You are ready to create the perfect website for your business. It will be maximized for SEO so potential customers can easily find you. The user experience will be seamless. Every page will be optimized for mobile. None of these things will matter if you are not able to find your site a good home. Just like finding the right place to live, there are many considerations when it comes to the best fit. Here are some things to think about when deciding on a hosting provider.
Shared or Dedicated Hosting
In real estate, the main mantra is ‘Location, location, location.’ It is no different when finding the right place for your website. In basic terms, your site will live on a server, which is a computer that serves information to other machines. Similar to someone living in a single-family home or an apartment, servers can be dedicated or shared.
A dedicated server is like a standalone house in that only one site lives there. There are obvious benefits to this arrangement. All the computing power of the server is directed to just your website. Pages will load as fast as possible. You also have complete control over the technical environment. The downside is cost. If your site is not high traffic or does not have specialized needs, paying the higher price is likely not necessary.
A shared server is like an apartment in that multiple websites live in the same location. The computing power is distributed. If another site on the server has a significant problem, it could potentially cause a disruption for your site. These tradeoffs are made up for by the fact it will be cheaper to host your website there. A key thing to remember is that just like there are different types of apartments in a diverse array of neighborhoods, the same is true of servers. Living in a well-maintained shared environment will be less expensive than going to a dedicated one but will provide a similar experience.
Server Security and Support
A quality shared server environment can be distinguished from a mediocre one in several ways. Any good hosting company should enable an ‘SSL’ certificate. This stands for “secure socket layer” and means stored data is encrypted. This is not only good practice, but any site without a valid certificate will be marked as not secure by Google, scaring away visitors. Security is about more than encryption though. You need to be able to trust that the hosting company is only letting reliable sites use their service. Sharing space with a website from a shady entity means taking a risk their practices could harm you.
Trust in your hosting company extends to the support they will provide. The right questions can help you build this relationship. The hosting firm should be upfront about how often your site will be backed up. The procedures they follow to keep your website up to date should also be clear. If WordPress is your hosting platform, how proficient are they in staying on the current release? Visibility is something you should demand as a customer. Are regular reports provided about the traffic, speed, and availability of your site? How easily can you get someone on the phone when you have a question or problem?
Think Like a Home Buyer
You would not buy a house sight unseen. You should not choose a hosting company without doing the right research. While you don’t need to visit a company’s server room, you need to learn enough about them to know whether the services they provide are right for you. Buying real estate is not a one size fits all proposition. Neither is finding the best home for your website.