What to Look for When Choosing a UK Web Hosting Provider
Whether you are a small, localised business or a global enterprise, having a reliable and highly effective website is paramount. With more consumers choosing to do their shopping or find services on the Internet than ever before, businesses simply must have a good website. The definition of a ‘good’ website is a combination of a number of major factors that need to be taken into account.
For example, a successful digital strategy will include a great content strategy for your website, focused on expanding your audience and generating more sales. A good website is one that performs well i.e. it is not annoyingly slow or constantly going offline. It should also perform well in terms of sales conversions. It also looks attractive, is useful and is easy to use.
Website speed has a huge impact on your conversion rates, with research showing that just a 1-second delay results in a 7% reduction in conversion. So having a high performing website should be high up in your priorities and to achieve that, you will need to have a very good web host. Selecting a web host is far from an easy process, especially given that there are so many hosting companies to choose from.
There are also plenty of reasons that it is really important to choose the right web hosting service first time, not least because it can be difficult and problematic to change to another web host company. You can spend weeks and even months developing great content, building pages and adding features and plugins to your website before discovering that your chosen hosting provider is preventing your website from achieving its potential.
Important factors when choosing your web host
The price of the hosting deal
So many businesses make the mistake of selecting a hosting company based on price alone. When you are working on a limited budget, the cheapest hosting company can look very appealing but you may actually find yourself spending more money in the long run. For example, if you put a great deal of time into building a website and creating high-quality content then you find your host is not able to handle your website traffic, you might have to start all over again. So for the sake of a few pounds difference between one host and another, it really is not worth the hassle.
Performance has a huge effect on your conversion rates
Your choice will no doubt be governed by your budget but be mindful that your hosting company is an area of your marketing that you should not corners with. When you consider how your website performance can hit your conversion rates, it really can be one of the most significant choices you make regarding your business.
Your website speed is one of the most important aspects of performance and you will find that the speed provided by one web host can vary greatly from that of another. For example, if you select a shared hosting provider you will be sharing the same server with numerous other websites, which will impact the speed of your own site. Choosing a dedicated host will not encounter those problems, as you have the server dedicated to your needs and only handling your traffic.
Another big aspect of performance that you should be looking out for is the guaranteed ‘uptime’ or in other words, the percentage of time that the website will be online. The best UK web hosts will provide a guaranteed uptime of at least 99.9%. Uptime is really important because if a potential customer visits your site and finds that it is offline, they are probably going to find another business, rather than come back to your website later. Consumers want instant services and having a website that is always available is a big part of providing for that demand.
Make security a priority
Cyber crime has been increasing at an alarming rate and businesses of all sizes must invest in processes and security tools that keep data secure. So when you are choosing your web host, look at the different security features that are on offer, for example whether you get a SSL certificate with your hosting package. If you are using your website for e-commerce and are taking online payments then it is very important that you take the measures necessary to keep your website users’ data safe.
E-commerce websites should be working with web hosts that comply with Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council, to ensure that sufficient security is in place. If your website is not secure then users will be provided with a warning message stating that it is not secure, which will have a huge impact on your traffic volumes, as users will avoid going onto your website.
Evaluate your business requirements and future plans
Before you rush into signing up with a hosting provider, you should outline what your digital marketing strategy looks like for the next few years. If you are a startup business looking to expand in a year or two, then you should make sure that you choose a hosting solution that will grow with your business.
Think about what your business needs from a website. Do you simply want a basic website with your contact details so that people can call or email you? Or do you want to automate tasks such as having an online booking system or auto response emails? Will you be publishing regular blogs from your website to attract more users? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself.
By developing a thorough strategy for your website, you can check which is the best UK hosting solution to suit your own needs. If you choose a host before planning your future requirements out then the likelihood is that you will regret it because you will need to switch to a different host before long.
Types of web host service
Leading on from aligning your business requirements to your choice of web host, another element of that is to identify what the best type of hosting service is for your needs. For example, there are the following options available to choose from:
- Managed WordPress Hosting
- Virtual Private Server (VPS)
- Shared Hosting
- Reseller Hosting
- Dedicated Web Server
- Cloud Based Hosting
- Self Service Web Hosting
- Reseller Hosting
- Colocation Web Hosting
Which of these you select will largely come down to specifics like your budget, the size of your business/expected traffic and data transfer and your security requirements. A dedicated web server will provide better performance and will be more secure but it is more expensive than options like shared hosting, which are a popular choice with smaller businesses.
As well as your budget being integral in your choice of web host service, it also depends on how experienced your website team is. If your website is going to be set up and maintained by experienced and highly skilled web developers, then self service is an option but if you are a one-person business with no real website experience then you want the solution with the most assistance and that is easy to set up.
Assess your storage and bandwidth requirements
When you are weighing up your hosting options, two very important factors to consider are the amount of storage and bandwidth you are likely to need. You may not anticipate large volumes of traffic when you start out but it only takes one great marketing campaign to cause a surge of traffic to your website. If your chosen web hosting provider is unable to cope with a big uplift in traffic then your website will crash, which is one of the worst outcomes when you are trying to set up an online business.
Your bandwidth requirement is dictated by what your website is providing to your visitors. Calculating the amount of bandwidth that you require is not an easy task but it basically means how much data is flowing between you and your users. So if there are documents to download, videos to watch and other features that require a high level of bandwidth then you need to choose a hosting provider that can provide that. Some hosting providers offer unlimited bandwidth and for many business websites, this is a very good option.
Depending upon your level of experience, you may require help now and again from the experts when it comes to getting your website set up and maintaining it. If you know exactly what you are doing in terms of the development aspects of your website then you probably won’t need to rely much on the people in customer support. However, if you are new to the whole website set up process then the more help you can get, the better.
If you are not very technically savvy then setting up a website may be well outside of your comfort zone and therefore you will want a web hosting provider that offers very good customer support. There are all kinds of issues that you may need to get help for, from your initial website configuration to if you experience errors or problems with adding content to your website. The difference between a host that offers poor customer service and a web host company that provides the best level of customer service will be particularly important if you do not have an experienced digital team.
The best web hosting UK support will be available whenever you need them, 24/7 and will offer a variety of ways to access support. They should provide detailed online instructions and guides, FAQs and even video tutorials to help you to resolve any issues that you may encounter. They should also offer an online chat service and have a telephone support line that do not have long queues that you have to wait in to speak to somebody.
Some hosts specialise in particular types of hosting like cloud hosting or VPS, or some are experts with certain platforms like WordPress. So when you are making your choice, check which applies to each hosting provider, as that will determine how much support they will be able to provide you with relation to their main areas of expertise.
Reputation and reliability
When you are choosing any kind of service of product, it is a good idea to take a look at customer reviews. People use reviews to work out whether to choose a hotel or restaurant because they know if lots of people recommend the business then it is going to be of a good standard.
It is exactly the same with hosting companies. If you want to find the best UK hosting provider then check out the comparison tables and the customer reviews that are available. Doing a basic search on Google for ‘Best web hosting UK’ will bring you a list of hosting companies but if you look for unbiased reviews of each company, you will get a better picture of which ones are actually the best UK hosting providers.
New hosting companies will not have an established reputation so it can be a risk going with them, so even if they are offering a really cheap deal it may not be worth the risk.
No matter how experienced you are with websites, technical issues can arise that can result in losing data. It could be an accidentally deleted website section, or it could be that a hacker attacks your website – having a backup is crucial for peace of mind.
Most UK web hosting companies provide an automatic backup of your website but always make sure that this is the case. If you lose data then you could end up having to recreate months or even years’ worth of work. So check what the host provides in terms of backups.
As your business grows, so too will your website and web host demands. A good hosting provider will offer upgrades that allow you to easily expand from a startup business with a small number of online users to a large business with large traffic volumes.
Checking whether your hosting provider is able to support you through periods of growth might not seem important at the beginning but it will be if your business does suddenly grow. You might only have a small marketing budget now but next year you could be spending much more to generate more business and need more from your web host than the basics. You might start generating blogs, adding videos and images and other features that require more storage than you first anticipated.
Your desired software features should also be considered when you choose a UK web host, so if your website is going to have a database form, email functions, e-commerce shopping carts and online credit card processing then your host must support the necessary scripts for this.
Money back guarantee/trial period
The best web host UK solutions will offer a time period of up to 90 days where you are guaranteed to get your money back if you are not happy with the service. So this gives you time to work out whether your web hosting provider is the right one for your website.
If there are any performance issues, or you find that there are compatibility issues, or it is simply too difficult to work with, then you can cancel and try a different host. You will also get an idea of how good the technical support is and how easy it is to get in contact with the customer support team and if it is not what you need, just cancel and get your money back.
Take your time when you are making your selection of web hosting provider. Make sure that you understand what your business needs are both immediately and in the future in relation to your website. Once you have a strategic plan for your website, you can then use that information to make the best decision for your web hosting needs.