The most common question we have people asking us is about website hosting.
And whilst most people will not give this choice much thought, it is actually a very important decision.
Building your site on the wrong host is like building a house on unstable soil.
Sure, it might look fine when it is first built, but it won’t take long before the cracks start appearing.
In website terms, those cracks are generally intermittent technical issues that are difficult to track down. Really, who needs those sorts of headaches when you’re trying to run a business?
It’s much easier to avoid them in the first place by using a good host.
But how do you know who you should get to host your website?
Types of Website Hosting
Before you can select the right website host for your site, you need to understand the different types of hosting available.
This is where we get in to some jargon busting. Don’t worry – it’s all pretty simple.
This is where the one server hosts many websites (sometimes thousands).
It’s like having lots of programs running on your own computer – everything works fine as long as they all behave, but if one starts using too much processing power or memory then all of the other applications suffer too. Same goes for the websites on a shared host.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
This is where you are given dedicated use of a portion of the server’s resources. From your point of view, it looks like you
have your own server, but with a lot less processing power and memory.
The load from other sites won’t affect your site, but your site will be unable to cope if it suddenly experiences a surge in traffic.
In this case, you are given sole use of a full physical server. All the processing power and memory are yours to use as you want.
The downside – you need to manage the whole platform, including the operating system and web server.
So unless you have your own technical support department, or you are a technical guru yourself, this is not normally an option.
Technically, this is built on top of either a VPS or dedicated hosting platform. The difference is that the configuration (of the servers and WordPress itself) is better tuned to support your WordPress site. Good managed hosts will also look after security, speed and updates for you.
The downside (in addition to the cost) is that you will generally be limited in what you can add to your site – this is done so that they can maintain the integrity of the platform.
With this type of hosting, your site doesn’t exist on just one server, but is copied to multiple servers around the world.
When someone requests a page on your site, the closest server with a copy of your site provides that page.
It is supposed to be faster and more immune to outages, but in reality it just ends up being more complex and more expensive.
Which type of hosting should you choose?
For most people, a good shared host will be ample when starting out. Only once you are getting a massive amount of traffic will you need to consider moving to a managed host.
Things To Consider
OK, so now you know you really only need a shared host when you are starting out. But it needs to be a good one, otherwise you can end up spending most of your time dealing with problems that just shouldn’t happen.
So how do you choose a good shared host?
Here is a list of things you should look for (in no particular order):
At some point you will have cause to contact support for help with your site. And that’s not the time to find out they are a pain to deal with.
Always contact support when you are assessing a host and see how they handle your request. How long do they take to respond? Does the response actually resolve your query? Can you even understand the response?
Most shared hosts don’t understand the technical configuration required for optimal WordPress operation, much less implement it. As a result, your site could experience issues.
Worse still, many hosts will simply blame WordPress and leave you to find a solution when problems do arise.
Make sure your host knows about WordPress and is prepared to support any issues you might have (and no, offering a 1-click installer does not constitute supporting WordPress).
It also pays to do a bit of research to see if other WordPress users are happy with the host you are planning to use. For instance, it doesn’t take much digging to find that there are plenty of issues with hosting WordPress on GoDaddy, despite how good they make their hosting out to be.
Supports Multiple Sites
Some hosts and/or hosting plans only allow you to have one website on the account. Since some of the strategies we discuss in this ebook rely on multiple sites, you need to make sure you are on a plan that supports them (both through additional domains and sub-domains).
The industry standard management console for hosting accounts is cPanel. But not all hosts use it – some prefer to use their own custom control panels.
Whilst custom might sound good, I have not seen one yet that is easier to use or more fully featured than cPanel. In fact, most of the custom control panels I have seen are a bit of a pain to work with.
Not to mention that it is harder to transfer a site from a host that uses a custom control panel than one that uses cPanel (yes, you may need to move host at some point).
How quickly your site loads has a major impact, both on a visitor’s perception of your site and the ranking Google gives it in the search results.
You want a host that is optimised for speed.
This one can be a little hard to assess up front, but if they are calling it out in their sales literature then it is a good indication they take it seriously.
Sure, you need to take responsibility for protecting your own site. But there are things that hosts can do to ensure their servers are as immune as possible to the attentions of hackers, and that one compromised site on a server does not bring down, or infect, all other accounts on the same server.
This is another one that is hard to assess unless you are technically minded, but again, if they make a big deal about it then you can be pretty comfortable they take it seriously.
No shared host will promise your site will be available 100% of the time – web servers are computers after all, and they will go down from time to time. However, a good host will offer a 99.9something % up time guarantee.
When it comes to hosting companies, size does matter.
Hosting is a low margin business, so to stay in business, a hosting company needs to host a lot of sites – or they need to cut corners (which leads to problems for you).
Boutique hosting companies may sound funky, but unless their prices are significantly higher, they are not going to be around too long.
Notice that there are a few high profile absences from the above list:
Choosing based on price will pretty well guarantee you problems down track (corners have to be cut in order to keep the cost down and still make a profit).
Besides, $8 – $15 per month is not a lot to spend to provide a solid platform for your business.
I often hear people say you should choose a host with servers in the same country as your audience. Whilst this may have been good advice 10 years ago, things have moved on, and (good) overseas hosting doesn’t adversely impact your site’s load time.
Besides, e-courses can reach a global audience, so which country would you choose anyway?
And no, Google doesn’t care that much which country your site is hosted in when determining where to rank you in the search results – it might make a minor difference, but only if you have everything else perfectly optimised (and who can say that about their site?).
Bandwidth and/or Storage Space
Choosing a hosting plan purely because it offers “unlimited” storage and “unlimited” bandwidth is a bit like choosing a house because it has a roof. Sure, you need a host that can cope with your traffic, but the other factors are much more important.
There are a few things to keep in mind here:
- You rarely need as much bandwidth or storage as you think you do, especially when you are starting out.
- Any plan that passes the criteria listed above should have ample bandwidth and storage for your needs.
- “Unlimited” accounts generally have pretty restrictive processor limits (buried in the fine print), which will throttle your site well before you reach any reasonable bandwidth limits.
If you already have a hosting account that meets all of the above criteria, then there is probably no need to change. But if you aren’t 100% sure, then it may be worth getting the right hosting upfront. Yes, you can change later, but it becomes more painful.
Not only do they have great general support, they are only too happy to help out with WordPress issues as well (and they know what they are talking about). Their servers are specifically tuned to support WordPress and they are serious about security.
Although we run on the GoGeek plan, you will probably only need the GrowBig plan to get started if you’re planning on a main website and potentially a membership site. If you’re just starting with one main website, then the Startup plan will be fine to start with and you can always upgrade later when needed.
Cost: $89.40 for the first year (GrowBig plan)
If you’re on a host that you’re not happy with, don’t be afraid to move your site to new hosting.
Siteground will move your site over for free and then you can ask your old host for a pro-rata refund if you still have time remaining with them.
Your website is your business shop-front online, it’s important that your site is available to your visitors and potential customers.
Are you just getting started and need help?
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