How To Choose A Web Host

July 13th, 2018

Choosing a website host can be a confusing experience for website owners. There are so many companies available, offering a wide range of services at different price points.

How do you know which service is most appropriate for your website?

Domain registrars and hosting

Before we go further, it’s worth clarifying the difference between a domain registrar and a web host. If you’re unsure, think of them like this: the hosting/server is your website’s house, where all of the files are physically stored, and the domain name is the street address, telling users where to find the files.

Sometimes a host will handle both your domain name and the hosting, but often they’re separate so it’s useful to know the difference between the two.

Types of hosting

Hosts will typically offer three tiers of hosting:

Hosts may also offer ‘managed’ application–specific hosting, such as WordPress Managed hosting packages.

In short, these tiers of hosting relate to how a host assigns server resources to their different users. Here’s a quick breakdown.

Shared hosting

The cheapest and most common form of hosting. On shared servers, a host will put many sites (often thousands) on a single server and divide the resources between the sites.

There are a few downsides to shared hosting. The performance of your site can often be impacted by another site on the same server. For instance, if another site on the server suddenly starts receiving millions of visitors, it can cause other sites to load extremely slowly.

Sites on shared hosting plans can also suffer from email issues if the server is temporarily blacklisted. This can happen if a ‘bad neighbour’ on the server starts sending spam (either maliciously or through a hack).

The final downside is that shared plans offer the least flexibility. Often these plans can’t be customised, so if you realise you need a feature that the host doesn’t offer, you’re unlikely to be able to quickly add this.

Virtual Private Server (VPS)

If your website outgrows a shared plan, this is the next step. On a VPS, hosts will still share a server’s resources but between far fewer sites. A VPS offers a good balance between resources and cost.

One of the main advantages of a VPS is that the site shouldn't be affected by the resource needs of other sites on the server. You may notice that your site’s performance is more consistent.

VPS’s also tend to offer a bit more flexibility, allowing you to tweak the server to suit your site’s requirements.

Dedicated Server

This is the most powerful and expensive option for a website. Websites hosted on a dedicated server will have the entire server at their disposal. This tends to be most appropriate for busy e-commerce sites or sites that have extremely high-performance demands.

Managed application (e.g. WordPress) hosting

In recent years, lots of companies have started offering this type of hosting. These are usually shared hosting plans that are set up in a way to make managing WordPress sites easier.

Features may include auto-updates to the WordPress core, a server-level cache, single-click staging sites and security features that should help to prevent your site being compromised. Often these plans prevent the installation of certain plugins and have other restrictions in place that may only come to light further down the line.

Which plan?

I would typically recommend starting with a shared hosting plan for most websites unless you’re expecting huge traffic or server demands from day one. If your site outgrows this plan, you can always upgrade to a VPS or dedicated server as and when the needs arise.

I generally don’t recommend using Managed WordPress hosting as these plans can be limiting. These packages are aimed at site owners with limited technical abilities, so wouldn’t generally be recommended if you’re hiring a web designer/developer who may need more refined control of your site.

Which web host should I choose?

Once you’ve chosen a plan, you can start to narrow down your hosting options, but where do you begin?

Here’s an inconclusive checklist of things to go through for each host you’re considering:

Once you’ve looked through these, you should have a reasonable idea of how the host holds up against some of the more important criteria. Other factors include the amount of space and bandwidth your site will be allowed and, of course, cost.


Clearly, there’s more to picking a host than price or the claims splashed across their home pages. Even with a handy checklist, it can be overwhelming to know where to start and which hosts to avoid.

With that in mind, here are a few of hosts that I’d recommend. I’ve dealt with each of these on several projects and had positive experiences with all.

Yes, these are affiliate links, but these hosts are all solid! If you find this article useful, please consider using these links when purchasing from these hosts.

Guru*: An excellent UK–based host. Their customer service is quick and extremely helpful. When I moved to Guru, I had to bring around 50 sites with me and their excellent migrations team meticulously moved each one over with outstanding care and attention.

On top of this, they run LiteSpeed servers which have resulted in some of the fastest WordPress sites I’ve ever seen, so very highly recommended.

SiteGround*: If you’re based in the US, I’d recommend giving SiteGround a shot. I’ve dealt with their technical support on several occasions and been impressed with the speed and technical know-how of their staff.

I’ve also see outrageously bloated customer sites load very quickly, which is unusual for a shared service. Highly recommended.

Kinsta*: Whether you’re based in the UK or US, if you’re running a WordPress site you can’t go wrong with Kinsta. Their customer service is excellent and they’re an excellent choice for WordPress.

Packages are reasonably expensive in comparison to Guru and SiteGround, but their customer support and site performance is excellent.