At some point in your business website’s life, you may need to look at changing hosting. There are a lot of hosting providers out there, and sometimes it can become a bit of a chore working through all the options.
We, of course, can help by hosting your site for you, but sometimes you may want or need to go it alone. We understand that and want you to get the right hosting provider for your budget and your needs.
These are our tips on what you need to think about when choosing a hosting provider:
The speed of your website is perhaps one of the first things which your customers will see and potentially could have an impact on if they use your services or not. Some smaller websites may be ok with standard hosting; but others where there is a lot of traffic, or increased functionality, may need more oomph.
The sort of thing you are looking for here is the bandwidth your hosting provider offers. Some offer unlimited, others give you a specific limit. You may also need to consider storage space offered for each website. Like with bandwidth, most sites should be ok with what is offered as standard but if you have a lot of content then you may need to look at larger amounts of storage.
Bandwidth is basically the amount of data that can be transferred between your site and the end user at any one time. Things which will add up in terms of this usage are things like images, downloads and videos etc. You also need to consider the number of visitors which you’d have on your site at any one time, too.
A rough calculation would be the page size multiplied by the number of visitors. This will give you a rough guide for your monthly bandwidth needs.
A lot of hosting companies offer unlimited bandwidth, but it’s worth checking the small print to see what that actually means. For example, are you covered by a fair usage policy? If you’re not getting unlimited, do you get charged for exceeding your usage cap? How much is that charge?
Free SSL certificates?
SSL certificates are part of GDPR, and all websites should have one. If you do not have one, then you need to get one!
Some hosting companies will offer you a free one, others charge. The free ones should be OK for most smaller websites. This sort of certificate will only usually come with the basic level of authentication.
If you have an e-commerce site, then you may be better looking at a paid for the certificate. These can cost around £50 but offer more protection than just the certificate. They generally offer extras such as security support and liability insurance.
When you sign up to a hosting company, you need to check if they are going to do a backup for you. We’ve encountered a few people who have been merrily paying their hosting company; thinking they were getting a backup and they were not. It was an optional extra which they were not paying for.
Backups are so important, for most things when it comes to technology; but for a website they are essential! We are often called in to help clients when they have applied an update, and this has caused an issue with their site. In extreme circumstances; we may need to go to a backup of your site.
They are a little like insurance; you (may) pay for it and hopefully, never need it!
Depending on how much the information in your site changes, you could need to do a backup more frequently than once a week – we recommend a daily backup.
If you are not getting a free backup; then you can get plugins in WordPress which will allow you to backup your site. Doing this is much better than doing nothing at all!
Charges to move domains
If you decide to move your domain to another hosting company, they may charge you an admin fee usually this is no more than £10 – £15. However other hosting companies may do this for free. Our advice would be to look at what services they offer and assess this as part of your research into what hosting provider to go with.
Control panel access
At some point, you may need to get access to the back end of your site. This is usually referred to has Control Panel access. This is the bit where you can access files, email setup and FTP.
The first thing to look at is, is it easy to use? Now of course if you are not technically minded, then all of this will look complex. But some are easier to use than others. For example, I find Heart Internet’s control panel much easier to work with than TSO or GoDaddy. That is because I learnt how to use this first.
Security is another big factor which you need to consider, although there is nothing which makes one hosting provider particularly more secure than the next.
Charges for email accounts
This is another one which you may not realise; some companies will charge for hosting your emails. Not all companies do this, and most of the time you’ll get up to 10 email addresses if you buy a domain.
Examples of paid for emails are things like Office 365, which can usually be bundled with the Microsoft Office products too. This can be bought separately to your hosting, so you are not tied to any one provider. Microsoft often has good deals on this for small businesses, so it is worth checking directly with them.
What options do you have for customer service?
Customer service is something which we are all about. Hopefully, most of the time you’d never need to use the customer services team at a hosting provider. But sometimes you will. One thing to consider is where they are based.
We tend to prefer hosting providers who have their head office in the UK, after all, no one wants to have to wait several hours for their problem to be solved due to time differences. The new GDPR rules also mean that the hosting company needs to have a server in the UK.
The Smart Bear team have all worked in big companies at some point, who have had departments in other parts of the world, and whilst that can be a great benefit, it can also be really hard to work around when you have something which needs fixing yesterday!
Another consideration is how you contact the customer services team. Do you need to use email, phone, raise a support ticket or can you use a web chat? We like a web chat because you know (hopefully) that you’ll be connected with someone who can answer your issue.
In my experience, I prefer relaying complex technical information over a written form of communication. It’s like someone giving you directions to a new place, how long is it before you forget what is said? At least with a written conversation, you can work through it at your own pace. And, keep a copy for your records.
As you can see, there are many things which you need to think about, and whilst Suzi and I both have our opinions, it’s how you want to work that counts. You may prefer paying less, for a non-UK hosting provider who doesn’t back your site up. You may also want to pay more for a higher ‘uptime’ and a local team.
Not sure which hosting is best for you? Why not get in touch? We’d love to talk to you about how we can help.