One incredibly important factor in the success of any website’s performance is the quality and features of the website’s hosting provider. Web hosting is the service which serves your website to anyone who wants to see it, analogous to a waiter in a restaurant. The quality of your experience when dining out is largely dependent on the quality of your table’s server. So it is with websites.
For non-webmasters, knowledgeably selecting a website hosting service is incredibly confusing, if not impossible. Heck, it can even be tricky for webmasters! Between navigating technical lingo and wide pricing differences, the shopper is at risk of overbuying (purchasing unnecessary features) or underbuying (overemphasizing low cost). To avoid making the wrong choice, consider the following before making the jump:
1. A hobby website can get away with entry-level hosting, but an ecommerce or business site cannot. With website hosting you get what you pay for. You just won’t have great customer support, 100% uptime, speed and security for $5.95 per month. Consider the following: will you lose money or market visibility if you site goes offline? Will you consider downtime an emergency? Being honest about the importance of your website’s accessibility will help you make a better decision on price and value.
2. The pricing of web hosting service is trending upward overall. The days of decent $3.95 per month hosting service are over. Of course, this has to do with the profitability of web hosting companies, but also with increased technical demands of security and bandwidth. As it’s difficult to be profitable at those lower pricing points, there’s been a big trend toward consolidation and specialization in the shared hosting market. The result is a hosting market with fewer providers and a decline in technical and support quality among the remaining low-cost players.
3. The web hosting industry changes rapidly. I remember the days just a few years back when Bluehost was considered a great WordPress hosting provider, and my own experience with them was great. Even WordPress recommended them. Later they (and other hosts) were bought and consolidated by a larger company. Quality and customer support plummeted as a result. Other well-regarded hosts, like LiquidWeb, abandoned the lower-cost shared market to focus on enterprise hosting and dedicated hosting services.
Important hosting features and insights…
- Top-notch customer service is a must. My picks (for WordPress sites): SiteGround and WP Engine. GoDaddy is also acceptable for less mission-critical websites, as they will at least answer the phone…a service not to be assumed as a given in the web hosting industry! Bluehost is generally terrible for customer support, but has been a bit better the past few months.
- Are you hosting a WordPress site? General hosting will work, but WordPress-centric hosting is generally a better choice.
- Free SSL. This used to be a nice “extra” – it’s now a must. SiteGround and WP Engine offer it, along with SSL upgrade options. GoDaddy’s pricing on SSL is exorbitant, given the current market, charging a “sale” price of $59.99 per year for a basic certificate. This is out of step with current standards, as Google is basically requiring SSL in the near future for indexed sites.
- Ability to host multiple domains. Not everyone needs this, but this feature can save money if you have more than one business or set up specialized promotional sites under alternate domain names. Most hosts’ more advanced plans include this.
- Reliability. This is very difficult to gauge, as it’s experience that counts. This is where a webmaster’s advice is helpful. There’s “review” websites – but many of those can be either outdated or skewed by affiliate marketing. GoDaddy is reliable overall, but can be spotty. I’ve had clients with a great experience with them, and some, not so much. Bluehost used to be great, then simply tanked. Lately, they have been better, but I no longer recommend them.
Bottom line: get a webmaster’s perspective before committing to a service. If you have questions, I’m happy to help!