A website without hosting is nothing but a bunch of files with no place to store them. To make your project visible to online users, you need to find a proper server solution that meets website requirements in terms of bandwidth storage, security, load time, etc.
Picking the one might be a hassle especially for people who are far from being hosting experts. You should never underestimate the hosting role in terms of website running, maintenance and support.
Teaming up with the wrong hosting will doom your project to failure. On the other hand, choosing the right one is the same as establishing a partnership between the service provider and website owners. You pay for a chosen plan and get full-scale support without downtimes as well as technical or security struggles. The question is how to actually choose the right solution? What features to consider and where to look for? Keep reading the article to find the answers to those questions.
How to Choose the Right Hosting for Your Website
It initially makes sense to study the characteristics of your website (or at least to figure out its detailing): whether it uses CMS and which one exactly, whether it needs web programming language support and which one (PHP is the most popular of them, but there can be other options as well), the amount of daily traffic planned, the content to be posed on web pages (RAM volume and/or disk space required for one page and for many pages), the need for extra space for caching, backups etc.
If you summarize all these characteristics to make them more understandable for users, there are two main factors to consider:
- hosting compatibility with your (chosen) CMS;
- estimated load (this parameter particularly correlates with hosting type – the lower it is – the cheaper and easier hosting set up will be).
Let’s talk about each factor in details now.
How to Choose the Best Hosting for CMS
Each CMS (Content Management System) is developed with regard to specific application terms, website type, particular programming language, compatibility with a database server etc. Some CMS types like “Headless” CMS, for example, mostly require Node.js environment, while classic systems like wordPress or Joomla work equally well on shared hosting and on dedicated servers and they require PHP+MySQL bundle as an environment. At the same time, Joomla, for example, is quite multifaceted and it is compatible with several types of databases out-of-the-box. That is why, the requirements for baseline hosting configuration obligatory depend on CMS choice.
Let’s demonstrate this nuance, using WordPress (the most popular open-code CMS) as an example. For proper work of the current release of the engine, the following support is required:
- sustainable PHP version – preferably 7.4 or higher;
- MySQL version 5.6+ or MariaDB (this is a complete MySQL analogue) version 10.1 or higher;
- Any web server compatible with PHP/MySQL, yet Apache or Nginx are preferable.
The engine can work on outdated PHP / MySQL legacy-versions, but you should remember that their use is not secure because of the discontinued tech support.
Around 90% of all hostings across the globe match this configuration. However, there are certain nuances here. Some providers like Bluehost, for example, which is recommended by the platform developers, offer special plans that come with support of extra services:
- automated updates completed by hosting;
- cache support (in RAM or in files);
- one-click installation from the hosting dashboard;
- CDN network access (required to speed up the delivery of static content, including cached pages);
- anti-virus and code editing protection;
- Individual catalogue of premium themes (templates);
- unlimited disk space and unlimited database volume (included in almost all the plans).
Such advantages undeniably have a notable benefit.
Generally, WordPress consumes a lot of server resources and, thus, it is better to foresee the increase of consumption in advance.
Tech requirements of other engines may differ, which means that hosting should be chosen with regard to their special features.
How to Choose the Best Shared Hosting
When it comes to shared hosting for dynamic websites, technical parameters of a provider should be evaluated while making the choice. The most crucial aspects to pay attention to are listed below.
PHP Version Choice. Not all engines and PHP scripts work equally well on the current version of the interpretative program. WordPress, for example, is better compatible with PHP 7.4 and higher. If you install it on PHP 5.4, you are likely to get a warning in the admin panel. An outdated Livestreet won’t run on PHP 7.0 or higher etc. To ensure the required compatibility, it is desirable for the hosting to let you pick the required version of the interpretative program.
One-Click CMS Installation. This is convenient (especially for newbies), when the required engine is installed and connected to the database automatically and with minimum user participation.
SSH-Connection Support. It is very convenient to complete many operations when working with a website directly from the console. For example, you can download a website archive and unpack it with one command only. You will have to invest more time, when doing the same in the web interface and you can’t be totally sure that it will work well.
Apache2 Web Server or the Bundle with Proxy Nginx. Almost all popular website engines are developed with Apache in mind. You won’t be able to manage separate modules and settings without it (special .htaccess files are used here). Proxy Nginx is required for advanced work with static content (its bindle with Apache ensures the best performance).
Free SSL-Certificate Support. If your website does not support encryption (HTTPS protocol), then users will receive notifications about security problems in all modern browsers. Paid SSL Certificates do not ensure protection only – they also provide financial responsibility of the certification center. This is useful for large business clients, while the majority of website owners will be satisfied with free solutions. It’s really good, when the required support is already integrated in the hosting dashboard.
Support of Caching and Other Niche Services. CMS work frequently results in notable hosting loads. To ensure better performance and response speed, it makes sense to use page caching instead of file caching in the server’s RAM, like wth Memcached, for example.
PHP performance can also be accelerated by profile caching like with Zend OPcache application. Full-text local search may occasionally come in handy, it can be realized via Sphinx application etc. Each task may require its own specific server software. Shared hosting providers rarely support such options.
Backup. If you have never lost data when moving between hosts and have never tried to find at least any working backup with a website/database in the emergency mode, then it will be quite difficult to explain the importance of this endeavour.
Tech Support and Transfer Assistance. It is better to check the operational efficacy of the reaction and professionalism of tech support before you face the need to urgently solve a particular situation with a website. Assistance with data transfer from competitors will definitely be useful to newbies.
How to Choose the Best VPS Hosting
It’s up to you to install any software and to set it up as you need on your own server. Thus, it doesn’t make any sense to evaluate the available set of the pre-installed software. However, a few things are still worth special attention.
Virtualization Technology. The most common options are OpenVZ and KVM. The first technology, OpenVZ, notably depends on the platform it runs on and imposes certain configuration restrictions. For example, you can’t install Windows Server or upload your one image. However, it is possible to upgrade the configuration on the go without restarting the server.
KVM unveils more settings-related options, which makes it possible to compare the system with dedicated servers. However, KVM-based VPS will cost you more. To change/upgrade the plan, you will have to restart the server. These are only the most popular virtualization technologies – other options are available as well like Docker, XEN, Hyper-V and more.
Guaranteed Access Channel. Any hosting has an extensive Internet channel, but it’s not free. What’s more, the more clients a hosting has, the less the channel width is per each user. It doesn’t make any sense to set the upper limit (if a channel is not overloaded, you will get it as it is). However, it is essential to find out the guaranteed bandwidth at high load speed in advance. If is is about 10 Mb/sec., then it is pointless to use such hosting for large or commercial projects. The higher the minimum speed value is, the better. It is desirable that it should constitute 100Mb/sec and higher, although, much still depends on your website requirements and traffic.
Disk Performance. A lot has changed since the time the search engines have declared web page load speed one of the key ranking factors. If SEO and natural traffic matter to you, then you should obligatorily go for high-speed drives – solid SSD preferably with NVMe support. Classic HDD or hybrid models work best for auxiliary tasks only (backup and archive storage etc.).
Control Panel. Some Linux users give preference to old-school console and real hardcore. However, if you don’t have niche knowledge and experience, it is better to manage your server via web interface. The choice of a hosting panel is a topic for a separate informative article. Just make sure you choose bulk commercial products like Cpanel, Plesk or ISPmanager.
Open source does not always live up to expectations and requires extra work. The chance to break something and stay with a server that does not work is quite high. What’s more, many plans come with a free control panel, that is its rental cost will be included into the cost of the plan.
Backups. It is not reasonable to take the provider’s standard backup system seriously. If its data center is off, you will be left both without a website and the backups. It is better to keep the archives with another hosting provider. However, if the selected hosting can create server snapshots, it’s really good. You will be able to get an image of the working system and even to use it for a quick transfer to another hosting provider.
Tech Support. It is critical, if you have zero niche knowledge. Set up and maintenance of VPS and dedicated servers is much more complicated as compared to shared hosting. Newbies are even recommended to start with “all-inclusive” plans to have someone to turn for help anytime in case of emergency.
How to Choose Hosting Based on the Load (Capacity)
It is desirable that you initially figure out the average volume of pages generated by the engine in the server’s RAM. Multiplying these data by the number of simultaneous connections, you will get the average amount of consumed RAM. The processor time limit mostly affects the speed of page generation as the more CPU resources are free, the faster it can render a particular web page. The generation time may notably increase while overloading since there are many pages to be rendered at a time.
Hard disk volume is initially defined with regard to the average volume and amount of downloaded media files. These are mostly images, but there can also be videos, texts, presentations etc. For example, if each image takes around 0.5 Mb, then 1000 of such images will take around 500 Mb. To be precise, if you plan to have around 1000 pages, each containing 2-3 images, then you will require at least 1000*3*0.5 Mb = 1.5 Gb. If you plan to have 10000 pages, then this number will increase to 15 Gb correspondingly etc.
You have to realize, though, that crops can be created on the basis of original images. This means that the same image can be automatically multiplied 2-3 times or more. Even if shared hosting providers don’t impose disk space and database volume, they obligatory limit processing time and RAM as one client can accidentally or maliciously take over all the server resources used by other clients. The more resources are included into a plan, the more expensive it is.
When it comes to resources, shared hosting is the most limited. That is why, they are also the most affordable. This is what makes them more suitable for new projects, that is, for websites, which are not well promoted and have low traffic. If you know daily traffic volume of your website, the choice of hosting should be completed with regard to the following parameters:
- shared hosting will work well for projects with up to 1.5-3 thousand users per day;
- VPS/VDS servers will be a better solution for websites, the traffic of which ranges from 3 to 10 thousand users per day;
- if your website traffic starts from dozens of thousands of users per day, you can switch to dedicated servers or complex configurations like clusters, cloud infrastructure etc.
This subdivision, however, is quite conventional as CPU load may notably decrease while cache activation as you won’t have to generate web pages once again. They will work as static HTML documents. Other website load decrease options may be available as well.
Best Website Hosting Providers
Bluehost – The Best Web-Hosting in the World
Bluehost – is a popular and feature-rich hosting provider, which occupies one of the top positions in the rating of the best hosts in the world. One of the highlights of the platform is that it is recommended by WordPress developers as their official hosting, which delivers a broad range of advantages, offering different types of server solutions to come up to various user needs. Bluehost benefits are numerous, including:
- One-click seamless WordPress integration;
- Special plans for eCommerce, blogging and business projects;
- Access to third-party plugins/extensions;
- Powerful customer support.
Bluehost charges reasonable fees for its plans. The cheapest subscription will cost you 2.95/mo. The price will grow with regard to the terms included into each plan (number of websites hosted, disk storage space/bandwidth, customer support and backup options etc.). The most expensive solution currently constitutes $79.99/mo for dedicated hosting.
HostPapa – Top North-American Hosting Provider
HostPapa – is a top hosting in North America and the one that has gained popularity with users worldwide. But that’s not it – Hostpapa also positions itself as a full-cycle company, which additionally allows creating, managing and promoting websites from scratch. They let their subscribers choose from various server solutions that differ in terms and tools included. Hostpapa stands out from the crowd due to its high end functionality, namely:
- Free domain included into each plan;
- Full-cycle company with a Custom website builder;
- Integrated web store hosting solution;
- WP-optimized plans;
- Free domain name/website migration.
HostPapa doesn’t have a free plan or trial. To host your website with the system, you initially have to subscribe to one of the available plans. You have an opportunity to choose between Standard and eCommerce server solutions. Standard HostPapa plans start at $3.95/mo, while the cost of eCommerce subscriptions starts at $19.99/mo. The platform also offers a 30-day refund policy.
HostGator – Cloud-Based Web-Hosting Solution
HostGator – is another popular hosting provider, which is cloud-based. This is one of the major features that distinguishes the platform from its competitors. The system features high end performance, enhanced security and reduced risk of traffic leaps/server overloads. This is due to the fact that cloud hosting uses several servers in the same ecosystem, which ensures smooth website performance. The list of HostGator highlights is as follows:
- Integrated caching configurations;
- Gator website builder;
- WP optimized solutions;
- Application of data mirroring technologies.
HostGator has several server solutions available at different cost. The cloud-based package includes three plans, the cheapest of which is $2.75/mo. Users may also go for WP-optimized plans, which start at $5.95/mo. The price of VPS hosting plans starts at $29.95/mo, which is quite a costly option.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Top Hosting Providers
Now when we have learned about hosting types and how they work, it is high time we reviewed the key features to look for and consider when picking the server solution for your particular website needs. The good news is that competition in the niche grows stronger making service providers be more loyal with potential users and offer them a pack of extra features with affordable plans. All you need is to know what to look for not forgetting about the baseline functionality as well.
Pick the Right Hosting Type
Before you start comparing plan prices and features included, you need to decide on the hosting type. We have already described 4 major server solutions. Now it’s your turn to figure out how complex your website is, what traffic you expect, how many pages a site will have, etc.
Make sure the hosting you choose delivers enough storage and bandwidth. Moreover, have a look at hosting compatibility with major CMS. Some companies offer WP-optimized plans as well as seamless integration with other popular content management systems.
|Shared Hosting + Features||Yes (unlimited websites, storage, and bandwidth. Free SSL)||Yes (unlimited websites with up to 30GB of Web Space)||Yes (free SSL, free dedicated IP, free domain)|
|VPS + Features||Yes (2 IP addresses, 3TB bandwidth, 4 cores)||No VPS. Hosting for resellers as an alternative.||Yes (8 cores, 4GB of RAM, 3TB of bandwidth)|
|Dedicated Hosting + Features||Yes (5 IP addresses with 15TB of bandwidth)||Yes (10TB bandwidth for 2 cores)||Yes (unmetered bandwidth, for Windows and Linux)|
|Cloud Hosting + Features||Yes (unlimited storage, bandwidth, and websites)||Yes (8 cores and 125 GB SSD space)||Yes (free upgrades, SEO tools, SSL, and domain)|
This particular feature is responsible for website operation and loading speed. Moreover, it will define the way your site will run and traffic peaks and leaps. Some performance rates define the overall time of project downfalls as well as the speed of server response. In addition, you should consider the availability of physical servers located in different parts of the world. This fact ensures faster data delivery to users from various countries, which is also very important.
So, the key performance metrics are as follows:
- The average uptime rate – it is the time the server operates with no errors or performance failures. The higher the uptime rate is the better.
- Website load speed – the speed of data transfer and server response every time a user sends a request by typing in your domain in the browser. Loa page load speed results in low users’ satisfaction and engagement.
- Data centers – this feature considers physical data centers and servers located in different parts of the world. It helps to deliver website data faster to users located in the faraway distance.
|Average Uptime Rate||99.99%||99.9%||99.9%|
|Average Page Load||424 ms||714 ms||A+ speed (Bitcatcha)|
|Data Centers||No multiple data centers||The USA, Europe, and Asia||23 data centers worldwide|
The crucial features in terms of website stable work. With so many malicious codes and programs, you need to 100% sure there is no threat to the project. Some hosting providers offer integrations with CloudFlare and other platforms to prevent sites from DDoS attacks. In addition, users may count on additional features in the face of anti-spamming packages, system updates, daily or weekly backups, etc.
|Backups||Automatic backups and restore tools||Weekly and daily updates depending on the plan||Auto backups and updates|
|DDoS prevention||CloudFlare integration||Firewall filtering||Bitninja malware detection|
|Anti-Spam||Spam Expert, Spam Hammer, Apache SpamAssassin.||SpamAssassin integration||SpamAssassin, mailbox check|
As a rule, most hosting providers come with enhanced customer support. It includes extended knowledge base in addition to tutorials and how-to guides. Some platforms provide detailed instructions on how to integrate hosting with your CMS. In addition, you should look for extra contacting tools for instant support in case of technical issues. The Live Chat feature and phone support would be a huge plus.
|Help Center||Yes + WordPress assistance||Yes||Yes|
Price always matters. You need to clearly understand what you pay for. Does the plan include all necessary features for website smooth performance? What additional perks will you get for that price? The situation with the pricing policy may sometimes be tricky, as the plan renewal is often more expensive if compared to the initial purchase. At the same time, some companies offer special bonuses and discounts in addition to free options that may include a free domain, SSL, CMS integration, etc.
|Entry Price||From $2.95 for shared hosting||From $3.95 for shared hosting||From $2.75 for shared hosting|
|Maximum Price||$109.68 for dedicated hosting||$599 for dedicated hosting||$148.98 for dedicated hosting|
The Bottom Line
To pick up a proper hosting, users need to consider several vital aspects in terms of performance, security, and extra features delivered by the companies. We have reviewed all of the crucial aspects in details making it easier for you to choose the best-matching alternative considering your website type, structure, complexity, and expected traffic.
It is not just about selecting the most reputable hosting. You need to be 100% sure the platform meets essential requirements with enough server assets and facilities to deliver. A combination of affordable prices and enhanced functionality plus free features would certainly make a good deal.