Website hosting is a topic for a book all to itself but here are my rules of thumb that might help when choosing a hosting provider:
- Don’t use a company that is regularly listed in “Top 10 Web Hosts” lists you’ll find online – their position is usually solely based on their affiliate payouts and rarely on merit. I’m not against affiliate promotions in general, and I’m an affiliate for several hosting companies myself, but it must be transparent and recommendations should not just be based on who pays the most commissions, as it is on many sites, unfortunately.
- Don’t use a company that offers unlimited anything – it’s rarely true. You’ll find that there’s always limitations in small print that means the opposite – look at their “Fair Use Policy” or Terms & Conditions.
- Don’t use a company that advertises on TV – these are rarely good suppliers to work with as they tend focus on mass market and their business is often a low quality “numbers game”.
- Don’t use a company that is less than 2 years in business – I’d rather trust a key service to someone in business a bit longer.
- Don’t use a company that has less than 5 employees – similar to above.
- Don’t use a company that buys up smaller hosting companies, but conceals its ownership.
- Don’t spend less than $50/year on business hosting – any less and they’re not charging enough to deliver a quality service.
- Don’t buy your domains from your hosting company – it’s easier and safer to use a domain name registrar for these.
As I said, these are my personal rules of thumb, and many people will disagree with these. For example, I know that there are good hosting companies with less than 5 employees. There are also some good shared hosts with plans for less than $50. And there are some really good hosting companies who are also domain registrars.
But my personal experience with a smaller supplier has shifted me more toward the larger companies, and while I’d be happy to put a personal blog on $20/year hosting, I just wouldn’t use it for a business critical website. And I find that it’s better and safer to buy your domain name from a domain name company, and buy your website hosting from a different company, ideally who specialise in website hosting.
Likewise, a company younger than 2 years old might be a trustworthy supplier, but they may also be still in start-up phase and pivoting to a different direction. If they’re new to the industry do you want to be their learning curve? Maybe you do, if the price is right — that’s a business decision for you to make.
Server hardware resources and network bandwidth have a maximum possible value, hard disks can be big but they’re not infinite, and if you read the small print you’ll find they’re limiting your account in a different way using CPU throttling or another technique.
You can buy the domain and hosting from the same company, and it will save you a tiny amount of time — and maybe even save you up to $10 if they include the domain in the hosting fee — but you do run a small (perhaps tiny) risk of having your domain name held to ransom or even hijacked by unethical providers, and in my opinion that’s a good enough reason to keep them separate. Your domain is the single most important online business asset, keep it safe.