03.06.2022

How to choose a web hosting service

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Finding the best hosting solution is no easy thing because of the huge number of offers on the market. Even if you need to host the most basic company site, it is difficult to choose a reliable and secure provider. With a busy distributed web project and the lease of computing resources for corporate IT infrastructure, things get even more complicated. Our guide will help you not only to avoid getting lost in the World Wide Web, but also to find the best service provider with the right balance of both price and quality.

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What is the purpose of a hosting for your Website?

The first thing to do is to determine your goals and objectives, as well as the prospects for project development. In the simplest cases, you need not pay much attention to long-term forecasting, but the transfer of a major project to another site – much more of a headache. It is worth making at least a basic prospectus for resource development over the coming few years and to choose, as they say, the right host to grow with.

Type of hosting

Having finalized your development plan, you now need to pick the right type of hosting. Here, we’ll tell you about the most popular kinds:

  • Business-card sites, a simple company landing page, are set up with the help of special designers on ready-made templates simply to have a web presence. In fact, the client does not manage them, so this option is only really for simple projects.
  • Virtual (shared) hosting is a service for hosting a website and databases. You do not have to maintain the system software, just upload files via FTP and configure the content management system (sometimes it is provided by the host). It is important to understand that in this case one web-server and database server may actually serve many clients, and although the clients are isolated from each other on the server (the other users' scripts do not have access to your data), because of this proximity problems may arise. For example, if one of the sites undergoes a DDoS attack, the entire server will suffer. This option is good if a site created in a webpage designer program is no longer enough, but fiddling with system administration is not for you.
  • A virtual server (VPS) gives the client more customization options. The guest machine runs on a physical computer using virtualization technology, which allows you to choose the operating system and install the necessary software yourself. The degree of freedom depends on the hypervisor used: to organize a VPS on Linux, OS-level virtualization is often used, which limits the choice of distribution versions. More advanced technologies (Microsoft Hyper-V or VMWare) allow you to run different Operating Systems on a guest machine, including Windows. It is important to understand that one physical server will host the guest systems of different clients, so the disadvantages of proximity persist. Furthermore, you will have to administer all the installed software yourself.
  • A dedicated server (VDS) is a separate physical machine that the host rents out. You can install on it any operating system from among the images offered by the provider or one by yourself. There is no unpleasant proximity here, all its resources are yours, and providers offer various configurations including advanced ones with powerful professional graphics cards for machine learning tasks, etc.
  • Colocation services means renting rack space where you can install your own physical equipment. The host provides all the necessary engineering infrastructure (power and cooling), controlled access, and in some cases Internet connectivity, although the latter can also be done by third-party providers present in the data center.
  • Cloud hosting involves deploying a site or application not on a single server (physical or virtual), but on a public cloud provider. This definition includes a variety of services (IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, etc.), some of which are worth considering separately. We are not necessarily talking about applications: there are, for example, cloud storage and even cloud virtual servers (instances) that are billed simply for the actual computing resources used.
  • Business hosting and e-commerce - most often this means renting cloud versions of services and business applications: corporate mail, an online store, various corporate Microsoft products, etc. Some providers also understand business hosting to mean simpler (not cloud-based) solutions, such as virtual hosting for online stores.
  • Virtual network infrastructure is required for complex distributed projects, where it is necessary to establish interaction between different nodes (servers, cloud applications, etc.).
  • Additional services. In addition to traditional hosting services, you may be offered domain name registration, a content distribution network (CDN), and many other services. Usually, large providers provide a longer list of options.

Server Location

There is a simple rule here: the closer your resources are to the end users, the higher the availability of your services will be. Host websites have information about the locations of data centers, so it's easy to choose a good location. Projects designed for a global audience may require a Content Delivery (i.e.: distribution) Network (CDN) - this service is offered by major global players, like CloudFlare.

Features

Subscription Period

Usually hosting services are billed and paid monthly, but other options are also possible. Many providers give customers a significant discount when paying for 6 or 12 months, but if you just start working with a company, don’t be greedy.

There is no guarantee that you will be satisfied with the quality of service rendered, and it is not always possible to cancel a pre-paid contract and get your money back. Special billing rules apply to cloud and other services with payment for actually consumed resources: there is no subscription period, and the funds are deducted from your personal account based on de facto usage.

Server Reliability

The reliability of the host's equipment is important for customers hosting even the simplest small company sites, and in the case of more complex projects, it is indeed one of the determining factors. Budget offers often involve the use of inexpensive magnetic disks and other cheap and/or obsolete hardware, all of which can lead to some problems down the line with fault tolerance and service performance.

It is well worth carefully studying the information posted on the hosting company’s sites to find a reasonable balance between price and quality. Particular attention should be paid to the data backup options on offer.

Refund Policy and Guarantees

Often providers offer a free trial period, or a refund if a new customer is not satisfied with the quality of service. This applies only to relatively inexpensive entry-level services, such as shared hosting or VPS.

Don't count on a free trial or refund if you rent, for example, an expensive dedicated server with professional-grade graphics cards. Another important feature is performance guarantees. A big plus would be a formal Service Level Agreement (SLA) from the host, which is worth a careful read-through as well.

Upgrade Options

As a project grows, or perhaps due to an incorrect initial needs assessment, customers may have to switch to more expensive pricing plans. If you've paid for an annual subscription to shared hosting or VPS, but your provider's resources are no longer sufficient, it would be a shame to downtime your already-purchased capacity.

Good hosts offer users the opportunity to upgrade, taking into account not only the money already spent, but also that not yet spent. Information about this can usually be found in the price list or by asking their Customer Support service.

Primary Features

As a rule, hosts offer potential customers a comprehensive (general) list of services, but many of them actually specialize in some area: website hosting, virtual and dedicated servers, cloud services, resource-intensive computing, business products, etc.

Choose the provider best suited for your projects with a planning horizon of several years ahead allows you to avoid a time-consuming migration of deployed services.

Support

Prompt technical support is necessary in case of service failure and/or attack by malicious actors. The features of the technical services of the host can usually be found on their website as well: as a rule, the more expensive the service, the faster their response.

For shared hosting and VPS in Europe, most tend to offer round-the-clock support via a ticket system or chat, while phone support is usually available only during working hours (according to the data center's time zone). More expensive services may include round-the-clock call service, as well as an even quicker response from specialists.

Additional Products and Services

In addition to traditional hosting services, ISPs provide a number of additional services, such as domain name registration and DNS management, e-mail access, content distribution (CDN), and the like. If at all possible, it is far more convenient to manage all your services from one place, especially if the provider hosts services for your business.

E-commerce Site Functionality

If you need a site for e-commerce, it does not always make sense to create it yourself. European hosts often offer ready-made solutions that allow you to launch your own online store with little effort on your part. There are even providers who specialize in just such products.

Sign-Up and Renewal Prices

The entry threshold is a very important indicator, because the process of registration and deployment of complex infrastructure itself can be expensive. It would be a shame to spend money and then change your hosting provider for not suiting for your project. There are free trial periods and refunds for entry-level products, but such options are not available to users of high-end products.

It is worth paying close attention to your choice of service provider: one option is reading reviews about the host on specialized resources such as Trustpilot, or on other specialized forums for webmasters.

One more important thing. Hosts often offer new customers a free second-level domain registration as a bonus, but all the domain names of the project should be registered in your name only. Otherwise problems may arise when changing providers. For the same reason, you should not even touch third-level domains belonging to the host.

Control Panel

A very important point is the control panel, which allows the client to handle independently almost all decisions related to the normal functioning of the services. In other words, ordering and configuring services should be done in a private office, and not by contacting Technical Support. If virtual (shared) hosting usually poses no problems, virtual hosting, especially with dedicated servers, often does. Ideally, the host should not only allow the client to choose an off-the-shelf configuration, but the means for its self-configuration. The availability of a wide-ranging collection of ready-made images for the pre-installation of an OS on the virtual server, as well as the ability to manage the dedicated server via IPMI, is a must in today’s market. Corporate customers require a developed API to manage their leased IT infrastructure or, for example, the ability to flexibly configure business services.

Account Limitations

Some European companies offer unlimited shared hosting plans to their customers. It is important to understand that in practice this is not possible since the provider's resources are not infinite. If you look closely at these kinds of proposals, it is easy to find the hidden loopholes lodged in the fine print. In practice, "unlimited" traffic, "unlimited" disk space or the number of domains are actually limited by a fair use policy buried deep inside: these hosts are guided by marketing considerations rather than dictionary definitions when making up their pricing plans.

Friendly Interface

The presence of a user-friendly website, along with an intuitive control panel for hosting services and a well-developed ticket system, is a must nowadays. Register on the provider's website and evaluate the user-friendliness of their services. If something feels awkward, it is better to choose another company.

Security

Websites are often subject to hacking attempts, and even if you are not directly affected, you may still feel the effects of attacks on other clients or the insufficient protection measures taken on the provider's side. If, for example, there is a DDoS attack on one of the sites, it will be felt by all the resources hosted on the same physical server (this applies to shared hosting and VPS as well). If your neighbors are hacked and malware is introduced into the site, your IP address might get blacklisted.

Many problems can arise, so you should worry about your security issues in advance. At a minimum, the host should have a service to protect against DDoS attacks, anti-virus protection and, if we talk about dedicated servers, a configurable firewall.

Price

The cost of the same services may differ significantly from host to host. If you have decided on the necessary set of services for your project, you should compare the price lists of the providers you like.

Don't just chase the cheapest option: low cost can often be explained away by the use of weak or outdated equipment, or by poor support. The most expensive options may not suit you either: as a rule, they are designed for large corporate clients with the appropriately high bar of requirements. In addition to price, there are other factors to consider (as we have discussed above) in order to choose the best service provider.

Conclusion

When choosing the perfect hosting provider for your project, there are many nuances and subtleties that cannot be mentioned in one short article. We hope that this tutorial will help newcomers not to drown in the sea of offers on the European market. Thank you for your attention and good luck with your projects!

FAQ

What is meant by hosting services?

By hosting services we mean specialized services for renting computing resources. They allow customers to host websites and cloud applications, run virtual servers and rent physical servers without buying their own equipment. Hosting also includes other services such as renting space for private equipment in data center racks.

What is a good hosting service?

A hosting service should be considered “good” when it is optimally suited to the specific needs of your project. It must be sufficiently reliable, affordable and secure. Thus, evaluating hosting services without taking into account the individual requirements of the client is pointless.

What does a web hosting service do?

The hosting service ensures the operation of hosted or leased websites, applications, and other services. This is done using the provider's equipment installed in the provider's own or leased space in the data center. We also understand hosting to mean renting rack space in a commercial data center to accommodate private customer equipment.

How much does a hosting service cost?

Hosting services cost as much as the client is willing to pay. The prices of providers should be considered taking into account the project's requirements for fault tolerance, availability, security, and the inclusion of any additional services.

Rent dedicated and virtual servers with instant deployment in reliable TIER III class data centers in the Netherlands and the USA. Free protection against DDoS attacks included, and your server will be ready for work in as little as 15 minutes. 24/7 Customer Support.

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