Choosing a Web Host

Web hosting can be a confusing to pick, hard to migrate away from, and a pain to deal with if you don’t know what you’re looking for. I’ve been trying to find a simple way to explain these concepts to clients and found that iThemes does an excellent job with their short eBook How to Pick Web Hosting Without A Computer Science Degree. It’s short, concise, and to the point. (I read it in about 1/2 an hour.)

For starters, web hosting is very simply defined as space you rent, own, or lease on a server computer. So, when someone enters your domain name into the browser, the domain name directs them to your website located on the server. (It’s more complicated than that, but that may be a whole separate blog post.)

Now, back to this awesome ebook! Here’s a basic summary of main points I got from the book:

1. Unlimited Isn’t Really Unlimited

It really isn’t.

Read the fine print.

I know. Fine print sucks and I’m sorry. But really, you need to read it. It’s better to spend time reading it now rather than later. Later, you might be trying to figure out why things aren’t working the way you thought they would… or paying someone to figure this out for you.

2. Get Specific

With all of these acronyms and numbers, it can be hard to know what to look for and ask for. (Tip: Ask your Web Designer/Developer!) Some things a designer/developer will be very glad to have are:

  • cPanel
  • SSH
  • FTP Access
  • Good Customer Service (ask others and check reviews!)
  • Upgrade options
  • One-click WordPress Install
  • suPHP
  • Linux Server Running Apache

3. Server Requirements

For WordPress websites you need:

  • PHP 5.2.4 or greater
  • MySQL 5.0 or greater
  • The mod_rewrite Apache module

Note: These requirements are accurate as of the date this post is written, however you may want to check the WordPress website for updated requirements.

4. Focus on Yourself

What do you need now and in the future? For example, right now you may just want to put up a very basic website but in the future you may want a small eCommerce store or you may want to increase traffic by thousands of visits. In this case, you’ll want to choose a hosting provider that has these capabilities built in or can be upgraded relatively easily.

Types of Hosting

This one’s confusing for a lot of people. So I thought I’d add it here for my clients.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is probably the one you’ll end up wanting because it’s cheapest and the most common form. This means there are many sites on one server. This method works for a lot of small business websites.
Pro: Lowest cost
Con: If your server is overloaded then you may experience slowness, especially during high traffic periods. The web hosting company controls how many websites are put on each server.

Virtual Private Server Hosting

A server uses software to run several sites on the server. The software treats each website like a separate server.
Pro: Generally faster than Shared Hosting and more secure.
Con: Costs more than Shared Hosting

Dedicated Hosting

Your site gets it’s own server! Pretty cool, right? Definitely. You can have managed or unmanaged hosting. Managed hosting provide the technical staff to help you manage the server, perform upgrades, etc. Unmanaged hosts let you do the management and upgrades on your own.
Pro: Faster because all of the server’s resources are for one website. It’s also more secure.
Con: Generally costs more than Virtual Private Server Hosting

Cloud Hosting

Newer method of hosting that copies your website to multiple servers in various locations so if one server goes down, your website is still available. If a couple minutes of your website being down costs you a lot of money or can sink your business, this is a good option to investigate.
Pro: No downtime.
Con: More complex setup. Higher price depending on setup.

Note: There are other types of web hosting as well, but to keep this short I stuck with the ones in the book.

If you have any other suggestions for this post, please post them below or email me at [email protected] Thanks!

Source: eBook How to Pick Web Hosting Without A Computer Science Degree

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