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Choosing a web hosting provider: 5 common mistakes to avoid

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(Image credit: Unsplash)

Choosing the best web hosting provider for your company's website can feel like a chore, especially once you discover how many different services there are vying for your custom across different hosting plans. Each will tell you why they're the best choice for your business, too, and as with the best website builders, you need to get your decision right the first time to save you extra hassle down the line.

With so much on your plate when you start a new business, or are running an existing one, choosing the wrong web hosting service can be disastrous for you further down the line. We’ve listed the top five mistakes buyers make when choosing a web hosting provider, to help you avoid falling into these same traps.

1. Using a free hosting service 

man typing at laptop on desk

Free hosting services seem appealing, but are not advised for business websites (Image credit: Unsplash)

Free hosting services certainly seem an impressive deal at first, and indeed can be good enough for a basic blog or hobby website. But they’re a terrible choice for a business website.

Many free hosting services survive by injecting pop-up ads and banners onto your site, making for bad customer experiences when people visit your website. Search engines like Google penalize websites residing on free hosting services in their search engine results, so you’ll get less traffic. 

With free web hosting, your website will typically be hosted on a sub-domain like yourcompany.myfreehosting.com, which does little for your reputation and is very off-putting to potential visitors. As you might expect, free hosting services rank poorly for speed, reliability, uptime, and availability. 

Since you've paid nothing for the service, you can’t expect to get any compensation if the hosting service just disappears overnight, taking your website with it. Free hosting services mostly exist to hook you into their services so that you end up choosing their paid packages. 

These paid packages are usually more expensive than those offered by established web hosts, and you’ll be sharing a web server with hundreds or thousands of other free users. While some reasonable free hosting services do exist - check out our guide to the best free web hosting available - we recommend you look at low-cost web hosting services instead if you’re on a tight budget.

2. Choosing a web hosting package with no refund guarantee 

A web hosting service that doesn’t have any refund guarantee is difficult to trust. There are so many variables when selecting a web hosting package that it’s quite easy to choose the wrong deal, and quickly realize you’ve made a mistake. 

Any good hosting company will refund your money if you’ve made an errant purchase or you’re not happy with the package you’ve chosen. Stay away from web hosting providers that don’t.

Almost all good hosts offer money-back guarantees, but the guarantee length differs greatly. Most will offer to refund you in full within the first 30 days if you’re not happy for any reason, but some excellent web hosting companies offer a generous 90-day money-back guarantee.

3. Choosing a shared web hosting package when you need a VPS, or vice versa 

a corridor in a data center

Knowing exactly what web hosting package your business needs is imperative before you buy (Image credit: Pexels)

Most small businesses choose between shared web hosting and a virtual private server (VPS). When you’re first starting out, you won’t notice much of a difference in the service you’ll get from shared web hosting and a VPS. With a VPS, your website is still hosted on infrastructure shared with other people, but you get your own private set allocation of resources such as CPU time, storage space, and bandwidth.

We advise you to opt for a VPS if you expect to quickly get high levels of traffic, or if you want to install applications not supported on shared web hosting. Otherwise, you should just save some money and choose a reputable shared web hosting provider.

The more important consideration is how easy a web hosting company makes it to upgrade your plan in the future. Can you upgrade from shared hosting to VPS? Is it easy to add more bandwidth or storage to your hosting plan? Watch out for hosting companies that have excellent prices on their introductory web hosting packages, but charge much more when you need to expand.

4. Buying based solely on price 

Some people think all web hosting is essentially the same, so they should choose the cheapest plan they can find. Others believe the best web hosting packages must cost more, so they choose a higher-priced package expecting a better service. So, which is the right approach?

There’s truth to both arguments. The cheapest web hosting plans have to scrimp on speed, storage, features, customer support, and infrastructure to offer such prices. Don’t be fooled by low banner prices: you’ll often find many features you need have a hidden extra cost. On the other hand, more expensive web hosts will tempt you with marketing jargon and features that don’t apply to your business.  

Consider where you expect your website to be one or two years from now, and choose a web hosting package that’ll cover all bases. Avoid any cheap service you know you’ll outgrow soon, but there’s no need to overspend on a web hosting package with all the trimmings if your company won’t be ready to use all the features, bandwidth, and storage for a few years. 

Choose a web host that makes it easy to expand your plan when your business grows: our guide to the best cheap web hosting outlines the best value cheap plans available from the best web hosting services available.

5. Not knowing your limitations 

woman on laptop in front of data center

Scalability is one of the most imperative considerations when you're looking for web hosting (Image credit: Pexels)

Again, we stress that scalability is one of the most important considerations when choosing a web hosting service. You need to choose a plan that can grow with your business. If there are hard restrictions on how much bandwidth or storage you can use, for example, then you’ll experience great difficulties when the traffic to your website really takes off. 

Moving a website from one web host to another is tricky, so try to avoid it at all costs, while all web hosting providers have a long list of terms and conditions. It’s important to understand what you can and can’t do with the service before you sign up for a lengthy web hosting contract. 

For example, many hosting providers don’t allow you to use web hosting for personal file storage. Most will stipulate limits on streaming, prohibit the storage of certain types of media, and restrict certain applications that will put a strain on their infrastructure. Some important features may be restricted, especially on cheaper hosting plans. 

Check with your host if they allow you to use multiple POP3 email accounts, for example. Can you see usage and traffic statistics on your account? Can you install any WordPress plugins you want? Is ecommerce supported, or does it cost extra? Can you automatically schedule backups? Cheaper plans will look to charge you for these extra services, whereas most premium plans will include them automatically.

Finally, what level of support will the web hosting provider offer? Some managed hosting providers are available 24/7 to help with any technical problem, while others take a completely hands-off approach. The support you'll receive from a web hosting provider makes a big difference to the amount of time and money your staff will spend administering your site, and will therefore affect your bottom line.