Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are ‘affiliate links.’ This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive an affiliate commission.
Selecting a web host for your small business may feel overwhelming at first, but it’s easier than it seems. In this article, I’ll break down what you need to know about hosting and I’ll give you a few tips to guide you through your research. So how do you choose the best web hosting company?
1. Which web hosting plan do you need?
This is the first question you should answer. Where are you in your business? Do you have an existing website that generates a lot of traffic? Or are you starting out from scratch? Knowing what you need is going to guide you through the three main types of hosting plans on the market.
Here are some factors to keep in mind.
- How much traffic or monthly visits does your website generate?
- What type of site are you planning to host (brochure, e-commerce, membership, etc.)
- What monthly budget are you allowing for hosting?
1.1 Shared hosting
With a shared web hosting plan, your site will be hosted on a server alongside a number of other websites. That number can vary between 30 to 60+. If a website on the server uses too many resources, your site will be affected and might slow down. That’s why it’s cheap.
That being said, shared hosting is what I recommend for starters. You don’t need a Ferrari when you’re learning how to drive. Same concept.
On the other hand, if your site drives a lot of traffic, you’ll need to look at VPS (Virtual Private Server). A VPS is a server that also hosts multiple sites, but these sites are independent from one another unlike on shared servers. So if a site on a VPS uses too much bandwidth, you won’t be affected.
It’s also more powerful than shared hosting, so your site will be faster because you’ll have more bandwidth, and you’ll be able to have a larger website overall. A VPS plan is also more expensive than a shared hosting plan.
1.3 Dedicated servers
Dedicated servers are the premium tier of web hosting. Which is why they’re so expensive. Your site is the only one hosted on a dedicated server. This option is interesting only if and when your website reaches a very high amount of monthly traffic.
1.4 Cloud hosting
In recent years, cloud hosting is slowly, but surely becoming the new standard in the shared hosting market. This technology spreads your website’s resources on multiple servers instead of a single one. The big advantage of this architecture is it mitigates the risk of downtime.
1.5 Bandwidth (visits) VS disk space
One of the main goals of your website is to generate traffic. And traffic will use bandwidth not disk space. Even if you have a big website, as long as you’re not hosting a lot of heavy media such as high resolution images or videos, your site won’t be much bigger than 1 to 3 GB.
When your site “breaks” from too much traffic for your server to handle, you have probably exceeded the bandwidth limit of your hosting plan. You’ll want to select a plan with the right amount of bandwidth for your website’s traffic to avoid downtime. Otherwise, your website might be offline for a little while.
2. Do your research
I know it’s boring, but it will save you a lot of time and frustration. Since we were talking about downtime, unreliable web hosting will have a lot of that on a regular basis for no good reason. This could not only make you lose business, but also make you look unprofessional online.
First of all, there’s no such thing as “unlimited” bandwidth or disk space. Everything has a limit. When a company advertises “unlimited”, it always makes me cringe because when you go over that unlimited limit they’ll notify you – if you’re lucky – and ask you to stop, otherwise they’ll suspend your account. Read the fine print and the angry stories online.
2.1 Read online reviews
Before you commit to a web host, it’s a good idea to look online for reviews on your selection of web hosts. On top of googling a host, here are a few places you can also check.
2.2 Web Hosting Talk
Web Hosting Talk has been a very active web hosting forum for many years. You can ask questions about anything regarding web hosting. A great place to start if you’re still unsure of the kind of plan you need.
2.3 Web Hosting Subreddit
There is a subreddit dedicated to web hosting advice. This is another place where you can ask for advice before purchasing a hosting plan.
2.4 Different plans, different quality
It’s true that some companies might be awful at delivering decent quality shared hosting, but are good with VPS and dedicated servers. In fact, when you read online reviews from well-known blogs and media outlets, they may not be comparing hosts based on their shared hosting services, but their VPS offers. In general, it is mentioned somewhere in an article, so make sure to pay attention to that.
2.5 Many large companies aren’t good
Interestingly, a number of the big names of web hosting have poor reviews. Over the years, I have worked on many websites hosted at large hosting companies, and I found that sometimes the service is bad and sometimes customer support is subpar. But that wasn’t always the case. The main issue in my opinion is having consistency in quality.
After doing some research, I understood that the huge number of raving reviews across the web came from people comparing other services that shared hosting. Obviously, the quality of a VPS hosting should be better than that of shared hosting.
3. Web hosting grows with your business
When you set up a website for the first time, it often makes sense to get cheap shared hosting. You can always upgrade when the time comes and that is especially true if you choose cloud hosting. A cloud platform makes it easy to upgrade seamlessly. Think about where your business and website needs will be in a few years and keep that in mind when you choose a web hosting company.
I don’t want to leave you empty handed so I’ll give you a few recommendations. Remember that this only reflects my experience and you should still do your due diligence.
GreenGeeks is a web hosting company that matches 300% of its energy footprint. They offer shared and VPS hosting and three standard tiers on both of these plans.
They’re constantly updating their servers with the latest and most efficient technology available and consequently, they have a good reputation when it comes to both speed and security.
One of their key selling points is how they completely isolate each account on a shared server. This is designed to limit the impact of resource usage from another website on the same server that I mentioned earlier.
Another important part of what they offer is their great customer service. They’re fast to reply to support requests via their 24/7 chat, which is always a bonus to me.
But quality comes at a price. When you sign up for a hosting plan, you’ll benefit from a nice discount, but the renewal fee is slightly more expensive than competitors. If you’re looking for a quality hosting platform that will spare you headaches, you’ll probably find that the price is well justified.
Kinsta is another great web hosting company. They’re specialized in WordPress hosting and they offer a managed experience. So when you encounter a hosting issue with your WordPress site, their 24/7 customer support is well prepared to help you.
Another great point is that their infrastructure is built on Google Cloud Platform and is recommended by Google Cloud. As mentioned earlier, this is designed to mitigate server issues and maximize uptime.
On top of that, Kinsta is often praised for its speed. Even on their most affordable plans, you can expect to have a fast website when you host with them.
The only downside is their price. I consider Kinsta a premium hosting company, as is the case with most quality managed hosting. So they’re a great option if you plan to grow fast and/or big.
They’re the host of this very website and I’ve been satisfied by the way they communicate and treat their customers in general. They’ve had a few hiccups here and there in terms of server uptime, but they were always fully transparent about any issues. This is something I personally value, which is why I have stuck with them for many years.
One of MDD Hosting’s selling points is the price point of their cloud hosting. If you have a new and small site, they’re a great option. And their cloud infrastructure allows your site to grow easily when the time comes.
When you set out to choose the best web hosting for your small business, you should start by assessing your business needs, then do your research by comparing plans and checking reviews.
Are you going to be completely out of trouble because you put in some work before buying? No. But by making an educated choice you will spare yourself a lot of headaches.
Now I’d love to hear where you’re hosting your site in the comments. What do you love or hate about your web host?