The difference between good and bad hosting packages can be boiled down to four basic metrics: speed, capacity, bandwidth and reliability.
Speed and reliability are the factors that are most likely to be noticed by visitors, while lack of capacity and bandwidth are more of an inconvenience, and can usually be solved relatively easily – for a price. Let’s explore these factors, plus some other things to look out for when choosing a host.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of speed when it comes to hosting. The reasons are twofold.
First, human visitors won’t wait around forever for your page to load – if they’re browsing for what your business provides, they’re more likely to take their custom elsewhere than wait for your site to finish rendering. Slow pages also make your company look unprofessional: if you scrimp on hosting, what other corners do you cut?
The second reason is that site speed could well be a ranking factor for search engines. If slow-loading sites are deemed lower quality, poorly-hosted sites will suffer, no matter how relevant, efficient and minimalistic the content.
Hosting is one of those services where you definitely get what you pay for. While you can easily find a host for your website that will cost a couple of pounds a month, you should expect a service to match.
For sure, if you’re a local business with just a couple of site visitors a day, and a basic brochureware site, you might get away with it. But anything more, such as interactivity, shopping baskets, video content or simply a busy site, and you might find your site is down quite often.
Web space and bandwidth
The final elements are web space and bandwidth. Web space is literally how many megabytes your site takes up on the server, while bandwidth is how much data (in and out) your site transmits and receives. Typically, these are limited on a cheaper hosting package.
All hosts will let you buy more space and bandwidth if you need it. If you’re in a situation where you need to expand, it’s probably because your site, and therefore your business, is thriving, so it’s not usually a problem financially. However, it’s better to migrate to a better server than to keep bolting on extras – you’ll always get better performance and customer service.
When you buy a cheap hosting package, you’ll be sharing a server with any number of other websites. For sites with low bandwidth demands, it’s a decent solution, and many startups take this route.
The problem with shared hosting is that if the other sites are popular, or indeed if yours is, you can see drops in performance as data gets bottlenecked. Sharing a host can also create security holes, and if one of the sites has its IP address blacklisted by search engines, it’s possible all the sharing sites will too.
With a dedicated server run by a reputable hosting company, all the problems detailed on this page should be eliminated.
You’re in complete control of the space, bandwidth and speed, and uptime should be close to 100% as a result. Needless to say, it’s a more expensive option, but for most businesses it’s not prohibitively expensive.
If your traffic is seasonal, or if you have big, short-duration events (such as Black Friday), it might be worth looking at cloud hosting. It’s a much more flexible way of hosting your site and prices are comparable to those of a dedicated server.
As with anything for your business, it pays to shop around and read reviews when you’re looking for hosting. Unfortunately there are a lot of disreputable hosts out there that survive solely because of clients’ naivety.
Quite often, the best hosts are local – they’re easier to deal with and you’ll get a more personalised service. For bespoke hosting options, give our team at Gooey a message.