Searching for the right hosting provider should start with defining your long-term needs as precisely as possible. Are you looking for something for a personal project leaning towards the hobbyist side, or do you need a more professional solution that can host sites for your business? There are companies that provide both kinds of services out there, and there are several features that you’ll want to consider from both points of view, depending on your situation.
You may not care too much about scalability for a personal site, but things are quite different when it comes to a commercial project that is expected to see rapid growth. You’ll want to work with a company that can actually keep up with all the extra traffic without requiring you to go through complex procedures like switching over to a new server, changing content networks, or more. A good commercial host should allow you to focus on acquiring your new customers without having to worry about whether your sites will be able to deal with the additional traffic.
Of course, that’s not universal – in some cases, you’ll also care about scalability for a personal project. If you’re going to run any complex computations on that host, scalability may actually be a true concern in the long run, and something you’ll want to discuss with your host in detail if you think you might overload their servers with your operations. It might also matter to you if you can quickly deploy sites with cPanel and other extra features readily installed, which not all hosting providers will offer you out of the box.
Security is a much bigger concern for professional ventures compared to personal ones, and it’s something you should not take lightly in any case. But when you’re running a site that holds private information about your customers, sensitive details like transaction details and other potentially compromising bits, you should be extremely careful with where you’re hosting it all and how much you can trust the company running the servers. This is a situation that requires a lot more research than your typical personal project, so you’ll want to be diligent in your research and find someone with a proven positive track record in this area.
That’s not to say that security is something you can ignore for a personal site, of course. It’s just that the situation is often much more different in that context, and you don’t have so many concerns looming over your shoulders all the time. Considering the fact that the way you store other people’s information is often governed by actual laws and regulations, you definitely don’t want to make the wrong step in that area and find yourself in a compromising situation where it turns out that you’re liable for large sums of money just because of a small mistake in your configuration or something along those lines.
When something goes wrong with your personal website, it’s often not that big of a deal – you can just wait it out. It’s not like anyone will critically need to access your biography in the next few hours anyway. But when you’re hosting a professional service used by customers on a daily basis, that’s a completely different game that requires all the attention you have in some cases. And when something breaks down in that case, you’ll often find yourself rushing to get the problem resolved.
And that makes it important to know that you can rely on your hosting provider to be on top of those issues when they arise. Looking for a host that will never encounter problems and downtime is an entirely wrong approach – there is no company out there that can give you a perfect reassurance about the availability of your sites. But what separates the good ones from the rest is how they react in cases of catastrophic failure, how quickly they get those problems resolved, and what they offer you as compensation afterwards for all the trouble you’ve seen.
So in your search for the ideal hosting provider for your next project, think very carefully about how much time you can realistically afford to lose on that site if it goes down. In some cases, even a couple of minutes can have dramatic consequences on your business, so make sure that you find a hosting provider that will give you some peace of mind when it comes to their support and similar qualities.
Unfortunately, some of these features are not very easy to test in quick iterations, especially when it comes to support and security. So trust your own research, and look up as much information as you can about the companies you intend to work with before settling on any provider in particular. A little bit of knowledge can save you a lot of money in the long run.