SSD based stoarge is faster and more reliable.
9. Dedicated Hosting
Shared hosting is cheaper and ideal, to begin with. Shared hosting means many websites are hosted on the same server and they share the infrastructure. You will only have access via FTP/SFTP or through CPanel. However, if you are expecting your website to grow in traffic, or have a lot of content in the future (such as an e-commerce website that plans to scale up the business), then you should probably go for dedicated hosting. In this type of hosting, you get a server instance all for yourself and you can choose the specs for this server. With dedicated hosting packages you would be able to have SSH access to your server allowing you to set up and configure the server to your liking.
10. Self Hosting on Cloud
If you have technical staff in your company, then you can also consider self-hosting. There are various cloud solutions such as Google Cloud, Amazon AWS, Digital Ocean, Microsoft Azure. You can start a project and set up a virtual machine to host your website. You can set up your environment to your liking, but bear in mind you would be responsible for the security and speed optimization.
The choice of your hosting provider is very important for the success of your online business. If you feel you have made a bad choice, you can always switch your provider, unless you have paid upfront for a long period. If you have queries, feel free to comment here.