How to choose the best web host for your blog/ website?

[If you are new to blogging or are a new website owner and are still learning the basics, I will advise you to visit this article on web hosting and domain name basics before you move on.]

There are a number of web hosts available in 2020, and most of them have a number of plans suiting different requirements.This article explains the main categories of web hosting plans offered by most web hosts and which plan should a blogger/ website own should select.

What is free web hosting and how can I host a website or blog free of cost?

Free hosting of blogs is available from major blogging platforms such as Wordpress, Blogger, LiveJournal, Tumblr and Medium, as well as on Quora, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Blogger is the most versatile of them, and gives you free hosting even when you buy the domain name from another service provider. (That means, if you have a blog and you map it to a domain name, Blogger won't charge you for that!) Blogger allows advertisements on your blog while Wordpress does not allow that in free version. (You can always upgrade it and get more facilities.) Blogs on other free platforms allow you to just post your stuff; no ads, no monetization, no or limited customization.

The beauty of the biggest of these free blogging platforms (Wordpress, Blogger) is that not only they host your blog, they also have a powerful yet simple content management system that allows you to format your posts, put photos, and customize the blog in many ways. They also give your blog a very robust security.

Free website hosting: Blogs also are websites, but other types of websites cannot be hosted on free blogging platforms. There are many free web hosting providers for non-blog websites, and they have many limitations of bandwidth, total space, up-time etc and may run their own advertisements on your site.

What is paid web hosting? What are self hosted blogs?

Except when you open your blog/ website on a free platform, you need to host it on some server on the www. (More on hosting basics in the linked post.). Blogs hosted this way are called self hosted blogs. The agency that hosts the website or blog is called web host or web hosting firm.

All major web hosts offer a number of plans. These come with different sets of resources, security, back-up, server management, customer service, etc and they cost accordingly. Paid plans can be fitted in these major categories:

Shared web hosting

This is the most common hosting plan, and can have many sub-plans and add-ons. In this type, a web server is shared by many clients (bloggers and website owners) and therefore the cost to individual client is a fraction of the total cost of maintaining that server.

You should go for this type of plan if you are a new blogger or a small business blogger with not much traffic on the blog/ website. 

Re-seller web hosting

In this type of web hosting, a big hosting company sells its space to techies or small companies and they are allowed to sell the space to small users. Often, the re-sellers add their own personalized services on top of those given by the big host.

Because the re-sellers make bits out of big plans and sell them to small website/ blog owners, re-seller plans can be very cheap - even cheaper than shared web hosting. However, since the re-sellers are not resourceful people, they cannot give good customer support or quickly deal with emergencies. Scaling the plan upwards may also be difficult. So, my advice would be to avoid re-seller hosting and not fall for low cost.

Virtual private server (VPS) hosting

This web hosting utilizes 'virtualization' to create virtual machines which are then given exclusively to clients. Since the server belongs to the website owner and dedicated resources such as space and bandwidth are allocated to him, he does not run the risk of the blog opening slow or becoming unavailable because of other clients' activities.

web hosting servers
Web hosts have huge servers and strong internet network.

A medium-level website owner or blogger does not need to go beyond this type of hosting. One can even have ecommerce activity and thousands of visitors a day in a VPS hosting plan.
The hosting types ones given below are more for general knowledge of web hosting.

Colocated (=collocated) web hosting

In this type of web hosting, the website owner purchases a server and locates it in the network of a web host. This needs specialized technical knowledge of running web servers and networks. Big companies and governments usually have this type of web hosting arrangement.

Managed server hosting

When the website owner needs lots of web space and resources but does not have a full-fledged technical team to do every aspect of web server management, he can ask the web hosting company to provide resources and also full technical support. In this case, the website owner pays for exclusive support in addition to the collocated / VPS hosting charges.

Dedicated hosting

This is very expensive type of web hosting and of course is highly reliable and gets the best resources. This suits big companies with huge websites/ portals and enormous amount of traffic. The servers as well as web services belong to the hosting company (unlike collocation) but the client uses them exclusively. For such high-end server management, though the hosting company gives support, the client must also have a dedicated team for taking care of web server management, which is a highly technical job.

Cloud hosting

This is nothing but the hosting company having servers across a very large area (even across the globe), which share resources among themselves and thus remove the risk of service deficiencies that come from one or a few servers physically located together. Your website on cloud servers will have its mirror images on many servers so that in case of any issue in one, the other ones take over. These are also very useful when one needs less or more resources 'on demand' or needs to provide for sudden escalation of demand.

These days like other cloud-based web services, cloud hosting has become popular and is getting cheaper. So, most web hosts are offering shared/ dedicated plans on cloud, at competitive rates.

Hybrid hosting solutions

Since the top rung of services can have a mix of leasing, management, placing the servers and services on the cloud, we can call them as hybrid solutions. Top companies have the muscle and different levels of in-house resources to negotiate terms with web hosting companies, and the resultant plans can range from just leasing data-center hardware to complete web hosting solutions.

Wordpress web hosting

Some web hosting companies have special plans for hosting websites created using Wordpress CMS. They are like other plans, but they have latest Wordpress software installed in them and taken some other technical actions for Wordpress websites/ blogs.

The takeaway from this discussion is,
  • Do not go for free hosting if you want to run your blog/ website for professional or business purposes.
  • If you are a small blogger/ small or medium business, buy a low-level plan, e.g. cloud based shared plan. Go for a slightly higher-end plan among shared plans if your business is growing  fast.
  • See before buying a plan that the host has good reputation, will hand-hold you during setting up process and will do trouble-shooting. Read reviews in forums and blogs. Ensure that the plan will be scaled up when you need more space and bandwidth later (all cloud-based hosting plans will have that built in). If you want to create your blog/ website using Wordpress, check whether the web host has special plans for such websites.

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