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The Complete Bloggers’ Guide to Web Hosting

This is a guest contribution from Jerry Low.

Blog hosting can be a confusing thing to navigate, particularly if you’re new to the blogging game or just striking out with your own domain. If you look at WordPress’ previous official web hosting company recommendations, there are three hosting companies suggested – DreamHost, Laughing Squid, and BlueHost.

While I fully agree that these three are quality hosting companies, I wouldn’t label them as the best WordPress hosting choice for every blogger.

For example, DreamHost is a bit pricey for someone looking for an option that fits into a tight budget. The servers at BlueHost could be too packed for someone looking for extra reliability and CPU power. Laughing Squid is not a choice I’d recommend for a newbie or a non-techie.

Just because one host is one man’s meat, it could be another man’s poison. A lot depends on your specific needs as a blogger, your budget and even which features you may want to add to your site in the future.

With that in mind, I want to teach you how to pick the right web host for your blog instead of following others’ recommendations blindly.

What makes a good web host? 7 must-know factors

1. Reasonable Price

Some hosting providers target uninformed shoppers and are extremely overpriced. This is why it is important to compare multiple web hosting companies and what they offer in their packages.

User Friendly Control Panel: Both cPanel or vDeck are easy to use and there are many online tutorials on various blogs to talk you through their use. Beware of a customer built dashboard. They are very hit or miss and can be downright painful to use sometimes.

2. Helpful Customer and Technical Support

Make sure you can contact the host 24/7 for tech support. In addition, there should be multiple ways to contact the hosting company, such as via email, a ticket system on their website, and via telephone.

3. Reliable Server Uptime

There is no excuse for repeated downtime. The site simply must be up most of the time. It is best to try for a site that has a 99.9% uptime guarantee. 99.5% is (just) okay, but the 99.9% is preferable. Make sure they offer a guarantee. Don’t just take their word for it either. Track your site’s uptime with tools like Uptime Robot and Pingdom.

4. Payment Plans

You have to be comfortable with the payment plan. I’m okay with a yearly subscription if there is a decent discount, but other people want more flexibility. Just because you don’t mind a yearly subscription now doesn’t mean that’s the way it will always be either. Look for a host with more flexibility, such as 1-, 6-, 12-, 24-month subscriptions.

5. Easy to Manage

The control panel should allow you to easily install WordPress or the content management system you want with a few clicks. If it is too complicated to install the software, you’ll wind up paying fees to have a techie do it and then your budget will be blown. Check out the demo control panel before signing on with a hosting company to be sure you can easily complete the tasks you’ll need to.

6. e-Commerce Features

If you need or think you might need in the future e-Commerce solutions, make sure you have access to SSH access, SSL certificates and even easy to install shopping cart platforms.

7. Room to Grow

Is the hosting company one you can grow with as your site grows? Can you upgrade to a VPS or a dedicated server? While it’s smart to start off with a good shared hosting account, you may quickly grow to a point where it just makes sense to upgrade. You don’t want to have to move your whole site if you don’t have to.

Understanding your hosting needs

It’s important to evaluate the specific needs you have for a hosting company. Otherwise you may fall into the trap of blindly following the advice of others and wind up with a hosting company that doesn’t meet your needs as a blogger.

Questions to ask yourself or your hosting provider:

Do you need email hosting?

Do you want [email protected]? If yes, then you will need to stick with hosting companies that provide email hosting. Keep in mind that an email with your domain name looks more professional.

Do you need large storage for media files?

For example, do you plan to upload unique videos, infographics, or high resolution photos? If yes, you will need to get a host that offers large storage solutions. However, be wary of hosting services with unlimited storage as some of them will limit your storage usage by capping on your inode usage. Ask your web host before signing up about inode usage. Anything below 100,000 inodes on a shared web host is unacceptable.

Do you expect the site to grow fast?

If yes, then you probably need to stick with a web host that provides room to grow. More traffic = more data transfer and CPU power. Look at the cost of bigger packages and private hosting. Some hosting companies offer a cheap rate for small packages, but charge much more than they should for larger ones.

What other additional services you need?

Do you need server root access? Do you need someone to backup your site for you or automated backup? Do you need automated malware scanning? These could be deciding factors on your hosting choice.

What is your level of hosting knowledge?

Do you need spoon-fed support or you can pretty much cover everything yourself? Do you prefer phone calls over live chat; or vice versa? If you have very little knowledge, look for a hosting company that caters to newbies or offers inexpensive tech support packages.

Can you tweak and secure the WordPress yourself?

Do you need a developer to do it for you instead (some hosting companies provide web development services)? Check carefully the cost of such developer services. Does the company charge by the hour or by the task? Will they teach you to manage your own backend on the server or will you be paying them for all eternity to update your site?

Is the server location important?

If you are not planning to use a CDN, then you probably want a server that is closest to your blog targeted audience so your blog loads faster for them.

Protecting yourself from a bad web host

There is nothing worse than paying for a year upfront only to realize your blog hosting company is downright horrid. There are some things you can do to protect yourself from a bad web host, though.

  • Register your domain name with a third party registrar even if the hosting package comes with a free domain name (use that free one for a domain to park on top of your main one). NameCheap and GoDaddy are my two favorites for registering a domain.
  • Check if the web host IP is black listed – use Spamhaus Block List.

Once you’ve already committed to a website:

  • Track your site uptime using free tools like Uptime Robot and Pingdom.
  • Backup your site regularly. Even if the web hosting company offers a free site restore/backup option, backup your site anytime you do a major update. There are many nightmare stories about complete websites being lost forever.
  • Ensure that all files are using the correct CHMOD permissions. CHMOD permissions range from 000 (no access) to 777 (full access). You can use a FTP tool to check and set the right permissions on each folder and file. Filezilla or Cute FTP are two examples, but there are many free and paid FTP software solutions out there. Choose the one that is easiest for you to use. Typically, you can right click on the folder on your web server within your FTP program and see what the permissions are set to.
  • Use a strong password and change it regularly just in case your password is stolen by someone working in the hosting company.

So how do you pick a good host for your blog?

types of web hosting

If you are just getting started with blogging:

  • Pick a web host that you can afford for at least 2 years. Your blog may not make any money at all, particularly at first, so you want to be sure you don’t have to shut the blog down because of lack of funds.
  • A reliable shared web host should be good enough for now. Just remember to check about space limitations and check uptime.
  • Right now you should focus on building useful content and growing your community. You should spend more on marketing and content. Get a good newsletter service and start building your email list, start social media marketing ads, get in touch with local bloggers and hire them to promote your blog, etc.
  • Ask questions about customer service and if they will help you understand running a website because you are new to blogging.

For seasoned bloggers:

  • As part of your job now is to make sure your readers can navigate smoothly within your blog. You need a very reliable and fast web host.
  • You should track your site uptime and response speed with tools like Pingdom and Uptime Robot.
  • Monitor your blog memory usage and know your limit – once your blog hits 80% of the allocated memory (this the usual bottleneck you’ll first bump into with shared hosting), then it’s time to consider upgrading to VPS hosting.
  • Also, consider using an SSD hosting for faster site speed.

Do hosting reviews matter?

As someone who makes a living writing hosting reviews, even I would say that it depends. Sometimes reviews don’t matter at all, because:

  1. Hosting reviews are sometime useless as reviews are affected by commission payouts (although many of us try to keep things unbiased as much as possible).
  2. Real users who are not affiliated with web hosting companies and write feedback are either very upset with the service or extremely happy with the web host. Those in the middle, who likely can easily see both the pros and cons, may not comment at all.
  3. Haters gonna hate. People tend to leave feedbacks when they are angry. Big companies – with tens of thousands of customers – are bound to have negative comments. Pay attention to the negative reviews, but understand that may not be the whole picture.
  4. Some web hosting shoppers have unreasonable expectations. When those demands aren’t met, even if they are unrealistic, they are angry and leave bad reviews.
  5. This is why every hosting company – no matter how good they are – will have negative reviews. Weight the positive and the negative to get a clearer picture.
  6. What’s important is to see how these hosting companies handle critiques and negative comments. Are they trying to improve? Are they polite to the complaining customer or dismissive?
  7. But in reality, most of the time, the hosting service is doing okay – slightly better than expected or plain mediocre. Perhaps the hosting service is nothing to shout about, and yet nothing awful enough to complain about. You seldom see hosting reviews that say the service was average.

On the other hand, hosting reviews can help you get a clearer picture of whether a hosting company will work for you or not:

  1. A good hosting affiliate will give you the inside picture and let you decide if the host is right for you. I am not going to tell you to sign up for a web host I personally didn’t think much of, because that would impact my reputation and trustworthiness. Most hosting affiliates feel the same way.
  2. Don’t want to read those small texts in TOS? Want uptime records for a web host? that’s what good reviewers do for you. They dig down into the important information and share anything you really need to know to make up your mind. For example, the following images are uptime record I made for my InMotion Hosting review at WHSR.

hosting uptime sample

The Big Picture

The bottom line is that you have to look at many different elements to figure out whether a web host is right for you. Read hosting reviews to discover what others think about that host. Then, run your own test and ask your own questions.

Trust your gut instincts when making the final decision about which host is most suited to your needs. Never be too lazy or afraid to switch hosts when things turn bad. Even a great host can grow too fast or all under new management and become the opposite. If you’ve given a host a few months for things to settle and things aren’t improving, then it’s probably time to shop around.

About Jerry Low

Jerry Low – geek dad, SEO junkie, founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed.
Connect with him on Twitter
or find out more about him at his personal blog The Real Jerry Low.

  • Hi Jerry,

    Server uptime is paramount to me. I recall staying with a big box host which suffered through extended down periods. Check that. I suffered. But when I changed plans with a smaller company my blog was up 99.5% of the day or more and I also had some serious speed compared to my prior experience. Not slamming anybody. Just stating how it was. I pay a premium too but all worth it. Old plan $7 a month. New plan $15 to $25 a month over the course of my coverage. The pound fluctuates vs the USD and the company is located in Britain.

    All your points rock. I make uptime and speed A1 and A2 on my list then go with hosting that does not break my bank. I also gave up on cheap hosting too as for the longest time I tried to find the best deal, but learned finally from being burned. Thanks Jerry.

    Ryan

    • Hey Ryan, thank you very much for your comment and support. I appreciate it very much.

      Yes you are right – while not cheap web hosts are bad, I’d say you get what you pay for in the end. Especially for someone with such a popular blog like you – it’s better to stick with a VPS ;)

    • I also get very good uptime from my hosting provider Ipage with only one or two brief few min down times per month but my big prob is that I can’t combine CSS or JS files which show in all site analyses as being the cause of high loading time. When I do try to combine them, it does not get saved but reverts back to the weebly template provided by Ipage and all the templates are this way. When I tried to create the site from scratch in WordPress, as soon as I add a couple vital features like contact form the site becomes larger that my Ipage template. Any suggestions? Will going with WordPress make the site likely higher in size but still load much faster because of efficiently combined CSS & JS files? Thanks.

  • Very good article. I’ve been having a bit of trouble choosing a web host. Thank you.

  • Hi Jerry,
    Tons of information for a safe web host. Thank you for this post. I don’t care what an web host costs but I should be getting at least maximum uptime for my servers.
    thank you.

  • Hey Jerry, Thanks for sharing this great article. Obviously, when you have more choices, then you have much better offers and services to select. I think that leading companies in this industry are BlueHost, Hostgator and you can still count few other services like Dreamhost and some others.

  • Hi Jerry,

    I sincerely love the way you presented your points: deep, passionate and unbiased – just the way it should be.

    It’s rather unfortunate that almost all hosting companies today profess a 99.9% or even 100% uptime. My question is this: how do you figure out these liars before you open up your wallet?

    Do enjoy the day – you write beautifully and professionally.

    Always,
    Akaahan Terungwa

    • Akaahan – truth is you can’t be 100% sure all the time.

      The best way to avoid those liars is by testing them yourself and tracking the uptime closely at first month. If anything goes wrong, ask for a refund and move your sites elsewhere.

      You can also get info from hosting reviews that publish updated uptime scores (like what we do at WHSR – http://www.webhostingsecretrevealed.net/hosting-reviews/) but those numbers can only be your reference. Keep in mind that hosting company can place reviewers like us on a less crowded server box so we get better readings than the actual situations. And we have no way to find that out. So… it really depends on your very own experience to determine what’s good and what’s not.

  • DNN

    One thing many people don’t understand is purchasing quality web hosting is an investment in their online business. It’s a wise choice to pick a good web host because your online business will depend on it, in terms of handling large sums of web traffic, quickly caching blog posts or webpages to search engine and social networking visitors, and helping your site stay online when other web hosting companies’ servers experience downtime.

    • Exactly! I have seen more businesses I can count here in Malaysia (where I live) hosting their websites on a crappy host or free platforms such as Weebly or Wix or Blogspot … it looks so unprofessional and these guys have no idea how important it is to run their *BUSINESS* on a reliable platform.

  • Web Hosting is one of the most important element of a website, I don’t understand why people often choose to switch their hosting just to save a few bucks and later they face losses due to the bad support and downtime. I also recommend everyone to use top notch hosting sites so that you don’t losses and stay up all the time.

  • Great article. Does anyone know a web hoster that not only has minimal down time but also has templates that combine CSS & JS files for optimal loading time and uses current fonts that are up to current W3C standards? Thanks.

  • Thanks for this great article. I have had some major problems with finding a good hosting company and your guide will surely help. I hope to make a better decision next time by following your tips. Thanks once again!

  • I used to have the habit of looking for a web hosting that offers the cheapest price, but later on I found many obstacles, such as frequently server downtime, maintenance schedules are too frequent, as well as technical support are not so good.
    I do know is that the low prices greatly affect a quality.

    Thank you for the information. This article is very worth reading.

  • Nice Article. Most bloggers are looking at a cheap price and unlimited hosting package compared to the quality of hosting. This is not the right thing to do. Reasonable prices or cheap prices must be accompanied by reliable hosting service.

    As a beginner, shared hosting plan from BlueHost, HostGator and DreamHost is more suitable for them to start.

  • well company im hosting with is not really that good when it comes to down time but overall performance is satisfactory. im with krystal.

  • Very well said. Choosing a good web hosting service is a daunting process, not to mention expensive. The factors that you’ve mentioned in considering a good web host are practical and if they are met, writers can stay away from trial and error. It is the foundation of your business, so one has to make sure that it is reliable. It is also good that you mentioned that reviews matter and gut feel also plays a role in decision making.

  • Meera Shah

    Most bloggers are looking at a cheap price and unlimited hosting package compared to the quality of hosting. This is not the right thing to do. Reasonable prices or cheap prices must be accompanied by reliable hosting service. Shared hosting is opted to host any type of website with limited resources. Starting with 1GB RAM and some Bandwidth.

  • There also many new comers in web hosting dedicated for wordpress. Even bluehost Mediatemple and many started wordpress optimized hosting for better performance. If you have high traffic wordpress then go with any of the above or cloud vps based wp sites.

  • kriya

    I was with bluehost for mosting my 2 blogs. I didn’t recieve good support when i faced issue, so moved to hostpappy’s managed wordpress hosting.

  • Nazakat Munawar

    Some great points on the various options. This blog got the contents that helped me a lot into understanding the web hosting. Thank you for sharing this valuable article.

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