Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.
X

How To Choose A Web Host

This article is part of a tutorial series called How To Create Your Website In 6 Steps

The purpose of this article is to give you some tips and research methods to find a proper host.
Always research those companies on your own before you consider signing up with any of them…

If you are looking for a completely free solution consider to check out tumblr, blogger, GitHub Pages.

As you know if you search for web host recommendations on google you will usually land on fake review sites that claim to list only the best hosting providers.
However these lists and reviews are biased and completely driven by the affiliate payouts. (those with max payout are usually at top of the lists…and therefore these reviews/top lists can be considered as complete and utter bullshit)
in order to understand the basics of hosting consider to check out these useful articles:

Navigation

1. Decide What You Need

  • Shared or Free
  • VPS or Dedicated

2. Important Factors To Consider When Choosing A Web Host

Reliability, Scalability, Support, Price, Features, Transparency, Bandwidth, Storage

3. Do Some Research

  • Forums
  • Reddit
  • Other Developers
  • twitter
  • Other Sites

4. How To Register With A Host

  • Explanation of the registering process

1. Decide what you need

First you need to determine what your needs are and how much money you are willing to spend on a monthly basis.
This means either Shared Hosting (5-15$/month), Virtual Private Server (from 40$/month) or Dedicated Server (from 100$/month).

Shared Hosting?

Shared Hosting is the most cheap option and costs around 5-15$ month. It’s called Shared because you share one server with many many others…

Anyway…going with a shared host is always somekind of a gamble:
One time you might land on a server that isn’t overloaded and thus your site works properly…Another time you could land on a crowded overloaded server (which gives you slow load times and downtimes…)

However maybe you will find a decent shared host that doesn’t overload its servers and offers reasonable fixed resources instead of “unlimited” everything.

Here are a few that seem to be good according to opinions on forums etc. (However always use the research methods that I have outlined below to determine for yourself if a host fits your needs)

Tumblr, Blogger, GitHub Pages…Free Alternative to Shared Hosting?

If you are looking for a completely free solution consider to go with tumblr, blogger or GitHub Pages. All three provide free hosting without any ads etc.
Your website is hosted then at a subdomain (eg. yourwebsitename.tumblr.com)
However tumblr, blogger and GitHub Pages also allow you to use your own custom domain at no additional cost. (eg. yourwebsitename.com)
So for the yearly cost of a domain (~10$ for a .com domain from a domain registrar) you can have your very own website.

Advantages of tumblr:

  • completely free
  • no ads
  • allow you to edit the html/css so you can customize your site
  • allow you to use your own domain at no additional cost
  • Note: While WordPress.com is also free they doesn’t allow you to edit the html/css and also show ads on your site.

who uses tumblr?
humble bundle, PlayPeep, Megadev, Superlevel, PixelProspector and many more…

tumblr is a successful multi million dollar company that is backed by venture capital and generates revenue with the premium themes that users can buy. in may 2013 tumblr got acquired by yahoo. so the company can afford it to offer these services for free without going bankrupt.

However if you should decide to go with tumblr note that you don’t have as many features and functions etc. as when you purchase a hosting plan.
But if you don’t need all that stuff and a simple html site would be enough then this is indeed an interesting alternative that is completely free.

if this should be your only “website” you need your own domain name for several reasons:
1. without having your own domain your site will only be located under a subdomain (eg yourname.tumblr.com) and this doesn’t look very professional.
2. for security reasons (in case they should delete your site for whatever reason you won’t disappear from the net because it is yours… yoursitename.tumblr.com might be gone but yoursitename.com cannot be deleted)

Here are the instructions for setting up your own custom domain with tumblr.

Your site itself will be up and running in 5 minutes (and with a bit of customizing the html/css you can have a decent looking site in 30-60 minutes).

tumblr offers a few good free themes and also more advanced so called premium themes (from 9$-49$).

VPS or Dedicated Server

A VPS (Virtual Private Server) starts from around 40$ a month and offers more resources and freedom than Shared Hosting. Next step would be a Dedicated Server (you own an entire server and not only a partition of it) that starts from around 100$ month.
Due to my research these hosters seem to be reliable companies with very good reputation that offer VPS and Dedicated Hosting.

Tip: If this should be too expensive for you it might be a good idea to get in touch with 2-3 people who also need a proper host and then divide the costs.
That way everyone involved would get good resources at a good price.

Moreover in case you should be tech savvy enough you could also consider doing some research on Linode and Rackspace because they seem also to be pretty well respected and their VPS starts from 20$ month.

Furthermore Pagoda Box and Heroku seem also to be legit and offer cloud based object oriented hosting.

Extra Tip: When you have choosen a hosting company consider to check out the offer section on Web Hosting Talk. Most hosting companies frequent the forums and post some exclusive special offers there such as 20% off for 5 months.

Important factors to consider when choosing a web host

Whatever your decision should be Shared, VPS, Dedicated…
be sure to always pay attention to these 3 essential things:

  1. Don’t register your domain with your hosting provider. Use a domain registrar for that.
  2. Don’t choose a 1-year plan to potentially “save” a few bucks. Always pay monthly. That way you stay flexible and can leave whenever you want.
  3. Do your own backups of your site all the time so you can switch in case the host turns out to be shitty.

Here are some things to look out for when you do research various web hosting companies:

A. Reliability?

a. Are the servers stable with relatively few outtakes?
(In order to monitor the downtimes of your host consider to use a monitoring tool such as Pingdom. It monitors your site 24/7 and notifies you about downtimes… I use the free plan and it’s pretty good). There is also Pingdom Tools which measures the load time of any website you enter into the URL field.

B. Scalabilty?

Can you easily upgrade if you should need more resources in the future?

C. Support?

Does the host have skilled knowledgeable professional techs that can actually answer your support tickets in a timely fashion?
(Send support tickets and see how fast they respond and in which manner.)

D. Price:

What is your budget and how much are you willing to spend?
If you are serious you will choose the best that you can afford (which is still within your budget range)
because you get what you are paying for.
Therefore don’t go for price only and be cautious with discount hosting companies that promise much and keep little.

E. Features:

Does the host offer you all the features that you need such as MySQL, latest PHP, 1-click installers, cPanel, LiteSpeed, SSD, automatic backups etc.?

F. Transparency?

Are the policies, rules and agreements easy to understand and reasonable?

G. How much Bandwidth will you need?

For some perspective I want you to know that PixelProspector gets around ~50.000 visitors a month (each visitor checks out ~3 pages on average which results in ~150.000 pageviews). This causes 50-60 GB monthly traffic. Note that I only host images and do not host any big files here (I have outsourced them to dropbox and the likes). Moreover I use a caching tool (W3 Total Cache). You can always outsource big files to a free file hoster or to Amazon S3 or another Content Delivery Network (CDN) to save bandwidth (and offer high speed downloads) if you want. Moreover don’t forget that in case you sell your game directly with the help of a payment processor they host your game (and oftentimes also your demo for free).

Management of resources and the “Unlimited” claim?
Does the host manage resources well (bandwidth, RAM, storage space…) and thus creates reasonable plans that balance intelligent limits with actual costs?
Or do they offer promising plans with ridiculous limits or no limits at all? (“Unlimited”)
Therefore it is better to go with a hoster that doesn’t say unlimited but instead tells you exactly what you get for your money. (x amount of resources for y amount of money)
“Unlimited” doesn’t mean unlimited of course. There is an uncertain undisclosed threshold in these plans.
Overselling (aka “Unlimited Hosting” explained).
However it doesn’t mean that a hosting company that offers “unlimited” is automatically bad… what really matters is how they manage their resources.

H. How much Storage Space will you need?

Usually this shouldn’t be a problem because normally every host offers a few GB on their smallest plan which should be way enough for most sites. PixelProspector.com uses 200MB for the entire site.

3. Do some research:

When you do research web hosting companies consider to keep these things in mind:

  • Does the hosting provider have good reputation?
  • Are the positive reviews look genuine or do they sound scammy?
  • Are the negative reviews real or just illegitimate complaints by difficult customers or bad talk by competitors?
  • Use multiple sources for research (forums,reddit,twitter etc.)
  • Maybe you also know someone directly who can give you unbiased advice about his hosting experiences.
  • Before you start to wade through reviews I recommend to read this article that explains why people write web host reviews
  • Sidenote: Looking for a provider that has zero negative reviews is pretty much impossible.
    (unless it is a completely new provider that hasn’t proven itself yet.)
    Really good ones have a sea of good reviews and a few negative ones.
    View the reviews with a grain of salt and read into the negative ones to find out whether or not they are legitimate. (eg on webhostingtalk you might encounter bad reviews that are refuted with evidence later in the discussion)

    Research Source #1: Forums

    Check Web Hosting Talk forums for opinions/reviews about hosting companies and info about everything related to web hosting. Consider to check out the webhosting offers area on Web Hosting Talk where hosting companies introduce themselves with special offers (and oftentimes also links to reviews by forum members).
    Such reviews can normally be considered as legit when a forum member has several hundreds/thousands of posts (no guarantee though but at least the possibilty is pretty high that such a review is authentic).
    Possibility increases when more people with equally high posting numbers talk about pros and cons of a hoster.

    Moreover you can also check out Indie Game Development Forums and Stack Overflow. Moreover there are also other forums that tend to talk about hosting (small businesses, designer, musicians, movie makers etc.).
    Sometimes you can also find additional info about hosting companies on Wikipedia and CrunchBase.

    Research Source #2: reddit

    You can also search for hosting opinions/recommendations on reddit.
    (consider to look for subreddits that are somewhat related to webhosting and limit the search to them)

    Examples:

    Research Source #3: Other Developers

    Consider to ask other fellow developers which hosting company they use and recommend.

    Research Source #4: twitter

    Search on twitter what others say about hosting companies but watch out for affiliate link spammers…

    Research Source #5: Various Sites

    You can also look if some trustworthy sites/blogs have written anything about a hosting provider you are considering.
    use google this way to search the sites:
    [search term] site:nameofsite.com

    However take this also with a grain of salt… because when a hosting provider knows that influential person x uses their services they might give him some special treatment… that way he honestly thinks that the provider is good while in reality this is not true.


    4. HOW TO REGISTER WITH A HOST

    instead of showing how to sign up with a specific host I thought it would make more sense to quickly explain the process in a general manner that is applicable for every host because it’s usually always the very same procedure:

    1. choose plan
    2. enter your domain name (that you have registered with a domain registrar)
    3. enter contact details (name, adress, email and password)
    4. enter payment method
    5. shortly after you have signed up you will receive an email which tells you that your account has been setup.
    6. use the login details (username + password) to access your cpanel, ftp and install wordpress manually or with a 1 click installer like softaculous.