Finding a host for your website can appear to be a maze, prices can vary wildly for the same or similar services, and the Internet is still the Wild West where cowboys and snake oil salesmen lurk in the rocks. Don’t panic, a little diligence will minimise any obstacles you may encounter.
In my previous post covering domain names, I mentioned that buying your hosting and domain name (URL) at the same time made the process of setting up a website much smoother. This is nearly always your best option and avoids any technical intervention in linking your domain name to your new hosting provider. With this in mind, the first thing you should look for when looking for a supplier is one that also sells domain names, that way the setup process is handled in a single transaction. The exception to this is if you are lucky enough to know someone with their server willing to host your website, mates rates and sometimes free hosting is always a winner.
There are three types of web hosts you may encounter:
The first kind is the bargain “build your own website with our handy tools” providers, without mentioning names. These are the providers that advertise on TV, or you see posters for on the Tube. They look promising and are cheap, but you’re are unlikely to get the domain name you want, and the end results rarely look professional. The pictures on websites on these services are akin to the images of food in fast food takeaways. The result rarely matches the picture. You may also find you are severely limited when you want to expand your site or give it new functions.
The second type of provider are the ‘specialists’ in websites for SMEs offering various website building services and support packages, while not particularly bad I have yet to encounter one that provided a service that matches the often inflated prices associated with this kind of hosting.
Lastly, the bread and butter hosts, you may even be able to find a local provider. These providers often provide a vast range of services for every kind of website from massive networks to the smallest of businesses; you will nearly always find something that fits your requirements. As a guide, for a site suitable for a small or medium sized business you should expect to pay no more than £60 per year for hosting, often much less.
When making a choice there are some other things you may need to want to take into account:
Check if the provider is offering Microsoft or Unix servers, there are benefits to both but on balance Unix based servers are better especially if you are planning on using WordPress as a platform for your site.
Many Unix-based services come with Control panel or Cpanel, which is a brilliant tool that gives you an enormous range of control of all aspects of your site from managing your email accounts and visitor stats to installing your own scripts and security. Cpanel allows you do undertake many tasks with a few clicks that were once impossible for the lay user.
Check how much space and bandwidth the hosts are offering. Server space and bandwidth are cheap these days, the days of metered websites are long gone. Most hosts now offer unlimited space and bandwidth though there may be some limits on space at the budget end of the market, (£15 to £20 per year). Even so the limits often far exceed what you will ever need.
Check the number of emails the hosting offers; unlimited is the usual standard these days. Also, check how many databases the package offers. Hosting usually comes with multiple databases as standard, but I have encountered hosts that want to sell you them separately as a sometimes expensive extra. This is like selling you a car and then trying to sell you the engine as an ‘add on’. Databases are needed to run most platforms so are a critical component of nearly all modern websites. It’s also worth checking for other extra features such as enhanced security or performance.
As a rule of thumb, as with any investment, shop around, there is a vast selection of offers to choose from. If you don’t have the time and the inclination to search I’d highly recommend our hosts of over ten years Free Virtual Servers:
At Quicklearn we take a different approach to building websites. Instead of just building your site we help you build your site and in the process, you will learn how to both construct and maintain your website. We dispel all the mystery, don’t worry the process is simple painless and not at all time consuming. You could have a functional website exactly the way you want it in as little as four hours. We then support you as much as you need until you are confident enough to develop your website yourself. Learn more about our approach here.
Matt Miller has been building WordPress and other sites for a number of clients over the past few years. He also maintains sites for clients and provides coaching for those wishing to build on and grow their own website. Matt believes that by using WordPress you can have complete control of your site whatever your knowledge. You should be able to update it and change it as much as you wish for only the cost of your domain name and hosting requirements. For a ‘no strings’ conversation about your plans email firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance.