How do you choose a website host?
When it comes to setting up a new, or upgraded, e-commerce store for your businesses this is one of the biggest choices you have to make,
If your website is a digital storefront, your web host is the digital foundation on which it’s built.
Choose well, and everything you build on top of it will be more stable and perform better.
Choose poorly, and it could all come crashing down at the first sign of trouble.
That’s why we’re here to give you our top tips for the things you need to consider when comparing different website hosts, to find that perfect fit.
How Does Website Hosting Work?
Before we get into it, it’s useful to have a basic understanding of how website hosting works, and what you’re actually paying for.
If you break it down, every website is fundamentally a system of files containing code. This code tells web browsers what to display, how to display it and what to do when users interact with the website, for instance by clicking on a link.
The files live on a server, called the website host because that’s where the files are served from over the internet and to individual browsers.
Why Does Website Hosting Affect Site Speed
When we talk about speed, there are two main elements that website hosting impacts.
Firstly, every hosting server has specific download and upload speeds associated with it. Generally speaking, the more expensive your hosting package the faster it is.
Secondly, the amount of bandwidth (or space on the server) that they allocate to handling requests for your website determines how the site performs when a lot of people try to access it at once.
If your hosting server has a lot of bandwidth allocated to it, it can handle more simultaneous users without slowing down.
Your hosting server will almost always be shared between several other websites when you go with a commercial hosting provider – so generally speaking you pay more for more access to the server’s available bandwidth.
How Web Hosting Works – Summary
And that about covers it – a website host is a server from which your website is served to your customers over the internet.
It’s a crucial component in determining how fast your website loads, and how it performs under a sudden influx of customers.
What to Consider When Choosing a Website Host
1. Speed and Bandwidth
Website speed is something that’s much easier to get right from the start than it is to patch on later.
Two of the most important considerations, when looking at a website host, are:
- A) How many visitors are you expecting to come to your site, and therefore how much bandwidth your host needs, and…
- B) How fast are your web host’s servers, and how fast does your site need them to be?
These two considerations are absolutely key for making your website fast enough to rank well in search engines and be enjoyable for your customers to use.
If you’re expecting a huge volume of users on your site, it’s worth springing for better hosting. This is because the increased bandwidth will stop your site from going down or slowing to a crawl under the increased demand.
Likewise, though, if you’re a new business you don’t want to go overboard either, and pay for a bunch of bandwidth that your site is never going to use.
The next thing you want to consider is how complex and dynamic you’re planning for your new website to be.
More complex sites need faster hosting to perform well, because of the increased number of elements that the server needs to load for
2. Customer Service
The second most important consideration is the level of customer support the web host provides.
It’s inevitable that something is going to go wrong, or you’re going to want to make some changes to your website that requires the assistance of your web host.
At that point, you’re going to either deeply regret not checking their customer service history beforehand, or go through a quick and painless process to get what you need.
We recommend looking at what other people have had to say about them online, but taking what you see with a grain of salt.
Websites like Hellopeter.com tend to skew towards being overly critical because users almost exclusively report bad experiences.
Likewise, if the review is from an affiliate marketing site they’re incentivised to make the web host look good.
Use your own common sense – and look at how they respond to criticisms or help queries online. This is often a much better indicator.
3. Price Points and Hosting Costs
You may find it odd that we list pricing midway down this list. It’s obviously an incredibly important consideration – if you can’t afford a web host then that’s that, after all.
You do obviously need to consider what your business can afford, but we think proper web hosting is something worth investing in.
So, assuming the service is commiserate with the cost, don’t skimp on the price of your hosting.
At the same time, be sure to shop around and make sure what you’re paying for is commiserate with what other businesses offer.
More expensive hosting tends to be better, but don’t always take their word for it. Ideally, you want to find a balance of performance and cost.
4. Server Uptime and Reliability
Another crucial consideration is a metric called “Server Uptime”, which is very simply put the percentage of time your web host’s servers are online versus down for maintenance (or unplanned breakdowns).
This is crucial because, unless you’ve set up redundant “mirror” servers, when the hosting server goes down your website goes down.
You obviously want this number to be as high as possible, bearing in mind it’s probably never going to be 100%, assuming you use only one hosting server since planned maintenance is sometimes needed.
Most larger companies usually do planned maintenance in off-peak hours, to compensate, such as early in the morning.
Reliability is another important consideration to look at before deciding on a hosting provider. Most larger web hosts should have no issue with the reliability of their servers, but going with a smaller provider may cause you to run into some issues here if their servers are poorly maintained.
5. Extra Features
The last consideration you want to make are what we call “extras”. The little extra selling points hosting providers offer to incentivise you to join them.
These range from inconsequential, like free domain names, to huge extras like including a website builder or CMS in the same subscription package.
You want to consider what your business needs. Up to a certain point, most web hosts offer effectively the same service, so this is what really sets them apart from one another.
Looking to run a WooCommerce store? Maybe consider looking for a host that specialises in WordPress sites and can help you get the most out of it.
Want to make your website yourself, and as quickly as possible? We can highly recommend Shopify as an all-in-one website building and hosting solution.
Look at the extra features on offer, and what best suits what you’re going for. You can sometimes score some incredible value this way – or it can just help you decide between two very similar options.
We hope this gave you all the major pointers you need to know to decide on the best hosting provider for your e-commerce store.
Remember, you want to consider:
- The speed and bandwidth of the hosting server
- The level of customer service the hosting company provides
- The price point of the host vs. what you can afford
- The hosting server’s uptime and reliability
- The extra features on offer that set the hosting company apart
If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, check out more e-commerce marketing content on the inSyte blog or listen to the inSyte Podcast.
This article was brought to you by Syte.
We’re a specialist e-commerce digital marketing agency dedicated to driving up your bottom line.
If you need any help running your business’s digital marketing strategy, feel free to reach out with the form below or check out our case studies page to see what we’ve been able to do for our clients.