[“How to choose a hosting service” was last updated in April 2017]
Hosting is one of the most important foundations for your website. It will help determine whether you’ll have…
- A dance party or chuck your lavender candle at the wall when something goes wrong (because you’ll either have 24/7 phone support or crappy Monday-Friday email support — so if your website breaks on a Saturday? GOOD LUCK, son.)
- A website that loads quickly and helps you convert visitors into subscribers and customers… or takes so long to load that your visitors pull an eyeroll (I’m not talkin’ sushi, unfortunately) and leave before getting the chance to become future clients (read: your biz dreams, crushed)
But let’s back up for a sec. What is hosting?
Here’s my favorite analogy: your website is your [environmentally friendly] car, your domain is the [non-toxic] paint on your car, and your hosting is the parking garage [run by a pack of hot guys]. Your hosting is where you “host” or store your car (website) to keep it safe from floods and car thieves (super villains a.k.a. hackers and viruses!). Boom.
Okay, super, now you know what hosting is and have an overview of why it’s important. There are endless hosting options out there… so how do you choose one?
There are a few pivotal factors to consider. Let’s check ‘em out, sassypants.
How to choose a hosting service
So how do you choose a hosting service? Things to keep in mind:
Do you want 24/7 phone support? I know I do! Or are you okay with just email or chat? What about weekends? You’ll probably need to tackle at least one emergency at some point, so keep that in mind.
If it’s a hobby website, it’s not a big deal, but if it’s your business website and it breaks/fails/worse? You better get that shizz back up ASAP is all I’m sayin’! (This also means you should have basic maintenance in place, like backups and security.)
Your specific needs
Do you have one small website or seven larger ones? This will dictate how much you require in terms of resources [a.k.a. a shared hosting plan versus a virtual private server (VPS) versus dedicated hosting]. Do you want to be in full control of what happens to your website, including updates, or have it managed for you (a.k.a. Managed WordPress hosting)?
If you want a managed hosting service, Flywheel (starts at $15/mo) and WP Engine (starts at $29/mo) are wonderful. Both are pricier than regular hosting because they, well, manage your hosting. This means they help your website load fast, take care of security, allow you to easily create a staging environment, make backups for you that you can easily revert your website to, and more. FYI with managed hosting typically you don’t get cPanel, as these hosting providers offer their own custom setup.
For a regular blog or smaller website, you can get away with a simpler hosting plan that costs a lot less (closer to $5/mo).
It’s important that you go with a host that has fast servers. How do you find out whether the hosting service you’re lookin’ at has ‘em? Google it, basically. Look for reviews.
Click here for more on how hosting affects your website loading speed.
Recommended hosting services
- I’ve been on Liquid Web since summer 2014 and they’ve been fantastic — customer support is stellar and these dudes are fast. First I was on their shared hosting, and then I got a virtual private server (VPS) as I needed more space and resources (read: powerrr). If you’ve got one website, you should be fine with their basic (a.k.a. cheapest) shared server plan (and if not, you can call ‘em and upgrade or even do it via email). Soooooo much win.
- [October 2016 edit: Another stellar service is Siteground. It also has rave reviews all-around and it’s way more economical than Liquid Web. I will most likely switch to Siteground in the near future.]
Both Siteground and Liquid Web provide great support, help your website load fast, offer cPanel, and lots of options and control over your files. Siteground even migrates your website over for free for you and offers free SSL (which means a faster website and better rankings in Google search results).
For Xena’s sake, stay away from Godaddy, Dreamhost, Bluehost, and Hostgator when you’re choosing a hosting service.
Why? Their servers are slow (your website will be slow to load = your visitors may get bored = click away before your compelling design and copy can pull them in to love you forever!) sometimes glitchy (especially with WordPress sites) and not all of them provide phone support. In a nutshell, GoDaddy is notoriously unfriendly with WordPress (their servers just work better with other platforms) and Dreamhost is sloooooowww. Bluehost is hit or miss, and Hostgator and Greengeeks are on the same boat.
Need help? If you need to switch between hosting services, hire a web developer or ask the new hosting company to do it for you (most of them do, either on the house or for around $100 per website).
Did you already choose a hosting service and now you’re ready for the next steps? Wahoo! For info on buying a domain, choosing a WordPress theme, and other beginner basics, check out this blog post.