The web hosting market is more crowded than ever, and choosing the right plan can be very confusing. If you’re new to hosting, here’s a quick quiz to give you an idea of what’s right for you. Web hosting plans come in five broad flavors:
- Shared Hosting
- Virtual Private Servers – VPS
- Dedicated Servers
- Managed Dedicated Servers
- WordPress Hosting
Here are a series of questions to help you choose the best web hosting plan for your site.
What’s your Budget?
Regardless of other factors, this can be an immediate indicator of what kind of web hosting is right for you. Here are the price ranges for the different types of hosting:
- < $30 per month – Shared Hosting
- $30-$100 per month – VPS
- >$100 per month – Dedicated Servers
The last two options can be really flexible depending on the hosting provider. Some providers like Dreamhost even offer VPS plans starting at only $15! But in general if you’re looking for a really economic solution, then shared hosting is your best bet.
How much Traffic are you Expecting?
The amount of traffic is another critical factor that will influence your choice. Many plans have limits on the amount of bandwidth you can transfer and will penalize you if you go above that limit. Web hosting plans often share resources like CPU power with other customers on the same server. WordPress for example, can be a hungry CMS and if you’re expecting a lot of traffic, you need to find a hosting plan that can easily handle what you throw at it.
Here are some broad ranges in terms of visitors per day:
- < 5,000 visitors per day – Shared Hosting
- 5,000- 20,000 visitors per day – VPS Hosting
- >20,000 visitors per day – Dedicated Hosting
A lot will depend on the actual load on your site. If you’re just serving static HTML files for example, a shared hosting plan can handle tens of thousands of visits a day! A CMS like WordPress or Joomla will require a lot more CPU and database resources. So the above range is only a guide – some sites will need to move to dedicated hosting much more quickly compared to others, while some can get away with shared hosting for a lot longer. The best web hosting plan is one that takes into account the actual load that your site places on the server resources.
How much Technical Experience do you Have?
VPS and dedicated server hosting are not only powerful, they’re more difficult to manage. You have to do all the maintenance yourself, update the Operating System (OS), take care of security, IP blacklists, module management, database backups, server backups etc etc. It can be a full time job and a headache even for someone who’s experienced.
To overcome these restrictions, hosting companies provide “managed” solutions – managed VPS, and managed dedicated servers. These plans include the day to day operations and maintenance of the servers so you don’t have to do them. If you’re inexperienced with server technicalities, a managed solution is probably the best web hosting plan for you. You can pick up the knowledge as you go along.
Basically the criteria looks like this:
- No Server Mangement Experience: Shared Hosting, Managed VPS Hosting, Managed Dedicated Server
- Enough Technical Experience: VPS Hosting, Dedicated Server Hosting
Are you Using WordPress Exclusively?
Today, WordPress powers over a quarter of all websites on the web. It’s easily the most popular CMS. Many web hosting plans have sprung up that cater specifically to WordPress. They not only host your site, they take care of many of the day to day activities of maintaining WordPress for you, such as plugin and theme updation, caching, optimization of the backend etc.
If you’re an experienced WordPress administrator, you will have no problems performing these jobs yourself and in fact might prefer to do so. After all, who knows your site better than you? But even for experienced administrators, WordPress hosting might remove some of the burden of mundane tasks – especially if they manage multiple sites at the same time.
So if you only plan to use WordPress and want someone else to handle the maintenance, security, backups, and speed tweaks on your behalf, WordPress web hosting is the right choice!
Customizing your Plans
Each type of hosting can be customized to become more or less powerful. For example, a high end VPS can easily compete with a low end dedicated server depending on the options you choose and the provider. This can allow you to string out your existing solution with an upgrade without having to actually migrate to a new kind of hosting. It’s impossible to give specifics without knowing more details, but ask around to see how much flexibility your future provider is willing to offer you.
What About Cloud Hosting?
But wait! What about cloud hosting? The thing is, it’s difficult to find information about when exactly a “cloud hosting” solution would be preferable to any of the regular services described above. The cloud has many promises – automatic provisioning, failovers, burst provisioning etc. If you listen to the market jargon and the way some companies promote the cloud, you’ll think it’s the second coming of Christ.
And it just might be! But probably not for web hosting. So far, I haven’t come across a clear cut use case scenario when someone has said “I chose cloud hosting because shared/VPS/dedicated hosting wasn’t good enough for me.” As of, it just seems like a lot of jargon and wild promises. So until I have something more concrete to go on, I’m not recommending cloud hosting to anyone.
As you can see, choosing the best web hosting plan requires you to evaluate a combination of various criteria. Pricing, traffic, technical expertise, and platform all play a role. Not to mention that many providers offer different versions of each, so it might be difficult to even draw clear lines between them.