For businesses that are growing fast in all directions, navigating the many web hosting options available can be a strenuous task but one that brings astounding results. A cutting-edge web hosting provider can scale with a business and provide safe, cost effective data storage and management solutions inside expert custodianship. Despite the variety of quality hosting choices, it does take some due diligence to land on a provider that fits the bill, and for companies that make Windows and related languages the focus of their business this goes double. Not every web hosting provider is capable of integrating fully with a Windows-based firm, and not all of the Windows hosting services are cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to fall under the spell of fancy marketing language and get lost in endless and sometimes irrelevant features, so we’ll show you a brief shortcut into how to best compare Windows hosting providers, and list a few of the market’s most proven choices.
Compare Windows Hosting
What is Windows Hosting?
Though many servers operated by web hosts use Linux for its flexibility and dense library of applications, Linux isn’t the only choice out there, and many companies elect to go with Windows technology instead. For websites that are already reliant on a stack of software which includes Windows, such as things like ASP.NET, .NET, Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, or another relevant program, it’s necessary to choose only those web providers that run complementary servers. This means Windows, and have no fear, because these hosting platforms don’t prevent you from using popular applications that you’d otherwise see on Linux. Windows hosting providers also support WordPress and other popular CRM and eCommerce tools, but there are without a doubt fewer than there are in any Ubuntu-based system. A platform using Windows Server may also charge licensing fees for apps you use as well. Most importantly, the best Windows hosting plan you obtain must also have the bandwidth, storage, and domain support features as well as being compatible with your underlying architecture.
When Should I Choose Windows Hosting?
If you’re using Windows software to manage your back end and have found your digital growth to be ballooning hosting costs, you should consider migrating to a new managed host quickly. Because you’ve also chosen to build a custom application using ASP.NET, .NET, or Silverlight, or to use Microsoft platforms such as Microsoft SQL or Microsoft Exchange, you’ll need to choose Windows Hosting as the first and most important criteria for your new provider. Without it, crucial functionality may go offline or break, and ideally this provider lends its hand to excellent speeds, uptime, service, and price positioning as well.
Windows hosting may also be preferred by websites with an IT team that wants their server interface to give more control. Instead of cPanel, admins on Windows appreciate Plesk for its better dashboard and ability to hide options that enable granular, precise control over domain names, databases, security, applied software, and server security. Finally, Windows may even be chosen by those with a purely Linux distribution and no Windows software, simply because it offers this expanded degree of control. This includes Debian, CentOS, CloudLinux and more. Remember that Windows compatibility works one way only. Linux hosting providers aren’t recommended for those with Windows components.
Main Benefits of Windows Hosting
If I had to narrow down the most prescient benefits of Windows hosting over its Linux alternative, then I and many other individuals who regularly spend hours inside the control panel will agree on these three Windows features.
.NET Framework Hosting
Microsoft’s expansive .NET language is vital for programmers who want absolute creative control over the dynamic web pages and services they build. Relying on Windows’ ASP.NET open source web application structure is what most do, and so .NET hosting services are necessary. The version of .NET framework your server uses should correspond to your preferred Windows OS, for example NET3.0 should be used with Windows Server 2008 or 2012.
Windows has a lot of money at its disposal, unlike Linux which is essentially a volunteered community effort. With greater, centralized resources come benefits to users who pick Windows, including more complete, streamlined server management features and bells and whistles than with open source. Integration with Microsoft products is effortless, and support is more proficient and well-versed in the ecosystem, lending to a better user experience than with Linux.
Plesk Control Panel
What to Ask Yourself When Considering Windows Hosting
It’s crucial to dive thoroughly into the array of options offered in any Windows hosting plan, because as they say, the devil is in the details. Ask yourself about the following concepts when browsing the best Windows Hosting plans on today’s market.
Several factors contribute to a Windows hosting service’s reliability. To hit the mark expected of the best providers, reliability means a guaranteed uptime and ideally speed as well. Those which provide a fixed figure won’t do so unless their guarantee exceeds 99.8% in most cases, and providers which back up the guarantee with a refund or rebate take the cake. Load time guarantees are rarer. Free features are also part and parcel to reliability, such as a promise not to limit storage or bandwidth, help with complementary domain migrations, and other services that show off its commitment to value.
Web admins using Windows Server wouldn’t be doing so if security weren’t a top priority already, and so a web host must also satisfy advanced requirements for encryption, IP blocking, automatic patching of relevant applications, and more. Plesk supports several excellent security extensions such as BitNinja, Cloudflare Servershield, ModSecurity, and others which automatically scan and shield your ecosystem from spam, malware, and viruses. Windows does not pinch pennies when it comes to protecting users, and even has a unique extension called Advisor, which enables one-click SSL and HTTPS on all your domains.
Compare Windows Hosting
How to Choose the Best Windows Hosting
Picking the correct Windows hosting provider doesn’t start with the shiniest perks or even coupon codes, but rather in these simple steps that after taken, lead to a shallower comparison of the final options and their value-added extras.
- Determine the most crucial components which comprise your business model and ensure that the Windows host you choose supports all this software, no questions asked.
- Security should be scrutinized against other options and ideally provide a wider range of tools than what you already have: downgrading security just to save money is scaling, or satisfy the needs of webmasters
- Once you know that all the functionality you need will be there, it’s time to sort through the remaining plans by budget. Look at how much you prefer to spend each month on a plan and compare the providers that have passed muster, with this in mind.
- Customer service is one of the final contests to determine which Windows hosting provider takes the podium, because it’s so central to the bottom line. Good support saves time on behalf of admins and accelerates a smooth migration, not to mention providing a backbone for future needs as well.
How to Install Windows Hosting
When working with your IT team to migrate a website or websites to your new Windows hosting environment, make a checklist that covers all steps beforehand, so that the transfer of assets like databases and emails goes off without a hitch.
- Ensure that your current environment is backed up in its entirety, and then navigate to the Migration and Transfer Manager panel of Plesk, after purchasing your chosen plan and logging in.
- Simply input the required details of your old server and configure your migration preferences. Here you can enter the root access password and ask Plesk to check the operability of all services after the migration.
- The Transfer Precheck menu will display any issues that pop up during migration. Some of the most common issues stem from modules that need to be updated to new versions before going on.
- After the migration has concluded, check to ensure that the main subscription domain, email addresses, FTP domain user, and customers or subscribers have moved over successfully.
- Propagate DNS changes by pointing the new host at your domain, and then double check to ensure all required software has been updated. That’s it—your site should be up and running like new.
Top 3 Windows Hosting Plans
While Windows Hosting support may often be relegated to the dedicated CPU server plans above VPS or shared plans, HostGator extends Windows compatibility to its cheapest and most bottom-barrel packages. These start at a reasonable $2.64 per month for one website and unlimited storage, bandwidth, and support for Access, Microsoft SQL, Windows Server, and others. Dedicated Windows server plans begin at a reasonable $79.99.
A robust and flexible Windows hosting environment, A2 Hosting offers web admins the ability to use ASP.NET, PHP7, Silverlight, and WordPress sites on the same server simultaneously. It also offers shared Windows plans from $4.90 per month, and the choice of either Windows Server 2012 or 2016. A2 also provides Windows VPS plans, and is ideal for more complicated migrations that have cross-platform needs.
Hostwinds is a great option for Windows-based websites, starting at $3.29 per month and offering 24/7 support, unlimited bandwidth and space, and more. One criterion where Hostwinds impresses is price, with VPS plans starting at just $7.50 for 25GB of space, 1GB of RAM, and 3.00Ghz processor. Its support team is available via live chat, email, and phone, and Hostwinds accepts multiple payment methods including, notably, Bitcoin.
Windows Hosting for Free
The broad scope that one considers when looking at Windows hosting, which is literally half of the market (Linux is the other half), makes for a wide selection of free options. Services like VPSie, Filetruth.com, and Euro-Space offer $0 plans for shared Windows servers, though with sparse enough features to justify their being complimentary. For the utmost security, hand-in-hand customer service, and full spectrum of features, it’s worth paying a few dollars per month instead.
My Conclusion About Windows Hosting
Thanks to the necessity of cutting out half the entire market, Windows hosting services are somewhat simpler to shop for, but vary somewhat in the auxiliary services they provide. Hosting providers that offer Windows servers usually include all the software support and compatibility required by any company that operates in a relevant Windows environment, so as long as these boxes are checked, it’s just a matter of looking at price and customer support. Uptime, speed, and the raw stats underlying server reliability are also crucial, but at the end of the day, it could be best to simply use the guidance laid out here as a starting point.