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How to choose better web hosting services

With more than ten years of experience in web hosting, I have been both customer and service provider.

This guide describes six points you might want to consider before choosing any web hosting service.

IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity

The fourth version of the Internet protocol is limited to 232 IP addresses. This is less than five billions: 4,294,967,296.

Today almost all IPv4 addresses have been assigned. The use of mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones is increasing fast and exponentially, hence many mobile broadband providers are starting to implement IPv6-only connectivity.

When there is a server without IPv6 support, a dual-stack proxy connects to it using IPv4 and delivers the content to the client using IPv6. This is a protocol downgrade.

My recommendation is to choose a web hosting service with dual IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity.

You can test if your web page supports IPv6 here: IPv6 health check.

You can test if your Internet connection supports both protocols here: Dual-stack IP Address Tester.

HTTP/2 protocol support

HTTP/2 is the most important change to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol since 1997. It was originally developed by Google and is faster than its predecessor HTTP/1.1. It uses binary numbers to transfer the headers of each HTTP request, in comparison to all older versions, which use plain text instead.

Of course, there is not much advantage for one single HTTP request, but if your web sites have hundreds or thousands of requests, then to host them in a HTTP/2 server will make your web sites load faster.

You can test if your web page supports HTTP/2 here: HTTP/2 Website Online Tester.

Linux Apache MySQL PHP Server

In the world of web hosting, the word LAMP is quite common. It means: Linux Apache MySQL PHP server.

The main advantages of linux in comparisson to windows, is that it is free, open source, written in C/C++, much more stable, flexible and faster.

Apache web server is well supported by many applications. If you have web sites free of dependencies on Apache, then you can host them in a NGINX web server as well.

MySQL is a fast and stable database engine. There is a 100% open source fork called MariaDB, which was started by Michael Widenius, the founder of MySQL.

PHP is the most used server-side scripting language and PHP >=7.0 support is highly recommended. OPCache is an extension, that pre-compiles all PHP scripts into assembly language, what considerably increases the execution speed of each script.

Let's Encrypt SSL certificates

Before The Linux Foundation released Let's Encrypt, web hosting customers had to buy SSL certificates. Sometimes they were expensive.

If your web hosting service supports Let's Encrypt, then you can easily install free SSL certificates on your websites.

These certificates would be permanent, since they are automatically renewed every two or three months.

The newest encryption protocol is TLS 1.2 and TLS 1.3 is coming soon.

There are some insecure cryptographic protocols and cyphers. You can test the encryption strength of your web site here: SSL Server Test.

At least two DNS servers in different locations

Many web hosting providers ignore the importance of complying with Internet standards.

RFC 1034 is clear in §4.1: Every internet domain must be available on at least two different nameservers.

I have seen poor solutions for this requirement:
  1. To provide two different nameserver DNS records with the same IP address: ns1.webhosting.tld = ns2.webhosting.tld = same IP address.
  2. To provide two different nameserver DNS records with different IP address, but pointing to the same server: ns1.webhosting.tld ≠ ns2.webhosting.tld = same server.
Both solutions are non-compliant with Internet standards. The right implementation is to have at least two different servers located in different physical places.

You can test the nameservers of your Internet domain here: Check DNS and mail servers health.

Control panel that fits your needs

There are many web hosting control panels, despite they usually manage the same open source software.

Many web hosting users are imprinted onto cPanel, which is a famous control panel, but its license of use has a yearly cost. Web hosting services using 100% free control panels are cheaper.

Because the enterprise behind cPanel has resources for affording developers, it is more sophisticated, but this is like a comparison between windows and linux.

If you are an adaptable user, who wants to save money, then my recommendation is to host using an open source control panel, since it is more flexible and you can contribute to improve it as well.