Finding the best web hosting provider boils down to looking at a few different factors: uptime, support, pricing, and features. Since few if any hosting providers are “the best” in all of these, the best website hosting service for you may not be the best hosting provider for someone else. If you care more about the “numbers” (like bandwidth and disk space) that you get for your money, someone else may care more about responsive support and the assurance their website will still be up five years from now. In your search for a web host, start by figuring out the advantages and disadvantages you care about.
One of the most widely cited attributes that set really good web hosts apart from the rest are their uptime. Uptime is the percentage of the time that your website is available to visitors on the Internet.
The higher the uptime, the more elaborate the web host’s systems need to be in order for them to guard against hardware failures and perform maintenance without having to restart (or “take down”) the servers hosting your website. As a result, if you’re looking for 99.999% (“five nines”) uptime or more, expect to pay a significant amount of money for the privilege.
Very high uptime hosting providers (“high availability”) are geared towards businesses that need their systems available no matter what — like hospitals, financial firms, and communications providers, where “downtime” can cost lives or thousands of dollars per second.
If you know what you’re doing, you may only rarely need to chat with customer support at your hosting provider. On the other hand, when that happens, you may need them to respond to your problem instantly! Having a responsive support line means that mysterious problems or important questions are dealt with quickly and efficiently, without complicated “press 1 for sales, press 2 for infernal affairs…” phone menus and hair-pulling attempts to get a barely-speaks-your-language phone operator to transfer you to an engineer.
On the other hand, if you’re new at building sites for the Internet, having a full featured support available may mean you can quickly get the help you need… even if it’s just someone explaining what settings to use with your secure FTP client.
There’s no such thing as truly unlimited space or bandwidth — ever.
At the same time, “free” hosting is likely to come with hidden costs you’ll decide — a few months down the line — that you simply can’t afford.
Hosting providers offer a wide range of pricing plans, and, as long as you get the bandwidth, disk space, and services you need, the price may end up being the deciding factor.
If you need extra space for your website, a very fat “pipe” to handle thousands of visitors an hour downloading funny cat videos, or support for your particular database software, some hosting providers will be happy to help. Others will want nothing to do with you!
On the other hand, some web hosting providers offer just the basics — but they do it very well, ensuring that you can use every last megabyte of the advertised capacity without ever having any trouble.