Selecting ‘The Best Hosting Plan’ for your website(s) from ‘The Best Web Host’ is confusing for most of the people – not only for the beginners but also for the experts in many ways.
Because the internet is full of cleverly designed hosting plan options and everyone looks better than others when compared (at least at the face – in terms of cost and reliability).
Unless you are 100% clear of your need, no one can tell you which one is appropriate for you.
But don’t worry. You will find this blog to be one of the most comprehensive guides to help you be specific about what is the most appropriate hosting plan for your and Master the art of selecting the best web host plan.
So, let’s move and become Hosting PRO. Here is the most comprehensive checklist that helps you identify the best out of ‘the best hosting provider.’
- Web Security
- Website backup
- Adding Domain Name
- Storage and bandwidth capacity
- Email addresses options
- User-Friendliness & Options
- 1-click installation
- Easy to Navigate Control Panel
- Easy SFTP Access
- Finding & editing .htaccess
- Multiple database Options
- E-Commerce Features
- Database Options
- Cost Factor
- Sign Up & Renewal Cost
- Refund Policy
- Subscription tenure
- Add-On Features
- SSL Certificates
- IP Deny
- Domain privacy
- Customer Support
- Support Channels
- Support hours
- Quality of support
Before we dig into each of the above-mentioned hosting features and understand more. Let us tell you this in the simplest way;
In a nutshell, it’s all about one’s experience with their hosting provider.
Throughout these years (about 10 years) we have experienced almost every leading hosting company that exists on the internet today and found out that no one-fits-for-all hosting plan. Each of these hosting plans has its PROS and CONS.
TOP 10 “CHEAP HOSTING PROVIDERS” (February 2020)
|NO.||HOSTING COMPANIES||PRICE||OUR RATING|
This is why understanding your hosting requirement is crucial when selecting your web hosting plan.
This blog has 2 fundamental segments as follow;
- What is the hosting & domain? & how they interact?
- 15 Essential Features checklist while selecting your host.
Before we discuss the checklist, let’s discuss what is domain and hosting, and how it interacts.
Part # 01
First thing first; What is “Hosting”?
Note: If you already know what is hosting, you may skip this and jump on to the next “Checklist” section below.
“Hosting” – to be specific “Website Hosting” or “Web Host” – refers to a company that gives you access to one of their server to host “host” your website on a rental basis. You upload all your website files and make your website publically accessible on the internet 24/7.
What is “Hosting Server”?
In simple words, a hosting server is basically a designated server – (a specially configured computer that stores all your website files for you) – out of many servers that your hosting service provider maintains. These servers look like this;
Servers, in many ways, similar to your personal computer, these servers have the same operating systems such as Windows or Linux, store data and are connected to the internet. One of the fundamental differences is that these specially configured computers are purposefully designed to stay turn on for quite a long period of time, open to the public, have extra multiple layers of security, have huge disk space, and are run in a controlled environment.
How does Web Hosting Work?
Since the website is generally designed for the public, unlike your computer, these servers allow anyone to have access to published content of your website anytime they want.
Whenever a website visitor requests access to your website via their browser, their browser gets connected to your hosting server from where it download your website content first and then shows it to your visitor – all in just a blink of a second. It happens every single time.
And with an extra layer of security, these servers have a smart check if the right person trying to access the backend of your website and ensures only the designated or website owner can have access to the backend area of its hosting space – where you have all of your confidential data such as emails, database, and other website files – via your hosting account details or FTP login details.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain is basically – an easy-to-remember name – pointed towards a unique IP Address of any website on the internet.
How Domain & Hosting interact?
In actual, a website is always hosted on some server and that server always assigns that website with a unique I.P address in the same way as we have our unique postal address assigned by the post office. These I.P addresses can be a maximum of 63 which is really hard to remember for humans.
That is where a domain comes in to play – to simplify website I.P address – so that it can be easier to remember, recall and share among humans. The shorter and relatable it is, the more expensive it will be. For example;
You can try to access google either by domain like you always do via the domain: google.com
Or you can simply try to access google by entering its I.P address which is http://188.8.131.52/
Both ways, you will end up landing on google.com.
This is because whenever an internet user put a domain name of any website into a browser and request to access, it gets connected with a Domain Name Server (DNS) first from where it identifies the actually I.P Address assigned to that website by its hosting server and then connects to that particular hosting service providing company and look for that particular hosting server (out of many servers that the hosting company maintains ) that host that website to download the published content of that website to show you on your browser.
This is what happens every time you try to access any website on the internet.
Domain & Hosting Relationship
A domain is your business name while hosting is your business address.
As you can switch your office from one location to another for any reason, but you will keep the same business name so that your customer can look up to you by name and find their way to your new business address.
That exactly the case with your domain and hosting, when you switch your hosting from one hosting provider to another, you only switch the I.P Address and point the same domain to your new I.P address.
Note: Almost every company on the internet provides both services, domain and hosting plan. These companies offer lucrative offers to upsell free domains when you purchase a hosting plan with them or offer discounts on hosting when you purchase a domain from them. There is no harm having both from one company or have each of them from 2 different companies, almost all companies work well together.
But in our years of experience, we have noticed that if these companies have one strong area than they lack something in the other way. And this is exactly what we are going to share with you so that you can make a customized selection based on your specific needs and make the most out of them.
Now that you fully understand the essentials of the domain, hosting and their relations, let’s dig into the 15 Essential Features checklist while selecting your web host
PART # 02
15 Essential Features Checklist While Selecting Your Web Host
Selecting your hosting plan and host provider based on the following general performance and features guide is best for someone with limited technical knowledge. But these are the fundamental elements you should not be compromising at all.
How reliable the hosting service provider is? There are few things to consider as follows;
1a- Website Security
According to cybint, there is a hacker attack that affects 1 in 3 Americans every 39 seconds.
Another research confirms that Hackers steal 75 records every second.
This means by the time you will end up reading this (on average 11 min read) blog, around 49,500 records will be stolen already.
That is why the first and the most important thing to look forward is to have full-proof website security.
Apart from the build-in website security measures provided by the hosting server, if required, you may opt for additional security measures to ensure an extra layer of firewalls and malware detection.
1b- SSL Certificates
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, used to create an encrypted channel between the client’s website and the server.
It is essential (and mandatory in most of the cases such as eCommerce) because of transmission of confidential data such as credit card details, customer personal information, contact details, account login information, and any other type of sensitive information has to be and must be encrypted to prevent data from spying, spoofing and data theft.
SSL certificate is a declaration (shown in the address bar of browsers) from the hosting company to the internet user that any data that is going to be shared on this website will be encrypted prior to being transmitted via the Internet. It looks like this;
How SSL Certificate Works??
A small file is a store on a website that encrypted the data first before it sends it over to its hosting server. This encrypted data can only be decrypted by the hosting server. This ensures that the information you submit to websites will not be stolen.
Today almost every platform such as eCommerce platforms, payment gateways, and merchants made it mandatory to every website to have an SSL Certificate installed. From 2014 onwards, Google also prefers to rank a website with an SSL certificate over the website without SSL.
This is why it is important that you look forward to hosting companies that offer you a hosting plan that includes an SSL certificate without you to make an additional payment for it as an add on.
There are 3 types of SSL certificates – Domain Validation Certificate, Organizational Validation Certificate, and Extended Validation Certificate
“IP Deny” is basically a special on-demand feature that can be added on in any web hosting plan to get privileged to restrict traffic coming from specific IPs.
This is ideally for those website owners who purposely want to restrict easy access of particular IPs identified as spammer or hackers.
This is generally not included in the packages and most of the time you will have to pay extra for this.
As the internet evolves so the website security and threats. With each day passes by, new and variety of ways are implemented by hackers to breach security and harm websites they can. This is why a hosting company that does regular backups is really crucial.
Also at times, little mistakes by development teams can create serious trouble and a recent backup can save you from huge loss. Whatever the case is a backup is a guarantee to you that if everything else will fail, you still have an option as a last resort.
This is why you must evaluate hosting companies on how frequently they take backups and whether or not it is included in your hosting plan.
Tip: Ideally you should opt for hosting companies that guarantee daily backups (every 24 hours) especially when you have a website that has frequents updates so that you never lose anything more than 24 hours of changes.
Number of Email Addresses Allowed
This is really important especially when you will be needing your email addresses to be branded. For example firstname.lastname@example.org.
You must check it while considering your hosting plan because many of the hosts provide only a handful number of email addresses in your hosting – especially those of website builders.
It is one of the many ways they continue to make money out of you. With each new email address added to your account, you will have to pay the extra money as long as you continue to host your website with them. This becomes really costly and irritating and also one of the major reasons for migration later on.
Tip: It is advised that you opt for hosting companies that provide unlimited email addresses with your hosting plan.
Email Address Limitation
Also, check if your host allows external email service companies to be integrated without any changes.
Because you can also this option to integrate an external email service providers with your hosting plan such as Gmail for a more similar email account interface. Or you can have your email configured in Gmail, Zoho or Outlook on your laptop or even mobile instead.
STORAGE AND BANDWIDTH CAPACITY
Your storage and bandwidth capacity entirely depends upon the amount of data you will be stored on your website and the volume of the website traffic that you expect.
These two crucial factors determine how much storage and bandwidth you should consider while selecting your hosting plan.
Storage is the amount of space given to you by your hosting company to store your data on their server.
While Bandwidth is the amount of data the hosting company will allow you all of your website visitors to download from your storage in a month.
How to calculate what amount of bandwidth will be sufficient for you?
Bandwidth = site data × traffic
Suppose, the total size of one of your websites is 3MB.
If 100 people visit that one page, (100×3=300) a maximum of 300 MB will be consumed.
And so on.
Based on your expected volume of website traffic into the size of your website pages that generate most of the visitors’ view will be your approx. bandwidth consumption.
Generally, this is something that haunts the websites that have huge traffic – not for websites with 10,000 visitors/month.
Tips: To solve this issue forever, you may opt for unlimited storage and bandwidth plan, in case, if you can afford. There won’t be a huge difference in amount, but this will definitely resolve these 2 important issues for you, forever.
“UNMETERED” DOESN’T MEAN “UNLIMITED”
The cleverest selling phrase you will come across while purchasing is “unmetered bandwidth” in a shared hosting plan.
It doesn’t mean unlimited bandwidth but, in reality, means no specific amount of bandwidth allocated to any one of the websites hosted on that shared server.
Total Bandwidth sharing among all.
It brings value for money for small websites with less traffic but affects a website that has a good volume of website visitors.
You might find your website (along with all of the other websites hosting on that server) shut down without any warning. If that happens, your host will automatically upgrade the bandwidth for everyone without anyone to pay extra, but it might cause you loss of money during that downtime.
So, unmetered bandwidth, in reality, means sharing bandwidth limits with each other. Also, your package may not clearly meter your bandwidth, but definitely has a limit that you just don’t know – no matter what hosting plan you choose.
Once you are done with the reliability check of hosting providers, the next is to check how easy it is to scale up with them in the future.
Because it is not unusual that soon you will find more traffic coming on your website, or you would like to have more storage to store more data.
Whatever the case will be, you must evaluate your host on how easy it is to upgrade or downgrade your hosting plan effortlessly.
Most of the hosting companies handle the up-gradation process themselves and do not requires you to do anything during the up-gradation of your hosting plan. But it better that you ask and get their assurance at the beginning to avoid trouble in the end. Also, you must ask them in such case, whether the date of this new subscription will be started from that day of up-gradation or the past due days will also be accounted for?
Tip: In case if the past due days are accounted, you must only pay the difference of amount in your upgradation hosting plan not the amount for the fresh upgraded hosting plan.
DOMAINS ALLOWED / ADD-ON DOMAINS
Another very important feature is how many domains are allowed in your hosting plan.
Domain & Hosting
Usually, a basic hosting package is limited to one domain at a time – this means you cannot host more than one website on that hosting simultaneously. However, unlimited sub-domains are allowed. For example subdomain.myactualdomain.com.
And in case, if you intend to host another or multiple domains in the future, you will have to purchase another hosting plan
So, if you believe there are chances that you might host more than one domain in the future, it is better that you opt for multiple domains hosting plans.
Even, if you are planning to host a single domain – standalone website, it is better that you evaluate your hosting provider based on how seamless it is to add-on domains to your host by paying extra to upgrade your single domain hosting plan to multiple domains hosting plans.
The majority of the domain hosting companies offer almost all kinds of commonly used domain extensions such as .com, .co, .net, .org, .shop, .biz and so on.
However, the issue arises when you are targeting Restricted Top Level Domains (rTLDs) such as .ca, .uk, .us, .edu, .gov domains.
Not every domain hosting companies offer these restricted Top Level Domains and you must find out your preferred domain extension is supported by your hosting companies before you make a purchase.
Domain extensions can play a vital role in local SEO as well as for user understanding. For example,
.ORG domain is used by non-profit organizations whereas .shop domains are widely used in eCommerce business.
You may not wish you restrict your domain extension options by selecting a wrong host and most probably would like to have the maximum options open for you in future.
DOMAIN TRADEMARK ISSUES
Domain Trademark refers to the use of a word that is already protected by a trademark.
You may come up with a domain that sounds amazing from a marketing standpoint, but it may not be appropriate from a legal perspective.
This is why you must make sure that your domain does not conflict with any trademark.
This is why it is extremely crucial that you ensure that the domain that you are planning to purchase does not infringe on any trademark directly or indirectly.
In simple words, if your domain includes such word like “Microsoft” or “FB” in it or similar spelling that trick users with any trademark such as ‘facebo0k’ that point out to registered trademark, it might end you up receiving legal notice soon.
As a result, not only your domain will be put down but also you will face trademark infringement and bear a huge loss.
It’s better to avoid choosing such domain names that will cause trademark issues. The best way to check if or not your domain conflicts with any patent and trademark is through the United States Patent & Trademark Office – USPTO
When you buy a domain name, it is mandatory to provide domain ownership information such as the name of the owner, address, phone, organization, etc. this information is tied with your domain and publically available via ICCAN – an official body to manage domain registry – for anyone who may wish to look upon who is controlling the website.
The spammers and hackers use this information in many ways mainly in the hijacking, spamming, phishing attacks and identity theft are most common.
It is where domain privacy comes in. Domain privacy feature helps you mask your confidential details and protects you mainly from
- Prevent compromise of your personal information
- Stop domain-related junk email, spam, or phone calls
- Deter against potential stalkers or harassment
- Protect against unauthorized access to your website and domain
This is why it is extremely crucial to have this add-on in order to protect your identity.
This is generally not available with a hosting plan and in most cases, you have to purchase it additionally with your hosting plan.
NUMBER OF DATABASES ALLOWED
Database or sometimes referred to as Database Management System (DBMS). Many websites with customer base usually collect and organize information in specially designed customized formats with several validations rules. This is done so that it can seamlessly be extracted, accessed, managed, modify, updated as required.
A most common example will be a general lead form.
Lead Form image
Most of the web host allows a single database in a basic shared hosting plan. So in case, if you will likely to host multiple websites, you might in need of multiple databases to manage that record. Hence, be sure at the time of sign up, if or not you will be allowed to maintain a sufficient number of databases as per your requirement.
Similar like we have multiple eCommerce platforms options such as Shopify and Woo-commerce etc. so we have for the database. The most common and widely used database is MySQL. However, some technical experts prefer PostgreSQL or SQLite databases.
This is why you must be sure of your hosting plan if or not it supports such a database.
6- Customer Support
In the web hosting business, customer support is a lifeline. The most crucial, most eminent, and the most fundamental thing that customers must look up to when selecting their host.
This is the reason why your hosting company should have that unicorn factor to be the ‘support hero’ among all other available options you have.
6a- Available Support Channels
This is extremely crucial and the most important feature you must – must consider before you sign up. Because you will be needing to contact your hosting provider – for sure – no matter even if its the best web host service on earth.
No one support channel can be enough all alone. They must have all the support channels active such as phone, live chat, email and ticket opening.
This is because most of the time when you try to reach your host on phone, it gets connected to automated phone call service where they ask you to keep on pressing different numbers based on the type of support you need. This can be really irritating because most of the time, no one is willing to stay on call for 15-20 minutes rather prefer to talk to the human straight away.
Unfortunately, with millions of websites hosted by these hosting companies, you rarely get a chance to speak with the agent straight away and often find yourself stuck in long ques. This is why you would need extra support channels.
Similarly, with chats, you have to wait for the chat agent to get connected with you and stays in Que. Most of these companies now have introduced chatbots to answer huge traffic they get on their support channels. These chatbots are well designed to answer common issues that frequently happens with customers but in special cases, these chatbots can be a real pain. This is why depending all alone on chat will not be a smart decision.
Emails are generally answered based on ques not priority and unfortunately, these hosting companies receive thousands of emails on a daily basis. This is why depending mainly on emails won’t help you at all because you would want to have your issues solved as soon as possible.
In our opinion, Ticket generations work the best among all the options. Tickets are quick to generate and usually get forwarded to the right person who is in a position to resolve the matter. However, you must evaluate your hosting company on how effortless it is for you to generate tickets and how quick they are to respond back, resolve it and notify you to check.
6b- Support Hours
Also, 24/7 support hours are crucial.
Online businesses are 24/7 and require all of their support department to be active around the clock. And so your online visitor may land on your website anytime. You may find yourself stuck with any issue anytime and would want to get it resolved right there and then.
Unfortunately, not every hosting company provides all of its support channels active around the clock. This is why you must consider a hosting company that is, at least, active during your main business hours so that you can ensure streamline support that you might need in the future.
Before you sign up, don’t forget to check your hosting company reviews related to their support.
6c- Quality of Support
The quality of support is pretty hard to determine personally before you sign up but you can make the most out of our experience we have had with these top hosting companies.
The reason being, you shouldn’t make your decision based on the scale they are operating on. Big Names doesn’t guarantee the best customer support. It is because the bigger they are the bigger their customer base and so on the volume of issues that arise on a daily basis. This makes it much difficult for them to solve the issues promptly.
On the other hand, you might think of a hosting provider with not much of a customer base but find out an extremely high level of customer support.
Also, depending on online reviews won’t be a smart decision. Why? Because most of the online reviews today are paid. Though they are user-generated, display reviews based on client reputation. This means they may show more good reviews on the front to manage their reputation online.
Based on our experience with the following hosting companies, here’s the conclusion.
HOSTING COMPANIES CUSTOMER SUPPORT CONCLUSION IMAGE
Hosting companies are smart, they work on their reputation aggressively and regularly. Rather than going to dig into reviews companies, which most of their prospect usually do, you rather explore the internet with worst-case scenes on google to see if you find anything negative about them.
Try googling with most common customer expression you can think of such as ‘Host-Name Sucks’ or “Host-Name Downtime” or even “Host-Name Hacked” and so on.
With millions of customers online, even the best host may not ensure 100% uptime, seamless customer support, and website security.
But this insight will help you understand more about how well they respond to such issues that raised in the past and how promptly they resolve the issue and if they have appropriately compensated their client.
Tip: make sure you dig into recent incidents (recent 6 months max) and don’t forget to evaluate the final words from the affected clients.
Easy to Navigate cPANEL
No matter which host you choose, you will be given a client area through which you access a cPanel.
A cPanel is a dashboard from you manage every technical activity of your website such as uploading technical files, create and manage database, set up security, create and manage email addresses, manage backups, install eCommerce platforms such as Woocommerce, WordPress, Magenta, and Shopify, etc.
Poor cPanel usability leads to poor customer experience and creates a hindrance.
This is why a user-friendly, easy to use cPanel is important.
A CMS referred to Content Management System, is basically an easy-to-interface for non-technical team members (such as content marketing team) to edit, change, update, delete and create content such as images, content, and videos, etc.
In general, the most example is a website blog.
It gives you easy access to make such amendments without putting all other technical files (coding files) in danger.
This is why it is important to choose a hosting plan that supports your preferred CMS.
eCommerce is web-applications specially designed for online stores that involve inventory management, checkouts, customer queries, etc.
Generally, there are 2 types of eCommerce platforms, standalone shopping cart solutions, and eCommerce plugin-based CMS.
Similarly, as we have Android and IOS, Android is more open-sourced with many more applications options than IOS which has more control over its applications and security.
The standalone shopping cart solutions is an open-source application specially designed, developed and optimized for online stores. You first choose the platform and then to requires you to purchase a hosting plan with them and install CMS to operate it. These platforms have their own plugins (relatively fewer options than WordPress) for features like security, checkouts, etc. and also their charges for all these services a little more out of your control.
The other way around is you to first select the CMS (such as WordPress ) and then choose to install all the plugins you prefer to use to optimize security, checkouts, lead capturing and gateway, etc. This way you stay more in control in terms of scalability and price and have a bigger library of plugins (both free and paid).
Whatever your path you choose, you must get assurance from your host of providing you support for all the technical requirements you will be needing.