It ain’t all SEO sunshine and Pantone rainbows over here at KWC. (It is all kitten GIFs and party parrot Slackmojis, though.) Sometimes we have to talk about the less glamorous, but even more essential, aspects of web design—specifically the behind-the-scenes show-running that is web hosting.
See Emerge’s most recent post for a more thorough foray into the nuts and bolts, but a basic definition will suffice for our purposes here: web hosts or servers are companies that rent you the space that houses your website. Your web host is largely responsible for the speed at which customers can access your site and the percentage of the time your site is available (uptime), so it’s important to pick a server that has a good track record and an excellent customer service system for when things go wrong (as they inevitably do).
There are four major levels of web hosting, and each is appropriate for websites meeting different, specific sets of criteria:
When hundreds, sometimes thousands of websites share a server. This is the cheapest, most user-friendly option, but a shared server may not be powerful enough to support a site with tens of thousands of views per month. Also, if one website is hacked or goes down, others on the same server may be affected.
VPS (virtual private server):
Faster, more powerful, and more secure option because fewer websites are sharing server space, but VPS is also more expensive than shared hosting.
Provides the highest level of security and power (no sharing!), but requires technical know-how to set up and maintain and comes with a hefty price tag.
Allows for extremely popular websites to run quickly and efficiently with no hardware limitations, but may come with security concerns.
Many companies offer shared hosting and then optional upgrades for VPS or dedicated hosting, but shared hosting usually works fine for small businesses and websites that don’t see frequent, outrageous spikes in traffic.
While finding your appropriate level isn’t difficult, choosing a hosting company proves much more complicated because of the sheer volume of available options. Make it easy on yourself by analyzing according to these six factors:
- Price: Costs should be clear up front and should correspond to your company’s size and budget. Many hosting companies also offer generous cancellation and refund policies.
- Reputation: While some newer hosting companies may offer steep discounts or flashy perks, servers that have been around for five or more years often have more positive reviews and better shelf life (think fine wine, not good produce).
- Speed: Our attention spans have dwindled to nearly nonexistent, so a quickly loading page is essential.
- Uptime: While we may become frustrated with a page that takes too long to load, we’ll likely abandon and never return to a page that doesn’t load at all. Uptime should be very close to or better than 99.9%.
- Customer Service: Consider what type of communication your prefer—some companies only offer technical support via email or online chat, and you may become frustrated if you would rather speak with someone on the phone. The internet never closes, and night owl customers may be trying to access your site at 2am, so it is important that some level of support is available almost round the clock.
- Usability: A simple, easy-to-use dashboard isn’t too much to ask and is vital if you hope to get your site up and running quickly.
Sites like Venture Harbour offer guides that highlight their top hosting company picks based on metrics tests that gauge the factors listed above. Unfortunately, there isn’t one server that scores highest in all of these categories, but with this information at your fingertips, finding the best option based on your company’s needs should be simple.
As for Key Web’s pick? Bluehost. Best bang for your buck, most consistently reliable customer service, and excellent uptime—all around better environment for party parrot.