When it comes to choosing a web host, the options can be daunting. There’s so much to consider and it can be a big investment. You don’t want to blindly choose a host and wish for the best. You need to do your research. But if all the hosting jargon has you confused, I’m here to help. Here’s everything you need to know about hosting.
What is hosting?
First things first, what is hosting? Hosting is buying space on a server for your website files to live. If the domain is like the address to a house, then the hosting is the plot of land where your house is located.
Why should I buy hosting?
You should buy hosting if you want complete ownership of your content. Additionally, if you’re looking to place ads or customize your site beyond the basics, buying hosting is the way to go. Plus, it’s required if you plan on going the self-hosted WordPress route.
What are the different types of hosting?
There are a bunch of types of hosting available, so what’s what? What do you really need when it comes to a host for your blog? Here’s an overview of the most popular hosting types.
Shared hosting is where you rent out space on a server. One server might house hundreds (or thousands) of sites. Similar to how sharing an apartment with roommates is cheaper, shared hosting is the cheapest hosting option. Shared hosting won’t have a ton of bells and whistles, and it can be slower (depending on your host), but for someone looking to launch a site/blog, shared hosting is a good choice.
WordPress hosting is when your host manages all the technical stuff that comes with hosting and you’re left to manage your site. In terms of hosting, this one is probably the simplest in terms of technical know-how. The only downfall about this is that it’s for WordPress only, as the name implies. If you’re running something other than WordPress, then you’ll have to look into a different hosting option. This option is usually a bit more expensive than shared hosting, but is still pretty affordable.
Reseller hosting gives you the opportunity to sell hosting to other people. You are responsible for managing their hosting and acting as customer service. You probably won’t want a reseller account unless you’re a web developer looking to host client sites.
Dedicated hosting is where you rent out a server that is dedicated solely to you and your site. This gives you flexibility and control over the server as your site will be the only one hosted on it. Usually you won’t need dedicated hosting unless you have extremely large amounts of traffic or if you have special server needs that can’t be supported on a shared server. This is the priciest option and definitely not necessary for beginner bloggers.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. When you buy VPS hosting, you are buying server space on a shared physical server. However, the space you purchase is acting as a dedicated server, running it’s own operating system. This means that you’re getting the best of both shared hosting (lower cost) and dedicated hosting (flexibility and control).
Cloud hosting uses a network of servers for hosting sites and offers similar features as a VPS. However, while on a VPS you’re limited in scalability, with cloud hosting, there are no limits. You can add resources as your site needs grow.
What should you look for in a host?
Each host offers something different in their plans, so it’s important to look closely to see exactly what each one is offering. Don’t just solely choose based on price. So what should you look for?
The first thing you’ll want to look for in a host is what hosting options they have available. After all, if you’re looking for WordPress hosting and a host doesn’t provide that option, the rest of your criteria doesn’t really matter.
This is the amount of space you have to store all of your site files. Now it will be a bit difficult to figure out exactly how much space you’ll need, but worry too much. I would aim for 10GB as a starting point. That’ll give you plenty of room to grow, while not being a ridiculous amount of space. And something else worth mentioning: some hosts offer “unlimited” space. Space cannot be unlimited, so what they really mean is a decently large amount of space that the average site won’t use up. But if your site grows big enough, you’ll definitely hit a limit and be forced to upgrade.
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred. Every time a page on your site is loaded, you’re using bandwidth, so a larger site will use more bandwidth, while a smaller one will use less. Likewise, a more popular site will use more, while a new site that only has 100 pageviews a day will use a lot less. So how much bandwidth do you need? Calculating it can be tricky, but luckily hosts have made it easy for us. Look for how many pageviews per month a plan is suitable for. This will give you a good estimate on whether a plan will have the right amount of bandwidth required for your site.
When you buy hosting, one of the most important things to look for is support. There will be a time when something goes wrong or you just can’t figure something out, so having good support is vital. Look for 24/7 support with a quick response time. Also keep an eye out for how a particular host handles support. Do they have a phone number you can call or is everything done via chat or a ticketing system? How would you prefer to get in touch with them? Make sure your preferences lineup with what they offer.
Amount of Sites Allowed
Do you plan on hosting more than one site on the same hosting plan? If so, you’ll need to check to make sure a host allows that option. Look for the amount of addon domains offered. That’ll tell you how many sites you can host on your plan.
If you’re planning on using your host to create a professional email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), you’ll want to know if they allow you to do so. Check to see if a host allows you to create email addresses, and if so, how many they allow. Some hosts will allow 5 email accounts, while others are unlimited. Think about how many you’ll need and plan accordingly. If a host doesn’t offer email, all isn’t lost. You’ll just need email hosting to handle your email. Google Apps for Work is my email provider of choice.
Installing WordPress and other apps can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing. Many hosts offer 1-click installs that allow you to quickly install WordPress, which makes things a lot simpler. If this is something that you’ll need, make sure your host offers it.
If something happens to your site, wouldn’t you like the piece of mind of knowing that your host is making backups? Some hosts offer backup services free with their plans, so definitely look to see if it’s offered. That being said, you can’t just rely on your host for backups. You need to be making your own, but having your host making backups adds an extra layer of security should something go wrong.
How long do you want your site to be up for? 100% of the time, right? Well, while 100% might not be humanly possible, you’ll want a host that has an uptime percentage as close to 100% as possible. Usually a host will list their uptime on their site, but if not, do a quick Google search. Sometimes you’ll be able to find it that way. And if not, it’ll lead you to uptime reports that individuals have put together.
Some hosts offer free domains (for your first year when you purchase which is a great selling point if you want to keep everything in one place.
If you already have a site and are looking for a new host, an additional thing to look for is site migrations. Many hosts offer free migrations when you purchase their hosting, which means they’ll do all the work of moving your site so you don’t have to. Definitely something to think about if you want to save yourself time and energy.
How much does hosting cost?
Hosting prices vary depending on the amount of space you want/need. Typically, prices range $5-$15 on the low end, to well beyond that. But keep in mind, when it comes to hosting, you get what you pay for. Cheap hosting might look good, but as your blog grows you might run into problems. If you can afford to go with a better host from the beginning, do yourself a favor and do so. It’ll save you from a bunch of headaches in the long run.
What are some good hosts?
Ask anyone with a site to recommend a host and you’ll get a ton of different responses. Now while I’m sure there are plenty of good hosts out there, there are only 3 that I personally recommend.
SiteGround – SiteGround is my preferred host (and is what my site is currently hosted on). They offer 3 tiers of shared hosting ranging from $4-$15/month, in addition to WordPress hosting. Support is great and sites load fast. If you’re looking for an affordable option, this is it. Sidenote: I’d advise you spring for the GoBig plan as it comes with premium support and caching.
Flywheel – Flywheel offers WordPress hosting starting at $15/month. Although I’ve never used them, they come highly recommended from a bunch of fellow designers/developers. If you’re looking for a great host without having to deal with all the technical stuff that comes along with hosting, Flywheel is a good choice.
WPengine – Another great option for WordPress hosting is WPengine. Plans start at $29/month for one WordPress installation. WPengine comes recommended by other designers and developers, but I’ve personally never used them.
What hosts should I avoid?
Steer clear of GoDaddy. Web designers and developers HATE GoDaddy and many of us (me included) will NOT work with a site that’s hosted there. Sites hosted there are often very slow and are just a pain to work with, so you’ve been warned.
Also try to avoid any EIG hosts if possible. EIG is a large company that owns a bunch of hosts (including Bluehost, A Small Orange, and HostGator among others – view the full list here). While I personally don’t think EIG hosts are anywhere near as bad as GoDaddy, they’ve been known to have poor support and problems with sites going down so try to avoid if possible.