If you want to get straight to it, you can compare the features and prices of Irish business web hosting packages in Webmentor's Irish Web Hosting Table. All the packages listed are Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP ("LAMP") shared server offerings with at least 1 MySQL database.
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.
This one is also a key requirement and you can't appreciate it fully until you have clients screaming at you down the phone that their website has been down all weekend and is down, again, for a second time this week.
Uptime is the key to Reliability
Most web hosts advertise their "stated uptime". This is not the same as an uptime guarantee, where you might actually get money back for downtime (look for it in their T&C - if it isn't there, then it's not an uptime guarantee). Stated uptime is a loaded phrase. It means that the 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 an average 3.5 hours downtime per month
- 99.9% stated uptime - means an average 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 your email hosting is also with the webhost, then on a downtime you're not getting emails either - they're bouncing right back to the sender.
The only reliable way to measure uptime
Unfortunately you won't find figures anywhere for Irish webhosts that publish their true uptime. 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. There are basic features like space and bandwidth listed on Webmentor's webhosting tables and there are more technical features that you/your developer wants in order to build and maintain a website and provide for any other services like email.
- Space (allow 50% for expansion)
- Bandwidth (GB/mo) - how to calculate your average monthly bandwidth
Let's say your website has an average 50 visitors per day, each viewing an average of 3.5 pages, each page averaging 120kB (you can get these stats from Analytics)
50 x 3.5 x 120 = 21000kB/day
You also have a number of PDF files (average size 200kB) downloaded on average 8 times per day.
(8 x 200) = 1600 kB/day
Add up the totals and multiply by 31 days, and multiply by an error factor of 1.5 for safety (increase to 2 if you're not sure). Divide by 1000000 to get minimum required monthly bandwidth (GB/mo)
(21000 + 1600) x 31 x 1.5 / 1000000 = 1.05GB/mo
So allowing for email and FTP which also gobbles up bandwidth, you should be real comfortable here with a host offering 5-10GB/mo bandwidth.
- Email - POP3 and IMAP - as many as you need
- Basic spam filtering for email
- Access to web host's backup (even if paid)
- Decent Fully Featured Control Panel (eg CPanel, HSphere, Plesk) - not a cut down crippled version of same
- Set up databases, at least 1 MySQL database
- Ability to run Cron jobs for automated scripts
- Change A, CNAME and MX records
- MySQL5 and PHP7
- Other really technical features like ssh admin, FTP over TLS, support for CURL, depending on your needs.
Super duper features I won't say No to!
- Free SSL Cert - either webhosts that allow you use OpenSSL's free cert, or actually have it installed so that you can use it an no extra cost. See the Webhosting Tables.
Irish web hosts have become very competitive over the years. One look at the Webhosting Tables 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
I'll divide these into 2 types - overadvertising features that should be there anyway, and avoiding features that you might regret later on.
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)
- 100% satisfaction guarantee (doh? human beings are never bloody satisfied...)
Avoid these like the plague
- Free .com/.org/.net - I've said it already SO DON'T GET CAUGHT OUT! - shell out the the ten bucks and register your domain with an ICANN approved top level registrar. This way YOU own and control your .com/.net/.org domain name, not your webhost.
- Create your own website software (read a salutary tale )
A friend of mine went ahead with one of these and created a pretty decent looking site. After some months he rang me and asked why it still wasn't showing up in google. One look and I realised what the problem was. The entire site had been created in Flash. It's a common application used for dummy-proof site builders. It's also pretty much inaccessible to Google - hence, no search engine results.
- Submit your site to a gazillion search engines (Just don't. Google will find your site and the gazillion others will find Google).