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It is easy to be drawn to a hosting company because of promotional deals with good starting prices and packages of free advertising credits. There are however several factors to consider when you compare hosting providers…
One of the biggest choices webmasters make is to run their site using Linux or Windows hosting. Although some people need Windows hosting for specific Windows-based applications, most people choose Linux. A good hosting company offers both choices. If you plan to use one of the popular open source content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or Magento you are definitely better off with Linux.
For most new sites, determining bandwidth needs may be tricky. It is always better to go with a larger option if the site is expected to grow fast. The best way to stay current with bandwidth needs is to choose an average package and monitor site stats for a few months. And sign up with a host who has an upgrade path should you need to do so.
Every customer is allowed a certain amount of hard disk space. Some sites such as simple portfolios for business reference may not require much space. However, complex sites and e-commerce sites that are continually growing, adding pages and adding images need a much larger amount of disk space. Most sites need more storage space as time passes.
Webmasters who have all of their site files in one folder or directory on their computers can simply view the properties of that location to determine the amount of needed space to start. It is best to allow for growth. However, do not purchase excessive amounts of space that will remain unused. It is best to start with a comfortable amount and move up as needed. Again, storage is not normally a limiting factor as it is cheap and abundant. As long as you have an upgrade path you will be fine. Much more important are the performance requirements…
The host’s server speed and processing power is probably the most critical factor in determining the performance of your new site. Shared, VPS, dedicated, and cloud server hosting are common choices. Shared hosting is a good, cheap, entry level option but it will not handle large amounts of traffic. A VPS (Virtual Private Server) is the next level, capable of handling thousands of daily visitors on a well optimized site.
If you need to maintain performance with large traffic spikes and a constant growth rate, the you are better to choose a dedicated server or perhaps a cloud hosting option which makes it possible to scale as you traffic grows. These options can however be more expensive.
Although cloud and shared servers do not allow root access, cloud servers can handle higher traffic spikes often for a lower cost than dedicated servers. The main benefit of a shared server is the low associated cost. Shared and VPS servers are better for low to medium traffic sites respectively, while dedicated or cloud servers are better for high-traffic sites.
Not all hosting companies have the same levels of support, and not all hosting companies respond to customer inquiries in the same time frame or fashion. For example, some small hosting providers may only provide ticket based support or offer very limited hours for phone support. Larger hosting companies may offer 24/7 chat, phone and email support. Webmasters who plan to run businesses with their sites and must be able to have continual access to support should choose a company with a proven quality support system and plenty of contact options.
Price should never be the top determining factor because cheap web hosting must compromise on some level, and normally it is support that suffers. Price however is still important. Choose a host that delivers on your technical requirements, has a good track record for service and offers a good price. Be sure to understand promotional prices versus the prices after any promotional periods and the length of time that service packages are purchased for.
Lastly, be sure to read some web hosting reviews before choosing a host. Never rely solely on the reviews that are on a hosting company’s site, and beware of sites that do not moderate their reviews as you can’t be sure that they are legitimate.