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Choosing a web hosting company is a vital phase in the launch of any digital project. With so many different aspects to take into consideration, ranging from security to up-time to support, it’s difficult to sift through the thousands of web hosting companies offering what seems like a similar level of service.

But in fact, there is a method to the madness, and we’ve spoken to industry experts to understand what brands should look out for when choosing a web hosting company.

1. Evaluate and Understand Your Hosting Needs

First things first, you need to know your requirements as an online company. “It is the most important to prepare at least rough estimations of what resources will be required to keep the site running. Starting with daily visitors estimate is a very healthy practice,” said Daugirdas Jankus, Head of Marketing at Lithuania-based Hostinger International

Without at least a general understanding of how many visitors your project will get, you’ll end up either paying far too much for an unnecessarily large (and expensive) server, or far too little for a server that can’t keep up with the amount of traffic your website or application generates.

2. Scrutinize Security Measures

Cybersecurity is a major concern for small and large companies alike. When it comes to selecting a web host, you need to ensure their security track record, as well as the protocols they have in place to defend against cyberattacks in all their forms. Dalerie Wu, Senior Marketing Manager at Diamond Bar, Calif.-based Zenlayer, highlighted this point. “Many companies have experienced downtime due to DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, including Amazon, New York Times, Airbnb, GitHub, Pinterest and WIRED. [Brands need to ensure] their chosen web host offers DDoS protection, as well as other security services like web application firewall and encryption,” Wu advised.

As a side note, if you will be sharing customer data with your web host, you’ll also want to be sure of their GDPR compliance. As the GDPR points out, a brand can be held responsible for sharing data with non-compliant third-parties.

Related Story: How Will the GDPR Impact Third-Party Lead Generation?

3. Inspect The Infrastructure

The state and strength of the infrastructure of a website host is incredibly important. Jankus pointed out that nowadays, it is relatively easy to set up a server and start hosting websites for people, “but it’s difficult to do it well”. The difference between the best and the rest, is the infrastructure that the web host leans upon. Wu listed a few different questions that brands should pose to potential web hosts concerning their infrastructure.

  • How many uplink carriers does the hosting company have at each hosting location?
  • What is the total bandwidth that the company has at each hosting location?  This will help to determine peak time performance.
  • What is their network topology? Here, we’re looking for redundancy, and preferably with diverse carriers, to ensure up-time.
  • How many peers does the hosting company have? More peers usually means lower IP transit cost, better user experience and increased network resiliency.
  • Does the company offer dedicated connections/lines to provide more reliability and security? This one isn’t a must, but it’s a bonus.

Finally, David Vogelpohl, VP of Web Strategy at Austin, TX.-based WP Engine, mentioned that, “the geography of the hosts’ data centers also influence their ability to serve your customers.” So, if your customers are predominantly US-based, it’s best to stick with a host that uses servers inside the United States.

4. Factor In Scalability

Scalability is another key dimension to consider, as your requirements (which you should have ascertained before you began your search, as previously mentioned) may change. When that change occurs, you don’t want to be forced into switching your web host. Instead, it’s wise to choose a hosting company that can accommodate your growth. “Scalability of potential hosting provider must be evaluated. We all plan to grow our businesses. It is important to have the partner which is flexible enough to support your growth by handling increasing “hunger” for resources of your infrastructure,” said Jankus.

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5. Consider Specialist Hosting Companies

Some hosting companies are welcoming to businesses of all forms, But some have niched down, specializing in working with brands using certain technologies or working within certain industries. This is a point that Vogelpohl emphasized to CMSWire. “Brands should consider the business focus of the host to see if that aligns with their business and technology [stack]. Determine if the host is focused on your particular size of business or the technologies you use to support your website. Managed hosts which help you manage the performance of the application layer (such as WordPress, Adobe Experience Manager or Sitecore) often include products and performance features which can give you an advantage over a generalist host,” he said.

6. Before You Jump, Test The Waters

It’s also wise to remember that choosing a web hosting company doesn’t have to be impulsive or based purely on a sales pitch. In some cases, the company will allow you to test their service — which is definitely an option you should consider before taking the plunge. “While you can do due diligence on all the points made above, the easiest way to determine if a host is good for you is to sign up for the host, clone your site, and test to see if the platform will deliver a 'performant' experience, said Vogelpohl.