Choose a Web Host

Are you getting ready to move your website to a new host, or want to launch a brand new site? Choosing a web host can be a tricky process, mainly because there are so many companies offering cheap or free hosting. While it's tempting to just sign up for a free host, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind, and you'll often find that a paid host is much more beneficial in the long run. See Step 1 below to learn how to pick the best web hosting service for you.


Determining Your Needs

  1. Look at your current website (or website idea). What does your website do? Is it a site that you made for fun to practice or share with friends and family? Is it your blog or other personal site? Is it a company site? Is it a store? The answers to all of these questions will help you determine what you need to look for in a web host.
    • If you're only making a site to practice or share with friends and family, you can probably get away with free hosting. It will be slow and there may be ads placed on it, but you will be able to practice working with web servers.
  2. Think about your potential growth. Is your business expanding rapidly? Are gaining new customers by the day? Do you foresee a significant increase in visitors? There's a good chance that what works for you now will need to be scaled up in the near future. When choosing a web host, always try to keep the future in mind and plan accordingly.
    • Free hosting sites often make it difficult to transfer your site to a new host when you decide to switch.
  3. Understand the three main types of hosting. There are three general types of servers offered by web hosting companies: Shared servers, virtual servers, and dedicated servers.
    • If your website is on a shared server, it will share server resources with other websites on the same server. This is often the most affordable solution, but can lead to the worst performance if other sites are hogging your resources. These are generally not recommended if you are trying to run an eCommerce site.
    • Virtual servers are virtual dedicated servers, and can provide a lot more stability and greater resources. These are highly recommended for small businesses that run an eCommerce store or have a decent number of monthly visitors.
    • Dedicated servers are entire physical servers dedicated to just your website. These are typically used for corporate websites or small businesses that do a lot of business or have very high traffic. Dedicated servers are the most expensive option, but have the least downtime and most resources.

Checking Customer Service

  1. Explore the support options. Customer service is one of the most important factors in choosing a web host, because down-time and technical issues can really impact your visitors. Check the support section of each host to see what kind of customer service options they provide.
    • Being able to talk to someone live is one of the best methods of service. Email support with quick turnaround (24 hours), is another good method.
    • If the only support the host offers is a support forum, keep looking. You are likely to go days without receiving a response to your support request.
  2. Test the response time. If there is a support forum or support email address, send a test message or two to see how the response times are, ask questions about the service, or the process for getting your site onto the server. The way they treat a potential customer will give a good measure for how they'll respond once you are a customer.[1]
  3. Read reviews on the company's service. There are a variety of places online where people can post reviews about web hosting services. Check some of the more recent reviews for the company to see if people have had issues with customer service and support.
    • Be cautious – many web hosting review websites are operated by the hosting companies themselves, or people wanting to make a quick buck off of referrals. Always read the fine print, and ask someone you know who has experience working with web hosts who they prefer.
    • You may find reviews on the company's forums, but these could be curated by the company, with bad reviews getting deleted.

Comparing Features

  1. Check how much storage the host provides. Storage is the amount of space your website is given for all of its content. This includes your web pages, images, videos, databases, and anything else. If your website is not content-heavy, you likely will not need much space. The typical website is less than 100 MB in size, so you can usually ignore the claims of massive storage.
    • Lots of hosting companies will claim that you have unlimited space, but this is rarely necessary unless you are creating an incredibly content-rich website. In fact, this claim should be a red flag – unlimited space is a technical impossibility, and it could potentially mean that their servers may become overcrowded, thus decreasing server performance.
    • Give yourself room to grow. Make sure that you have room to expand and grow on the host you choose. It is recommended that you at least have the space to grow 20% within a year, so examine your needs and the storage solutions offered by the host. Some services will offer you more space as your needs expand.
  2. Compare bandwidth amounts between hosts. The bandwidth is the amount of data that is allowed to be transferred from your server to a visitor. Some services will offer unlimited bandwidth, while others will put a cap on the amount that you can transfer.
    • The amount of bandwidth you use will be determined by the amount of traffic you receive as well as the size of the content on your host. For example, a heavily-visited site with lots of pictures will take a lot more bandwidth than a heavily-visited site with mostly text.
    • "Unlimited bandwidth" is rarely actually unlimited, and the trade-offs for services like these are often very noticeable. These hosts will typically be much slower than a host that applies bandwidth limits.
    • Make sure you know what will happen if you go over your bandwidth allotment. Depending on the hosting company, you may be charged extra or your website may be taken offline until the next billing period.
  3. Test the connection speed. The time it takes for the server to respond can make or break your website. The speed of the server often goes hand-in-hand with the bandwidth limits. If a server offers unlimited bandwidth, it will often put as many websites on the same server as possible, which can severely impact the speed. Find a few sites that are hosted by the company and test how long it takes pages to load.
    • Many hosting companies will show some of the more popular websites that they host as a means of advertisement. Use these to test the speed, but also know that this is not completely indicative of the speed your site will have.
    • You can ping websites to see how long it takes for packets to be sent and received from the server. This can give you a good idea about how quick the server is.
  4. Pay attention to uptime claims. Uptime is especially important for websites, especially if the website is business-related. Customers expect the service to be available 24/7. Many hosts will claim 99% or more, but be wary of any host that claims 100% uptime.[2]
    • The difference between 99% and 99.9% is three days out of the year. This is a very significant difference, as three days of down-time could cost you a lot of business.
  5. Make sure the host provides the services you need. Ensure that the web host you choose has the tools and services that you need to best manage your site. This includes cPanel, WordPress or other blog integration, FTP access, analytics, and a variety of other back-end tools.
    • Check to ensure that the host allows you to configure an email address using the domain name that you register.
  6. Confirm that the host offers acceptable security tools. The security of your web host is especially important if your are dealing with eCommerce and other forms of customer and user information.
  7. Check what operating system the server is using. The industry standard is Linux, but if you are running a business that uses custom tools written with Microsoft .NET, you'll want to make sure you use a Windows server for greater compatibility.
    • For most people setting up their website for the first time, the operating system is largely irrelevant.
    • Windows Servers can be less secure than Linux servers.[3]

Thinking About Cost

  1. Know the limits of free hosting. There are many companies that offer free web hosting, but the services offered are often severely limiting. Sites on free hosts will usually have ads on them that cannot be removed, and you typically can't set up ads for yourself.[4]
    • Free hosts are often much slower than a paid host. The benefits you gain for paying monthly will usually far outweigh the cost.
  2. Balance cost against features. When comparing paid packages, pay attention to the cost of additional features that you may not use. Web hosts love to bundle all kinds of services and products with their expensive packages, but they are usually only useful in very specific situations. Make sure that you're paying for reliability and customer service, and not useless add-ons.
  3. Know that good customer support often costs more. Customer service is one of the most crucial aspects when making your web hosting decision, but keep in mind that good customer service does not come cheap. When you're choosing among low-cost providers, the chances are that the customer service will not be stellar.
  4. Avoid buying your domain name from your host. Most web hosting services offer to take care of your domain name registration for an extra fee. You can almost always find the domain for cheaper through Buy-a-Cheap-Domain-Name. Save your money.


  • There are a wide variety of websites that present comparisons of web hosting services. These can be helpful if you don't want to spend so much time conducting these comparisons yourself.
  • Look closely at how your guarantee is defined and if your host will honor it. Most guarantees are prorated and are often worthless.
  • Check out how legit the web hosting company is by doing a WHOIS on their domain name. Also look for the creation date of the domain name. If the domain name was created less then a year ago, it's more of a risk to join that hosting company.
  • Look at renewal price, which is different from promotional price.
  • Price should be the last thing you consider when it comes to finding a web host. Like most other things, you get what you pay for. Free or incredibly cheap will often have far more drawbacks than they're worth. On the flip side, the most expensive hosts are not usually worth the cost either.
  • Read carefully the Terms of Service (TOS).


  • Don't believe fake review sites, anything that says top 10 is a flag for a possible affiliate program masked as a review site.
  • Hosting companies that offer unlimited disk space and data transfer for shared hosting accounts will restrict the amount of memory (RAM) and processor (CPU) you can use. If you can't get a hard number for how much memory or CPU you are entitled to, be prepared for unpleasant surprises.
  • Think twice about web hosts with a more competitive yearly rate, forcing you to pay for a year up front. If you have paid yearly and are dissatisfied with their service, you are less likely to swap. It's always best to only pay monthly!
  • Be wary of hosts that include a free domain name with their hosting package unless you are certain they will be putting your information in the WHOIS. Whoever has their information in the WHOIS is the owner, not the one who paid for it.
  • Don't believe unlimited offers, these are dishonest hosts that will say anything to try to real you in.
  • Be sure to check the domain age of the company and search for their reviews. Avoid to go with new company without reputation, even if their offer is fancy.

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Sources and Citations