Choosing a hosting provider

You have your domain so now you need hosting.  So, what is hosting? It should probably, more accurately, be called storage.  Your hosting is where your website files live.  Just like a Word document your website content needs to be stored somewhere.  Your domain links to that storage so when someone types your web address into their browser they are connected to the server which hosts your website files.

  1. Self-hosted vs. hosted

Now you know why you need hosting it’s time to think about a self-hosted or hosted website.  A hosted website is one from a company which offers an all-in-one service.  Someone like Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy etc. who have their own, usually proprietorial, software you can use to create your own website.

These are great for people just starting out or who want to save a bit of money by building their own website.

On the downside there are limitations to what you can do in terms of functionality and exporting content is difficult, if not impossible, should you decide to change providers.

Self-hosting allows you to use your choice of software to create a website which is stored with a hosting company (like TSO Host) for around £20 per year.  Prices do vary depending on your needs.

  1. What to look out for

Assuming for now you have chosen a self-hosted website there are a few things to consider when looking for a hosting provider:

  • Is the domain name included?
  • How many, if any, email mailboxes are included?
  • How much storage does it offer?
  • Are there bandwidth restrictions?
  • Does it include a SSL certificate?

Storage is the size of the file space you can use on the host’s servers.  Bandwidth is the space available for web traffic.  Generally, start-up businesses shouldn’t need much of either but if you ran a popular blogging site, for example, you would need plenty of bandwidth to allow for lots of people visiting the website.

A SSL certificate is vital if you gather customer information or sell products online.  It makes your website secure, moving it from http: to https:.  Google are particularly keen on secure websites and are starting to penalise non-secure sites in searches.

  1. Which host should you choose?

There are hundreds of companies of all different sizes who offer web hosting.  As we have previously stated we use TSO Host who are part of the larger Paragon Internet Group.  Who you choose will be a personal decision that is best for your needs but in general you should follow these guidelines:

Straightforward needs:

  • Choose a company whose servers are in the country you are targeting. Site speeds can be affected by servers which are too far from the browser’s location. Your SEO can also be damaged if you are not on UK based servers (assuming you trade in the UK).
  • Make sure your chosen company offers extended hours, in both live chat and telephone, support. If you are running an eCommerce website, you cannot afford to lose your site for any period of time and being able to contact your hosting company in the event of an emergency is vital.
  • Don’t assume the most expensive option is the best. Generally, you shouldn’t pay more than around £20 per year for a basic website hosting package.
  • Choose a host that offers daily back-ups. I have had to restore websites from back-ups on many occasions and it’s surprising how many companies do not offer this as standard.
  • Choose a company which allows you to easily upgrade your hosting package, enabling your website to grow with your business.

Advanced needs:

  • One-click installers will make life a lot easier when you come to build your website. These allow you to easily install software like WordPress, Magento, Drupal and Joomla.
  • Make sure you have FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access or you will find it difficult to move a large number of files easily.

Your questions answered:

  • If you’re not sure about which host to choose don’t worry too much if they tick the boxes above. If you want to move your website to a new provider later, you can choose a company who offers free migrations to move everything for you.

Next Steps:

Have a look at this guide to UK based WordPress web hosting companies.