A timeless question among website developers & designers, entrepreneurs, and just about anyone else looking to set up a serious website: which hosting platform is the best one? A good answer to this question is often quite elusive because (you guessed it!) every hosting service out there dominates Google search results with claims that “WE are the best!” Another complication arises in the fact that there are upsides and downsides to every hosting service, and each business or individual has different necessities. The total value of the hosting experience is comprised of tradeoffs between monetary cost, time investment, and other server resources.
The first step to finding the best host for you is qualifying the following hosting attributes:
Monetary Cost: The money invested in hosting is not the most important factor, but it is certainly a reasonable concern. Unfortunately, it is also a very common deciding factor for those searching for a good host. The general rule that you get what you pay for still applies, although the hosting provider might try to convince you otherwise. In other words, selecting the cheapest host will often result in the cheapest service. Although first on this particular list, monetary cost should not be considered independently of the other elements. First figure out what kind of resources you need for the project, and then create the budget.
Usability: Fortunately, many hosting providers use some variance of the standard cPanel layout, which consists of a simply organized dashboard. As the industry is fairly standardized when it comes to user interface on the server side, usability should not be a primary concern. However, it is still advisable to keep an eye out for the odd ones out that will directly affect how much time you spend trying to figure out where things are. Also be sure to look out for providers that do not give full control of standard functions such as PHP databases. You should never feel that you are at the mercy of the host when you are trying to accomplish something.
Disk Space or File Limits: The amount of hard drive space provided to you on the server is a two edged sword, especially when it comes to shared hosting accounts. Shared hosting is the most common type of hosting, in which the provider hosts multiple sites and accounts on one server. Unfortunately, some of the larger hosting providers tend to cram as many sites as possible onto one server, which often leads to problems. If one of the sites on your shared server has an especially busy day, your website and all the neighbors will slow down to a crawl, and sometimes even crash. Fortunately, there are still a number of providers that avoid the cramming tactic and opt to sell packages with different server allocations. The hosting packages that do have limitations in place tend to offer much better quality hosting than those offer “unlimited” space. Another trick that providers like to use is advertising unlimited disk space, and then threatening to shut down your account should you exceed a certain file limit. As it is very difficult to estimate how many files your site will actually need to run properly, the best option is to choose a host that tells you exactly how much disk space you get with each package. Don’t fall for that unlimited “gag!”
Server Speed: On the more expensive cloud hosting, VPS, and dedicated server packages, the server speed is explicitly stated in CPU clock speed and cache size, the amount of RAM, and the amount of bandwidth. With shared hosting accounts, server speed is not specifically discussed because there is no way to guarantee it when the resources are shared. However, the fewer accounts are hosted on each server, the faster your site tends to load. Some plan details that will give a clue as to the speeds you can expect are the number of visits each package is set up for. Generally, those with less visits will be cheaper, but also be hosted with more accounts on the same server. If you’re not sure how many visits to expect, it is generally better to go with the mid-range packages, all other elements considered. If you end up needing more resources, upgrading you package usually only requires a quick phone call.
Taking all these factors into consideration, here are some recommendations for hosting providers.
Stay away from:
- Aabaco Small Business from Yahoo
- Fat Cow
- WordPress.com Hosting
- 1 & 1 Hosting
- Any of the hosts on this list of EIG hosting companies.
Decent in some respects:
The absolute best:
- Amazon Web Services
- A2 Hosting
- Media Temple
*Please note that Web Vision Partners is not affiliated with these companies in any way. The observations are based on surveys, personal experience, and general knowledge.