Guide to Choosing a Good Web Hosting Plan
There are many many hosting plans out there for you to choose but the good news is that most of them are pretty similar.
Let’s have a look at some of the things you’ll have to consider.
Disk space has gotten a lot cheaper in the last few years so you’ll see the amount of space offered by hosting plans greatly increased and it’s not unusual for basic plans to offer up to 5GB of storage for your website files.
Of course this depends a lot on the type of website you envisage. If it’s a small 5 page site that won’t change much then the storage offered by the cheaper plans is ideal for you, however, if you’re going to be running a site with lots of media files such as pictures, video and audio then it’s likely you’ll need a little bit more.
It’s best to sort out the right plan for your website at the start as upgrading half-way through the agreement can be costly.
Think ahead a little, perhaps 6-8 months and try to work out how much stuff you’ll be putting onto your website.
That leads nicely onto the topic of monthly bandwidth limits.
Put simply, every time somebody views a page on your website, the files that make up the page, HTML, pictures, audio,download files etc, are transferred from the hosting company’s server across the internet to the visitor’s computer and this data transfer is measured and charged. The more data that is being transferred (website page views & download files) then the higher the total bandwidth.
Like any other business, the hosting company is charged for the equipment and services it provides to keep the websites up and running and if a particular website is incurring high traffic, taking it over the monthly bandwidth quota, it will likely be charged more (per Mb), asked to upgrade to a higher plan or have the account temporarily disabled.
Sites such as YouTube and Facebook have millions of users every hour accessing pages and hence their bandwidth will be extremely high.
Have a think about the number of likely visitors your website will attract every month and how they will be using the website, e.g. just viewing content or interacting? If you’re website is going to attract a huge amount of visitors every month then perhaps you should go for a hosting plan with a large or unlimited monthly bandwidth quota.
Linux or Windows?
East or west? North or south? Does it really matter?
Most hosting companies will be able to supply you with a hosting plan that sits either on a Linux server or a Windows server. Which is best, really depends on your personal preferences and the technologies needed to run your website.
Without incurring the wrath of die-hard Windows fans out there and for many varying administration and licensing reasons, Linux hosting plans are usually the most popular and the default option when purchasing.
If you’re starting from scratch with a new website then unless you expressly request or desire a particular technology it’ll be up to the web developer and their preference in coding websites, so it’s best to hold off on purchasing a hosting package until you first have a chat with a web developer.
As most hosting plans are not transferable between Windows and Linux (because they are on physically different machines), you’ll end up having to fork out more money if you’ve say already purchased a Windows hosting plan that supports IIS, .net and Font Page Extensions and your web developer has designed your site using LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL PHP).
Database, Advanced Scripting and .htaccess Support
Another aspect of the hosting plan to check for is database and advanced scripting support.
For small static websites where you’re not going to be updating content regularly, you likely don’t need to worry about this.
However, if you are planning to be able to update the content yourself or run a product-based eCommerce website, this is a crucial factor.
Updating a website yourself usually means that the developer has to install a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress to develop the site with. These systems are essentially applications and require at least 1 database to store their data in. It’s the same with eCommerce product catalogues such as Magento or Zen Cart.
Upgrading an exiting hosting plan can be expensive as many companies will charge you a wad of cash per additional database they install. Worst case scenarios would see you having to purchase a new hosting plan that included database support.
Advanced scripting and .htaccess support is an issue that we’ve previously come across with customers who had pre-bought their hosting plan before seeking the advice of a web designer. It’s best to check that your hosting plan supports both of these before you buy it as most of the popular CMS and eCommerce applications require this support.
Sub domains allow you to customise your website URL address to point to specific areas of the site.
An example where you may want to do this is if you have a shop component to your website, say at mycompany.co.uk/shop.
A sub domain would allow you to create shop.mycompany.co.uk/
Forums are another popular area where sub domains are often used, e.g. forums.mycompany.co.uk/
I this is important to your website venture then please check that your hosting plan supports this as most of the cheapest plans will not.
Mail Boxes, Email Forwarding & Auto Responders
If you’ve registered a domain name to use with a website then you’ll be wanting to set-up some mail boxes to support the business and staff members.
Check the number of mail boxes that the hosting plan offers and make sure you’re covering all your requirements here. There’s no point in choosing a plan which offers 50 mail boxes if you need to give all 75 members of your company a unique email address.
The difference between mail boxes and email forwarding is in the collection point.
Mail boxes collect and store emails for one unique email address. Email forwarders simply push a email to another address without storing it.
We often set-up many email forwarding addressed for businesses who like to use their gmail or hotmail accounts as a universal inbox while retaining an email address at the website domain name.
e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org –> email@example.com
Auto responders are small server scripts that trigger when an email arrives at a particular address and/or perhaps with a particular phrase in the subject line. The script will send out an automatic reply to the sender.
e.g. You may want to send an automatic email to those who unsubscribe from your newsletter to say a thank you for their support and you hope they will come back soon.
e.g. You may was to automatically thank somebody for their query and let them know somebody will respond within 24 hours.
Most hosting plans have a limit on one or all three of these features depending on the price of the plan.
Check the level of support that you’re getting from a hosting plan and match that with your needs.
Lower cost plans generally have a very specific support plan in place. This may for example guarantee a response within 48 hours or receipt or perhaps if you go with a non-local company, their support times will be their local business times which may not correspond with yours.
If you’re running a large eCommerce site and it goes down for whatever reason, you need to have the right level of support to get it back up and running to minimise losses.
Then again, if you have a 3 page static brochure-ware site, it’s likely you’ll not be jumping up and down if you don’t have 24×7 support.
Still Need Help?
If after reading through this article you’re still confused or perhaps a little more so, then give us a call on 0800 44 88 960 and we’ll chat you through some of the options.