Web hosting provides you with virtual space to house your website on the Internet. The content on your website is served up by a server (a special computer) that connects your websites to web users everywhere.

Who is a web host?

A web host is a company that rents out the server you need to house your website.

Finding the right web host

Businesses today are very particular about choosing the right web hosting provider because they understand that a large part of their online business success is dependent on the website. Finding the right web host is not easy because there are a lot of factors to consider but it can be done. Listed below are some of those factors.

  • The price of the service

Most businesses are looking to keep their running costs low, so the first instinct is to go for a hosting that is affordable. However, your choice should not be solely based on price. For your business websites to be successful, engaging the services of a supportive, secure and reliable hosting service is important. These factors should be at the forefront of your selection process before price. Aim for a service that would provide value for money and not just an affordable plan.

  • Opt-out option

The last thing on your mind when you sign up for a new web hosting service is leaving your hosting provider. However, you may need to switch out your hosting provider at a later time, so the opt-out option provided is something you should consider. If the terms of service are restrictive, it will make it very difficult for you to migrate, which means choosing such a service would mean that you are locked in and getting out would be very difficult.

  • Hardware and operating system compatibility

This is especially handy when you need to change your hosting provider. You need to ensure that the hardware and operating system offered by your web host is compatible with your website's software.

Most web hosts provide OS environments that make it possible for you to own your software, with an alternative solution put in place by your web host. This type of environment is best because otherwiseif the software is not compatible, it would have to be re-written before you can migrate -- and this is time-consuming and very expensive.

  • SSL certificates

SSL certificates are very important especially for businesses which sell products and services online, for example, e-commerce stores which need to make payment secure for their customers. In order to do this, data needs to be encrypted using an SSL certificate. Most web hosts will provide you with this, but it is important to check.

SSL certificate is not just necessary for e-commerce sites but for every online business website today. Without SSL certification, Google flags your website as not secured and payments gateways may not allow you use their services directly from your website. You might have to redirect your customers to another website for payment, and this is a hassle.

  • Domain email hosting

A lot of web hosting services come with domain email hosting included. But that's not all - you will need a host that also scans emails for malware and spam and follows all regulations, so your domain emails are not blacklisted. It is also important that your web host allows you to integrate your domain email with services such as webmail access, adequate storage, mobile access and file sharing.

  • Easy to use control panels

A user-friendly interface would make administering the backend of your website less challenging. One of the easiest and most popular types of control panel is the cPanel, especially for Linux-based servers.

For Windows servers, Plesk control panel is great. This panel features a single dashboard interface that is well categorised and easy to navigate. We just a few clicks, you can manage software installation and updates as well as change your settings.

  • Upgrade feature

This is a very important feature to look out for. For example, web hosting companies like BlueHost, Heart Internet UK and  Domains4less Webhosting  allows you to take on extra resources to meet traffic growth or short-term spikes. This is important for any business website. The great thing about scalable resources is that it is modelled on a pay as you go format, which means that an upgrade to a large package permanently is not necessary. If you would like the option of scalable resources in periods of increased activity, then you need to ensure that your hosting provider can offer this.

  • Capacity for long-term growth

A small website on shared hosting today could in a couple of years be a strong brand that requires a hybrid solution of dedicated servers and private/public cloud hosting. Your web hosting provider needs to have all the resources to assist with this.

  • WordPress support

Almost a third of websites on the Internet today are built with WordPress. In spite of its popularity, not all web hosting providers have WordPressset up or the relevant technical experience to offer support. If you are looking to host a WordPress site, it is best to check that your web hosts have the resources to help you manage it.

  • Migration services

Switching out web hosting providers is a technical process and can be daunting if you have little or no technical experience. Thankfully, a lot of web hosting providers now offer free migration services - they'll help you move your website and ensure everything works fine. A host that doesn't offer this service could be a clear indicator as to the state of their in-house expertise. In order to avoid issues in the future, always go for a web hostthat would make it easy for you to change providers.

  • Strong security

Cybercriminals today use sophisticated hacking software to try to scan millions of networks and websites for vulnerabilities -- which is why security is a major concern for every website on the web today. Hackers will take advantage of vulnerabilities found - which makes strong security essential for any business website.

The web hosting provider you go with needs to be able to offer a wide array of tools (SSL encryption, strong firewalls, spam removal, intrusion prevention, email scanning and so on) that you can use to safeguard your website against different forms of cyber threats. The consequences of weak security are frightening -- your data can be stolen, your site ransomed or, worse, used to spread viruses.

  • Managed services

You already have a lot of tasks to accomplish daily as a business owner, adding the task of managing the server your website is hosted on is most probably something you do not want to add on to that long list.

If you so desire, a good web hosting providercan take care of management on your behalf. They will ensure that the server's operating system is up-to-date and that all updates and patching are taking care of. Depending on the package you sign up for, they could also custom-tailor packages to meet your specific requirements.

  • Uptime guarantee

A website that constantly goes offline is the absolute worst. Not only does that give a bad impression of your business, but it can also cause you to lose sales and affects your website's search engine rankings.

Site downtime is especially common with shared hosting users - when there are too many websites on the servers or the servers are old and require constant maintenance.

Your web hosting provider needs to offer a guarantee of at least 99.95% for cloud hosting. For VPS servers or dedicated hosting users, the benchmark is 99.9% uptime guarantee -- which essentially means that your website will be online for 99.99% of the time.

  • Technology backup service

Another feature to look out for with your web host is if they offer remote backup services. To protect the data shared between your website and its visitors, you would need a web host that provides great backup service.

For example, if you run an e-commerce store, you would need frequent backups so you don't lose current sales info. You should check that backups are stored remotely on a different server from the one your website is hosted on; so, in the event that your server goes down, your backups won't be affected.

In addition, checks to see that your intended web host backs up their servers as well. If servers go down because of an issue at the host end, you need to know that there is a backup server ready to take over hosting your website so it doesn't experience any downtime.

  • 24/7technical support

In order for your online websites or apps to run continuously, you would need the assurance that in the event of an issue occurring at any time, you would have the relevant technical support that you need to fix the issue.

In this context, we are not just referring to a voice at the end of a phone who responds with sympathy but an expert who can offer real-time solutions. Remember, every minute your website is offline, you are losing revenue.

Published by Eric Foley