Hosting is the one thing that can make or break your website. Hosting is the link between your content and your readers, and it needs to be solid as a rock. Before I explain my own hosting choices, let’s look at some of the most important attributes and features of a hosting company and the questions you need to ask.
C’mon. We all know this is important to everyone. If you’re an SME, you can afford world class dedicated hosting, and this article is not for you, but individuals, solopreneurs and very small businesses are always running on a budget, and so they are looking for the best value hosting they can find. This is shared hosting of course, but it doesn’t have to be rubbish at all. The range of prices you will pay for shared hosting is enormous, anywhere from $3-$50 a month. Finding that sweet spot between value and features is a difficult job, but starting with the best value plans and researching the companies is a good way to start. Do they have good reviews? Have you tried googling, “hosting company + review”? Don’t assume because one company is charging $30 a month, their hosting is way better than one offering a special deal of $4 a month. In the hosting jungle, it’s quite possible the $4 deal actually offers much better hosting. I’ve had clients paying $50 a month per site for limited hosting and not even getting any support. So it makes sense to start with the cheaper plans, avoiding the obvious nobodies and resellers, looking for the company who is offering great value, but also great service. Research is the key.
While this can be important, it’s nowhere near as important as it once was, and it depends on your site and your viewer’s connections. If you have a global website, it might be best if your server is physically located in the United States. If you have a site that services only a small geographical region in Australia, then a server in the States might slightly slow things down (but remember we are mostly talking milliseconds to a few seconds here, so this is not a huge issue). Some hosting companies will also offer a range of locations for their servers, so you can choose the best one for your website. It might be the States, Europe or the Asian Pacific region.
This is obviously a big issue. I have quit hosting companies because of it. I got sick of clients ringing several times a month telling me their site was down. Any hosting worth paying for will have an uptime north of 99%, and preferably close to 100%. Scheduled downtime is sometimes unavoidable, but again, good hosting companies will plan ahead and give you plenty of warning.
Experience & Security
Now that websites are no longer simple html and css files, but more often than not database driven dynamic Content Management Systems like WordPress and Joomla etc, it’s now important that your hosting company supports and has experience with you platform of choice. The more experience they have the better. A good hosting company will stop security breaches at server level, stopping them from infecting your site. They might even offer extras connected to the specific platforms, like auto installers and updaters. If you’re using WordPress or another CMS, it’s important to choose a host that understand that application very well and takes their security very seriously.
This is the elephant in the room. And it’s a huge elephant. You might think you don’t need much customer service with hosting, that it all should just work. And yes it should. But setting up new sites, transferring them, backing them up, restoring them in the event of disaster; there are a lot of instances when customer service is not only a good thing, it’s an essential thing. Good customer service is the key to a smooth hosting experience, and a lot of hosting companies really suck at it. It should be 24/7, and be available in a variety of forms, from support tickets, chat and telephone.
Siteground is the company I have chosen as my host. After much research and reading reviews I gave them a go, and in the two years I have been a customer, I have been positively surprised time and time again.
They have AWESOME customer support. I hardly wait more than 10 minutes for my support tickets to be answered. Admittedly, I am on a plan with priority support, but even when I wasn’t they answered the tickets just as quickly. They also have a local phone number, chat options, and are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. That’s service. And the best thing is that they have solved all my issues very promptly, and the only single time I wasn’t entirely satisfied with a response, and let them know, I got a message from senior support very quickly taking care of the issue personally and apologising for the staff member (who was still under training).
Siteground have been in business 10 years now, and are no fly by night hosting company. They have enormous experience in both WordPress and Joomla, and have a range of extras on the provided Cpanel that can assist CMS users, including Script installer, auto-updating, and a great new caching plugin. When there was a recent worldwide WordPress threat, they stopped it at the server level, and are always updating and improving security at the server level, as well as providing tools for the user to secure their own site. They also run a very active blog, which lets users know about the latest equipment updates and about features they might not know about.
As far as uptime goes, I have a monitor in my hosting account which tells me the uptime of my hosting over the last year, and it’s sitting on 100%. Bit hard to beat that! And because the websites on my server are primarily geared to an Australian audience I have chosen that my sites are hosted on the servers in Singapore to cut down any trans-Pacific lag. Best of all though, I can host as many websites as I want on my hosting plan, and that plan is available for only $7.95 a month!!! After the initial booking period it’s $14.95, but even that is dirt cheap for this sort of service.
So do yourself a favour and lock in three years of awesome hosting at unbeatable rates. You won’t be disappointed. You even get a FREE Domain name for one year!! If I have at all convinced you of their virtues, please use my affiliate link and go get yourself some of the best and cheapest hosting this side of Sofia!