This post is ideal if you know you need hosting services. Perhaps you want to switch hosting providers, or you need your first hosting platform. We’re going to go through some of the basics you should be on the lookout for when choosing a hosting provider and what you should be looking to pay.
Basic web hosting services
The basic web hosting services you need to check for are:
- How much space you get
- If you get at least one database
- cPanel access
We’ll dive into these and explain each now.
First things first, all hosting services will give you an amount of space where you can put your site files. The amount of space will vary between providers. Unless you have an enormous site, it’s unlikely space limits will affect you. Typically, you’ll see space allocations in the region of tens of Gigabytes which is plenty for a normal website.
The next most important service to look for, when hosting a site built on something like WordPress, is a database. Again, all hosting services are going to give you at least one of these. There’s not much to say about this that’s relevant for the average website owner, so as long as you can get at least one database, you’ll be able to host your site.
Bandwidth is something you’ll see mentioned with some providers. Bandwidth is how we measure the maximum amount of data that can be transferred in a given time. This is usually measured in seconds. Most hosting providers are going to tell you that your bandwidth is unlimited, or in the high gigabits per second. This isn’t entirely accurate in practical use cases, so take this with a pinch of salt. In most cases, unless your site is transferring huge amounts of data, bandwidth limits are unlikely to affect you. So don’t worry too much about this one.
cPanel access is something we think is really important. cPanel is a control panel that allows you to access almost everything to do with your website, from site files and databases, to backups, and basic server settings. You don’t necessarily have to understand exactly how to use cPanel, but we strongly recommend that you pick a host that offers cPanel. Some hosts have their own control panel and we would recommend keeping away from those hosts. cPanel is a well known and ubiquitous standard, it gives you all the tools you’d ever need to manage your site one way or another.
You might have seen cPanel before, it looks similar to this:
Advanced web hosting services
There are a few more “advanced” services that web hosts should be providing. Not every host will have these services, so you’ll need to read the small text to check you’ll get the support you need.
First and foremost, backups are – without a doubt – one of the most important and crucial services you need access to when hosting a website. Most hosting providers will offer some form of automated backup; and if they don’t steer well clear. You want, at a minimum, some form of automated backup, even if it’s only once a month. We cannot overstate just how important it is to always have a fall back. If something goes wrong with your site, if the files get corrupted, a plugin breaks the site, your site gets infected with malware – you name it – a decent backup will save your skin. It can have you back up and running again within a couple of hours and will potentially save you hundreds of pounds.
You may or may not have heard of SSL certificates, but we’ll bet that you’ve seen them in action. The little padlock in your address bar represents a secure connection to a website. That is an SSL certificate at work, it means traffic between you and the website is encrypted and secure from attacks. Without an SSL certificate your site is going to be flagged as insecure and this will cause you nothing but problems with Google. Some hosting providers (us included) offer free SSL certificates through a service called “Let’s Encrypt.” It’s a non-profit, backed by some huge tech companies, to provide free SSL certificates to whoever wants them. If you want to save yourself some money, a hosting provider that offers free SSL certificates is a must!
You can get hosting for less than £4 a month, which is incredible. Jolt, for example (who we’ve spoken about before here) offers starting packages that include everything we’ve mentioned here – and much more – for around £4 a month. But there are plenty of other hosting providers with differing services that will be just as good. You can end up paying as much or as little as you like for hosting services. The difference is the quality and quantity of service you will receive.
Sox, for example, offers you everything that Jolt does from a platform perspective; but we also offer our services to maintain and check your website every month to make sure it’s up to date and running smoothly. We will provide you with suggestions on how to improve as time goes by, and take proactive steps to ensure it runs smoothly and hassle free for you. We’re not trying to sell you our services by the way, we’re using ourselves as an example. There are other companies out there that will charge you a monthly fee to maintain your website for you, as well as host it – just like us.
Depending on your circumstances, our hosting and maintenance package starts at £20 a month. We’re not the cheapest, but we’re far from the most expensive. Some providers will charge hundreds of pounds a month, some will charge you £10 a year.
We’ve not even scratched the surface of the number of web hosting services you can get from hosting providers. What we have highlighted is what we think the six most important ones are. As long as you have these basic services provided, you can choose the host that best meets your needs on top of these. There are hosts that will fit in any budget, and you can even host your site for free in some cases. You’ll have to weigh up your options and see what fits into your budget.
If you need some help finding a host, or want to talk about what your website needs to run smoothly, drop us an email or take us up on our free advice offer. You don’t have to use our hosting and maintenance service – you can just use us for a second opinion!