If you want to get straight to it, you can compare the features and prices of Irish business web hosting packages in our list of Irish Webhosts. All the packages listed are Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP shared server offerings with at least 1 MySQL database. It's what you will need if you're using Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, OpenCart and a host of other well known content/ecommerce management systems.
After years of evaluating web hosting services I'd put my own order of priorities as follows:
Support is a priority
Even when you (think you) know what you're doing...!
Decent phone support means you can talk to a human and try and work out what the problem is. Oftentimes it isn't clear what's gone wrong and it's just too hard to try and explain something you don't really understand yourself. Email/live chat is grand for the simple stuff. If the support staff can:
- Help you work through a problem, and
- Do it graciously
Then it's worth paying over the odds because that kind of support is hard to find.
Look for customer reviews on TrustPilot or Google Local Business. The fakes are easy to spot.
This one is also a key requirement and you can't appreciate it fully until your website was down all last week and is down, again, for a second time this week.
Uptime is the key to Reliability
Uptime is how long the server stays up, rather than down. You will find a Stated Uptime on most web host offerings, but make no mistake, this has nothing to do with an Uptime Guarantee, where you would get actual money back for downtime (look for it in their T&C. If it isn't there, then it's not an uptime guarantee). They are few and far between. Stated uptime is an unreliable measure because each provider decides the criteria on which their uptime is measured and stated. It could mean that maintenance or downtime shorter than 10 minutes is ignored when calculating uptime.
- 99.5% stated uptime: means no more than 3.5 hours downtime per month
- 99.9% stated uptime: means no more than 40 minutes downtime per month
Look at the stated uptime figures very carefully. When the server is down all your services are down too - not just your website. If you happen to use the mail server provided by your web host, then you're not getting emails either - they're bouncing right back to the sender.
Here you can find a list of web hosts with real Uptime Guarantees - which means actual money back for downtime, as per their Service Level Agreement (SLA). This is shown in the list as Uptime SLA.
The only reliable way to measure Uptime
Unfortunately you won't find the real figures anywhere. The only way to do it is to monitor your own website with one of the providers below. They will test your website every few minutes and send you a report on your actual monthly uptime.
Features I Need
Of course this depends on your situation. You can compare basic web hosting features like space and bandwidth, as well as more technical features that you/your developer wantb in order to build and maintain a website and provide for any other services like email.
- Space (GB)
- This means how much physical space, measured in Gigabytes, does your website, email hosting and databases need? You might be surprised to learn that you'd have difficulty exceeding 1 Gigabyte even with a huge website and a database with hundreds of thousands of customers. Where this can go pear shaped is if you host your email there as well. If you were to give each staff member 1Gig of email space, you can see how that would burst through the usual 5-10Gig space allowance in no time at all.
- Bandwidth (GB/mo)
- Every webpage request, every file uploaded or downloaded and every call to the database counts towards your monthly Bandwidth allowance. You should choose a webhost that provides enough for your needs, and believe it or not, 10GB/month is double what most websites actually use. Read How much bandwidth does my website need? if you want to dig in.
- Most businesses don't use the webhost's mail server for emails, and instead outsource their email hosting to Microsoft365 or Google Workspace. That's because if the web host's server goes down, the email will go down with it. However, if you're a small business with less than 5 email addresses, you might opt to stick with the webhost's email facility since it won't cost you any extra to do this. Cons: occasional downtime and the possibility of exceeding your storage/bandwidth allocation.
- Web host's own backup
- You should do your own backups ofc. But reassuring to know that your webhost also backups up servers at least once a day. If things go wrong with your backups, you can ask them to restore one of their backups instead. They usually charge for this, but that's better than having no way of restoring your website.
- Decent Fully Featured Control Panel (eg CPanel, HSphere, Plesk) - not a cut down crippled version of same
- At least 1 MySQL database, but preferably 2
- Ability to run Cron jobs for automated scripts
- Change A, CNAME and MX records
- MySQL5/8 and PHP7/8
- Other really technical features like ssh admin, FTP over TLS, support for CURL, depending on your needs.
Free SSL Certificate
These days you must have a SSL Certificate for your website. It's what puts the S into https. Without it, some browsers will warn the visitor that your site is not secure. Many fine Irish webhosts will provide your website with a free SSL certificate. To find them click on the Free SSL button on our Compare Irish Webhosts list. Free SSL certificates (eg AutoSSL, LetsEncrypt) are domain validated and 256 bit encrypted which is more than adequate for most websites.
The marketing bs to convince you to pay for a SSL certificate is usually that it will increase your customer's trust in your business. The only problem being that your average customer neither knows nor cares what type of SSL certificate you have on your website. There are websites generating over €1m in revenue using free SSL certificates - the free one does the same job without the bells and whistles. So unless you need (and you probably don't) organisational validation or extended validation then don't be suckered into paying for some fancy overpriced SSL certificate.
Irish web hosts have become very competitive over the years. One look at our Webhosting Comparison list will tell you that you can get shared web hosting dirt cheap these days.
That's why price is in lowly fourth position - as long as it's less than €70/y I'm willing to look at them.
Features not worth paying for
You know what I mean - like a car manufacturer bursting with pride that the car has FOUR wheels like that's something special. Here's a list that would qualify in the web hosting arena:
- Free FTP accounts (doh? how else am i supposed to upload files to your server?)
- Free Control Panel (doh? how else am i supposed to create email accounts, databases etc?)
- Free statistics (doh? available in my free Control Panel right?))
- Free Admin account (doh? how else am i supposed to pay your fees?)
- Free Templates/Shopping Carts/Script installers (doh? they're all free anyway)
The Free .com/.net/.org trick
Don't buy web hosting with free/cheap domain name offerings until you've understood why it is much safer to shell out the few bucks and register your domain name separately with an Accredited Registrar. You should be provided with a dedicated domain name account that is independent of your web hosting. This ensures your legal rights over the domain name and puts you in control when it comes to decisions like transferring your domain name or switching webhosts.