Having a strong online presence is completely mandatory nowadays.
However, a lot of people simply dread making decisions related to hosting.
Why? Because it can be really confusing and unless you’ve done it before, half of the things web hosts talk about sound like techy-mumbo-jumbo.
So, how do you choose the best hosting for your website?
Well, not every website building platform requires you to find your own hosting package (like Shopify, Squarespace, WordPress.com, etc). But if you’re looking to build your website on WordPress.org, this post will come in handy!
When you use WordPress.org, your website is referred to as “self-hosted”. This means it’s not owned or operated by the WordPress company, but by an outside source….aka a Hosting Company.
(This post may include affiliate links but I would absolutely never recommend something I don’t use myself or 100% believe in….because no one needs Bad Business Karma knocking on their door.)
Real Quick: What is web hosting?
Web hosting is the place where your website lives on the internet, so that other people on the internet can access it.
You can think of it like a house that stores all your stuff; but instead of storing your clothes and furniture, you store computer files (codes, documents, images, videos, etc).
In most cases, “web hosting” refers to the company that rents out their computer/servers to you so that you can store your website. So basically, they provide Internet connectivity so that other users can access all of the things on your website.
Can you host your own website?
Absolutely! But in order to do that, you would have to own a server, which is basically a supercomputer capable of running this whole operation. And that can get expensive, and time-consuming to maintain.
Why is finding the right hosting solution a big deal?
Website hosting plays a big role in your website’s speed, security, performance, maintenance, and traffic optimization.
If you choose the wrong hosting package you could open up your website to hackers, lose traffic because of slow loading times….or on the other side of it, pay for features you don’t need yet.
So to help cut confusion, here’s a brief overview of the most popular hosting options for your website, as well as some criteria to help you decide which hosting package is right for your website.
Popular Hosting Options:
1. Free hosting:
The simplest way to describe free web hosting would be to say that it is a non-paid hosting service.
While to some this may sound a bit too good to be true, there’s both advantages and disadvantages to this free hosting solution.
Usually hosting services that provide free options are forced to operate on limited resources, usually, without any profit to back it up so they either fund themselves through advertising or limit the amount of usage and features that each user receives. This is totally not a deal breaker if you’re starting a hobby blog, or not looking to get serious online.
Free hosting services are usually a subdomain or a directory of free host websites. This can potentially diminish the first impression that you make by making your domain name generic. (like the ever popular whateveryourdomainnameis.wordpress.com) — which is a huge reason why this option isn’t a good one for your business website. Having a domain like that, right off the bat, gives your website visitors the impression that you’re not that serious.
And also, due to the fact that you are not paying anything for hosting, you also receive limited customer support, if any….(totally not cool if you’re trying to host a website for your business)
Pros: It’s free, duh! Perfect for hobby blogs.
Cons: Little or no customer service, limited features/usage, potential ads taking up space, stuck with using a sub-domain.
2. Dedicated server:
Basically the complete opposite of free hosting. Having a dedicated server allows you have an entire server with its memory and processing power for you to command. The biggest downside of this solution is the fact that it also means you have to bear all the expenses and all the effort surrounding the maintenance of the server.
This is perfectly fine for those who have an entire IT department on their retainer, but not as great for startups and small businesses.
A dedicated server is especially great for websites that expect a rapid growth in the next several months. (We’re talking about more than 30,000 unique visitors per month.)
Not sure how many website visitors you have? Follow this tutorial to sign up for free Google Analytics!
Pros: That whole server is dedicated to you. Perfect for maximum control, and high traffic websites and blogs.
Cons: The price is higher and maintenance can be a pain in the A.
SiteGround* offers Dedicated Servers starting at $229/mo
3. Shared hosting:
The third option is kind of like a crossover between the first two. So, instead of purchasing or paying for an entire server by yourself, you are sharing this responsibility with other users.
Basically, you share ownership of the server with other fellow users.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right? The drawback of this idea lies in the fact that you never know who else is on the same server and a single misdemeanor by another user can get the entire server blacklisted (so to speak).
Aside from this, you might siphon much less power than some of the other users, while paying the same price as them. In other words, this method is the cost-effective crossover between free hosting and a dedicated server.
A good rule of thumb is that websites that expect about 20,000 unique monthly visitors or less shouldn’t have any problem with shared hosting.
This is probably the most popular option for small business owners and bloggers.
If you’re looking for shared hosting, I always recommend that my clients go with SiteGround* Their customer service, support, and servers have been wonderful. Every time I have a question, whether it’s for my own website, or a client’s, they always take the best care of me.
SiteGround Shared Hosting* offer’s 3 tiers:
The best one for your business depends on how many website visitors you get per month, how many websites you need to host, how much website space you need, and if you’re looking for extra features like website staging and PCI compliance.
But regardless of the option you choose, SiteGround makes it a BREEZE to update to the bigger option. This is a really big deal if you’re looking to grow your website and plan on needing extras down the road.
Pros: Cost-effective and the perfect option for small businesses and startups.
Cons: Your website’s performance can be affected by other sites on the same server.
4. VPS cloud hosting:
Another alternative to the dedicated server is the so-called VPS cloud hosting, which allows you to have a ‘virtual’ server that is hosted off several physical servers.
Why is this better than the shared hosting option mentioned above? The biggest advantage here lies in the fact that you can now get dedicated resources that are exactly as big as you need, without having to actually pay for the entire server.
VPS cloud hosting is also a great move for those who expect a rapid expansion. In a way, it is considered as a crossover between a dedicated server and shared hosting. If we are talking about numbers, one could probably argue that anything with more than 30,000 or even 40,000 unique monthly visits deserves a VPS cloud hosting.
Pros: Cheaper than a dedicated server, better security and more control over the server than Shared Hosting,
Cons: More expensive than Shared Hosting, still possible for your website’s performance to be somewhat affected by other sites on the server.
Things to Consider:
Aside from knowing the different types of hosting you can encounter, you also need to know a thing or two about some of the most important features of your chosen host….besides website traffic that we mentioned in the options above.
The first thing you should figure out is the price. and this is probably the easiest thing to get acquainted with.
Check out several different hosting companies websites, and if the information isn’t clear, don’t be afraid to inquire about their services. Sometimes pricing isn’t as obvious as it seems. For instance, if one host offers a significantly lower price yet restricts the number of features you will be able to use, this might turn out to be not worth your while.
As a starting point, you should know that most sign-up prices go between $4 and $8 per month, with some companies going as high as $30.
If you have questions about a specific package, price, payment plan, or how the process works, reach out to their support team. If your questions are answered quickly and effectively, it’s usually a really good sign that the company has great customer service. If the response takes way too long and their answers weren’t all that helpful, it’s prob a sign of bad things to come. (More on this below!)
#2. Renewal Price:
Isn’t this the same as the regular price? Not quite.
Price of renewal can be the same or significantly higher than the sign-up price. Some companies offer as much as $10 of a difference, thus tricking you to believe they are significantly cheaper than their competitors.
Needless to say, the renewal price is always a more important factor.
The next thing you need to focus on is the technical support you will be provided with. In the free hosting section, we already acknowledged that the lack of support might be a huge issue; still, this doesn’t even start to cover just how big of a deal this is.
You need trained professionals to fully manage your servers, tend to your firewall protection and deal with your SQL server options. (sounds complicated right? It is! That’s why you want to choose a company that will deal with this stuff for you.)
You also want to choose a hosting company that will answer your questions and helps you if you run into any problems. An awesome way to figure out how a hosting companies Customer Support is…..is by scooping out customer reviews. People don’t hold back when reviewing a hosting company, I’ve seen some pretty tough ones, but honestly, I appreciate the heads up. Reading reviews before purchasing is always worth it.
#4. Domain Name:
Is a domain name included in your package? This isn’t make or break. If you have already bought a domain name from another provider, you can still point that bad boy to whichever Hosting Package you choose. It’s actually best practice to buy your Domain Name and your Hosting with two separate companies.
What about the renewal price of the domain name?
Do they offer SSL certificates or encryption to make your website HTTPS?
What about webmail or custom email address? (Personally, I use Gmail for Business* for my email, but this is also something to consider)
#5. Room for Growth:
One of the biggest things to keep in mind is picking a hosting company that allows you room to grow.
If you expect your website to grow really big in next two or three years, then you should consider picking up a web host that has upgrading options (like being able to move from shared hosting to cloud hosting or dedicated server).
(Just another reason why I love SiteGround. They make this as painless as possible).
Website Hosting can be a daunting thing to decide on, especially if you’re not tech-friendly. At the end of the day, while a type of hosting is fairly easy to identify, the choice of the right host is not so simple. A lot of flaws and drawbacks can be seen only after you have already signed up with a certain host and by that time, it might already be too late.
Luckily, in the age of the internet, everything we do leaves a digital footprint, which should make it easy for you to see the feedback left by some previous clients of your future host. To make a long story short, as always in life, the more research you do, the lower the chance of something going wrong.
And don’t be intimidated by all of this! If you’re doing research on Hosting Companies and their plans, pricing, and features, just communicate with them. They’re usually more than happy to answer any general questions…and if they’re not, run away.
Raul is a B.Sc. in Innovative entrepreneurship and has a lot to say about innovations in all aspects of digital technology and online marketing. While he’s not enjoying travel, football and great food, you can find him on technivorz.com and bizzmarkblog.com!