There are many different factors to consider when looking for a web host. The most important ones relate to your website's functionality, performance and reliability. Each of these can significantly affect the success of your site.
The functionality of a website largely depends on the software used. It can determine:
- the range of features it offers
- the ways in which it presents content to the user
- how the content is kept fresh and updated
When choosing a web host, make sure that the provider can support the applications, the specific scripts or software your website will be using.
Unless you have in-house expertise, you may need advice from your internet service provider or website designer. You should follow best practice in web design.
To perform well, your website will need a fast connection to the internet. The speed of connection will depend on the available bandwidth. If your connection is not fast enough, users will only be able to access your webpages slowly. This can cause particular problems if many users are trying to access your site at the same time. Most external hosting services refer to this as the 'backbone' - the speed of connection into their servers.
Type of web server
Your choice of web server is another key consideration when choosing a web host, as it will also affect the performance of your site. You can either go for:
- a dedicated server - where only your site is hosted on the machine
- a shared hosting service - where you share the machine with other sites
Shared hosting can negatively affect the speed and availability of your website. The server specification will be a critical factor in the performance of the site in this case - specifically the processor speed and the disk space needed for the website to operate effectively. See the pros and cons of using ISP for hosting.
Your website should be available 24/7 - you will need to maintain and support it. The more you rely on your website, the less you can afford to wait until the following morning to fix critical problems.
Website hosting security
Security is an ongoing concern on the internet, so any hosting solution you choose should demonstrate that it is secure and able to withstand hackers, fraudsters and other attacks.
Your web host should, at the very least, offer:
- backups and restore points – stored securely away from the main server
- disaster recovery plans - to help you recover your website in case of system failures
- network monitoring – to spot unusual activity and mitigate risks
- firewalls - includingother basic intrusion prevention methods
- antivirus and malware scanning and removal
- SSL (secure sockets layer) certificates, if you need to transfer sensitive data such as online payments to and from the server
- some level of management support – most crucially with file management, access and user permissions, logins, applications, software updates, etc
You should ensure that the web host follows other best practices to protect your business online.