The (Almost) A-Z of Buying Web Hosting

When it comes to buying web hosting, it can seem like a minefield of different terminology and jargon. To help you navigate through this landscape, we’ve put together an (almost) A-Z of things to look out for when conducting your research. It’s by no means exhaustive but will give you a good understanding of what to look for, and also give you some questions to ask your web hosting provider of choice. 

Automatic Core Updates

When running a WordPress website, if you’re not running the latest version, you’ll likely be missing out on important security features. When shopping for web hosting, keep a lookout for “Managed WordPress hosting”. This is where the hosting provider takes care of important updates for you, meaning you can focus on developing your website(s) and business, safe in the knowledge that everything is secure.

Buy a Domain

Every great idea needs a name. Your web hosting provider will enable you to find the perfect domain name and add it to your hosting package of choice. Key things to check before you click “Buy Now” are 1) Is a domain name already included with your hosting package? And 2) Can you see what the renewal fees will be, and are they reasonable?

CDN (Content Delivery Network)

A content delivery network effectively stores or “caches” a copy of your website onto servers in key locations around the world. This means that when someone logs onto your website from a country located near that node, the website will load quicker. That’s not to say that your website will load slowly without it, but you’ll often find a server in a busy region helps with increased traffic. If it’s important to your website, make sure your web hosting provider offers a CDN.

DNS (Domain Name System)

Often referred to as “the phonebook of the internet”, the Domain Name System converts the words that make up your domain name (e.g. www.mydomain.com) into the IP address that matches your web server. Every web hosting and domain name provider uses DNS, but it always helps to check if they use a reputable service, such as Google. You don’t want your address getting lost, do you?

Eco-Friendly

The internet uses a lot of energy, in fact, if the internet was a country, it would be the 7th biggest polluter in the world. Some web hosting providers offer carbon offsetting as part of your hosting package, meaning your website can support reforestation and other eco-friendly projects around the world. 

Free Migrations

Like with many other services, sometimes you want to switch to a different provider. Be sure to check your new hosting provider offers a free migration service, and that it’s handled manually. That way you can keep costs down and also have someone you can talk to throughout the migration process.

Guarantee 

Investing in web hosting is an important step for getting your website up and running; it has to be right and you have to be happy. See if your web hosting provider offers any sort of money-back guarantee. If they do, it’s a good sign that they’re confident in their ability to provide a great service, and that they are dedicated to making sure you’re happy.

Hidden Fees

Like with many online services, it’s important to check what the real costs are before purchasing. Check that your chosen web hosting provider is transparent about pricing. Ask them what fees will appear at renewal. If you were to leave, check if there are transferring out fees. Also, check if there are any add-on fees for additional services like email. Finally, before checking out, check if any unexpected add-ons have been added to your basket.

Linux or Windows Hosting

Being able to choose what operating system your server runs is a key consideration. Linux is the most common OS for web servers, and it offers pretty much everything you need for a website, including software, programming languages, and server settings. However, if you’re looking to use certain programming languages, such as .NET, or certain applications, you can choose a Windows server for your website. Remember: it doesn’t matter what you’re using on your computer at home or in the office — your web server is totally separate!

Managed WordPress hosting

If you run WordPress websites, wouldn’t it be great if you could have someone look after essential updates in the background? Managed WordPress hosting offers exactly that. Check that your web hosting provider also offers regular backups and a staging environment as standard. This ensures that you can always restore your site should something go wrong, and best out new site content before going live.

No overselling

Unfortunately, there are web hosting providers out there that oversell their products without maintaining their systems to make sure everyone has what they need. This often results in slow-loading websites and downtime. Always check that your chosen provider has the latest technology and the capacity to upgrade your site’s resources if needed. You never know when you might go viral! 

One-Click Staging Platform

Testing is an important part of launching new websites, new designs, or new pages. And one of the best ways to test is to have a staging environment, allowing you to test everything on your website before you go live on your domain. Built out of sight of your visitors as well as search engines, a staging platform gives you the confidence you need before you go live.

Popular Programming Languages Supported

If you’re looking to build different types of web applications, having a range of supported programming languages is essential. Check that your web hosting provider not only supports what you need now but regularly updates for what you might need in the future. That way, there’s nothing to hold you back. Popular languages include PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby and .NET.

Questions?

This isn’t supposed to be a definitive guide to web hosting and what is on offer, and we appreciate that everyone has different needs for getting their new idea or business online. If you have any questions, our team is here to help. Click here to contact us.

Root Access

Need to make sure your app or website has everything set up exactly as it needs to be? A Virtual Private Server usually comes with root access, giving you complete control over configuration and access rights. And even if you can’t fully manage the hosting environment on a shared hosting package, many packages come with SSH, making it easy to log into the command line and make necessary changes.

Snapshot Backups

From time to time, things can go wrong. You could delete something by mistake, or your website could get hacked. In either instance, being able to restore your hard work will save hours of work and mean your website is only offline for a short amount of time. Snapshot backups ensure that a copy is made of your website on a regular basis, so when the time comes, you can instantly restore it.

Tools Library

If you’re looking for the foundations to build your website, or perhaps you need certain abilities for your online project, check that your web hosting provider offers a library of tools that you can tap into. A popular example is content management systems like WordPress. With the click of a button, WordPress can be installed onto your hosting package, ready to receive your chosen theme and content.

Unlimited Bandwidth

Expecting high traffic? Or just want to make sure that nothing is going to hold your website back after launch? Check if your web hosting provider offers the right bandwidth options for what you need, and if necessary, check if they offer unlimited bandwidth so your website is always accessible for visitors.

Virtual Private Server

If you need more flexibility, a Virtual Private Server (VPS) gives you more control compared to a standard hosting package. Rather than sharing server space with other websites, a VPS gives you your own slice of a larger dedicated server. You get to control what’s on it, how it operates, and configure it exactly how you want it. It can be a lot of work, especially if you’ve never worked with a web server before, but the customisation options are great.

Wildcard SSL

An SSL certificate is an essential security measure for websites, as it authenticates the domain and also encrypts the connection to the website. A wildcard SSL provides extra flexibility, as it can be used on subdomains too, such as mail.yourdomain.com.

Zebra

There are literally web-related terms for every letter of the alphabet, but not all of them apply to web hosting. So here is a photo of a Zebra, yelling at other Zebras about web hosting. Probably.

A zebra stands and looks like he's shouting.

Finding the right web hosting provider is often a balance between the features you need, the help you require, and the extras you need on top. Hopefully, this article has given you some helpful information to make the right choice for your needs.

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(Featured image by Sigmund on Unsplash.)