What's your preferred web hosting platform?
So far, most of my clients choose their web hosting based on cost. The landing pages created by the service provider will often talk about price, uptime, and speed. But the backend is usually not mentioned to you, and it is very crucial as many cheap hosting providers set several limitations on it and sell you as an add-on service to access them.
For beginners, here's what you should take note of:
1. What is the hosting environment?
There are 4 types of hosting environment (please correct me if I’m wrong)
a. Shared server
Shared hosting is the most affordable among the 4 server types. It is a single server shared among multiple users hosting their websites; resources are shared among users, which you may encounter performance issues for large traffic sites.
*Imagine you are in a co-working environment, sharing the office space with several companies at 1 location.
b. Virtual Private Server (VPS Hosting)
VPS is similar to a shared server. Resources are partitioned solely for each client; hence fewer users are sharing a single server.
*Imagine you are renting an office space in a building.
c. Dedicated Server
The dedicated hosting is the most expensive as you own the entire server and hardware. It is often used by websites with high traffic or intensive workloads. You can ignore this option if you’re just starting up.
*Imagine you rented the entire commercial building for your business.
d. Cloud server
Cloud hosting is similar to VPS; the main difference is Cloud hosting uses the resources of several servers instead of 1. It is cheaper than VPS due to its scalability, slightly more expensive than a shared server. E.g., the difference is between $1~3USD for the lowest tier plan.
*Imagine you are in a co-working space environment, and you are given priority access to any office owned by the provider on-demand.
2. What is the admin dashboard provided by the service provider? And how to find them?
Majority of hosting provider in Singapore offers either cPanel or Plesk; not many uses has a custom UX/UI like Cloudways.
You can identify their dashboard by looking at the knowledge base/tutorial. It is usually a link in the footer, if not you can simply contact their sales representative to ask.
3. The number of websites you can install in the package.
This point is crucial if you intend to run multiple sites.
4. Is SSL included in the package? And how many SSL is given?
Although there’s free SSL like Let’s Encrypt, not all hosting providers integrate this for you. Some of them charge you a fee for it.
Do look at the clause if multiple SSL certificates are provided if you have more than 1 website. Quite a number of them only offer 1 free SSL certificate per package. Additional will be chargeable.
5. Storage space
Typically it will be 15gb~30gb for the lowest tier plan. A typical, optimized WordPress site is commonly below 500mb. The extra space can be used for daily backups.
6. Is email hosting included?
Some budget hosting does provide email hosting as well. Usually, you will only be allowed to host 1 domain/website per server. And do take note the emails uses your storage space as well.
7. Monthly visit quota
Take note if you see this in the package. Ask the sales representative what if you’ve hit the quota and how it is calculated. By page views or unique IPs.
8. SQL database limit
It is similar to how many websites you can host on the server. It refers to the number of SQL databases you can install.
9. Data transfer quota / bandwidth
It’s commonly between 1tb or unlimited. There shouldn’t be a lot of data transfer for a normal website. Not inclusive of stock video/image site and video streaming.
10. Automated backup feature
Many hosting providers do provide backup functions, but not all are automated. And restoring it can be quite a hassle.
11. Uptime guarantee
I won’t look at this as almost every company indicates 99.9%. When your server is down, they will inform you it’s your website structure/content that breaks it, and indeed it’s generally true. The server may be down due to several reasons. E.g., plugins update, restoration or hacker attack, etc.
12. Security / Firewall / CDN
Do check if the hosting provider offers this. It will be a plus point if they include DDOS protection and free CDN.
13. Temporary domain name
The hosting provider doesn’t commonly offer this feature. You will need a domain name to start your web development project, its good to have this if you are intending to work on a staging site before making it ‘live’ with the actual domain.
14. 24/7 Support
You should expect a hosting provider to provide 24/7 support. But I had seen companies who claimed to be 24/7 only have the sales team working a full day. I am amazed to receive a notification that technical support is only available from Mon~Fri, 10 am ~6 pm, excluding public holiday.
15. FTP / file manager access
FTP / file manager access is vital for a developer. It allows us to add/remove files without accessing the website dashboard; some hosting provider hides it for security reasons. Squarespace simply doesn’t offer this, and it is quite troublesome to retrieve all your image files saved in Squarespace if you wish to migrate to other hosting solutions.
16. Refund Policy
Hosting providers tend to lock you into an annual package. So take note of the refund policy, it is usually full or partial refund within 30 days. Do read through the fine print in case their service doesn’t work out for you.
I hope this article helps in choosing the web hosting provider. If you’re a new startup, it is recommended to start small with a reputable hosting provider, or even start with other platforms:
If you are selling physical products, consider the marketplace platform. E.g., Shopee, Lazada, Etsy
For blogging, you can use WordPress.com, Wix, or Weebly.
For an online store, you can also use Shopify, WIX.
Scale up or migrate your site to a better plan/platform as your site grows.