6 keys for picking a web host

Many beginners think that there is little difference between one web hosting company and another.  But that is not the case.   Web hosting is instrumental in the visibility of your site, i. e., your SEO rankings.

The outcome of picking the wrong service company can be extremely detrimental to your bottom line if you are a commercial site.


Or it can ruin your site's effectiveness if you are not in it to make a profit.


Here are some of the chief considerations to contemplate when making your web hosting decision:

1. How reliable is their service? 
What is their consistency for being online?  Being up and running is known as "uptime."  If a host goes down (suspends service), that can be inopportune for you, and can also be expensive if you are trying to make a living at it.  In recent history, one major hosting company went down for four hours on Black Friday.  You can imagine the effect of that type of situation.


Hosting centers with duel or backup servers in the same data center have a good chance to avoid disaster.  But those with duplicate servers in multiple data centers scattered in various locations provide an even better chance of staying viable on the Internet if something abysmal happens.

2. What are their performance standards?

This area covers three aspects:

(a) data transfer
(b) bandwidth
(c) data speed (download speed)

Data transfer refers to how much data is permittable for the site to transmit in any given month.  Which begs another question.  Is it subject to restriction?  If your provider limits how much you can transfer, and you get shut down or surcharged for any overage, that can be a devastating surprise and an overwhelming expense.


Bandwidth is different.  It defines how much data (data transfer) moves on the hosting network in a given period.  It is a measure of data.


But data speed is how fast data transfer can move over the Internet.

Let's use an example to explain all of this.


As the picture shows, we have a 5-gallon container with a funnel.  The bottle is filled with water and holds all the water that we are allowed to use over a prescribed period, just like the data transfer per month.

And from that 5-gallon container, we pour the water into a funnel.


The funnel will hold a gallon of water at most when filled to the top, this being our bandwidth.


As with funnels, it narrows down from the wide opening at the top to the flared body.  In the end, the liquid flows out of the narrow neck at the bottom.  The neck of the funnel slows down the flow of the water, which is just like your data speed.


Even though the funnel will hold a gallon, the neck of the tube restricts the flow of the H2O.   The rate of flow is down to 4 ounces per second.  Similarly, the hardware and monitoring of the hosting provider limit the data speed.


It is a universal opinion that slow speeds lose viewers.


That is why a hosting provider on a CDN should be considered essential if page loading times are critical.   CDN is an acronym for Content Delivery Network.  The system uses multiple servers to transmit pages depending upon the geographic location of the user, i.e., the server closest to the user supplies the service.

Other hosting features that can increase performance are caching and the use of solid-state drives (SSD) versus conventional hard drives.


The caching helps to preload parts of the site on the viewer's computer.


While SSD's are much faster at accessing the data, they are more reliable than hard drives because solid-state drives do not have any moving parts.


3. What is the quality level of customer service?


Customer service never seems to be necessary, except when you truly need it.


In times of crisis, excellent customer service can get you through a horrible situation, and the lousy type can make your life excruciatingly painful.

The better hosting services have live support staff that can answer your questions or concerns in real-time.


Although we prefer being able to pick up a phone and talk directly to tech support, live chat is the second-best alternative.


Customer service provided solely by email can take hours and even days, and the time wasted can be critical, if not frustrating.  Furthermore, a lot can be misunderstood or lacking in clarity when swapping emails.


When the situation is not dire, the fact that a well-detailed knowledge database, online discussions, and tutorials available can help fill in the blanks. It is also an indication that the provider realizes getting customers' questions answered is indispensable to its business.  So, they spend the time and effort building an extensive knowledge base.

4. What are the security measures provided to protect your site?


By the way, if you do not think that cybersecurity is not vital, you may want to consider what Inc. magazine had to say about it.


"Research conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance found that:

    1. Almost 50 percent of small businesses have experienced a cyber-attack.
    2. More than 70 percent of [the] attacks target small businesses.
    3. As much 60 percent of hacked small and medium-sized businesses go out of business after six months."


Web host security should be a principal criterion when sourcing a hosting provider.  Here are some of the major points to check:


Do they provide or perform backups of your site automatically, or are you required to do it manually?

are you backed up?

The importance comes into play if your site becomes corrupted, or you accidentally delete something important.


Backups are also critical if you collect information from your visitors, such as email addresses and personal or financial information.  Losing this type of data is frightening.


do you need firewall DDoS protection?

Just as your computer needs a firewall, does it require a firewall when hosted offsite?


Absolutely.  But it is one of many aids in protecting it.  A DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack can be fatally disruptive.

During a DDoS attack, the web servers are flooded by hackers trying to bring down the network by generating large data packets or an extraordinary number of requests.  This sudden and consistent barrage overwhelms the system.


Usually, the attack is to extract a ransom from the owner in return for stopping the assault.


On its own, a DDoS firewall will not give adequate protection.


That is why addons like a CDN, mentioned above, become critical.  The ability to switch to unaffected servers in other parts of the globe can keep you up and running.

antivirus and antimalware protection discussed

Prevention of a viral attack can keep your site from being corrupted.  But additionally, the monitoring for malware keeps things healthy and operating without incidents.


The disruption from these attackers originates from the way they steal data or infect files and sites.  This type of threat occurs while uploading data or linking to the server or with other computers on the hosting network.


The most current antivirus or antimalware software is a must.  These applications detect, disarm, and remove malicious software and other dangers that can attack the system servers.


If the web hosting provider does not provide a complete cyber defense system with which you feel totally comfortable, look elsewhere.  That means that they also should furnish an alert and detection tool to protect your data and your site's operation.

what is a secure file transfer protocol?

Know by the acronym SFTP; it is the secure version of FTP (File Transfer Protocol).  SFTP is the encrypted movement of commands and data between the client and a server.  (A client is a computer device that opens the interaction with a server to utilize a source that can be shared.)


Without this protocol, sensitive information is at risk of being intercepted.  FTP is a way of transferring files systematically to the host server at one time, rather than doing the transfer one file at a time.


FTPS is a different protocol that does the same as SFTP but does it over a Secure Sockets Layer or SSL.  The explanation of SSL comes in the next section.


Either protocol works in an encrypted environment.  Your hosting service should have either FTPS or SFTP, and some hosting facilities have both to handle multiple operating system platforms.

what are ssl certificates?

The SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which is another process for transferring vital and sensitive information.  The SSL's algorithms encode the data that passes between the remote computer (the client) and the server.

An SSL certificate is essential if you want recognition as being safe and secure.


Being secure means having the ability to pass information in an encrypted manner so that sensitive data passes without being intercepted.


If you see a padlock icon or "https:" before a domain, it signifies that the site can be trusted, and it is secure.


Furthermore, Google will even block your site as unsecured without this certificate.

The assumption is that your site contains dangerous content or engages in shoddy practices, and this will appear in the search results.


Other browsers will also show a notice in the search bar that the site is "not secure."


Again, this is crucial if you perform transactions from your site or pass sensitive information.   The encryption makes the data unreadable to anyone except the hosting server receiving the information.


Quite often, the web host will provide one for free or for a small annual subscription fee.

5. What bundled software and integration does the web host offer?


Bundled software is the term used for programs, software, or applications that are included in the web hosting at no additional cost.   If there is a charge for it, you do not have bundled software.

types of e-commerce applications

Anticipate that the following types of applications are included as bundled software:


e-commerce exists into two main groups, business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C).


If you are self-hosting without the availability of bundled software, then it would be costly to set up shop because each addon comes with a separate and additional charge.


Whether using an e-commerce platform or a conventional hosting provider, the following types of applications are out-and-out requisites for e-commerce:

    1. PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security),
    2. secure shopping cart
    3. payment gateway
    4. merchant tools
    5. storefront setup
    6. unlimited bandwidth
    7. mobile-friendly
    8. templates for online catalog
    9. tools for tracking orders/inventory management

Be aware of the difference between software labeled as bundled and software termed as "available."  Available usually is a euphemism for "at extra cost", including the open-source WooCommerce application.


One should also take note that certain types of e-commerce platforms afford different advantages.  When using a WordPress-based platform such as WooCommerce, the user has greater freedom and flexibility in structuring their product and its presentation. But it comes with a bit more effort.


WordPress is ideal for content-based sites, like blogs, review sites, and the like.  But when doing e-commerce, the beginner is better off with platforms that are built expressly for selling products and services.  That does not mean that WordPress e-commerce will not work.  Many find it to their advantage, but the learning curve and startup effort are more challenging for the beginner.


Our suggestion is to pick an e-commerce application that will get you up and running as soon as possible, with the least amount of effort.

CMS defined (content management systems)

CMS is software that helps the user to create, change, and manage the content in a way that makes any knowledge of code and programming unnecessary.  The CMS manages the rudimentary infrastructure of the site so that the creator can focus on the viewable aspects.

Content Management can be utilized for any genre, but can also focus on specific site types like:

  • static websites
  • blogs
  • forums
  • educational
  • social networking
  • e-commerce
  • portfolios

Usually, the CMS has an editor form of interface that allows for the composition, alteration, and management of the content.  The term used for this part of site development is called the "front end."


There is also a remote area to store the content, data, media in a database.  This part of web development uses the term "back end," and it resides on the server.


The format utilizes a template system to bring together the design and presentation of the content into the design process.  The template forgoes the need for the knowledge and the direct use of code.


Open-source CMS's include WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.  The choice of which one to use will depend upon your intended purpose, how complicated the site will be, and the tech knowledge of the user.


For those that lack the skill as a developer, our suggestion is to use WordPress.  And stay away from Joomla.


WordPress can be extremely efficient with the right plugins, such as webpage editors, and provide professional-looking results with a minimal learning curve.


But for those that want to become developers, we suggest deferring to Drupal over Joomla.


We will get into the subject matter of page editors in greater detail later on.

what is a website builder?

A website builder is also an all-in-one software tool to create without any knowledge of coding or real design ability.


These utilities provide a drag and drop editor to create a fully designed site, which only limits the end product by what your creative capabilities are.


Drag and drop is a term used to identify a shortcut method of web design.

The technique simply requires the user to click on a menu icon.  Then the user pulls the element over to the location where needed.


Just some of the web design modules used in drag and drop are media galleries for photos and videos, text editors, form builders, pricing tables, slide shows, and numerous predesigned widgets and shortcut gismos.


The good thing is that it usually does not cost anything to use these utilities.  Many web hosts provide a free version or an inexpensive edition of a more advanced adaptation.


But do not confuse this method with website building software that resides on your


By using these web host-provided builders, you do not get to keep your website.


Yes, you read it correctly.


You still have your domain and its content, but you cannot take the finished product to another host.


If you have a reason to change web hosts, and you used something like GoDaddy's utility, you have to redo the entire site from scratch.  In other words, you are an unknowing hostage.  And the ransom is the monthly or annual hosting fee.


Our word of advice, never let anyone take away the control of any aspect of your Internet survival for any reason.  The time, effort, and money to get it back to where it was can be devastating.


You are better off using a page builder that is independent of the web host.


Many of the independent page builders offer free or trial versions of their products so you can evaluate them before spending any money.  Some of the trial versions have no time limits but do have limited functionality.


We suggest it is better to use software that is not reliant upon a commitment to a hosting service. Even if you have to pay for it, you want the freedom to compose or edit it and have control over its continued existence.

6. What type of hosting service do you need?


After all of the above, the question comes to what type of hosting should be selected.  Just as there are many types of website categories, there are more than just a couple of flavors for hosting services.


shared web hosting


Just as its name implies, multiple sites share the same server.


For low volume use, this type of service is more than enough, even though the site with the most traffic will dominate more of the server resources over the other sites.


However, shared hosting can be a problem.

  • If one of the sites gets hit with an extraordinary amount of traffic, the others will experience its very harmful effect.  What happens is the dominant site absorbs so much of the available resources that it retards the ability of the others to function effectively.
  • The tradeoff is that by sharing a server with many, the cost of operating and maintaining the server is considerably less than other types of hosting services.
  • A shared hosting program usually has many of the features discussed before, i.e., bundled software, unmetered or generous bandwidth, free SSL certificates, WordPress, free shopping carts, and others.

For the beginner or a low traffic site, shared hosting is the most cost-effective way to launch a site, starting with some services at as little as $3 per month for bare-bones.


Long-term contract plans can run as much as $18 per month but are more service orientated, and usually with numerous features included.

virtual private server hosting (VPS)

The term "virtual" is the key to defining this class of hosting.


Like virtual reality, it is not a real separate server that you get.  Instead, it is an area on a server that emulates an individual server with a set-aside area solely for your use.


The server still has multiple customers as in shared hosting, and the resources remain apportioned among the subscribers.  But the areas of the server are defined so that each customer has its own designated space.  The software to do this feat is called a hypervisor.  As an example, a college dormitory is one building (the server), but it has many private rooms (the VPS's).

VPS-managed hosting is typically the choice for those who lack the technical background or the interest to maintain a dedicated server.  You still have a similar level of customer support as in shared hosting.  And, at the same time, you have more access and control over the server environment.


The unmanaged version of VPS does not offer any support other than for equipment failure or outage.  In other words, if something goes wrong with the environment, you are on your own.

  • Whether managed or unmanaged, VPS hosting is a more expensive way to go than shared hosting.
  • Depending on RAM, CPU configuration, disk space requirements, and bandwidth needed, VPS hosting can run in the range of $30 to $60 or more per month.
  • But remember that VPS's are a stopgap measure between shared hosting and dedicated hosting.  While better than shared hosting, VPS's are still subject to stress from extremely high-volume spikes.

dedicated web hosting

Dedicated server hosting offers the user the sole use of the server provided by the hosting company.  In other words, yours is the only one on the server.


Borrowing from the dormitory metaphor above, you can use every room in the dormitory, and not just one dorm room.


The dedicated server allows the user to have full administrative access along with total management of the security and the operating system used to support the server.


This type of plan is utilized by those that have extremely high levels of traffic, and by those users that require complete control of the server environment.


With the exclusive use of the server, comes a pretty exclusive cost. Inexpensive plans start about $120 per month, with better packages running from about $300 to as much as $800 per month.  Again, the price correlates to the bandwidth, disk space, size of RAM, core configuration, type of drive (hard or solid-state drive).


Be aware that some of the plans charge a setup fee and a separate charge for a cPanel (control panel). The setup fees can run from $50 to $100 and are usually one-time charges, but cPanels can be recurring charges of $20 to $40 per month.

  • Even though we are talking dedicated servers, not all server plans are equal.
  • The differencing factors are in the speed, uptime, and quality of customer service.
  • The expense borne for a dedicated server deserves a commensurate level of service and amenities from the service provider.

explaining cloud web hosting!

Cloud hosting conceptually parallels a utility company, i.e., like an electric power company that is on the power grid, it interacts with other power companies.


The cloud host taps into various servers on the cloud system to provide hosting capabilities to those users as they need them.  The servers can be located in multiple geographic locations and are managed by a virtual computer that directs and coordinates with the various servers throughout the cloud network.


The consensus is that cloud hosting is better than shared hosting.  The contention is that the cloud is better situated to handle larger volumes of web traffic, affords greater security, and is more reliable than shared hosting.


Also, because of the technological advances made in cloud systems, the networking power usually available to the big players with huge budgets is now available to the little guy for a fraction of the cost.

We tend to be more of a traditionalist when it comes to cloud data storage.  A cloud data system allows someone else to have control of your data, which is not the case when your data is on your local disk.


That means your data may become a victim of unidentified risks when on the cloud.


By being on the same cloud system, your site could experience mass hacking attacks, privacy breaches, and lax security measures by others.


Also, if the cloud host goes out of business, or has a total failure, can you imagine the cost and inability to retrieve the data stored in the cloud?


In our opinion, critical data should never be accessible to and under the control of others.


Granted, this is the case with any type of hosting that you are on.  But using the cloud for backup and general data storage is something that can be devastating.


Remember, data breaches and data disruption are not a matter of if it will happen, but rather when it will happen.


As for cloud hosting, if you do use a cloud service, make sure that you have a local backup on your computer.  It may be an old version of the site that you backed up so time ago, but at least you are not starting from scratch to rebuild it.


The drawback will be that any updated email lists, subscription or membership information, and any collected data stored on the cloud and not locally could be lost.

  • Pricewise, cloud hosting will cost more than shared hosting, but not by much.


  • Some cloud programs start at $4 to $10 per month for a basic plan. The moderately priced plans are $50 to $200 per month.  For top-level dedicated cloud hosting, it can run $1,500 to over $2,000 every month.


  • Again, just like all the other categories of web hosting, prices depend on speed, capacity, type of servers used, and level of customer service provided. And always be aware of "introductory" pricing.  What maybe be a very competitively priced plan for an initial contract period can become extremely expensive at renewal time.

what is WordPress hosting?

WordPress (WP) web hosting caters solely to WordPress websites and is independent of WordPress.org or WordPress.com.  There are different types of WordPress hosting platforms available to these unrelated sources.


The typical WordPress plans fall into these four categories:

  • shared hosting
  • virtual private servers (VPS)
  • cloud hosting
  • dedicated servers


WordPress hosting plans have features that are customary with conventional web hosting.


For the most part, each category of WP parallels its counterpart in traditional hosting relating to pricing, standard inclusions, and customer service.


Perplexingly, there are WordPress self-hosted sites and those that are WordPress-hosted sites.

WP self-hosting means the user has full control and access to the files and does whatever you want to the site.  These self-hosters exist on hosting servers just like any other conventional website but are restricted to the WP environment and live separate from the ordinary ones.

WordPress.org is the organization that offers its own free, open-source software, which makes it easier to create websites and customize them as you like.  WordPress.org is the vehicle from which to download the WP software that you use on a hosting service.  They are NOT a hosting service.  You need a hosting service on which to run.


what is the difference?

A WordPress-hosted site lives in a different environment.   It is the type of host that is closer to a full-service answer meant for those who want a quick and do not mind a cookie-cutter presentation.  This version of WP is available on WordPress.com.


Please do not confuse WordPress.com with WordPress.org.

WordPress.com is a hosted service.  It is a system that allows you to set up a site in minutes.  There is no need to download the WordPress software, pay for hosting or domain name, and affords a straightforward platform to create a presence.


There are limitations to their free plan, such as the user cannot run an e-commerce site on their platform.  Also, you do not own your domain, nor can you move your site to another hosting service.


If it is one's choice to do a WordPress site that is to be commercial or the owner wants the freedom in operation, WordPress.com is not the platform to use.


WordPress.com does offer premium plans that provide more enhancements. But you never have complete control in self-hosting.


One needs to think into the future as to which situation an owner may find one's self in the future.  If growth in scale is the projected future, or there is the desire to establish a unique identity, choose a self-hosted system from the start.

after all considerations

Let us assume that you have read and digested the information above and have done some research on your own.


You have decided on the category or type it will be, the domain name is registered, and the type of hosting was selected.  It is time to start building it and putting the content that you have been working on into place.


The first question that should come to mind is, how are you going to put the website together?


That means you should have decided on using a website builder or CMS, which we have discussed in prior sections.


If you are looking for advice on how to write code, stop right now.  This site is for individuals who are not professional web designers and do not want to become one.  Besides that, there are ways to accomplish the same results more quickly, and with a high degree of professional-looking results.


That is why these programs and CMS's are so popular.

why is WordPress popular?

In today's world of web development, WordPress has become the most widely used way to accomplish the undertaking, by far.

In a recent article, it stated that WordPress powers 36 % of the Internet, and 60% of all CMS sites are WordPress.


Want more stats?


More than 28% of all e-Commerce sites are WordPress sites through the customizable, open-source WooCommerce platform.


As far as credibility, WordPress powers such sites as:

  • The New Yorker
  • The Whitehouse
  • Bloomberg Professional
  • Facebook
  • Disney
  • BBC America
  • Microsoft News Center
  • Time Inc.
  • New York Times
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Rolling Stone, and many more

The best thing about WordPress is that it is free.

more info on website builders

The other way to go is the website builder route.


As mentioned before, website builders are software packages that allow you to build sites without knowing code in a WYSIWYG environment (What You See Is What You Get).


They are like word processors.  You can visualize the outcome of your work as you do it. What web-builder you use depends on the type of site you want as an end product.  This topic was in a prior section, so we will not rehash it again, but you may want to revisit it just to refresh the thought.


Depending upon your budget and how deep you want to get into your project, you have to consider if you are going to go the free route or spend some money. Desiring to either make things easier or have some additional tools with some sophistication to use, you may want to spend a little.


However, we are not going to make any suggestions on which way to go at this point.  But instead, we will discuss the development itself, and leave the opinions, reviews, resources, and tools for another section of Web Info Pros.