Choosing a hosting package that is right for your needs can be confusing. With no two companies offering exactly the same package or displaying the information in the same way, comparing what’s on offer can be just as baffling as comparing domestic energy suppliers. However, as the wrong decision can have long term consequences for your business, we’ve put together a list of essential features that you should look for in any hosting package and from any provider.
1. Storage space with growing room
When you have a website, you’ll need space to store all the data it requires to operate successfully. This includes your software (e.g. WordPress and plugins files), your content files (website pages, images, etc.) and other data (e.g. information collected from your visitors). As your business grows, the amount of storage you need will also grow as you may use more plugins, have more content and collect more information from more customers.
One of the first things you should look for in a web hosting package is that it provides enough space to store all those files, not just for what you need now but for what you anticipate your needs will be in the future.
If you only intend to run a small website, you won’t need a great deal of space. However, large sites, such as online stores that sell lots of products will need far more disk space.
2. Strong security
The advanced software used by hackers can scan millions of websites every day looking for ways to break in and if a vulnerability is discovered, they’ll make an attack. Additionally, they’ll use phishing emails to try to get hold of your login information or try to infect your system by getting you to click on malicious email links.
No website is without risk and to prevent it being infected, ransomed, taken down or even deleted or from having your data stolen, strong security is absolutely essential. You should ensure, therefore, that any web host you opt for provides a comprehensive set of tools to protect your site against threats. These should include a robust firewall, intrusion prevention, email scanning, spam filtering, SSL encryption and more.
3. Remote backups
Hand in hand with security are remote backups. A backup ensures that even if your site is completely deleted, an up to date copy of it is on hand to restore it and have it quickly back online.
Without a backup, you put your entire online operation at risk as you may need to start building your website from scratch and recreating all your content. What you wouldn’t be able to do without a backup, is retrieve all your user data. That means you would lose every bit of information you had on your customers, including current orders – a situation that has put many companies out of business.
Backups aren’t just needed because of hackers. Websites can be lost for other reasons, too: accidental deletion, server failures, data corruption, tinkering with code and so forth. For peace of mind, make sure you choose a web host that provides a remote backup service.
4. Guaranteed uptime
Not all hosting packages will remain online 100% of the time and this means there are occasions when your site will be down and customers will not be able to find you. Sometimes this is because the host will need to take the server offline to undertake essential maintenance, such as updating the operating system. At some hosts, however, this can be because the servers being used keep breaking down.
If you are regularly going offline, your site can quickly develop a poor reputation and this can affect both your search engine ranking and the number of visitors you get. To avoid this, look for a host that guarantees a minimum uptime. On shared hosting, this should be at least 99.9%. For those who opt for more advanced hosting, like a dedicated server or cloud, the minimum uptime should be 99.99%. Some hosts, like here at WHUK, can even guarantee 100% uptime for some of our solutions.
5. 24/7 expert technical support
Everyone who runs a website faces technical challenges at some point. Sometimes you may be able to solve these issues in-house but at others, you’ll need expert help to put things right. This is especially important if your site goes offline and you are unsure how to get it up and running again.
For this reason, having a web host that provides 24×7 technical support is absolutely critical. This way, if anything goes wrong, at any time of the day, you’ll have an expert on tap who can help you fix the problem. As your business develops and begins to use more advanced critical applications, technical support becomes even more essential.
6. User-friendly control panels
When you’re busy running a business, you don’t want the management of your website to take up more of your time than absolutely necessary. This process is made much quicker and easier when you have a user-friendly control panel that is easy to navigate and intuitive to use. Unfortunately, some control panels can be exactly the opposite and make administration much more of a challenge. Ideally, look for hosts that offer the leading control panel brands, such as cPanel, which works brilliantly for Linux based websites and Plesk for Windows-based sites. Both these have easy to navigate dashboards with well-organised features.
7. Professional business domain email
As a business, you want a professional email address that contains your company domain name (e.g. [email protected]). While most hosting has this included in the package, you will need to make sure the email service has the features you need. These will include the ability to send and receive using applications such as Outlook or on mobile devices, besides the standard webmail. At the same time, you should check that your host scans emails for spam and malicious software and checks that your email addresses have not been blacklisted. You’ll also need adequate storage and features such as file sharing, calendars and tasks.
While there are other things you might be seeking in a hosting package, the seven points discussed here are the essential features that you should be looking for in any hosting solution. In that sense, they are the foundation on which you should base your choice.
If you are looking for a web host that provides all these solutions, visit our homepage to see our range of hosting options.