Web hosting services are as varied as the sites they hold. Some are geared towards helping businesses get off the ground and handle traffic. Others look for private users who mainly want to host simple sites like blogs. Picking the right provider can be a challenge, even for the most technically savvy.
Web hosting reviews can help narrow the field. Reading opinions written by those who have actually tried or used the service can help cut through the haze and make sense out of what they really offer.
Free Hosting Services
This is a limited resource offered by some (not all) providers. Typically, users are restricted to a certain number of pages, fewer features, and limitations on what can be uploaded when compared to paid services.
Shared Web Hosting
This is probably the most common type of service. Users share space on a server as well as the resources of that drive. Depending on the size one platform could host a few hundred to a few thousand web sites. While commonplace, this option is typically very basic when it comes to flexibility. Consumers have no control over patching or software updates.
Virtual Dedicated Server
Also known as a Virtual Private Server, this option is available to those who want a little more control. Users still share space on a platform, however the resources are divided and allocated in a way that everyone has their own without affecting the underlying hardware. Consumers have more flexibility when it comes to root access and they may be responsible for patching software themselves.
With this option the user has his own server and full control. However, the consumer does not typically own the hardware, simply leasing it. The client is responsible for security and maintenance, but there is no sharing of space or resources.
Some providers also offer reseller services that would allow consumers to become hosts themselves while using other seller’s resources. These vary as much as other hosting services.
When trying to get started with a website the first thing that must be determined is what type of web host is needed. The cheapest, aside from free platforms, would be the shared hosting. However, larger businesses, or consumers with lots of visitors, may be better off with a dedicated plan.
Each web hosting service has different features offered depending on the type of plan chosen. Commonly, things like email, FTP transfer, and WordPress installation are offered. However, some may only allow one domain to be hosted per account; while others allow for more. That’s where good reviews come in handy.
- HostGator: Founded in 2002, this host offers shared, dedicated, virtual private, and reseller hosting.
- Bluehost: Founded in 1996, they offer shared, WordPress, VPS, and dedicated services.
- DreamHost: Founded in 1997, this host also offers shared, WordPress, dedicated and virtual private hosting. This provider also has cloud features such as computing and storage services.
- iPage: This hosting company was founded in 1998. Like their competitors, they offer shared, WordPress, VPS, and dedicated hosting packages.
- GreenGeeks: This company also offers shared, reseller, virtual private, and dedicated hosting. Unlike others they are 100% eco-friendly and do community services throughout the world.
There are hundreds more web hosting services out there, but these are among the leaders in the industry. We’ve reviewed each of these companies and offer ratings and opinions on which one would work best. Of course, as with anything the final choice is best left to consumers as needs vary greatly from website to website.
Since we have completed reviews on the aforementioned webhosts, and several other, it is important to note how we’ve rated them. We look at several categories including:
- Setup & Usability
- Features & Apps
- Uptime, Downtime & Speed
- Customer Support
Setup and Usability
With setup and usability we take a look at how long it the process takes. Is it easy to get started with a new website? How long does it take to transfer a domain to the new host? These are just a couple of the questions we try to answer.
In addition, we look at how easy it is to navigate around and use their site. We look at the interface users have once the account is activated and whether or not the control panel is easy to understand. Not only is it scrutinized for how easy it is to use but what level the consumer should be at, i.e. beginner, intermediate, advanced, before trying to work with it.
Features and Apps
When we look at features, we spend time reviewing what all comes with each option. Some services offer several tiers under one type of hosting platform. While it all maybe shared hosting, one level may have better features than another and the cost will reflect that.
Not only do we look at features such as email, FTP, Ruby, Python, and space but we also look at applications available. We look to see if there easy WordPress or Wiki installation as an example. Every host will have its own series of applications to offer. Some may not be of use to certain consumers while others are.
Uptime, Downtime, and Speed
When it comes to uptime, downtime, and speed the category pretty much speaks for itself. We research into what the web hosting company claims in their uptime then we compare that to tested downtime and see if it matches up. We also check the speed of uploads, downloads, and page loads. This information can save users a lot of time and frustration.
Security is probably one of the most important things a web hosting company can provide. Users need to know that their information and their data are safe from external hackers. We look to see what protocols are in place, how patches are delivered, and if they offer any additional features to bolster consumer protection.
Finally, we look at customer service. Users have questions and run into problems all the time. Being able to resolve these errors quickly is important. If the consumer cannot make contact with anyone at the web hosting company to solve issues it is considered poor business. Not only do we look at how easy it is to contact someone, but also we review how helpful and courteous he or she was.
How to Avoid Pitfalls When Choosing A Service?
There are many ways to be sucked into the wrong web hosting service. The price may seem low and then it is raised or you simply don’t know enough about the company to make an adequate decision. So here are some of the main pitfalls and tips on how to avoid them.
You could be locked into a high rate contract. Many providers have discounts available to new customers. However, it is easy to misinterpret a lot of them as they print the actual monthly, or yearly, price after the initial period in small print. Customers are sucked into this all the time due to the misdirection. Always read the fine print on anything before you purchase it. If you have doubts call customer service and ask for clarification. Make sure you know your term limits as well and if auto renewal is turned on. Some companies bill for the entire term at once then automatically renew you at the end of that term.
Not all web hosting services provide a domain. This is another easy one with which to become trapped. Some companies advertise unlimited domain hosting but they aren’t clear on who provides the name. Be sure to find out if you are bringing the site name or if they provide one with your service. The good news is if they don’t, registration of a DNS is cheap and most hosting services don’t require it be with them as long as you provide proof of ownership.
Some web hosting services require a knowledge of certain systems to be able to use theirs adequately. Those who employ CPanel instead of a customer portal expect users to have had at least one website in the past. It is not as intuitive as other programs and can scare beginners off. That being said, don’t be afraid of complexity. Use all the information available to help learn about the product and how to make it better.
Finally, another pitfall some new users make is not knowing exactly what the features are. All web hosts will list what their packages have available. Some offer additional options such as a web builder or SEO for extra cost. Consumers need to be aware beforehand so there are no surprises later. However, not having FTP to transfer folders or having limited templates can be a problem. When in doubt ask a customer service representative.
The most important thing you can do is look at web hosting reviews and do not rush in to anything. Take the time to look at different sites. Compare everything they have to offer. Ask questions and test out the customer service for yourself. While we can make suggestions as to who is best, not every person will find the same things important. Take your time and look around.