Shared hosting is the go-to solution for small websites with modest numbers of visitors. Highly popular with start-ups and bloggers, traditionally, this is a no-frills entry-level product with a monthly price tag cheaper than that of a high street cappuccino. However, while the cost has remained very low, some web hosts have transformed their shared hosting into something much more relevant for the modern website owner. Here, we’ll look at ten features you should now expect to get from the latest shared hosting plans.
1. Tech with teeth
There’s more to success than just hosting a website online. If it’s going to rank well on Google and keep customers engaged, it’s got to load quickly, perform well and stay online. You can no longer host your website on an old banger of a server that struggles to get in the fast lane and which is constantly in the garage for repairs.
The latest shared hosting solutions have servers using Intel Xeon based clusters, with high-speed SSD hard drives and automatic caching.
2. Control panels that kick
The vast majority of businesses using a shared hosting account don’t have any IT staff in house. Generally, the people who manage the website are the business owners or admin staff, not IT professionals. This can make the job of managing the hosting and website technically challenging.
The key to making this task far easier is to choose shared hosting that comes with a well-designed control panel. The industry leader here is cPanel. This highly popular control panel is used by millions of businesses, big and small, because of its easy-to-use dashboard, intuitive layout and its wide range of useful management tools. Even complete novices find it makes challenging tasks, like setting up new websites, adding new email addresses, managing files, etc., a breeze. Today’s best shared hosting plans come with cPanel included.
3. Tech help when you need it
While a control panel makes things easier, an essential element of any hosting solution, especially one aimed at customers with little IT know-how, is technical support. Buying in technical support from a consultant can set you back hundreds or even thousands of pounds, so choosing a web host that provides technical support as part of the plan is a no-brainer.
That said, not all technical support is the same. Look for a host that provides 24/7, 365 days a year support that can be accessed via more than one channel, e.g., online chat, telephone, ticket and email. This way, you know that whenever you need help, an expert will be on hand to help you solve the issue.
4. Backups included
Having to build a new website from scratch and rewrite years of lost content can put you out of business. Indeed, 60% of companies fail within 6 months of a major data loss. Backing up your website ensures that if the worst happens, there’s a quick and easy way to recover. While backups are essential, you may find that your host’s backup solution costs about the same as the shared hosting. Today, you’ll find that some web hosts see this as such an important element of their services, daily backups are included free.
5. No bandwidth limits
Some hosting plans provide you with a specified bandwidth limit: the amount of data your website can send and receive each month. While this may look like a generous amount of data, it means that if your website gets a lot of visitors in any month and reaches that limit, your site will disappear from the internet until the next accounting month begins – unless, of course, you are forced by necessity to upgrade to a bigger hosting package.
This is more than a little unfair on websites because it penalises them for doing well. Today, you’ll find that unmetered bandwidth is a feature of most good plans. In other words, provided you follow the host’s fair use policy, you’ll have all the bandwidth you need, without fear of going offline.
6. Multi-website hosting
Shared hosting is designed for small businesses or individuals, so generally speaking, if you intend to run a lot of different sites and expect to get many visitors, a larger plan or more powerful form of hosting will be the most effective choice. However, that doesn’t mean shared hosting should limit you to just one website. The computing resources available on most plans can quite easily cater for two or even more websites with modest numbers of visitors. If you find this isn’t allowed, look for plans that do offer multiple website hosting.
7. Email that comes with the plan
With shared hosting being so cheap, email hosting can sometimes be a hidden extra that doubles the cost of your hosting. Of course, if you’re a business with a professional domain name (mycompany.com), you’ll want to take advantage of having a professional email address too (e.g., [email protected]), so make sure you choose a plan where this is included in the price.
Today, the best shared hosting email solutions are highly advanced, letting you access email over the internet using webmail and send and receive from within apps like Outlook. What’s more, they offer calendars, contacts, tasks, forwarding, autoresponders and all the other features you’d expect from a professional email service, like virus, malware and spam filtering.
8. Uptime guarantee
Uptime is the percentage of time that your website stays online over each accounting period. For your website to be successful, it needs to stay online virtually all of the time, so that customers can always reach it. If it is constantly going offline, your reputation will be damaged and you could lose sales.
There are a few legitimate reasons for your site to go offline. You may take it offline yourself and put it into maintenance mode if you are updating your website, for example, updating WordPress, installing a new plugin or publishing a new post. A web host may need to take a shared hosting server temporarily offline to update the operating system or install a security patch. These things should only take a few minutes and take place at the least-busiest times. The rest of the time, however, your server and website should be up and running.
To ensure this is the case, look for a web host that provides an uptime guarantee. For a shared hosting plan, this should be no less than 99.9% uptime. If you require 100% uptime, you’d need to opt for a different form of hosting, like the cloud.
9. Free migration
If you are already with a web host and have found a better plan elsewhere, you’ll need to migrate your website to your new host. This can be quite a daunting task for those with limited technical know-how. A web host that truly values you as a customer will take care of the migration on your behalf so that you can pick up from where you left off and not have any of the worries of something going wrong during the move. If they are really good, they’ll do this for free.
10. A free domain
Website names or ‘domains’ (e.g., mycompany.com) have to be registered with ICANN and there is an annual fee for this, usually between £10 and £20 a year, depending on the type of top-level domain you choose (e.g., .com, .co.uk, .biz, etc.). A good web host will not only provide you with a domain search page to find and register the right domain for your business; they’ll also include the cost of registration in the price of the plan. This is great value, as it can often be equivalent to several months’ worth of hosting.
Some web hosts are transforming their shared hosting to provide services that are much more in line with the needs of today’s website owners. They offer the technology needed for websites to perform quickly and stay online; there are control panels, tools and support services designed for those with limited IT experience; and they have all the bells and whistles, like email hosting, daily backups, free migration, etc. that you’d expect from a provider that puts their customers first.
If you are looking for shared hosting that ticks all these boxes and which comes for as little as £2.99 a month (inc. VAT), visit our Shared Hosting page.