So, once you have chosen a domain name for your would-be website, the next step is to pick a Web hosting provider.
In this article we are going to discuss what to look for in a Web host, bearing in mind that you’d also like your website to be visible in the search engines one day. So, here are some important things to consider:
The first thing to consider is the country in which the host is located. For SEO purposes, it’s better if it is in the same country you’re targeting. Google reportedly considers websites more relevant for a particular location if they are also hosted there.
Besides, if you’re targeting your own country, it’s better to go for a local hosting provider. In this case it will be easier for you to deal with any legal issues should these arise. Not to mention that a nearby host will be more convenient to contact.
Should be at least 99,5%. This is the amount of time the server is up and functioning (except scheduled maintenance), and users and search engines can access it no problem.
Why is it so important from an SEO perspective? Thing is, Google does take site’s speed and accessibility into account when ranking it in the SERPs. Here is the proof.
Also, make sure that, when your site is down or it’s time for a scheduled maintenance procedure, your hosting provider does NOT redirect visitors to their own site, but returns a 503 page instead. This will send a clear message to search engines, should they come, that your site is alive and kicking, it’s just temporarily unavailable.
Windows or Unix?
The next step is to decide on the operating system that should be installed on the host’s server. Remember, it does NOT have to be the same OS that’s installed on your computer.
So, if running your website requires ASP or ASP.NET, you should definitely go for a Windows server. However, if you are planning to use blogging software (like WordPress or Drupal) or need PHP, Perl or MySQL support, go for Unix (Linux or FreeBSD).
Speaking of MySQL, about any blogging/forum software uses a MySQL database to store articles, comments, etc. So, if yours is a blog, a forum or some other Web 2.0 property, make sure your hosting provider supports MySQL.
The amount of traffic (visits to your site) that comes with your package should be proportional to the (1) number of visitors you expect and (2) the size of files (text, media or other files) on your site. On the average, a medium website would use up to 5 GB of traffic a month. However, this is a huge generalization and expected bandwidth use should be estimated separately for each individual website.
Some hosting providers say they offer “unlimited” bandwidth. Please, be careful with this kind of offers, since, in most cases it would be written somewhere (in fine print) that, however, if you exceed this or that amount, additional charges apply. So, give your contract a thorough study.
As a rule, Web hosts make quite generous promises regarding disc space. For example, you’d hear offers like 800,000 MB to even unlimited disc space, while, in reality, an average website takes up no more than 10 MB. However, if you are planning to upload rich multi-media content, the amount will probably be bigger.
For a site with a lot of audio and video content, it’s recommended to calculate the size of all its files and get disc space double that size.
Email space would normally be estimated separately from your main disc space, thus, check how much space for incoming mail you are provided. If you do not do that, you may learn too late that you don’t have enough and will be forced to constantly keep a certain amount of free space in your mail box.
Also, check for such features as autoresponder, catch-all email (this one may lead to spam flooding your mail, though) and email forwarding, if you need any of those.
Most Web hosting providers claim their support operates 24/7/365. However, this is often an exaggeration. Try contacting them and see how quickly they respond. Try asking different questions to see how competent their support is.
Also, while choosing a hosting provider, there are several DO-NOTs to follow:
1. Do NOT use host-provided site builders
There are quite a lot of site building tools around that often come free. And, sometimes, they come with your hosting plan, in which case you are most likely to have a hard time moving your site to a different provider in the future.
Also, site builders tend to be not that SEO-friendly (there are exceptions, of course) and have limited functionality.
2. Do NOT count on host-provided SEO services
Hosting providers are not SEO services providers, period. They are not going to optimize your site for search engines in such a way that you get real, palpable results. Thus, when choosing a hosting provider, do not consider that “+SEO” detail an asset to your hosting plan.
So, this is it. Also, before settling for a particular hosting provider long-term, try them out for a month first. Annual plans are, indeed, cheaper (in most cases), however it’s better to test the waters before going for a dive, so that you don’t get stuck with a hosting provider you are not happy with