In itself, the only difference your hosting provider directly makes to SEO is availability and speed of page download (which is in the process of being factored into ranking equations by Google). However, your chosen hosting environment will dictate which technologies you can choose for your website and publishing platform and the level of access can have an effect on SEO measures.
This article discusses various considerations that will help you decide what sort of hosting environment to opt for, but you should consider your publishing platform in the equation when choosing a hosting environment.
Free shared hosting
You can find several hosting companies offering blogspace or sponsored webspace for free. Often the catch is that you have to display (unpaid) advertising on your website – there’s no such thing as a free lunch. You will also most likely have restricted access to the webspace, so you can only create pages through a specific blogging engine or page template, with no FTP access. This can affect your SEO, because you may be unable to add a sitemap.xml or a robots.txt file (discussed in more detail in [taxonomy] on this website). Even if you are given the freedom to upload files through FTP, the liklihood is that you won’t be allowed to run any server side scripts (.Net, PHP, etc), which limits your choice of publishing platform. Furthermore, the amount of space available to you will most likely be limited. This type of hosting may be suitable for a small non-commercial blog, but is unlikely to be much use to even a small company.
Paid for shared hosting
With the current level of competition in the market and ever decreasing hardware and storage costs, decent shared hosting can be found at a reasonable price. Paid for shared hosting will almost always give you access via FTP, no adverts, the ability to use at least one programming language in your web pages and use of a database. The space will generally be an allocated area on a single server. With most hosting companies, you can scale up or down to suit your choice of functionality, with costs scaling accordingly. Things to bear in mind are: how much space you’ll need (will your website need to incorporate a lot of imagery or locally hosted video?); the amount of bandwidth for potentially busy websites; do you want or need to use a particular programming environment (e.g. Windows & IIS with .Net/PHP, Linux & Apache with PHP); do you need a database (MySQL/SQL Server)? To run almost any CMS or blogging software, you will need to run server side scripts of some sort and a database.
On the whole, webspace running on Windows & .Net environments costs more to rent, which is one of the reasons why globally Apache is the most popular web server, at the time of writing. Having said that, in the great scheme of things, when compared to marketing and even development budgets spent on a website by even a fairly small company, hosting and webspace are relatively small percentage and it’s best to get a platform you’re happy with, rather than trying to save a little money.
A more scalable form of shared hosting, this allows you to have a slice of virtualised webspace shared between many servers. This means it can deal with large traffic spikes and will have the ability to give you more processing power as your business grows. Prices are generally flexible and can be based on a monthly cost allowing a certain amount of space, processing power and bandwidth, or are pay as you go, based mainly on bandwidth & processing power. For a small website, this option is a bit more costly than standard shared hosting, but for larger or multiple websites, it can prove more cost efficient.
It’s possible to host even a very large corporate website on shared or cloud hosting, but if you need a greater level of freedom and the ability to access settings on the server, a dedicated server is the way to go. You can either go for rack rental or managed hosting (where you pay a company to setup and house a server and host on their public facing network) or you can purchase an internet line or an entire datacentre, buy your own hardware and go it alone.
Going with this option will mean you have complete access over what you’re hosting, the ability to schedule tasks and, but unless you’re running your website on a desktop from your house (in which case uptime and response speed are likely to suffer) it will most likely be the most expensive option.