How do I choose a web host?

Tips of the Trade,Your Questions Answered

May 15, 2024

Have you tried searching for a web host but are overwhelmed with the options? Don’t worry! You are not alone. In fact, choosing the right web host can literally make or break your company! So we urge you to make sure you do you research and due diligence before making your decision. And this is not a decision to be made lightly. There are many factors in choosing a web host and we will lay them all out for you below so that you are as educated as possible when it comes time to making your decision.

1. What Kind of Website is it?

Before you start looking up the tech specs of various hosts and different categories of hosting, you’ll want to ask yourself a very simple question. What kind of website do I want to launch/migrate?

If your business is a local service based business, then the answer might be entirely different than someone that just wants to sell consumer packaged products and distribute them through an E-Commerce platform.

So the first step in the process might look something like this.

I want to open an E-Commerce website, then you may want to look at Shopify as a service that includes a lot of what your going to need at a very reasonable price.

I want to open a website to drive leads for my service based business. In this instance, you’ll probably want to gravitate to something that leans more heavily on content and ties into google my business, so that you can engage potential leads through different funnels set up for your website. We would recommend a framework such as WordPress in this circumstance.

Now that you’ve determined what kind of website you want to have, we can move onto the next step.

2. What type of host do I need?

Various hosts are geared for different frameworks. If you wanted to run a pure E-Commerce experience, there are certain hosts that will optimize their servers to speed up the checkout experience and to be optimal for platforms such as Woo Commerce and be able to handle complex data sets and variables in PHP programming language and XML. These hosts may also specialize in advanced SSL and secure checkout experiences. And while a lot of these may be useful if you are just running an online portal to drive leads to your brick and mortar, it may not be necessary.

What if you’re running a lead magnet for your physical company? You may want to look towards something that is optimized for Cloud or WordPress architectures. These may be tuned more towards SEO, handling apps that are integrated with your website and staying up to date with the latest available updates. A lot of the redundancies that would be in place for an E-Commerce website might not apply here and those resources can be better spent on optimizing the general WordPress experience for your visitors.

3. Shared, Virtual or Dedicated Hosting Solutions?

Now that we have identified what type of website and what the various hosts specialize in, it’s time to start comparing apples to apples.

There are typically three types of web hosts out there.

Shared Hosting.

This kind of hosting operates servers where many clients and hosts are in a shared resource environment. These resources such as RAM/CPU/HARD DRIVE SPACE, are on a shared server. And while the cost is the lowest out of all three of these options, you are likely going to experience one of several different performance issues.

The performance issues that you could experience with a shared host could include:

– A slow loading website

– Down time and Website Outages

– Hacked Websites

– Malicious Code

– Missing Files or Code

– Broken Links

And while these issues might not affect everyone on a shared hosting environment, they are common enough from reading through hundreds of publicly available reviews of various shared host that you know these are pretty widespread.

There are a few good shared hosting providers out there, but even they are not immune to things like outages, server overload and slow loading sites.

The issue lies in the fact that you may never know the other clients and websites that share the resources on your system.

If you are a very resource light customer, having a simple informational web site, you may get stacked on a server with some pretty heavy users that are serving up lots of visual and video content.

And while you may think some of the stats are great for your shared hosting environment, they really don’t mean a lot if your site is always bogged down from sites consuming too many server resources on your shared server space.

Virtual Private Servers

Virtual private servers came on line to effectively split the difference between the cheap shared server environments and the expensive dedicated servers.

Virtual Private Servers are similar to shared servers in that you share resources with other clients and websites. However, in a Virtual Private Server environment, you are typically guaranteed a minimum amount of resources such as CPU/RAM/DISK SPACE. That way you always know that your host should be serving up your site, it should be serving it up at a faster clip than most shared environments and you can have the peace of mind that your site won’t be bogged down from any bad actors running resource intensive websites.

A qualified Virtual Private Server host will do their best to load balance the various servers that they have to ensure you aren’t stuck with too many resource hungry sites sharing your server.

Virtual Private Servers can typically be evaluated on the minimum resources available to you and your website(s). And these resources can usually be compared apples to apples with competitors. Some of the unknowns that you might not be privy to, just like in a shared hosting environment, may be things like cache, PHP memory and other server allocations that allow them to fine tune the resources dedicated to any particular client on their server. It makes the industry a little opaque at times because you think you are getting certain resources, yet there may exist additional throttles you may have never considered before.

Many of these can be traced to how many simultaneous operations your website can perform at the same time. And while you may not even know what and how many operations your website is attempting to simultaneously complete, you will definitely see it on the performance end especially when your greeted with a slow loading site of a 404 error.

Dedicated Hosting

The Cadillac of the hosting industry is Dedicated Hosting. And for many, dedicated hosting is not even a possibility due to the sheer price of many of the services available

On the very low end, dedicated hosting can run about $75-100 per month. On the higher end you can pay $1,000’s per month for enterprise level hosting services.

So what is a dedicated hosting environment?

Basically you get a private server box, complete unto itself, that is connected to the network at a host.

That box is supposed to be completely yours during the period you are renting their services. You should theoretically have unlimited resources, websites and bandwidth up to the limits imposed on the network by your host. Additional throttles may be placed on resource hungry websites, but ultimately hosts want to make sure that their loads are balanced and can handle the rare traffic spikes to their clients’ websites.

Within this dedicated hosting environment, you should be in a room all by yourself. Your website should have the flexibility to grow within that space up to the physical limitations of your guaranteed resources. As you move up from one to two to four to eight cores CPU, from 1GB to 2GB to 4GB to 8GB and beyond RAM/memory and from 100GB to 250GB to 500GB to 1TB Hard Disk storage and beyond, the pricing structure will follow suit.

To have a box with the highest resources available could get pretty costly pretty quickly, but dedicated hosting does come with its perks.

Typically dedicated hosting are managed solutions. Meaning, you always have some sort of system administrator that is doing some level of monitoring your server for outages, attacks, errors, etc. Dedicated hosts are often available at the click of a live chat or a phone call and are pretty responsive in resolving any issues, should you encounter any.

Further, the flexibility of maxing out your allocated resources may give you options that shared or VPS hosting doesn’t have, such as additional/unlimited websites, lower server load from others on the same server, isolation from cross infection if one of the other websites on your server are cross-hacked as well as additional layers of protection that aren’t always offered on the lower tiers of web hosting provider packages.

4. How do I choose between similar hosts?

This is probably one of the most important questions you can ask yourself once you get to this step.

Getting set up with a new host only to find out their are issues with outages, resource hogs cluttering your server and the myriad of other issues you can encounter as a client, may make some pull their hair out in frustration.

The truth of the matter is there are so many options that exist and a lot of the companies may be out there just trying to earn your buck.

From our experience, trying and researching many different hosts first hand and through the lens of thousands of customers review , we have learned that seldom are you ever comparing apples to apples, in fact, you are typically comparing apples to oranges and you are trying to read the tea leaves in between.

And, while the answer could probably be simplified if there were honest and truthful review websites dedicated solely to web hosts, often time the majority of review websites are completely biased to whatever hosts are giving them sponsorships, affiliate commissions or other kickbacks. And this heavily clouds an already difficult decision.

Further, while the answer should be very clear, to go with a household name, often times some of the biggest players in the space aren’t even that great.

And when you finally do find a host you like, things could quickly change within the next several months to couple of years. As there is an aggressive server consolidation phase that is constantly moving though the space, buying up profitable smaller hosts and merging them into billion dollar behemoths. (Reference Host Gator Acquisition, 2012.)

So what do you do?

Well if you have unlimited time to spend researching or just a glutton for punishment, then you could certainly build a spreadsheet comparing and contrasting dozens of web hosts, comparing their reviews across different review websites, try to discern which reviews are legitimate, which are paid, which are affiliates and so on, do dozens of speed tests, put up a couple starter websites and continue to monitor the performance of these sites after they’ve gone live, only to realize that your resource allocations may change and you may get bounced from server to server as the admins are balancing their server loads. Or you can just trust the entire gut wrenching process to a digital marketing agency that you trust!

Often times the time you spend trying to self run and self manage your web host is a headache you don’t really need, especially when your time is already short and you have important high level business decisions to be working on.

The best choice may ultimately be to leave the decision to the professionals.

I’m Hellbent on doing it myself

Fine, we get it, if you are really wanting to dive into the underbelly of the web hosting world, and you’ve done your due diligence, make sure that you continue to monitor the performance of your website over time.

Be sure to communicate often with customer and tech support if there are things affecting your website. And if you get the the point of enough is enough, don’t feel bad if you have to migrate your website to another hosting provider. After all there is not really any loyalty anymore in the web hosting space, its often just lock in the customer for as long as they can and hope they don’t complain to much.

And while that kind of rational is unfortunate, its more common than you think.

If you do brave this yourself, remember you are typically going to get what you pay for, most of the time. So cheaper isn’t always better especially if you want to run a serious website or business. So don’t skimp here when choosing your web host. And in the same vein, just because you are spending a lot at your current web host doesn’t always mean you are going to get the best service, the fastest page speed, highest up time and most secure website. So you will definitely have to perform a balancing act if this is a task you truly want to shoulder yourself.


Are these options too confusing or would you rather spend your time growing your company? We totally understand. Leave the guess work up to us and our twenty years of web hosting experience! Reach out today to discuss the option that is best suited for your business.

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