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Growth-minded companies are constantly trying to optimize their digital presence, in order to influence customer attitudes and drive growth. But even the most well-thought-out, easy to use, and technically buttoned-up website will only succeed to the extent that it’s presented by a reliable hosting service. Choosing a web hosting service is therefore one of the most important decisions clients have to make. 

The first decision to consider is the type of web hosting best suited to your needs. 

Under a shared hosting arrangement, several clients share space on a single server. Shared hosting may be suitable for smaller companies and smaller budgets. The host maintains the server, which can be a time-consuming task beyond the resources of a client’s IT department. But with shared hosting, clients run a number of risks. Problems affecting one website housed on the server have the potential to affect the others. Similarly, heavy traffic anywhere on a shared server can affect the speed of the server overall.

VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting gives clients their own protected corner of a shared server. VPS hosting mitigates some of the risks of shared hosting by giving each client its own operating system, disc space and bandwidth. It affords the client freedom to choose they type of software they run and to amend the server’s framework should they have the expertise. VPS-hosted sites are easy to scale up when a client’s needs increase.

Cloud hosting uses a cluster of machines to run an individual site. Multiple copies of a site are housed on different parts of the cloud. If one part of the cluster experiences problems, the other parts of the cluster are available as back up.

Dedicated hosting provides clients with their own discrete servers. Unlike VPS hosting, which is like renting an apartment, dedicated hosting is like buying a house. Under dedicated hosting, a client controls all of the “utilities” on the site. Speed, uptime and flexibility are enhanced under dedicated hosting—but those benefits, of course, do come at a price.

Collocated hosting also provides clients with their own dedicated servers, but these servers are located on the clients’ premises. Collocated hosting is considered the Cadillac of solutions and comes with a price tag to match. Clients are responsible for both purchasing and maintaining the hardware and software they’re using. 

Once a client selects the type of web hosting best suited to its needs, the search for the best provider should focus first and foremost on the host’s technical performance. What does the host guarantee in terms of speed and uptime? Does the host offer an uptime guarantee? How often does the host perform automated updates?  Clients should consider the KPIs they’ve set for their own sites or apps, then evaluate how the host helps or hinders them from meeting their goals. 

Security is also of utmost concern when choosing a web host. Reliable hosts follow best practices around access protection, encryption, firewall construction, mal-ware detection and more. Any web host worth considering will, of course, keep off-site back ups of clients’ sites to hedge against technical and even natural disasters.

Depending on the level of support a client expects to need, guarantees around customer service also become critically important. Does the host provide live 2/7 support? If not, what is the guaranteed response time once a support request is initiated?  

Pricing for web hosting services can vary widely depending on the hosting model, bandwidth used, and level of maintenance responsibility assumed by the client. A low price doesn’t necessarily signal a great deal. Many hosts offer low rates for an introductory period, but charge steep renewal prices at a contract’s end. Others lock you into an annual plan–but a monthly plan affords clients the opportunity to evaluate a host’s performance in real time before committing to a lengthy service period. Some hosts include free services with their plan, which clients may or may not need. Clients should conduct a careful review of any Service Level Agreements they sign to be sure they’re getting the services they need at a price they can afford.