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​How to choose a web hosting provider

What’s important in a hosting provider?

“Great hosting boils down to the 3 S’s: speed, support and security,” said Adam Berry, digital director at Wingard Creative. Nasdaq’s Simon Ball, head of digital media services at Nasdaq Corporate Solutions, said scalability is also critical. “You need the ability to rapidly scale your website as your target audience grows and the resiliency to handle sudden bursts of high traffic,” said Ball.

Hosting services are available in a wide range of prices ranging from a few dollars a month to thousands of dollars. If you’re a small business getting started, you can probably do quite well with a cloud, virtual private server, or managed service ranging from $10 to $100 (roughly £8 to £80 or AU$15 to AU$130) per month.

Here’s a look at what experts recommend you consider when choosing a hosting provider and links to various CNET Commerce listings of services and discounts. CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of these products and services offered by our partners.

Decide how much hand-holding you’ll need. Basic customer service provides access to email, ticket and phone support. Turnaround time on requests, however, will vary. Some service providers even offer 24-hour phone support. The limiting factor to non-managed service is that while a vendor may answer questions about basic configuration, it won’t be your systems manager.

If you want to delegate the management of your site completely, then you want to consider managed service. Providers of managed service will make sure your system is configured properly for your load, keep an eye on security issues, patch your software as needed and manage backups among other tasks.

Estimate the amount of traffic you expect (and be honest with yourself). Hosting providers generally charge based on storage and bandwidth usage. Bandwidth is a measure of how many bytes you serve over a given period. If you expect only a few folks to visit your site, bandwidth will be low. But if you’re suddenly featured at the top of Google or your product goes viral you can expect bandwidth requirements to surge.

As long as you’re honest with yourself, there’s not much of a risk. For example, if you plan to only serve a few pages to a few local customers, you’ll never run afoul of any limits. But if you know that you’re really building a site that will stress low-end shared servers, be sure to pick a dedicated or cloud-based server. That’s next.

Understand server types. The very cheapest hosting is available on shared servers, where one box may run hundreds of websites. The performance of your site depends on the load all the other sites are putting on the host. Shared hosting also limits your access to the…

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