A Comprehensive Guide On Choosing The Right Web Hosting Company
You will need to host your website/blog somewhere. Most guides just tell you to use the host they are promoting with their affiliate link and don’t really explain much. I want to give you some practical insights. Choosing a good host is an art and somewhat of a gamble.
Many people are on a tight budget and only consider the price when picking a host. While I understand this expense could be a strain, you may need to make a compromise on this. You need to be careful to use a hosting provider that is actually reliable.
Your host is a big component in determining your website speed. One second delay in site loading can increase your visitor bounce rate by 7 percent, so it’s pretty important. There are also times when you cannot resolve something by yourself and lack of quality customer service will cut across your project and it’s not worth it. At the same time I agree that you don’t want to overpay if you don’t utilize your host’s service limits.
Different Server Types
Most websites that offer you a host never tell you these details, but they are really important to understand.
A server is just a computer where your files, and also other people’s files, are stored.
There are shared, dedicated and VPS servers. These three terms represent how many people share the same server for their website.
- On a shared host there are hundreds of accounts on the same server. Examples are the free hosting, the $1 hosting, or most of the advertised hosting services that can cost up to $10-$15 a month. This means that a hundred people share the same hard drive space, memory, CPU speed and bandwidth. These resources are not shared evenly. If there is a spike for one site and it uses up 80% of a server’s resources, this leaves the other 99 other users with the remaining 20% or worse.
- A VPS (Virtual Private Server) is still shared, but usually between fewer users and the resources are evenly distributed. If there are 5 users on the same server, they would each get 20% of memory for example. If one user tries to go above it, their website may fail, but the websites of other users will be fine.
- On a dedicated server, you are the only user of the server and all its resources. This completely gets rid of the “bad neighbor” effect and you have more resources at your disposal than with a VPS. However you will need to have a techie to manage your server.
- On a cloud hosting there are several servers available to provide resources. These will step in as needed, therefore your downtime will be close to zero.
Which Type of Hosting Is Best?
If you have a small WordPress website with tens of thousands of views a month it doesn’t really matter if your server has 1 GB of RAM or 4 GB.
However your server location will make a huge difference. If the server is in the US, you will receive data from it faster if you are in New York than if you are in Paris. Pick a host that has servers close to the location you are trying to serve. Your site will load 6 seconds faster. If you target worldwide, you will need to use a CDN.
Only use shared hosting (including the $1 hosts) at the beginning. Most of these cost around $2-$7/month. But understand that they all give you, to a degree, unreliable service that goes down due to others overusing resources.
I also don’t recommend getting a dedicated server. This is for those who understand server technologies or for websites with extremely high usage. If you have a website which is so popular it requires dedicated servers, you will need to employ someone who knows all about it.
A VPS is a great way to go after the initial time. They could cost around $25 – $50 a month. VPS servers are free from the bad neighbor effect, they give you more resources.
Another option is managed WordPress hosting. This type of hosting is built for WordPress. On a VPS you could run any application you like, managed WP hosting only allows WordPress. As a result the servers are built specifically for WordPress, offer server-level caching and other stuff that will make your WordPress site run extremely fast. The price is usually a lot more expensive than regular shared hosting.
Cloud hosting is the latest form of hosting that has become extremely popular over the past few years. The resources required for maintaining your website are spread across more than one server, and are provided as needed. This greatly reduces downtime in case of a server breakdown.
Another noteworthy aspect is that cloud hosting allows you to manage peak loads easily, without facing any bandwidth issues, since another server can provide the additional resources in such a case. Your website relies on a cluster of servers that work together and are called “the cloud”.
The best real-time example for cloud hosting is Google itself. Google has its resources spread over hundreds of servers on the cloud, therefore you’ve probably never seen any downtime for Google.com over past decade or so (I don’t remember seeing it down.)
Don’t Use Free Hosting
Some people are obsessed about using a free hosting service, which I only recommend if you are just testing your project, or while you are preparing all your pages and posts. The only advantage of a free hosting is that you don’t need to pay any extra fees upfront. When your site gets enough traffic, you will need to upgrade to a premium account anyways or migrate your site to a paid host.
With free hosting you will have the following problems:
- your hosting services are limited
- disk space is small, 100 MB to 1 GB
- slow server speed
- customer service usually means searching in a forum
- it doesn’t provide SSL.
I have used several free hosts myself and I listed the best free hosting services for testing your project.
The Best Hosting Compromise
As a good compromise, even if you are on a shoestring budget, I recommend that you at least get $1/month hosting. Literally you can get cheap hosting for $10 a year. This is a good compromise when you start out, as you get 24/7 customer service, a faster server and many times even a real SSL certificate for free.
One thing you need to watch for with $1 hosts is the following: In their ads they only advertise disk space and bandwidth. There two more factors which you need to watch out for, which you usually need to dig out.
- Obviously your website will need to use memory. This is not usually a problem for a WordPress site, but it could become a problem.
- The other hidden factor is CPU usage limit. I tried a host before where a few hundred visitors a day maxed out my CPU usage quota every 10 minutes and my website was going offline. And they were asking me to upgrade.
But also understand that this is not a plan you keep forever, you will eventually need to upgrade when you need more resources, it is just a great compromise in the meantime.
The Affordable Hosting Choices
I am not going to put a full hosting review here, but I will list the main problems with the most-promoted web hosts:
When I built this site with Scala Hosting, I paid less than $6 for 6 months of hosting.
At the time of writing this post, it’s $3.95/month on their mini plan, however they have a 6 for 3 promotion, so basically for $11.85 you get 6 months of hosting, which is enough time to decide if you want to continue with your project.
- You get 10 GB storage space for your sites – you can host unlimited number of sites, as much as you can fit into the 10 GB. My site at the time of writing, with over 70 posts and pages, only gets to about 200K.
- Unlimited bandwidth
- You get a free SSL (green lock) for your site from Let’s Encrypt.
- Great 24/7 customer service (chat or ticket), automatic backups.
- You will have about 5 minutes of downtime every day, per my experience.
- And, most importantly, your site will not exhaust the CPU resources until it gets to about 3,000 visitors a day.
- 30-day money back guarantee
It’s really the best short-term compromise you will find between price and quality, check it out.
Realize that you will eventually need to migrate your site to a different host, which can be a pain if you are not technically inclined, and it’s even bigger pain if your site is already active and has traffic, as it will interrupt your operation and may affect search engine rankings also.
But theoretically you could spend your first six months on the cheap host, make some money and use your income to then move over to the smart solution that I show you later in this post.
Another cheap alternative is NameCheap.
You can host 3 websites for $10 for the first year, however you get limited CPU that may cut off your website per the reviews I read. You can check out their plans here.
It’s a great host, but a $3.95/month introductory price for hosting which goes up to $6.95, with the ability to host 1 domain only, is not really the jackpot.
BlueHost is the WordPress recommended host with over 2 million websites, and you get a free domain name for the first year.
However there are complaints of slow customer service (10 minutes to an hour) and limited CPU usage. Simply put, if Bluehost thinks your website is taking up too many resources, they might decide to preserve the server resources by freezing your CPU usage.
You can host 1 website for an introductory $3.95, which then goes up to $8.99. No uptime guarantee (but it’s true they have a 99.9 percent uptime) and no automatic backups.
The Smart Hosting Choice:
- 50 GB storage
- Unlimited add-on domains
- 99.9% Uptime
- Fast Support
- 24/7 support via phone, live chat or ticket system
- 45-day money back guarantee
- On top of it it’s green, using wind energy to power its servers.
This is a great choice for long-term thinking.
It costs $2.99 per month if you buy 3 years, which means you pay $108 and you will not have to worry about your hosting for the next 3 years and you can build as many sites as you can fit into the 50 GB.
Check out the smart choice, Temok hosting. Ensure you select a data center that is close to the area you want to serve.
Your Web Hosting Account
When you sign up, you usually get some kind of a subdomain automatically, based on the user name you provide. So make sure you pick your user name accordingly.
You can use your own name, in which case you will have a yourname.xyzhost.com subdomain or your can use your business name. In this case you will have a yourbusiness.xyzhost.com, which sounds a lot better.