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Choosing the Right Hosting Provider

Selecting the right hosting provider can be a challenging task, with a seemingly endless number of providers to choose from. There are many things to consider, with the nature of the site driving many of the decisions. Here are some of the most common considerations.

Type of service

There are several criteria to consider when determining what class of hosting you’ll want for a site: shared or dedicated. Before we get into the pros & cons of each, though, let’s clarify the basic differences between the two.

What is Shared Hosting?

Shared hosting means the resources of a server are shared between 2 or more sites. That includes storage, bandwidth, the number of databases allowed and more. Server maintenance is typically handled by the hosting provider. Shared hosting is considerably less costly than dedicated.

What is Dedicated Hosting?

Dedicated means just what the name implies: a server which is dedicated to just one site. The site doesn’t have to share available resources with any other sites. Server maintenance is usually the responsibility of the client, although many hosts will handle server maintenance for an additional charge. Dedicated hosting is significantly more expensive than shared.

Pros & Cons of Each

There are pros and cons to virtually every choice you face as a site owner, so let’s consider them for shared and dedicated hosting.

Pros of Shared Hosting

  1. Most affordable;
  2. Host manages the technical aspects of the server;
  3. No need to be familiar with server-side coding;
  4. CPanel makes self-management easier.

Cons of Shared Hosting

  1. Increased security risks if other sites on server are hacked;
  2. Limited to software supplied or supported by host;
  3. Server resources are divided among other sites on server;
  4. Bandwidth demand by other sites on server can slow response of your site.

What are Some Features to Consider?

Here are some of the services and features you should consider when either comparing potential hosts or making a final decision. How do they stack up in terms of:

  • Support (chat, email, phone; 24/7)
  • Class of service (shared, VPN, dedicated)
  • Service reputation
  • Up-time (historic, guarantee)
  • cPanel
  • Affiliation (owned by EIG, for instance)
  • SSL/TLS availability
  • Software versions (PHP, MySQL)
  • “Neighborhood” (other sites on server)
  • Security
  • Number allowed (add-on, parked and sub-domains, email and FTP accounts, databases allowed)
  • Usability (cPanel, Plesk, ispCP, ISPConfig)
  • Add-on services available (monitoring, backup/restore, stats, CDN, VPN, phpMyAdmin, etc.)
  • Upgrade options
  • Operational limits (bandwidth, executions)
  • Geographic placement (server locations)
  • Ease of transfers (when moving to or from another host)
  • Flexibility (brief over-limits excursions forgiven)
  • Payment option (PayPal, CC, bank)
  • specs (SSD, for instance)
  • Load distribution/balancing
  • Specialized servers for specific platforms (WordPress, Joomla, Magento?
  • Costs (sign-up & renewal)

All of the above items may not seem important to you, at least not now. But choosing a host now that has the flexibility to accommodate you if your site grows considerably is much better than having to either relocate or pay a premium for upgrades.

With a simple Google search, you can find a number of sites that offer comparisons of the features and pricing of different hosting companies. Just be wary – some of them don’t display a date, so their accuracy can be questionable. Always verify on the prospective hosts’ sites.

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