Seven common mistakes to avoid when choosing your web hosting provider

Seven common mistakes to avoid when choosing your web hosting provider
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Timofeev Vladimir)

If you are relatively new to the world of web hosting (opens in new tab), you will be bombarded with advices and tips once you start looking into ways to host your brand new website (or indeed, even when you are at the planning stage or trying to find out whether you actually need a website or should simply go to a website builder (opens in new tab)). This article will hopefully help you avoid making them

1. Using a free hosting service

A free hosting service might be useful if you are running your blog/website as a hobby or a community group. It will likely come with banners and pop-up ads though and search engines tend not to like websites hosted on free services. Note that there are good free web hosting services (opens in new tab) too but it is a very tough market to survive.

They are notoriously unreliable when it comes to speed, uptime and availability and because you haven’t paid for anything, don’t expect any compensation if they disappear or suffer from downtime.

Expect support to be minimal with no advanced features like free databases. You also risk losing credibility, particularly if you are hosted on a domain name like, rather than using a genuine domain name (although, some free web hosting providers do allow you to park your domain).

The bottom line is you usually get what you paid for and if you paid nothing then don’t expect much. And web hosting doesn’t have to be expensive. We even compiled a list of the best cheap web hosting services (opens in new tab).

2. Falling for the Unlimited trick

One of the most popular gimmicks some web hosts use for luring in unsuspecting users is by advertising ‘Unlimited’ resources -- from unlimited bandwidth to unlimited storage and more. But as they say, the devil is in the details. 

More often than not, unlimited resources are advertised on shared hosts. And guess what? The unlimited resources are available to all your neighbors as well, which actually makes them quite limited. 

Similarly, claims of unlimited bandwidth bring with it thresholds that once crossed will impose artificial throttles and slow down your website thus indirectly penalizing you. 

3. Choosing a web hosting package with no refund guarantee

A general rule of thumb when looking for web hosts is to find one that offers a free trial and/or a refund guarantee. The good and reputable providers will offer either one or even both, which surely inspires confidence in their offering. 

Some web hosting companies do not provide a refund guarantee for their starter packages. Choose one that offers a money back guarantee in case you select the wrong package.

A good hosting company will gladly refund you or move you onto a new package that suits your needs. After all, it is in their interests to make sure that you are a happy customer even if you leave them as you may well come back in the future should your circumstances change.

Several hosting companies offer money-back guarantees for their services however, the length of time can differ greatly. Most hosting providers offer anywhere from 30 to 60 days with one offering a 90-day money back guarantee (opens in new tab).  

4. Choosing a shared web hosting package when you need a VPS, or vice versa.

The two main types of web hosting packages you can select are shared or VPS. If your website is small and straightforward, shared hosting is the one for you. A Virtual Private Server is only required for websites with high traffic. If your small website grows in the future, you can always switch over to VPS hosting (opens in new tab) or dedicated hosting (opens in new tab), in the meantime save your hard-earned money with some shared hosting (opens in new tab).

The important aspects to remember when choosing a shared or VPS plan are not only the size of your website but the product offerings in the hosting plans. Look for a web hosting plan (and company) that offers plans that can grow as your business grows. 

Certain limitations on email addresses (opens in new tab), bandwidth and more can easily create issues down the road when your business needs more resources. Just imagine yourself in two years and only being able to create three email addresses due to the limitations of your hosting plan.  

5. Ignoring security

One of the things that is most often neglected when hunting for web hosts is security. You wouldn’t miss them immediately, but given the nature of the Internet these days, it wouldn’t be long before you start cursing yourself for ignoring it. 

Some deployments particularly those that involve conducting monetary transactions are heavily regulated and have strict security requirements. But even if all you are running is a personal blog, you shouldn’t completely ignore security features. 

At the very least you need protection against spam, and encrypting your traffic with an SSL certificate would help inspire confidence in your community and also boost your search engine ranking. 

6. Buying based solely on price

There are two different ways you could go with this:

1. Assume all web hosting is the same, so buy the cheapest you can find

2. Assume the best web hosting packages cost more, so go for a higher priced package in the hope of getting better quality hosting.

Hosting is a commodity, so it’s tempting to go for the cheapest plan available, on the other hand you might be tempted by some of the marketing jargon used to up-sell more expensive packages. This is a crossroads moment when you really have to envision where you are going with your website and web hosting. 

Determine the future of your website the best you can and align it with a hosting plan that can do more for you. Price is not the only consideration in a hosting plan especially considering how competitive the market can become.

In a very competitive market, price cuts and special offers will often be used to win customers, so don’t pay more than you need to and keep your eyes open for discount codes. The saying “you get what you pay for” doesn’t necessarily apply to paid web hosting, as a cheap package will quite often be perfectly adequate for a start-up website or personal blog.

Keep in mind that the price you see advertised is a monthly price. When you get to the checkout that figure will be multiplied by 12 months and have VAT added on top. This is standard industry practice and most hosts will advertise pricing this way. You may also get a discount for going for longer periods (annual or bi-annual).

7. Not knowing your limitations

In your web hosting shopping experience you will likely come across limitations. Web hosting providers place restrictions on items which may be crucial for your business needs. An example of this could be limiting products for your e-commerce store or the amount of storage you can use for your website.

Look for a provider that can scale your hosting plan. For example, if your website grows and is on the verge of a necessary upgrade to the next hosting plan, look for a provider that will help you step up to the next plan. Hard restrictions on your hosting plan can cause issues which can be simple to resolve but nonetheless impact your website in a negative way.

Make sure you check the terms and conditions to find out more, but restrictions of personal file storage are common, as are rules about certain types of media or streaming. Hosting companies have to implement these restrictions to ensure the smooth running of the service for everyone - especially on a shared server since resources (the electricity the server consumes, the bandwidth used by the server, the hard drives) do cost money.

Ask your web host if you can do the following before signing up for a package:

  • Maintain multiple POP/IMAP accounts
  • Add statistics to your account
  • Install any WordPress plugin you want
  • Use a shopping cart on your website
  • Number of items you can list on your e-commerce website
  • Schedule a backup of your data

And last but certainly not least, customer support. Issues happen at all times of the day (and night) so make sure you are always covered by phone, email and live chat to resolve your website issues promptly. 

Also, in addition to the avenues of support, it’s also important to know the quality of support. You can gauge this by checking out the reviews of the web host on reputable websites as well as engaging with them during your free trial period. 

  • This is an excerpt from an eBook called "The ultimate guide to web hosting", published by TechRadar Pro in association with Planet Hippo (opens in new tab)
Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.