Trying to work out how to choose a web host for your new blog or website is never an easy task at the best of times.
Start diving into it, and you’ll soon discover a seemingly never-ending list of factors to consider. Not all of these factors initially appear to make much sense if this is your first foray into the world of running your site.
It doesn’t help even if you have some idea of what you’re looking for. There’s an almost infinite number of web hosting providers out there. And each one promises you that their service is the absolute best of the best and the only web host you’ll ever need.
So how do you know which company is telling the truth?
How exactly do you know what’s truly important when it comes to picking the perfect host for your particular project?
It’s these questions and more that I’ll be answering in this comprehensive guide to choosing a web host.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked with more web hosting companies than I care to remember as I successfully built up a multi-million dollar content website portfolio.
I’ve learned more than a thing or two: about what to look for, what to avoid, and what’s going to help you grow your site to the level of success you’re aiming for.
Below, I’ll outline the 20 most important factors to consider when choosing a hosting provider for your blog; exactly why they matter, and to what extent you need to pay attention to them if your site is going to succeed in 2022 beyond.
How to Choose a Web Host: 17 Crucial Factors to Consider
1. Meeting Your Needs
So, before I even get into the technical ins and outs of web hosting, the most important things to consider before a web host to do for you.
So, before I even get into the technical ins and outs of web hosting, the most crucial thing to consider when choosing a web host – what you’re going to need that web host to do for you.
After all, there’s no such thing as the absolute best web hosting company out there, only the best web hosting company for you, your project, and your needs.
For example, you’re launching a WordPress blog, in that case, you would be looking at some of the best WordPress hosting companies. These not only make it easy to install WordPress, but also optimize their servers to provide solid support for the web’s most popular CMS>
If you’re hoping to scale a media-rich website to the point where it competes – or even dwarfs – the biggest and most popular sites in your niche: then ample storage, a mighty Content Delivery Network (CDN), and sufficient, scalable bandwidth may all be your top priorities. At the same time, budding eCommerce entrepreneurs will undoubtedly want to focus on hosts with a reputation for world-class security.
With that in mind, it pays to start your search for the perfect host by thinking clearly about both your short-term needs and long-term goals.
Questions you might want to ask yourself include:
What is my Budget?
The amount you have to spend on hosting will certainly influence the type of package you’re able to consider. It will help you weed out those beyond your price range.
What Kind of Traffic am I Expecting?
Suppose you’re starting a personal blog or writing in a very specific niche with a relatively short audience. In that case, you probably won’t be expecting the same kind of high-level traffic as you would if you were launching a big-time news or media site.
This will make a big difference when considering some of the factors we’ll look at later, such as bandwidth.
What Kind of Server Resources Do I Need?
Again, suppose you’re running a relatively small site with one or two images per post. In that case, a standard shared hosting platform may be ideal. Whereas sites with huge batches of rich media to display may benefit from a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or dedicated server.
Answer those questions, and you’ll have a much better time navigating your way through the following remaining factors:
2. Costs and Renewal Rates
If you answered the questions I just listed above, you’d have at least a rough idea of how much you have to spend on hosting. This means you’ll be able to start focusing your attention on those within your price range.
Keep in mind, though, that when it comes to the cost of web hosting, all is rarely as it first seems.
Since there are so many different companies out there, competition is fierce in the hosting market. As such, you’ll find that many leading brands will attempt to lure you in with very attractive discounted rates for the first term.
Often, that first term lasts for 12 months, though companies like Bluehost also offer 36-month terms, which may work out more cost-effectively in the long run.
However long that first term lasts, once it runs out, you’ll switch to the regular renewal rate, which can sometimes be as much as twice the cost of the discounted first term, or even more.
And referring back to Bluehost as an example, their regular rate for their Basic package is almost three times that you’ll pay in the first year.
That being said, it’s worth noting that although this pricing model tends to be the norm in the hosting world, there are some companies that prove to be the exception to the rule.
Brands like Kinsta, for example, just charge a flat per-monthly rate with no renewal rates. Such plans tend to cost significantly more at the outset. Generally, they represent good value for money and maybe a better option to ensure you know exactly how much you’ll be paying for hosting year in, year out.
Web Hosting Cost Factors
When considering the budget for your new web project, it’s worth thinking about the true cost of web hosting, which in some cases may mean paying more than just the monthly fee.
If your hosting plan doesn’t offer a free domain name, then this is something you’ll have to buy separately. Even if they do, many companies will only offer that domain free for the first year. You’ll certainly have to pay for it after and may even end up paying more than you would if you registered a domain with a third party.
Likewise, things like SSL certificates (more of which later) and domain-based email come included free with some plans but not with others, so it really does pay to look at what’s included in the per-monthly rate you pay for your plan and think about any additional costs you may need to pay for on top of it.
When you’re working out whether a hosting plan represents good value for money, one of the first things you’ll want to pay attention to. It is about how much storage (some companies call it “disk space”) a particular plan will entitle you to.
As you may have already worked out for yourself, storage/disk space refers to the amount of space on a web hosting server. It is allocated to you to store all the files that make up your website so that it is accessible to visitors.
The majority of top companies will limit the amount of storage you’re able to use depending on the type of plan you buy. With basic, entry-level plans, typically offering just enough for a small personal site, the top-of-the-scale plans deliver plenty of space for large-scale sites.
A Word About Unlimited Web Hosting
Some companies will promote their plans by offering “unlimited” storage space. This is almost -but not exactly- what it sounds like.
When a web host promises unlimited storage, they generally do so under a type of “fair use policy.” In this policy, you can use as much storage as you need unless you don’t abuse it.
In other words, an unlimited hosting plan may be an excellent option for hosting your rapidly-growing blog. But then your hosting company might shut you down if you suddenly dumped a site the size of Amazon onto their servers.
On a final note about storage, I should mention that it’s not just quantity that matters here, but quality too.
Wherever possible, pay attention to the type of storage offered.
You’ll generally have two options to think about here:
Solid State Drives (SSD) are the faster option and less prone to failures but are usually more expensive, and Serial ATA hard drives. They are generally cheaper (meaning you get more space for your money) but perform much slower and may not be as reliable.
To sum this up, if you’re simply looking to get the most bang for your buck in terms of storage space, an ATA is the way to go, but if you’re serious about growing your site and want the fastest performance possible (which you normally would), then an SSD should be your preferred option.
Along with storage space, the other key factor you’ll need to consider is the amount of bandwidth your plan offers.
To put this in its most basic terms, bandwidth refers to the capacity of your hosting plan to transfer data between your hosting server, your website, and your end-users.
The higher the amount of bandwidth you’re allocated, the better your website will be able to deliver what users came for, especially during peak times or during an unexpected surge in web traffic.
Again, you’ll find that many plans limit their bandwidth allowances, and if you overdo it, you’ll find that your website either starts to perform much slower than usual or even stops working altogether.
You’ll also find plans which offer “unlimited bandwidth,” though much as with storage, even this comes with an unadvertised cap which most small and growing websites are unlikely to ever exceed.
What Happens When You Use Up All Your Bandwidth
Go over your allotted bandwidth allowance. Your hosting company may simply take your website down altogether until your allowance refreshes (usually every month) or until you upgrade to a higher-priced plan.
Alternatively, they may simply automatically upgrade you so that your site stays online. Or keep you on the same plan but charge you over-use fees to make up the difference.
5. Scalability and Upgrade Options
The limitations on things like bandwidth and storage allocations make scalability such an important factor in choosing a web host.
If your new blog takes off to the point that you simply outgrow your hosting plan, you need to know that it will be easy and affordable to jump to the next plan. And it is necessary to accommodate your needs without migrating your site to a new host or otherwise suffering down time.
Suppose your current hosting plan usually satisfies your requirements, but you think you may experience the occasional boost in traffic (such as when you’re running a special offer or that amazing blog post idea you came up with suddenly goes viral). In that case, it’s good to know that you can scale-up to get the extra resources you need on an ad-hoc basis.
Some hosting companies are better than others at this.
For example, when you read my recent Cloudways review, you may recall that it makes it easy to scale up in just a few quick minutes. And this is while using a process called server cloning (exactly what it sounds like) so that you can scale back down again when you’re ready.
6. Reliability and Uptime Scores
So, you’ve got all the storage you need, and you’ve got plenty of bandwidth to ensure that no matter how popular your site is likely to get, visitors are always able to access it.
So far, so good, but neither of those two things is going to matter a great deal if your hosting company’s servers are unreliable and go offline all the time.
That’s why it’s so important that you look at reliability and uptime scores when choosing a web host.
What exactly is uptime?
Pretty much just what it sounds like:
The amount of time that your website -and the server that supports it- is up, running, and online.
Uptime is measured as a percentage, with 100% uptime meaning that your site is always available and always performing at its best at all times, with not even the slightest of glitches in view.
However, it’s rare that you’ll ever find a host that will guarantee 100% uptime. Instead, you’re more than likely to find that companies offer a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which promises somewhere in the region of 99.9% uptime.
Not that you necessarily have to take their word for it.
These can give you a good indication as to how well a particular company does at keeping to their promise, though it has been said in the past that sometimes these tools can give a false positive, which is why hosting providers like WPX, who are known for their lightning-fast performance and excellent uptime, always recommend that you use more than one tool if this is something you’re planning to do for yourself.
7. Server Location
On the one hand, the physical location of the servers which host your website isn’t necessarily going to make or break that site. Wherever your site physically sits, it’s still going to load no matter where your visitors are; it’s just not going to load as quickly as it would if that server is in roughly the same region as your target audience.
To put this another way:
If you primarily serve an audience in the United Kingdom, but your hosting server is based in the United States, you won’t be able to serve your content to your British visitors as quickly as you would if your site were also located in the UK.
Many web hosting companies will tell you where their servers are located so that you can make an informed decision about which company is best suited to help you meet the needs of your visitors.
You may even remember from my recent WPX Hosting review that WPX will even give you the freedom to pick a server location that’s closest to your target audience.
A number of other top hosting companies will also do this and, given just how important speed is to the success of your site; this is always a good option to look out for.
8. Content Delivery Network (CDN) Availability
If your hosting company doesn’t offer server location choices, or if the nearest location is still too far away from your intended audience, it’s a good idea to check whether they offer what’s known as a Content Delivery Network.
More commonly known as a CDN, a Content Delivery Network deposits a version of your website across a collection of smaller “mini-servers” located all over the world so that even if your audience is in the UK and your main hosting server is in the US, your UK visitors will still get the same optimal experience as your US visitors.
Some of the hosting companies we’ve mentioned so far, including WPX, Kinsta, and Cloudways, all offer their own custom-made CDNs to ensure you get the same fast performance right across the globe, while other popular services such as Bluehost, WPEngine, and Siteground all offer free access to Cloudflare, a CDN that is currently one of -if not the- most widely used on the web.
9. Proactive Security and Updates
Any good web hosting company worth their salt should at the very least help you get your website back on track after a security breach, but as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
That’s why I think that one of the fundamental features that separate the merely “good” web hosting companies from the truly great ones is a proactive approach to security that stops those breaches and other problems from happening in the first place.
If you check out my Siteground hosting review, you’ll see that this proactive approach is one of the things I really like about this particular hosting service.
The company consistently and persistently develops its in-built firewall to stamp out threats before they become an actual problem, provide strong protection against bot attacks, and provide round-the-clock monitoring in which servers are checked every half a second to detect problems and eliminate them quickly.
Obviously, Siteground isn’t the only company that offers solid security measures; I’ve just used them as a good example of the things you’ll want to be looking out for regardless of which company you go with.
On a final note regarding security, I want to take you back to what I said right at the start of this guide about the true cost of web hosting.
While all hosting companies will offer at least some basic level of security protection (even if it’s only applying the latest security patches to protect against emerging vulnerabilities), many will charge extra for more advanced features.
As such, you’ll want to be extra careful when looking at the security features included in the plan you’re considering buying and think about whether it’s enough to meet the needs of your site or whether you’ll have to up your budget to pay for more security tools.
10. Malware Protection
Sticking with the subject of web hosting security for a moment, you’ll also want to look at the kind of malware protection your host offers.
Malware (malicious software dumped onto your hosting server) is a common problem among websites that aren’t protected against it and can seriously wreak havoc with your website.
At best, it can pollute your site with all kinds of spam content that drives visitors away from your site (probably never to return) or redirect your visitors to another website. At worst, it can be used to steal credit card details and other personal information that visitors enter into your website, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, can cause a whole world of problems.
With that in mind, it’s important to look at whether the hosting company you’re thinking of signing up with offers malware scanning and removal if they offer this for free, even better.
If they don’t, you’ll either need to think about paying for it or make sure that a security plugin that offers malware removal is among your must-have WordPress plugins.
Even with the best will in the world and the most advanced security features known to man, there may still be times when things go wrong with your website.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be a security problem either. Sometimes, simple human error can cause your whole site to go awry.
While you could spend countless man-hours (or countless amounts of money paying for help) to fix the problem, it’s generally much easier if you can simply restore the last-known-good working version of your site.
This is where backups prove to be worth their weight in gold.
Not all hosts offer backups, while some charge an additional fee for them, though the better ones out there will at least offer some modicum of support to ensure there’s always a spare copy of your site hanging around when you need it most.
With that in mind, you’ll first of all want to check whether or not your preferred hosting provider offers backups in the first place or whether they charge for them.
You’ll also want to consider:
- How often does your host backs up your site (daily? weekly?)
- How long do they keep each backed-up copy of your site (30 days? Longer?)
- How easy it is to create an ad-hoc backup when you feel it’s necessary
- How easy it is to restore a backed-up version of your site
- Whether or not you can download a backup copy of your site to your computer.
12. SSL Certificates
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a means of encrypting, authenticating, and protecting data that is transferred between your website and your servers.
When a user visits your website and makes a purchase, for example, SSL ensures that their credit card details can only be seen by you. Anyone trying to intercept the data transfer or otherwise hack into your website will only ever see a garbled string of nonsense rather than the credit card details.
When it comes to your site, Secure Sockets Layer protection is added in the form of an SSL certificate. You can easily tell if a site has an SSL certificate in place because the web address will begin with HTTPS rather than HTTP.
Most modern browsers will also show a secure padlock icon before the URL in the address bar.
When it comes to choosing a web host for your blog or website, the thing to look out for here is whether or not your hosting provider offers a free SSL as part of the package or whether this is something you’ll once again have to pay extra for.
Do I Need an SSL Certificate If I’m Not Running an eCommerce Site?
In short, yes, you do. Google highly recommends that every website now has an SSL, so not having one is likely to put a dampener on your SEO efforts.
Even if that’s not a concern of yours, SSL will also provide protection for passwords, contact details (if a user fills out a contact form, etc.), and other sensitive information, helping you to avoid the whole world of trouble that could arise if that data is stolen.
13. Domain Name
As you most likely already know, you’re not going to get very far with your new project without a domain name.
As I mentioned earlier, many web hosting companies offer a free domain name as part of your first term deal, after which you’ll have to pay a yearly renewal rate.
The advantage here is that it makes it much easier to set up your domain and connect it to your website without having to worry about complicated things like nameservers. It can, in some cases, it may also prove useful for getting your new blog off the ground with a limited budget.
The other option is to buy your domain from a third party and connect it to your hosting account for use with your site. While that may be a little more tricky to initially set up, it does make life much easier if you decide to move to another host as you don’t have to worry about separating your domain from your old hosting.
Often, buying a domain name from a third party can also prove more cost-effective in the long run.
14. Migration Support
This is one factor that is only really going to make a difference if you’re already hosting your site or blog on another website and thinking of switching to a new host.
Migrating a website isn’t the most complicated thing in the world, but it’s not always plain-sailing for newcomers, and, at the very least, it can be quite a time-consuming process.
If you are moving over then, you’ll be wise to look out for a web hosting that offers website migration services that will take care of the whole thing for you.
15. Email Features
This is one of those web hosting factors that barely matters to some yet makes a world of difference to others.
Some companies will offer free domain-based email services so that you can have, for example, [email protected] as your email address, while others charge more for this, and a few don’t even offer it at all.
Some will offer a webmail client through which you can manage emails the same way that you might be currently managing your Gmail account through your web browser as well as allowing you to access messages through your favorite email client, while others will only offer the email client option.
Depending on how concerned you are about having a professional-looking, domain-based email, this may be an important factor in choosing your host.
16. Customer Support
The best web hosting companies are designed to be as user-friendly and easy to understand as possible, but there may still be times when things go wrong (either with your site, your payments, or something else) or when you can’t quite figure something out.
When that happens, it’s important to have reliable customer service on hand when you need it most.
Some factors to consider here include:
What kind of hours is your host’s customer support available? Is it 24/7 or within standard office hours?
If it’s within office hours, in which country is customer support located?
If you’re based in the UK, but your hosting company’s customer service is only open during US office hours, that means you could be waiting half a day to speak to someone, hardly an ideal situation if your website goes offline in the morning and you have to wait until mid-afternoon to talk to somebody.
I’ve rarely come across a hosting service that doesn’t at the very least offer email support, though this is often the slowest form of support and can be the least helpful if you feel you need to speak to someone in real-time.
The best companies, however, will offer additional options such as an online ticket system, live chat, and telephone.
In this regard, think about how you’d most like to be able to access customer support and whether that’s something your hosting provider actually offers.
Response and Resolution Times
Here’s what really matters the most:
How long does it take your hosting company to respond to your request for help and actually get the problem solved?
The better companies out there man their support teams with the actual web hosting experts who are capable of responding to and resolving most problems quickly and efficiently, while some of the lesser options out there initially outsource first-level support to a call center who then have to refer on more serious or complicated matters to second and third-level specialists which can sometimes mean hours or even days before the problem is fixed.
17. Company Reputation
Last but not least, you may find it helpful to look beyond any hosting company’s sales pitch and determine what its actual users are saying about it.
Of course, this can be problematic sometimes as people are far more prone to complaining about companies online than they are praising them, but it still may be beneficial to look for balanced, real-user reviews of any company you’re thinking of signing up with to get a better idea of what your experience is actually going to be like.
Frequently Asked Questions About Web Hosting
Q1. Is unlimited hosting really unlimited?
Ans. Not really. Most hosting companies who offer unlimited bandwidth and/or storage still put a cap on how much of those resources you can actually use, but these caps are set at a point that most small and medium websites are never going to reach, hence why they’re advertised as “unlimited.”
Q2. What is the best web hosting provider for bloggers?
Ans. WPX is my pick of the best web hosting providers for bloggers as it is tailored to that audience and offers lightning-fast performance, excellent reliability, and excellent support.
Q3. What is managed web hosting?
Ans. Managed web hosting means that you rent the server space from your hosting company but have them manage it for you, giving them the responsibility to take care of things like updates and upgrades, security monitoring, and software and hardware maintenance.
How to Choose a Web Host in 2022: A Final Word of Advice
From thinking about your long-term goals to checking out the reputation of the company you’re thinking of signing up with and everything in between, the guide above covers all of the most crucial factors to consider when it comes to time to choose a web host.
Still, if there’s one final piece of advice I could leave you with today, I’d like it to be this:
When it comes to picking a host, most of the 17 factors listed above fit into one of three categories:
- Speed and performance
- Resources and reliability.
With that in mind, when you’re choosing your next web host, the main thing to look out for is a host that offers super-fast page load speeds, top-quality security, and all the storage, bandwidth, and high-level of uptime you need to ensure that your website performs at its best at all times.