Where to host your WordPress site is an important decision because it significantly impacts your online success. To avoid dealing with the technical aspects, many site owners opt for the easiest way out. Unfortunately, that could cost them in the long run, including the loss of their site and domain, or the design that is attached to their branding. Here are some easy tips, in plain English, to help you choose the right host provider for you and your site.
What a Host Provides
All host services provide one basic thing, which is a big hard drive, called a server, where your site files are stored. It makes those files publicly accessible. The cheapest form of hosting is called Shared Hosting and is what most website owners use.
Think of it as a big filing cabinet. Your site files are in folder in one of the cabinet drawers along with other site folders, so they are all sharing the space on the hard drive together.
What sets one host apart from another is how much they charge you for the space you’re renting on their hard drive, the tech support they offer, and how many whistles and bells they offer you.
Most hosts now offer unlimited space, bandwidth, and emails for a set price. (Under 20 pages is considered a small site, which is what most folks have.) Unlimited bandwidth (file transfer) is like a hose pipe. Little files, like standard site pages, don’t need a big pipe. Big files, like video, need a bigger pipe to get delivered faster. (It’s best to actually store your videos elsewhere, like YouTube, Amazon S3, or Vimeo.)
Many hosts offer one domain name in their small packages and three or more for their larger packages. Watch for hidden charges on these.
Prices for hosting range from just under $4/mo to just under $10/mo. Beware of anything over or under that range for typical site needs. If it’s too low your putting your site at risk. If it’s higher, you’ll want to ask if you really need the extra options.
Most reputable hosts offer 24/7 phone support, which is what I recommend. That does not mean that all of their support hours are covered by their most knowledgeable folks from their in-house staff. Some outsource their support to folks who can give you only limited help with the most basic issues, and then open a ticket for more help the next day for bigger problems. Ask about this before you sign up.
Whistles and Bells
The most common additional features are listed below with an explanation of what they are.
Control Panel – Allows you to easily access site maintenance features such as creating new sub-domains, setting up email accounts, accessing basic log (stat) files, and installing programs and applications. cPanel is the most popular brand and the one I recommend.
SSL Certificate – Necessary for a secure transaction on an ecommerce site. It is also necessary for hosting files that will be used by other apps, such as those on Facebook. Reputable hosts will offer a shared SSL certificate for free.
Site Builder – Templates provided by the host that you can customize to create your own site. (Not recommended. Read 4 Good Reasons Not to Build Your Own Site)
CGI, PHP, and MySQL – CGI is necessary for some applications to run, although not many use it these days. PHP is a programming language and is required for WordPress. Be sure the host’s PHP version is current with WordPress requirements. MySQL is the database for WordPress and/or ecommerce sites with multiple products. For WordPress sites, you only need one database, even if you choose to have multiple sub-domains.
Free WordPress Setup – As a selling feature, many hosts will install WordPress for you for free, or suggest that you can easily do it yourself through the cPanel. Don’t do either. Read WordPress 1-click Installation is not Secure and Google Insists You Take Website Security Seriously. BlogAid offers free, fully secure, turn-key site setup.
Up-Time Guarantee – Most hosts advertise 99.9% up-time. That’s great, but if you do the math you’ll realize that leaves about a few days a year that your site could be unavailable. And, that does not account for situations that cause your site to run slow. Global server attacks have been negatively impacting all hosting companies since the summer of 2010. (For more on this, read Why so Many Websites Have Been Down Lately.)
Speed – How fast your site pages load is a Google ranking factor. A slow host is not something you can tolerate. There are several companies that specialize in WordPress hosting. They offer several whistles and bells, including super speed. They are not cheap, though. Neither is dedicated hosting, which will likely give you a little more speed too.
Purchase Your Hosting and Domain Yourself
I’ve made a living as a second site consultant helping good folks recover from losing their entire site and domain because they did not purchase them directly and therefore did not own their copyrights or have any security access info about their sites. And, I’ve created sites for folks who hit the limitations on DIY templates.
The all-in-one packages that some hosting companies and designers offer to make life easier for you are, many times, only the worm for the hook. They are capitalizing on your fear and ignorance of being a newbie. So, learn about it before you do it and don’t fall into those traps. It will cost you a lot more money in the long run.
Do Your Homework
Visit the BlogAid Resources page to see the short list of recommended host providers. If you don’t see a big name on that list, there’s a reason for it. When my clients are experiencing problems with their sites, no matter what the reason, they usually email me right away. Because of that, I only recommend providers that give my clients nothing to worry about and nothing to fix constantly, and only those that offer the best tech support and security measures.
My free e-book, What Every Site Owner Should Know, gives details on hosting bait and hook tactics, plus covers all the basic topics of site ownership. Even if you already have a site, I guarantee you’ll learn something you didn’t know from this little 20-page book. It’s free by subscribing to BlogAid News, which is a great resource itself!