Which host to choose? Tips and criteria for good (Web)hosting

by Sabrina Stein
Last edited on: 2023-06-30

Which is a good host? What is it about? - if you are wondering that, you have come to the right place – because we have put together the most important decision-making criteria for you in this article. These are based, among other things, on the experiences of hosting customers and considerations regarding information security and website performance.

Why it matters which host you choose

You don‘t choose a hoster every day. In most cases, it is a long-termin and herefore important decistion that can indirectly affect the success of your website or business.

Hosting is the foundation of your IT or web (site) project and should therefore be of high quality. If the decision is not made carefully, not only can the costs be too high, but also a lot of additional stress can arise, which you can prevent with a well-considered approach.

Especially for online shops, but also in general for commercial websites, a loss of data or the inaccessibility of their web presence is an absolute horror scenario, which can be avoided with good hosting, among other things.

What you should do before choosing a hoster

Check all requirements for a good hosting

Before you can decide on a hosting provider based on certain criteria, you should be aware of a few points. For this, it is useful to think about the goal of your web or IT project. You can ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I planning one website or several? Do I only need one domain or do I need to organise several domains?
  • Do I need a server? How big should it be? How fast does it need to run and respond?
  • Do I already know what resources are needed or do I need to seek advice?
  • If you know: Which performance features such as processor power, memory etc. should be given?
  • Is growth of the project possible and necessary?- Could the need for resources increase?
  • How many and which projects am I planning in the medium or long term?
  • What types of data, if any, should be processed on my server/web space? Is it sensitive or personal data? Are certain security requirements necessary?
  • Do I need specific applications on my server/webspace?

It is also important to consider in advance what your personal hosting requirements are. What personal resources do you bring with you? You should consider what features and additional services the hosting product should offer. You can ask yourself these questions:

  • How good are my IT skills and my knowledge of hosting and web hosting? Do I need support with updates and configurations?
  • What happens in the event of data loss? What precautions are necessary for prevention?
  • What are my own experiences in relation to service providers in the technical or IT field. What is usually important to me myself?

Answering the questions allows you to not only have the necessity of certain technical criteria already in mind, but also other factors that are often overlooked.

Should you not be able to answer the questions so easily, this is not a problem. For one thing, this article will still provide some answers. On the other hand, you can also ask the potential hosting providers these questions and get a first indication of the service quality.

What NOT to do when choosing a good hoster

Let yourself be blinded by the price when choosing a hoster

For many people who want to create their own website, the first thing they look at when choosing is the price. We are not saying that this is not important. No one should pay too much money for a service. However, the first glance could also be deceptive. To be able to judge the price well, the following tips will help you:

Tip 1: Calculate the price in the long term

Some hosters advertise with offers like "0 € in the first X months" - after that, of course, it gets more expensive. You probably want to use your IT or website project not only for a year, but maybe even more than a decade. Ideally, you should not need or want to change providers again. So when it comes to price, it's better to think long-term and calculate the costs over the years.

However, if you don't mind switching providers again and again, this aspect is of course less important to you. In this case, moving costs could be incurred.

Tip 2: Consider the cost of support services

In addition, "support" is not just "support". Find out in advance which support services are included in the price and which are not. Since many hosting providers are somewhat vague on the subject (at least on their website), it is better to ask about this by phone before you choose the hosting company you trust. This way you can get an idea of the service of the company you want to entrust your project to.

Tip 3: Include server administration costs in the calculation

Another cost factor that should not be underestimated is server administration. This usually requires a server administration tool. In most cases, you pay a regular licence fee for these tools. In the long run, this can result in enormous additional costs if you do not make a conscious choice. So ask yourself: Which tool do I want to use and is it included in the hosting tariff? A free server admin tool is, for example, our KeyHelp. So there are no regular costs for this.

What general criteria should you consider when choosing a good hoster?

Besides the price, there are many other criteria that a website beginner or an entrepreneur who is not yet very experienced in IT may not even be aware of. However, these can be decisive, especially if, for example, the website is to run stably and lead to success. We would therefore also like to provide an overview of the most important criteria and give you further tips.

Availability of the server or web space as a sign of good hosting

One of the most important reasons for needing a hosting provider in the first place is the availability of the server or website around the clock and professional support. Especially in the case of online shops, it becomes clear how important this topic is. If the potential customer wants to visit the website but only gets an error message, he probably won't return to the shop page. If this happens more often, you can imagine what this means for the success of the shop. Incidentally, Google also notices such problems and downgrades the page accordingly on the results pages. The visibility dwindles. So the shop or the page should be available all the time.

This is similar with corporate IT. If it is not available, employees - or even machines - cannot access important data and no services can be provided during this time.

It is theoretically possible for servers and websites to be available 100 percent of the year - in practice, however, disruptions or short outages can occur. Therefore, you should be careful when a hoster promises you 100 per cent availability. On the other hand, in the event of a failure, there must be a quick response so that all hosting customers can be confident that their data will be available again in the shortest possible time. Data centres of professional web hosters have, among other things, several network connections in order to be able to switch even in case of failure and to guarantee a high reliability of the online operation.

An availability of over 99 percent on an annual average should therefore be achieved by your trusted hoster in any case - i.e. converted downtime of no more than approx. 3 ½ days per year. An even higher availability is better, for example 99.9 % - i.e. a maximum of 8 hours of downtime per year. You can find the information about availability in the service level agreements of the hosting companies, for example.

Server location - where is the hosting provider's data centre located?

Servers that are located in Germany or Europe are subject to the strict EU Data Protection Regulation (EU-DSGVO). In Germany, the Federal Data Protection Act also applies. The company headquarters and the server location of the hosting provider therefore determine the conditions under which your data is stored on the hoster's servers. You can find more on this topic here Server Location Germany and in our blog article on CloudAct. So if you either process personal data via your website or store it on your server, you should pay particular attention to this point!

TÜV certification as a signal for good hosting

Another indication of a good hoster is a current TÜV certification of the data centre. The corresponding certificate confirms the structural and technical security of the data centre as well as the consideration of IT security principles. This includes, for example, comprehensive protection against data theft, failure, fire and environmental influences as well as against burglary by means of adequate access security and camera surveillance.

Very good service and support

The performance of the service and support is especially important in difficult situations. Good support from the hosting provider can quickly help you in the event of a problem. What you should therefore pay particular attention to when choosing a hoster are the service and support times. If, for example, a problem arises after work, at the weekend or on public holidays for which you need to contact your hoster, this should also be possible during these times.

The provider's response times, for example to tickets and the speed with which they are processed, can also be of interest - or the question of how experienced the hosting provider - especially the support staff - are in their work. Information on this can be found on both the about us and support pages of the providers as well as in the service level agreements. Customer reviews can provide another objective perspective on this:

Customer satisfaction as a signal for good hosting

Take a look at the reviews of customers or former customers of the hosting company on Google, for example. Here you can quickly recognise the advantages and disadvantages of the company. Of course, you should also take into account how the reviewer "ticks" and whether he or she evaluates factually and objectively or simply likes to criticise. You can recognise this by how they rate other companies and places.

You can also find experiences and opinions about hosting companies in forums, for example. If you have friends and acquaintances who host a server or website with a provider, simply ask them how satisfied they are with the service provider.

Which features of the hosting products are decisive when choosing a hoster?

Current software and hardware

Websites and company servers are a popular target for cyber criminals who are looking for security vulnerabilities, want to enrich themselves by stealing data or simply want to harm the company. Outdated software versions are often the cause of successful hacker attacks. Up-to-date software and updates close security gaps and significantly minimise the risk of hacker attacks. Therefore, it is important that the web host always offers its hosting products with the latest software.

Find out whether the latest updates are proactively carried out by the hosters or whether you yourself are responsible for installing updates when you set up your server tariff. Details on this should be apparent from the product features of the respective tariff. If not, do not hesitate to ask!

In addition to the software, the hardware should not be neglected - i.e. modern server hardware and infrastructure such as fast multi-core processors, SSD hard drives and 100 GBit Ethernet cabling.

Speed characteristics such as server response time

One aspect that could be important for the performance and thus the user satisfaction of your website is the server response time. This can be influenced by the server location, for example, but also by the infrastructure of the hosting provider. You can check this with tools such as Attention should be paid to the value "Time to first byte".

Regular data backup

In the most common server hosting tariffs, a hard disk mirroring with a software RAID is integrated in the event of a failure and further backup options can be added. In any case, it is recommended to find out for yourself when choosing a hosting plan (e.g. in the general terms and conditions or by telephone) how the respective hoster defines the services and obligations of the customer for dealing with and carrying out backups. In an emergency, this would be the point of a rude awakening at the latest!

IMPORTANT: Be sure to create your own sophisticated backup strategy for your web project.

Professional web hosts often provide assistance in developing such a concept. You can read which backup strategy our experts recommend in this blog article.

Technical aspects you should also pay attention to include:

  • Inclusive domains and unlimited subdomains
  • Latest version of MySQL database and PHP programming language
  • highly available and redundant network connection of the data centres
  • RAM
  • data transfer volume

Shared tariffs vs. dedicated resources

In the case of so-called "shared tariffs" (as a rule, these are web hosting or virtual servers), before you choose the hoster, you should find out exactly whether you are always entitled to the performance stated in the product details or whether it can also fluctuate if there are many customers on the server and the performance therefore has to be "shared". Especially with particularly cheap providers, the servers are also "overbooked", so that at times of particular server utilisation, the specified capacities cannot be reached and the speed becomes very low.

It is best to ask the hoster directly about this if you are not sure - because this point can be decisive for the loading time of your data or website, for example, and is not always directly apparent in the performance characteristics of a server, which may be found on the hoster's website.

Of course, it is not necessary to rent an entire server for a website. For larger projects, however, such considerations do make sense.

Flexibility of the hosting products

You have considered the technical requirements of your upcoming web or IT project. A comprehensive online shop requires different performance than a simple web presence or blog. The resources required are always very individual.

Therefore, don't plan too big for the beginning, otherwise you might end up paying for numerous features you don't need at all. Starting with a dedicated server if you want to start a WordPress blog with insider tips would make little sense - a web hosting package would make far more!

However, you should always keep in mind that a project could grow quickly and if this is very likely, you should again plan for more resources. Optimally, you should find a hosting product that is flexible - so that the tariff can grow dynamically with your web project. It should also be possible to simply switch to a smaller plan if less power is needed. In order to facilitate a move to a larger or smaller tariff, it would be ideal if the hoster offers corresponding upgrade or migration options.

A good hosting company will give you comprehensive advice on this topic!

Contract terms

If you only want to "test out" or are not quite sure about your provider yet, it may also be important for you that the minimum contract periods are relatively short. However, if you want to stay with your chosen provider for the long term and are very sure about it, in some cases you can even benefit from a discount for longer contract periods. So take a close look here too!


Consider the price-performance ratio when choosing a good hoster

Now we would like to come back to the topic of "price" or "costs". If you consider all the criteria mentioned, it may be that the price, which is a selection criterion for many interested parties, is perhaps no longer so decisive - especially when you consider the "costs" that could arise due to deficiencies in the other areas.

Therefore, in conclusion, we would like to suggest to you once again: take a close look at your requirements in advance, ask yourself the questions mentioned and then decide which of the aspects mentioned should play how much importance in the selection of your hosting product. And then: Go for it! ;) Good luck with your project!

In the next blog article, we will go into more detail about when you should choose which type of server and what to consider when making your choice.