The first thing needed in setting up this website was to choose a web host. Having had experience of three web hosting companies over the past 10 years, I have discovered the differences that can arise between different web hosts by trial and error. All web hosts claim to be the best in the business, so I thought it would be worthwhile recording how I evaluated the various hosting products on offer and what lead me to choose Siteground as my web host.
Everyone will have different specific requirements for their web hosting, but all of these criteria should be of interest to someone looking to host their own website.
I want all of my data to be stored on a server in the UK so that it falls under the jurisdiction of the UK's data protection act. When searching for a UK web host, most of the search results lead back to web hosts who have their servers in the United States. Many of these providers do not make information about the location of their servers easily accessible when looking at hosting account features, so check carefully. Siteground gives you a choice of server location (London, Amsterdam, Chicago, Singapore) when you sign up for a hosting account with them.
Pretty much every web host these days advertises unlimited bandwidth and storage, then applies a caveat that usage must be within the terms of their fair use policy. Of course not every fair use policy will apply the same constraints, and those constraints are often not clearly defined. So whilst it is perfectly reasonable for a web host to protect the other users of the shared server, it can be hard to determine what constraints will actually be applied to your account.
Siteground was one of very few web hosting companies I found which explicitly stated the usage constraints they applied for each level of hosting that they offer. Limits are set for bandwidth, storage, CPU seconds, script executions, emails that can be sent per hour, database and table size, and node count (number of files and folders). Limits for CPU and executions are specified for 2 hour and 24 hour periods, and are displayed graphically on the account control panel.
When a limit is exceeded, a resource usage report is raised and notified by email. An additional grace allowance above the limit is permitted before access to your site would be restricted. Most importantly though, on the two occasions that I have had a report raised against a site I manage, Siteground have provided me timely with technical assistance to resolve the issue (in both cases a bot that was hitting the site too many times). This is in contrast to my experience of similar issues faced whilst hosted by another provider.
It can be hard to know when you first set about developing a website exactly what usage levels you might have in future. Some web hosts make it easier to upgrade to a higher level package than others; some hosts can only scale so far. Worth checking how easy it is to upgrade, along with pricing for higher hosting levels.
Software versions / upgrades
As a minimum, web hosting companies have to protect their servers by upgrading the software that runs on them from time to time. I have seen different approaches to this issue in practice, ranging from letting the software get so out of date that software you want to run on the server is not compatible, to forcing a software upgrade with 24 hours notice regardless of whether software you run is compatible with their upgrade. Siteground offers a nice feature whereby you can choose the version of PHP running on your account (within limits), and switch between versions if necessary, allowing upgrades to your own software to be done at a time that suits you.
Every web hosting company claims to provide exceptional levels of support. A lot of time can be spent trawling reviews of web hosting companies, and of course people are more likely to write negative reviews than positive ones. After much investigation, two web hosting companies consistently had good reviews, but one of them only provided hosting on a server in the US; the other was Siteground.
In practice, now I have been with Siteground for 6 months, I have found their responsiveness to support requests to be impressively quick. Tickets raised have been addressed within minutes, mostly with a successful outcome on first contact.
The criteria I have mentioned above are not comprehensive, but are the criteria I considered to be most important in choosing a web host. Of course I looked at price, which was competitive with other providers, but that was not a driving factor in my choice.
Overall, I'm happy with the choice of web hosting company I made and would happily recommend it to others (not something I would have done with my previous web hosts). If you are looking for a web host then click on the banner below to take a look at what they offer.