Shared hosting is a common option for new websites. Startups, first-time bloggers and other small enterprises can find cheap hosting and get the support they need from a shared service.

When you choose a shared environment, a provider sells you a space on a server hosting many other sites. Each site uses some of the server’s resources, and it’s possible for large spikes in traffic on one site to affect the performance of others. A sudden increase in use can also cause your site to go down, rendering it temporarily inaccessible. However, it’s possible to find a good shared hosting environment and run your site without incident when you know what to look for.

Bandwidth and Storage

Hosts offering “unlimited” bandwidth and file storage usually set a limit based on their definition of reasonable use. When shopping for a provider, find out exactly what “unlimited” means and whether it’s enough to support your site and its related files. Some companies may restrict the types of files you can upload in an effort to reduce demand on the server. Both of these limitations can affect how your site appears and performs.

Performance and Uptime

Although no host can claim 100 percent uptime, you need the assurance of knowing your site will always be accessible. Hosting your site on a shared server means there’s always a slight risk of performance issues, but the most reliable providers respond to these problems as quickly as possible. To ensure visitors can always get to your site, look for a host with at least 99 percent guaranteed uptime. WP Dev Shed has published this deep dive on hosting performance which is worth a read.

Security

Good hosting companies perform regular software updates and provide automatic updates of core features to minimize security risks for their clients. Look for a host with reliable firewalls and a solid detection and prevention system. Check for a history of security breaches to learn how many incidents a company has experienced and how its security team handled the threats.

Backup Options

Protection against data loss is part of security, and hosting providers should offer automatic backups on a regular basis. Backed up data should be retained long enough to ensure your site can be retrieved even if recent versions are lost. Ask about the frequency of backups and if the price of hosting includes data restoration in the event of a problem. Make sure you can also download files and retain copies yourself for added insurance against disasters.

Additional Features

You need more than basic hosting to run a robust website. Look for a host with features designed to support a modern web presence:

• Custom domains and subdomains
• Unlimited email accounts with extensive storage
• SQL and database management
• Support for CMS platforms, plugins and extensions
• E-commerce tools

Many hosts also offer site migration, an important service if you need to move your site from another provider.

Support

If you have a problem with your service, how quickly will your hosting company respond? Knowing the answer to this question is essential when looking for a place to set up your site. Support should be available 24/7 through multiple channels, including chat, phone, email and onsite documentation. Check on the turnaround time for support tickets, and read reviews to find out if other customers are satisfied with the level of support they receive.

Final Price

Many shared hosts offer special deals for first-time customers or low prices for those who choose to sign up for one or more years at the outset. When a tempting deal catches your eye, read the fine print to find out what you’ll wind up paying when it comes time to renew. It’s best to choose a hosting company with a free trial period so that you can make sure the features work as promised before getting locked into a final bill.

Don’t hesitate to take time for research when trying to find your website a home. It pays to shop around for a shared hosting provider with all the right features and support. The quality of the host can make or break the success of your site, so be sure a provider has the power and reliability you need to establish your web presence.

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