My first experience with a web host left me with a sour taste in the mouth and dark circles under the eyes. I was super pumped to finally create a self-hosted website. I had thought about it for weeks and finally got my hosting plan.
I logged in and tried to install WordPress a million times through the “one-click-install”, but failed again and again. (Pro tip: if it doesn’t work twice, it won’t work until you try something different, ugh).
I tried FTP, didn’t work either. After a couple of days, I called customer service. They were very friendly but completely unable to help me, so I canceled the whole plan.
Then I did something I should have done BEFORE signing up. I did my research.
1. What do you really need?
This is the first question you should answer. Where are you in your business? Do you have an existing website that generates traffic? Or are you starting out from scratch?
Knowing WHAT you need is going to guide you through the three types of hosting plans on the market. If you’re just starting out in business, you’ll probably get low traffic at first.
With a shared hosting plan, your site will be hosted on a server alongside a number of other low traffic sites (30 to 60+). If a website on the server uses too much resource, your site will be affected too and slow down. That’s why it’s cheap.
That being said, shared hosting is what I recommend for starters. You don’t need a Ferrari when you’re learning how to drive. Same concept.
On the other hand, if your site drives traffic like a morning train in Tokyo, you’ll need to look at VPS or dedicated server plans. VPS (Virtual Private Server) is a server that also hosts multiple sites but these sites are independent from one another unlike the shared server option. So if a site on the VPS uses too much bandwidth, you won’t be affected.
It’s more powerful than shared hosting, your site will be faster because you’ll have more bandwidth and you’ll be able to have a bigger website overall.
They’re the big mamas of web hosting. And that’s why they’re so expensive. Your site is the only one hosted on the server. This option is interesting only if and when your website reaches a high amount of traffic.
Look for bandwidth not disk space
One of the main goals of your website is to generate traffic. And traffic will use bandwidth not disk space. Even if you have a big website, as long as you’re not hosting heavy media like videos, your site won’t be much bigger than 1 to 3 GB.
When your site “breaks” – as in too much traffic for your server to handle – you have exceeded the bandwidth limit. Try to avoid this like seeing uncle Bob in his summer speedo since downtime for your website means downtime for your business.
2. Do your research
Yes, do it! I know, booooooring but seriously, don’t be lazy on this one (like I’ve been…) it will save you a lot of time and frustration. Since we were talking about downtime, unreliable web hosting will have a lot of that on a regular basis for no good reason.
First things first: There’s no such thing as “unlimited”. Everything has a limit (except MAYBE the Universe?).
When a company advertises “unlimited”, it always makes me cringe. Because when you go over that unlimited limit they’ll notify you – if you’re lucky – and ask you to stop and respect the limit of the unlimited, otherwise they’ll suspend your account. Read the fine print and the angry stories on the net.
So before annoying things happen, here are two websites you can stalk.
Hostjury is the TripAdvisor of web hosting
Users leave comments and ratings on their experiences with a gazillion companies. I think they’re virtually all there even if smaller ones don’t have reviews yet. This can give you a general idea of what’s in store for you.
One thing to remember though is that most of these reviews will come from people using shared hosting. Since it’s the cheapest, everybody and their cat hosts a website on shared server as long as it’s not high traffic (hint: most websites are not high traffic).
Different plans, different quality
Keep in mind that a company might be awful at delivering decent quality shared hosting but good with VPS and dedicated server.
Lots of big companies have bad user reviews
Interestingly a number of the big names in web hosting are really poorly graded. My bad experience was also with one of those big companies and after I did my research I understood that the huge number of raving reviews across the web mostly came with affiliate links.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those companies suck or those affiliates are scammers. I’ve since then worked with clients whose websites were hosted by one or the other big name and encountered no problem. What I’m saying is that popularity doesn’t necessarily equals top quality.
Web Hosting Talk where you… talk web hosting (Crazy, I know!)
You can ask questions about anything regarding web hosting. A great place to start if you’re unsure of the kind of plan you need.
As a general guideline when something looks too good to be true – as with all things in life – it probably is.
Web hosting grows with your business.
When you’re starting out or if you’re in business but don’t have a website yet, it often makes sense to get cheap shared hosting. You can always upgrade when the time comes.
Since I don’t want to leave you empty handed here’s my recommendation. Take it with a grain of salt since this only reflects my personal experience. But the fact that I haven’t had to switch makes an excellent point in my book.
They’re the host of this very website and I’ve been mind-blown by the way they communicate and treat their customers in general. I’ve found virtually no negative comments on them when I researched the company, which speaks volumes in the hosting market.
One of the selling points if you go for shared hosting is that they’re cheap (and they’re honest with the fact that cheap IS limited).
(Full disclaimer: NOT an affiliate link :)
Are you going to be completely out of trouble because you put in some work before buying? No. But by making an educated choice you will spare yourself a lot of headaches.
Now I’d love to hear where you’re hosting your site in the comments. What do you love or hate about your web host? Any horror stories or love stories?