How to Choose Best Web Host for you?

Note: This article is written keeping power webmasters in mind, having more than 10,000 visitors to their websites a day.

During past one week we, at ProPakistani, faced plenty of hosting issues.

We had downtimes; and plenty of them actually, where I felt in middle of no-where to decide anything on hosting. All this happened even I had experience of managing servers for over two years.

Only an online entrepreneur can understand the pain of downtimes and when there are repeated ones, we desperately need an answer to this question: Which hosting company is best in this world?

Before I answer to this question, we need to find out: What type of hosting do you really need?

Type of hosting available are:

  • Shared Hosting
  • Unmanaged VPS
  • Unmanaged Dedicated Server
  • Unmanaged Cloud Computing
  • Managed VPS
  • Managed Dedicated Server
  • Managed Cloud Computing

Shared hosting is obviously out of question for big websites. Let’s look at other available options.

Unmanaged Hosting:

In unmanaged hosting, be it VPS, Dedicated server or cloud, you are given a blank layer with just operating system installed on it, not even apache, MySQL or PHP. You are at your own from here to get it configured the way you want.

You should go for unmanaged hosting only if you are system admin, and have good experience of managing web servers. Keep in mind that knowing PHP script, understanding what DNS is and knowing some linux commands doesn’t entitle you as a system admin.

You can never optimize a web-server in any case if you haven’t worked with an ISP or an off-shore hosting firm. I agree that there are tutorials available for everything, but the thing is that a live network with proven experience can’t beat the knowledge gained from tutorials.

Unmanaged hosting comes at lower costs but with a compromise on managing it yourself.

Managed Hosting:

In managed hosting, web host (if it’s a good one) is going to be responsible for all the odds happening to your online business. You can sleep tight and let your web host to worry about your websites and the downtimes.

If you are pro blogger and want to put all your energies in your core-work, go for managed hosting. It may cost you some extra bucks – but it gonna save you from pains of downtime.

Here’s a reason for why I would prefer managed hosting over unmanaged one:

  • As you may know, ProPakistani was hosted on SliceHost with an un-managed VPS. It was going all good, with zero second of downtime in two years, until one day (in last week of December 2010) I upgraded my OS (sudo aptitude full-upgrade). This command upgrades kernel files and all the applications installed on the server.
  • Upgrade caused a serious conflict between eAccelerator (an acceleration engine) and the Apache’s latest version (web server). I was not a system admin and hence didn’t knew of possible conflict earlier.
  • This conflict halted WP-Super-Cache to work properly, leaving nothing good but sudden spike in server load and ultimately the crashes every other minute.
  • Our server was earlier configured by Sohaib Athar, who was not available this time to un-install eAccelerator to make server work properly.
  • As it was an un-managed server, so web host couldn’t do much except for giving out some useful tips.

This one scenario, where you did nothing wrong but simply upgraded your kernel and applications through a prescribed manner, can end up ugly.

One more thing, with our unmanaged server system RAM used to hit 3GB level during peak hours. But with managed hosting and optimized server our memory usage hasn’t crossed 1 GB level so far.

Initial Optimization with managed hosting:

Here is a thing you need to understand: In managed hosting, your web host is not going to do anything – until you ask them to do. You must tell them tasks until you are satisfied.

A good webhost will configure following things to optimize your managed server:

  • Tell them to optimize Apache, PHP and MySQL or any other application, specifically for the type of website you gonna host. For instance: a wordpress application has lots of Select Table query for MySQL as compared to Write Table queries. They will configure your MySQL accordingly for best performance.
  • They will disable un-used tools, mods and applications.
  • They will harden your server by installing firewalls, making your server DDoS, spam and hack proof.

Best thing I like about managed hosting is that host gonna reboot your server in case of any downtimes – and this is done automatically. For the purpose they keep on checking the status of services, and if anything collapses server is rebooted automatically.

Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is next level of hosting, which promises you the scalability on demand. For instance, you are running a news website which gets 500,000 hits a day. But on one good day, you break some news which gets top rank on google – there are good chances for a traffic spike with 500,000 hits every minute, in this case cloud hosting is what you should go for.

The good thing about cloud computing is that you only pay for the amount of resources you use. For instance, you get 100,000 hits in a month – then you will have to pay for the processing power and bandwidth used to serve 100,000 visitors. On other hands, very next month you serve 1 million visitors – you will be charged 10 times of the previous month.

In simple words: Pay for services that have used.

Just as an example, the day Salman Taseer got killed, due to huge traffic Geo, Jang and Dawn websites went down but Express Tribune didn’t. Reason: Geo, Jang and Dawn are hosted on dedicated servers which couldn’t hold the traffic spike, while Express Tribune is powered by Amazon’s EC2 cloud.

Issues with Cloud Hosting: You must keep this thing in mind that managing a cloud hosting isn’t a piece of cake. You either get a managed cloud solution, or hire a company for shifting your website to cloud computing.

Recommendations, based on your Traffic:

Having said all this, here are my recommendations for VPS, Dedicated Server and Cloud – based on your traffic:

  • 10,000 hits a day or less: Go for managed VPS with 1 GB ram
  • 10,000 hits a day or less: Go for unmanaged VPS with 2 GB ram
  • More than 10,000 and less than 30,000 hits a day: Go for managed hosting with 2 GB ram
  • More than 10,000 and less than 30,000 hits a day: Go for unmanaged hosting with 4 GB ram
  • More than 30,000 and less than 70,000 hits a day: Go for managed hosting with 4 GB ram, 8 GB ideal
  • More than 100,000 hits a day: Go for managed hosting with 16 GB ram
  • Go for Cloud computing if you want to get it all with a single solution.

Note: These recommendations are made for those getting traffic on hundreds of pages from search engines. Those with digg traffic, on a single page, can go for lesser RAM – with wp-super-cache locked down.

Okay, now you must have known the answer of What Type of Hosting you need. It’s time to move to next question, what webhost should I go for?

Selecting a Web Host

Now here’s the point: All webhosts are good as far as they are up. Webhosts are considered down only if network goes down, or in case of hardware failure. So check out their downtimes and hardware failure record.

Just to mention: if there is an application glitch on your particular server and your website goes down, this won’t be credited to web host downtime.

Downtime: To check downtimes of a web host during previous couple of years, visit this website: http://www.webhostingstuff.com/

Support: Ask your friends, read forums, webhosting review websites to know what others are saying about a particular webhost.

Tools: If you are going for un-managed hosting, check out tools they are offering (for free) with the servers. These tools (such as ISP manager in case of VPS.net) can be very handy in controlling and maintaining your server.

Price: Probably the most important thing you need to consider before deciding your webhost.

Recommended Web Hosts:

  • Managed Hosting: WiredTree.com, KnownHost
  • Unmanaged hosting: Slicehost, Linode
  • Cloud: EC2, Rackspace

This is it for now. I am sure there would be questions in your mind, which were not answered above. Feel free to ask them or if you got any further tips, go ahead and share them with us.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK


  • admin

    If you want downtime alerts (via email and SMS), try this: http://pingdom.com/

  • Quite informative and helpful.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  • baqir talpur

    hi amir, a great ariticle as always, even i m happy to see a pro pakistani blogger to promote awareness about hosting. i request you to start a plateform where you give info about hosting/websites/bloging or simply spread awareness about e-buisness in pakistan, which im sure will help many unemployed pakistanis to make a living. Again thanx for this informative post.

  • very informative, thanks!

  • Altaf

    very nice, this is what i call practical reviews. A lot of reviews are copied from here and there and put together. This shares the actual facts so makes it quite helpful.

  • Usman

    Nice article…i was searching info something like that…it help alot…btw i was using Nexus i realy hate my service providers i want to change any suggestions…i m kinda of new.

  • Khan

    Again, you have written very informatic article, in which you have answered/addressed almost all queries which comes to mind regarding webhosting.

    Hat-off to Aamir

  • If we do a survey, most of high PR websites in Pakistan are hosted on shared servers only ’cause they don’t wanna pay much for hosting.

  • iFadey

    It’s sad that Web hosting prices are high in Pakistan because of costly electricity :(

    • Do you really think that hosts in Pakistan are using servers in Pakistan? which cost them electricity charges in Pakistan?
      If you really think this then you are wrong. 99% web hosts are resellers from other US/UK based web hosting companies, either they are having vps either dedicated server.
      and for high price, this is because hosting industry in Pakistan is not mature, you will find cheapest host as well as expensive host there.
      New companies are cheap because they want to earn more customers, however old companies which already have good customer base and repute, they are charging high only for their good repute.

      Cheerz :)

  • Aamir, you have shared a great piece of information. Such personal experience is mile stone for us. I am amazed to listen the difference of RAM in unmanaged and managed servers.
    I want to know one more thing that, GUI for server is not recommended, were you using GUI for your debian based Linux distribution? Your reply will make clear a lot other things i have in my mind.
    Thanks Aamir for your kind article.

    • admin

      no GUI, web server shud never ve GUI

  • Nauman Afzal

    Bravo, quite informative. But Aamir what would you say if someone setup a Blog on WordPress.com and used their paid services, hosting etc I mean? would it be better than going for a managed hosting? for novices like me I mean. I am using serversea and so far it has been ok. But then I am just a newbie with no more than 100 visitors. Or should one start a website/blog and then shift over to better hosting/plan when he/she gets more visitors?

    • admin

      For those with less than 1,000 hits a day or at times 3-4,000 hits a day, shared hosting is good. As mentioned above, i will do a detailed guideline to best perform with your shared and wordpress hosting account.

  • Education News

    article is nice for vps ,but at the other hand you not told about shared hosting,,, i mean for low traffic website can’t afford vps , so pleas tel about shared hosting and pleas tel that how much visitors will normal at shared hosting…..

    • admin

      We will do a dedicated review and guidelines for shared hosting.

    • There are Low End VPS also available out there, Far better than Shared hostings.

  • Ali

    thanks 4 it

  • Nauman Afzal

    Thanks a lot, looking forward to the article Aamir. May I also suggest you include information like shared vs unlimited hosting plans? Also if a certain hosting offers 5 TB transfer what would it translate in to in terms of hits per day under normal conditions. I understand there may be many variables in this scenario but that’s why I said under normal conditions sat 1000 visits per day. And if a provider says unlimited hosting/traffic would it suffice for a high traffic blog/website?
    Many thanks in advance

    • There is nothing unlimited in hosting. Unlimited may means that you can use limited space out of available space, say if a server has 1TB drive, then you can use unlimited space out of this 1TB.
      5TB transfer is alot, i really means alot, mostly when you get a dedicated server, it comes with less then 5TB transfer, so if a shared host is offering you 5TB bandwidth, then it does means he is not putting any limit to you out of his total transfer which is allowed for his server/vps.
      I have seen quite high traffic websites using only 10-15GB transfer a month.
      Unlimited space/traffic is not only required for high traffic website or blog, high traffic website/blogs also use high resources, like cpu, ram, and it depends on your host, how much resource it allow a website to use, even if your website is not using high space or traffic, but consuming too much cpu and ram, then your host will refuse hosting to you.

      • You are right, nothing is unlimited in the world. The web hosting companies that are offering unlimited hosting, not only one they are hosting 1000s of websites on a single server and all websites have a fake unlimited space and transfer.
        Suppose in 1TB server they host 1000 websites then divide the space to 1000 websites, it becomes 1GB per website. Those providing unlimited or too much space for hosting they are over selling their services, thus more downtimes.
        So don’t choose web host that are providing unlimited web hosting.

        • haider

          yes my host also offered two unlimited packages for Greedy Peoples, but in there TOS it is Mentioned as Nafees told ,Nothing Is Unlimited,

          when i ask their Support they told me Mp3 ,and other downloadable and streaming are not allowed on unlimited plans, and we try our best to make you Glorious.

  • SEO Pakistan

    Interesting Article! but i am not satisfied with your recommendations on VPS.net because you guys already used it and had poor web experience so still you suggest as ideal option to take on

    • admin

      We had a problem with our application. Yes, its not recommended for following reason.

      – You can’t hard reboot your system yourself. You will have to open a ticket, which may take upto 30 mins in getting response.

  • Junaid

    Aamir, you need yo focus more on this stuff on propakistani.

    May I suggest that you clear up the term used as “hits”. Beginners wont know the difference between unique visitors/day or page hits/day.

    Also WHT is a very good resource for web hosting related details, news and offers.

    Rgds.

    • admin

      Suggestion noted. As mentioned it was for pro masters, but agree that a beginner can read this too.

      Will come up with more work in this area.

  • i would still say, .blogspot.com is good for beginners till the time they have trned into professionals.

  • Web Hosting

    If its affordable to you, then go with Dedicated hosting as it offers more security, reliability and performance. You will never have to worried of your hosting or backup solutions, everything is taken care by the hosting provider.

  • Nauman Afzal

    We are anxiously waiting for that piece for newbies from you… :-)

  • asjad

    i liked ur article and the info u have discussed is very informative for me but it is also cofusing me a bit about vps cloud. i live in karachi n i have my reseller acount. there r server providers who provides the root acount which can do anything. the hosting is unlimited(which cant be) with 10tb atleast the space. the hosting provider says if u need more hosting we on your server wll add another 10tb drive. these are the local host around the world without a market name. so my question is that is this possible ??? in front of me it is coz in pakistan we can get 1 tb drive so outside pakistan host can easily get 10 tb drive or higher with cheap rates that wont effect the business and as they said hosting is unlimited can be coz they just ad another 10tb drive, so it can be possible ??? real server real thing but managed ???? cheap rates coz of not in the top ones.. i will be w8ing for continuing the topic

    • Ahtsham Jutt

      Hay Asjad
      Have you ever seen a hard drive with unlimited disk space?
      Or
      Suppose a hosting provider rent a dedicated server for 300$/Month with 1TB Disk Space, he gonna allow you to use 1TB for 3 to 4$/Month?
      No Never!
      It is just a business strategy nothing more. Deceiving their clients. Most of EGI Brand Companies are offering such kind of Unlimited Disk Space like Ipage, fatcow, bluehost etc.
      Hostgator is the only company who is not EGI Brand but offering unlimited disk space, but remember there is nothing unlimited, so they limit your account with several limitations like number of concurrent connections/account, number of tables/Database, Limiting Memory Usage, Limiting Disk Space Usage, Blah Blah Blah…..
      And
      The Most Important thing is, None of them gonna allow you to fill up Your Accounts with your personal data, with images, MP3 Songs, or other kind of files none-related web content files etc. So how you gonna fill up your Disk Space?
      If you have 5GB Disk Space on a shared hosting account and running a wordpress blog, i bet you will never gonna fill up that 5GB in 5 Years with just WordPress Files.
      So always go for realistic plans.

  • asjad

    and i have 100gb reseller that is not used only 1 gb i selled by me so i have 100 gb on my acount. i will try to fill out the whole space putting tones of mp3 after making my mp3 site and i will post the result here so u can continue the discussion.

    • Ahtsham Jutt

      Never ever think about it. If your host go aware about this, your will be suspended without any prior notice.
      Believe me ;-)

  • M.Saleem Sabir

    Wow ! Today I got the right place to read which I was looking long time
    Really very informative and specially for for me who wants to start with NIL knowlege in Blog and was hunting here and there
    Tks for the information
    I would like to ask U what shud I do means how to start with wordpress and next
    I still hv to gothrough ur complete information and hope to finish by tmrw Tks again

  • zohaib jahan

    A.A.
    nice 2 c,,
    plz write an article to guide about online earning…
    if u did already, plz give me link

  • Ahtsham Jutt

    Very Interesting article Amir. I think you should write an article on these EGI Unlimited Hosting Brands too like bluehost, IPage, Fatcow who are deceiving customers.
    And interesting thing is, now a lot of hosting companies are following them and offering such kinda Unlimited things.
    1 Thing more,

    Update your List of “Recommended Hosts” with
    Futurehosting, for VPS
    Hostdime for Managed Dedicated Servers.

    These too companies are providing extra ordinary services.

  • Parvez Iftikhar

    Superb article. You are doing a great service. Fantastic!

  • There is a thing I would like to mention Aamir bhai. Optimization is the key. I have been optimizing sites for more than 2 years now.I have seen sites with 8k traffic a day with execution time of 13 seconds only for PHP.The servers like Dedicated ones with even 10 GB rams are not enough for them.
    I have managed to get 5k per day traffic controlled on my blog, using a shared host, scoring 95/100 on Google Online Page Speed Tool.
    So, if someone has optimized site, a lot of fuss removes right there.

    • admin

      I can’t agree more with you.

      • Well, why you reverted back from the theme resign in early days?
        I saw there were some changes but sooner than later they were gone.

  • If you don’t want to pay a crazy high monthly bill on dedicated servers, then its probably best to utilize a CDN to host your static content.

    Your server load will significantly decrease. Plus, you pay as you go.

    Somebody needs to tell this to Jang, Dawn, and Geo. I don’t know what anyone says, but I use HostGator to power my websites. Yes, now we are at a point where we are using their dedicated servers. But it wouldn’t be possible to scale that without a CDN.

    For instance, one day our site got hit on major social networks (reddit, SU, pinterest, fb etc). We pushed over 4.5TB of bandwidth within hours. Normally if it was just a dedicated server, it would’ve crashed. But CDN saved the day.

    I have compiled a list of some web hosting providers here.

    http://www.wpbeginner.com/wordpress-hosting/

    You can see the user reviews there and make the decision yourself.

    • No need to tell DAWN. The only finest media in Pakistan which understands the importance of technology trends.

      They are already live on WordPress VIP hosting.

      http://dawncompk.wordpress.com/

  • Rizwan Abbasi

    your site have still issue when i click on home page it shows me error

    400 Bad RequestIt is not a valid request!Powered By LiteSpeed Web Server
    LiteSpeed Technologies is not responsible for administration and contents of this web site!”
    other pages working fine (search on google) solve this issue thanks.

  • haider

    I use many hosting companies in my life ,but in 2010 i wish to use pakistani company,

    i search online and pay to a host “tnohost.com” , after 9-10 days i face a server downtime of 2hours so when i decided to open a support ticket here is already a ticket was opened by their staff, they tell the reason is “Server Crashed” i ask them to refund me , than they apologize and instantly refunded me to my bank,and reply that you can still stay with us for long as u want. for 1 year i use their services free of cost, in 2011 i feel satisfied with thier services and start paying them,

    I don’t know about other pk Hosts but I Love Them ,

    Their Rates are Even better .

    And i dont know about where their data center is , but i hear that they recently owned an intl. company

  • haider

    Nice info amir.

    I Prefer Shared Hosting or Managed VPS,
    not Dedicated Servers,

    i try all of them but i only feel good with Shared and Manages VPS.
    due to rates and ease of life

  • Can you update the article..