So you've spent countless hours trying to find a great system to use for your new website. Or maybe you just stumbled on to Drupal. Next up is a possibly even bigger issue. You have to pick a host. While you need to be careful in making your decision, I hope this guide makes it easier for you.
Drupal server requirements
Drupal has very basic requirements. All you need is a server with at least PHP 4.3.5, MySQL 4.1 and Apache 1.3 or IIS 5. Drupal recommends, and I agree with, that you have PHP 5.2, MySQL 4.1 or higher and Apache 2.2 or IIS 7.
I personally recommend that you stay away from IIS, also known as Windows hosting, as a server because URL rewriting does not work nearly as well, and you may run into several other small issues. Support for the Apache web server is much better.
PHP4 development has been stopped, so at this point it is considered insecure. While Drupal runs under PHP4 it is very strongly recommended to only use hosts that run PHP5. If you find your server is still running PHP4 you will want to either find a new host or ask your host when they will be upgrading. In upcoming versions of Drupal they will be removing support for PHP4 as well, to introduce better functions to help the software run faster.
You will also want to be sure you're on a server with Apache 2.2. Both PHP and Apache agree that both run best when running PHP5 and Apache 2.2.
Who has these covered?
Most hosts will have the server software requirements covered. The software, however, is but a very small portion of what needs to be covered. Your host should be running high-powered, enterprise-grade hardware. This includes at least 2 CPUs with 4 cores each (8 cores total), hard drives in RAID10 configuration and 8 GB of RAM. RAID10 hard drives offer not only the fastest speeds but the greatest redundancy in the case of hardware failure.
Many hosts who run this type of hardware still do a disservice to your site but overselling their servers. This causes your site to be slower than it should be. You can get around this by finding a host with a no overselling guarantee. A host with a no overselling guarantee can help assure a faster site for you.
Should my site be loading faster?
It is branded to work with Joomla, but it works great with any site. After it runs you will want to scroll all the way down to the "Grades" section. The number you're interested in is the Generation Time. This number tells you how fast your server was able to generate you page. For most sites this load time should be between 0.3 and 0.5 seconds.
Bonuses you can be on the lookout for
If you are not an experience Drupal user you may want to find a host that has experience with it. When you run into issues, the host can help you. Some hosts even include this as a part of your normal hosting fee..
The feature that most people forget about, until they need it, is a real backup system. And in hosting it's a matter of when you'll need it, not if.. The majority of hosts just setup the default backup system that comes with the control panel. This setup often includes just leaving backups on a second drive in the server. Doing backups this way is a ticking timebomb and is asking for trouble. That, and restoring a single file on your site is a huge headache you don't need. You should be looking for a host that not only stores backups in a separate datacenter, but is using what's known as continuous data protection (CDP) backups. CDP creates several backups of your site each day. You can restore your entire site, a single file, or anything in between. You can also choose from several different restore points for each file. When you mess up your templates index.php file you don't want to have to download a week-old cPanel backup, extract it, find your file and upload it. With CDP you use the web interface to select the file you want and the time you want to restore it from, click a couple of buttons, and the file has been restored for you.
So which company fits these?
A number of hosts touch on at least a few of the points above. What you won't find at most hosting companies are the no-overselling guarantee and the continuous data protection backups and those are probably two of the most important things mentioned on this page.
BuyHTTP is one company that does meet all of these requirements. They have been offering Drupal hosting for several years. BuyHTTP also offers the no overselling guarantee with the enterprise-grade servers.