Website hosting is when a company houses a website on their server, on behalf of an organisation or individual.
Every single site regardless of its size and service will be hosted somewhere on the web. When a user is searching for a website, they simply need to type in the website’s address into their browser. Their computer then connects to the site’s servers, and the webpages are delivered to them and are ready to be viewed. Now that may seem straightforward, but with so many options available, choosing the right hosting service can be more difficult than it looks.
Good web hosting is crucial to the success of any website (and potentially business), as any server downtime essentially means your customers cannot view or purchase from your site. Taking lost business out of it, it’s just straight up bad for your reputation if the services you say you offer aren’t accessible.
We’ve all visited a site and found it not working correctly, and did you wait around? No. You went elsewhere, and that company lost your business. Time is money, and studies show that half of online consumers will abandon their shopping basket just if a website isn’t loading fast enough. Having a functional, and reliable website is more important to a brand now than ever.
As of 2021, 27.6.% of the 7.7 billion people in the world are online consumers, and choosing the right hosting service for you is key to getting your website seen by the right people.
A small business website with a hundred visitors a month is going to have vastly different hosting needs than a company the size of say…Amazon. Smaller sites will most often share space on a single server, whereas a large, popular site will have a server all to itself.
When researching, it’s worth taking your company’s current needs and future goals into consideration to ensure you choose the right service for you.
The type of server you choose will have an impact on everything from performance to security and scalability. Luckily, no matter what you’re looking for there are different types of servers to accommodate.
Almost all website hosting companies will offer at least three, if not all, of the above options. Giving you the widest range possible when making the best choice for you and your company.
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Long gone are the days when there were a handful of web hosting services worldwide, and you only needed to consider bandwidth and disk storage when making your choice. The website hosting industry’s market size is forecasted to grow to £136 billion by 2027, and a staggering 126 million hosts are currently active worldwide. In short, there are a serious number of options to choose from!
A website is only as powerful as its host, which is why having a first-rate hosting service is so important. When shopping for your perfect web hosting match it’s easy to be confused by the endless technical jargon, especially if you’re web hosting virgin. However, there are some common yet highly essential factors you should always consider before committing to a service provider.
Follow our top tips to cut through the noise and find the ideal website hosting service for you.
You’ll save yourself a lot of time by getting a real understanding of your hosting requirements as you’ll be able to discount plenty of the options out there from the get-go.
Ask yourself: What kind of website are you building? A blog? Homepage? Portfolio? E-commerce site? Do you have a rough idea of traffic levels, and realistically how much do see them growing? Do you think you’ll outgrow your platform within a year of launching? How much money are you comfortable spending?
Having a clear idea of these questions will help give you a clear idea of your hosting needs, and what to look out for when researching the multitudes of options.
In Google’s most recent page load time study into the average website load speed for mobile, they found that a 1-3 seconds load time increases the bounce rate probability by 32% and 1-10s seconds load time increases the bounce rate probability by 123%. These are pretty damning figures, and exactly why picking a web host with good response times in your audience’s region is imperative.
Image source: Google/SOASTA Research, 2017.
It’s important to utilise mobile page speeds as much as possible, as it’s the preferred method of browsing. On average, in 2020 Brits spent four hours and two minutes online per day, with over two-thirds (71%) of this time being spent online on their smartphone.
Speed and performance go hand-in-hand, and page load speed is a significant determining factor when it comes to user experience. Your web hosting speed will be affected by:
When you’re picking a web host, keep an eye out for these factors as well as any information on estimated server response times — how many milliseconds it’ll take for a page of your website to load.
The main goal here is to pick a website hosting service that can provide you with the features and service you need, at a price you’re comfortable paying. Whether you’re looking for shared, VPS, cloud or dedicated hosting, prices can vary from as little as £0.99 a month to upwards of £400.
Image source: Hostinger
One important thing to consider is the renewal charges. An attractive sign-up deal is common, but the renewal charges can be hefty when your introductory discount period is over. In short — read the fine print!
Your shared hosting plans likely won’t last forever, and you may find your site soon grow and demand a VPS or dedicated hosting service. Always check for any upgrade costs when choosing your provider to ensure you’re not met with any scary unexpected charges.
One of the most important factors to look out for is a hosting service’s advertised uptime and choosing a company with a stable network connection is absolutely crucial. You want your website to spend as little amount of time offline as possible, and anything under 99% is deemed unreliable. 1% may not seem a lot but it can make all the difference in the online world.
An unreliable server and unstable network connection can push your site offline, denying you sales and viewership, both of which are critical in an increasingly populated online market. Regardless of what you’re selling, your website isn’t going to be a success if your audience can’t access it.
In 2019 Amazon’s US site went down for just one hour and lost an estimated $100 million in sales. Now in Jeff Bezos’s world, we realise that’s the equivalent of you or I dropping a £5 note but you get the point.
Some companies will advertise 100% uptime, but this technically isn’t possible when including site maintenance so don’t be fooled. Look for a hosting company with at least 99.5% uptime to do all you can to ensure your site’s success.
In the world of web hosting time is money, and if your website does go down, you’re going to want a company with amazing customer support to get it fixed ASAP.
Try to choose a host that offers 24/7 service and multiple ways of getting in touch. Plenty will offer live chat, email, social media and phone support, and look for an in-house customer service department where you can expect a higher quality of service. Some hosts even offer handy video tutorials where you can learn how to get the best out of your chosen service.
Image source: HostPapa
Helpful and reactive customer service means you can get any problems with your site fixed the moment you see them. One good tip is to check out online reviews before committing, to find out how knowledgeable and responsive a company’s support team is.
Your bandwidth for web hosting is the amount of visitor traffic and volume of data allowed to flow to and from your site at any given time, and it should be a major consideration if you have (or are expecting to have) a lot of visitors. If your site features plenty of high-res imagery and videos, bandwidth is an important consideration.
Any service offering scalable bandwidth options is worth considering with a growing business, as you can’t ever say for sure at what rate and to what size your company could grow. That said, an easier option would be to choose a host offering unlimited bandwidth. This is typically the best choice for most businesses, and it means you don’t have to worry about being able to predict the future.
If you have a smaller site with only a few thousand monthly visitors it isn’t a huge concern, and most hosting sites will offer enough to keep your site running effectively even on their cheapest plans.
In web hosting, the advertised storage offered in any service is the limit to the number of files you can store on your website.
Your allocated storage space will house both the publicly viewable information, like your logo, blog posts, images and video content, and also the files that play an important role in how your website displays and operates.
For most websites with just text and imagery, between 3–5GB is plenty. Text files do not occupy much space, while video and high-resolution images can consume most of the space on the server. Luckily even if you do have a website filled with high-resolution imagery and videos, most hosting plans generously come with either hundreds of gigabytes or offer unlimited storage options. As with bandwidth, more is more and it’s worth signing up to one of these plans so you don’t have to worry about scalability down the line.
The world unlimited is being used loosely here as you can’t actually store whatever you like on your site, and you may want to consider a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive to store any business files or emails.
Whether you have a small, personal blog or a large-scale e-commerce site, security should be a concern for any website owner as an attack can result in loss of income or identity theft. Cyber threats have risen 81% worldwide since the pandemic, and these are no longer solely directed at finance websites with many general websites being targeted by online extortionists.
Many popular hosting services now offer an SSL certificate for free when signing up with them. An SSL certificate creates an encrypted connection and establishes trust. It adds that padlock icon before your URL and puts the “S” in HTTPS.
In an age of increasingly sophisticated hacking schemes for stealing or damaging a user’s data, an SSL certificate tells visitors your site is trustworthy and that even their most sensitive data is safe. This is especially important if you’re running an e-commerce site or are dealing with consumers’ personal (or sensitive) information.
Image source: Unsplash
Choosing a hosting service that offers great security will help keep both you and your audience’s data safe. If you’re looking for an additional security layer, some hosts provide extra security features like 24/7 network monitoring, RAID and DDOS Protection that will help to will help keep your site fully protected, operational and secure.
Your company’s domain name is the first thing your audience will encounter when discovering your website, and it’s one of the key things that will help make your company stand out from the crowd. It’s a highly valuable asset and can be as important as the website and brand associated with it. Domain names help people remember websites and serve as representations of a person, brand or company online.
There are well over a billion domain names in existence, and the right one can be a key component of making your business a success. Owning one is a key factor in adding credibility to your business and making sure you look professional.
Plenty of web hosting services will offer to register a free domain name for you as part of their sign-up package, which will help alleviate the costs of launching your website. Be sure when choosing to check for any domain renewal, transfer and privacy protection fees associated with your name of choice.
The geographical location of your host's servers and their proximity to your visitors will affect page loading speeds. And as we’ve learnt, having slow loading speeds is pretty much a fate worse than death. 47% of e-commerce customers expect a page to load in two seconds or less before they consider leaving, and 40% of users would abandon the site completely at the third second of waiting.
Most of us will remember the bygone era of dial-up, but (seemingly along with our patience) those days are long gone, and online information now travels at an unbelievable speed (as fast as the speed of light when it’s transmitted through fibre-optic cables).
These days consumers expect to find what they’re looking for instantly, which is why it’s important to consider the location of your host’s data centres.
The closer the data centre is to your visitors, the faster the page loading speed will typically be. If it’s likely that the vast majority of your audience will come from one location, choose a hosting provider with servers in that region.
Image source: Hostinger
Many of the best UK operating hosting services don’t have data centres in the UK but will have a location in Europe which will still provide you with unbelievably fast speeds. Most providers will give you an option of locations when signing up so use your common sense and just don’t choose the Singapore data centre when all of your customers are in London — for example — and you’ll be ok. If data has to travel halfway around the world to reach your audience then understandably the loading speeds will be slower.
Whether through human or technical error or via a targeted attack, damage to your website can cause a whole host of problems, which is why choosing a hosting service that provides full, regular, data backups is essential. Even with all the security measures in the world, your website will at some point face some kind of crash, virus, or hack that will take your website down, or worse, destroy it entirely.
That’s where a good backup policy comes in handy because you can always revert back to a working website should any accident happens.
A good web host provider should be able to restore your full site (or at least a huge chunk of it) to its last operating version with little downtime to avoid any significant losses
Even if you prefer a glass-half-empty outlook, it doesn’t hurt to hope for success when shopping for your hosting service. One of the big things to consider when deciding on a provider is scalability, and how well your chosen host can accommodate your future needs.
When you first get started, shared web hosting will suffice for most, assuming you’re not anticipating heavy traffic from the outset. This allows you to grow your site while paying reasonable web hosting costs.
If there’s even a small chance of you running out of space for your content, make sure that you choose a plan with enough storage to accommodate. It’s important to check the fine print to make sure that you can upgrade easily if and when your site starts to grow as you may find a VPS or dedicated server is required to keep up with the demand. Can you imagine successfully launching a new product or campaign only to find the increase in visitors takes your website down? A good host should be able to help you quickly pivot if there’s a surge in traffic, and they should ideally have the ability to move your site from a shared to a virtual private server without any downtime.
The ability to grow with demand is an essential part of any business model, and your chosen hosting service should be able to accommodate.
There are thousands upon thousands of hosting services available in the UK, all claiming to provide the best service for you and your business. When choosing, don’t panic, weigh all of the options, and keep all the above factors in mind.
If you’re still feeling daunted, luckily for you we’ve done the hard work and researched the Best Website Hosting Companies in the UK to give you a detailed look into the most impressive services out there and to help you meet your perfect web hosting match.