Websites don't host themselves. Choosing a Web-hosting service, however, isn't easy. There are numerous Web hosts available and no two services are alike. Finding a home for your website also means depending on a provider that has the features you need to build a website, keep it fully accessible for customers and visitors, and protect it from cyberattacks. To help you decide which Web host to use for your business, here are three questions you need to ask and why they matter.
1. Do you need a do-it-yourself (DIY) website builder?
DIY website builders let you create professional-looking websites without the time investment and expense of hiring a Web designer. Most DIY website-building platforms use a simple drag-and-drop interface, eliminating the need for any coding or programming skills. You can easily create and launch your website by choosing a template and effortlessly modifying it to fit your brand, products and services.
Why it matters: Not all Web-hosting services offer DIY website builders. Most are strictly Web-hosting solutions in which you'll have to either code and upload a website from scratch or use a third-party software. In contrast, DIY website builders are offered as separate, standalone services that are much more robust than builders Web hosts have to offer. They also typically use their own Web-hosting service, so you don't have to worry about finding a home for your website.
What to look for: Businesses that want the ease, convenience and affordability of a DIY website builder have many options. Look for a Web host that offers its own website builder or the ability to install your own. Web hosts like HostGator and BlueHost also allow you to easily install a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, on which to create your website. For many businesses, however, a standalone DIY website-building platform is a much more appealing option — there's no hassle of setting up the builder itself, so you can get started immediately. Here's our top picks of the five easiest website building tools, which includes popular services like Squarespace, Wix and OnePager.
2. How much space and bandwidth do you need?
Depending on your type of business and website, your space and bandwidth needs will vary greatly. Space is the amount of storage you will need, and bandwidth is the amount of data being transferred and downloaded while visitors view your website. For instance, a multimedia- and content-focused website and an image-heavy e-commerce website that processes high volumes of daily transactions will need far more space and bandwidth than a basic website that only consists of several pages detailing the business, its offerings and contact information. Moreover, a website that garners tens of thousands of visits a day will need more bandwidth than one with hundreds of daily visitors.
Why it matters: Knowing exactly how much space and bandwidth you need can be tricky, but both are directly related to Web-hosting subscription costs. Think of it like mobile data plans — you don't want to pay more for a plan that provides more data than you need, but you don't want to choose a cheaper plan with lower monthly limits and then end up paying for overages, either.
What to look for: Choose a web host that caters to small businesses, which typically offers unlimited space and bandwidth without breaking the bank. For example, HostGator's unlimited Web-hosting plans start at $3.71 per month, Bluehost's shared plan starts at $4.95 a month, and GoDaddy's Deluxe plan costs $4.49 a month.
[For a side-by-side comparison of the best Web hosting services visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews.]
3. Does the Web host meet your security, uptime and recovery standards?
When you launch a website, you are entrusting your Web host to keep it up and running, making reliability key to choosing a provider. Whether you run an online store or just want to create a presence online, your Web-hosting solution should provide the security, uptime and disaster recovery your business website needs.
Why it matters: Cybercrime is on the rise, and it's not going away any time soon. As a business, you have a responsibility to protect not only your own data, but also your customers'. In addition to stealing sensitive data like credit card numbers and confidential business information, hackers can also knock your website offline, taking your business out of customers' reach — and if you have an e-commerce business, this downtime can result in a significant financial loss.
What to look for: Look for a Web host that meets security standards such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, Payment Card Industry (PCI) and data encryption at rest and during transmission. Other things to look for include Sitelock, to detect and fix malware and other vulnerabilities, as well as domain privacy to prevent identity theft and phishing attacks. Furthermore, your chosen Web host should have at least a 99.9 percent uptime, 24/7 support and a backup and disaster-recovery plan that can get your website up and running ASAP after downtime.