One of the first choices new bloggers and business owners agonize over (ya know, after they finally decide on a name for their new venture), involves picking a web hosting company. There are a lot of choices out there ranging from the suspiciously cheap, to the painfully expensive. With so many choices, how do you choose a web hosting company that’s right for you?
I’m going to tell you about some things you should consider when shopping for a web host, what to look for in a hosting company, and even a comparison of the 4 hosting companies I have used with over the past 10 years.
Things to Consider
There are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself before you start researching web hosting companies. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you narrow them down easily:
What is my budget?
Hosting doesn’t have to be expensive, but you should consider that you are likely going to spend at least $10 per month for a hosting plan – possibly a few dollars more on average if you have a WordPress website like mine. That said, you should keep a budget in mind. Some hosts are much more expensive than others – usually because they offer extras that you may not even need.
What are my hosting needs?
If you’re like me, you have multiple WordPress managed websites. Because of this, it makes better sense financially for me to find a host that offers an affordable package that allows me to have multiple websites. You may not need all of that, but availability of packages is the first thing to think about.
Even if you don’t need to host multiple websites today or aren’t ready for dedicated hosting (that’s when your website gets its own server, instead of sharing it with other websites), the ability to upgrade later is important.
What to Look For in a Hosting Company
Not all hosting companies were created equal. Here are some important features you should look for and areas you should research:
24/7 Live Chat Support
Let’s face it… things break and accidents happen. You want a host with strong, helpful 24/7 Live Chat Support. The internet waits for no one, and you shouldn’t either.
Prices: Hosting Signup vs Renewal Cost
Most hosting companies offer a generous, low signup cost for the first month with an increase in price on renewal. Be sure to find out what that renewal cost is, because otherwise you might find yourself paying $5 for the first month’s fee… and $15 unexpectedly the following month.
Also related to pricing is the subscription period. Some companies claim to offer stellar, reduced rates… but only if you subscribe for a certain period of time. These reduced rates are typically based on an annual subscription, but be sure you understand what you’re signing up for so you don’t find yourself hooked into a 5+ year subscription (seriously).
Easy-to-use Hosting Control Panel (cPanel)
cPanel is an industry standard, and it’s surprising that some hosting companies don’t utilize it. As important as it is to choose a hosting company for today, you also need to think long term. What if you decide to migrate to another host? – if you don’t have cPanel, you’ll find switching hosts very difficult later.
Routine Site Backup
While I cannot stress enough the importance of backing up your WordPress website yourself, it’s also important to have a hosting company that does routine backups. Having multiple sources of your backed up files can save you from big problems in the event of crashed servers.
Room to Grow
As I already mentioned, maybe you don’t need a package deal that provides you with the ability to host multiple websites or utilize a large amount of bandwidth… but one day, you might. Find a hosting company that leaves you with room to grow both in space as well as functionality.
Hosting Company Comparisons
Here are some hosting companies I have personally tried over the years, their pros & cons, and my overall experience with their hosting services. My experiences may differ from yours, and that’s okay. We’re all from different walks or are at different points in our blogging journeys. What was true for me, may not be for you. And so, I have included links to all 4 web hosting providers despite my opinion.
Probably one of the most well-known domain registrar / web hosting combos on the internet, GoDaddy attracts a lot of newbie bloggers – myself included once upon a time. I didn’t know anything about web hosting a decade ago, other than the fact that I needed one and GoDaddy was the only one I’d ever heard of.
- Affordable – even in long term
- Different packaged options to choose from
- Long wait times via e-mail ticketing for customer support
- Slower than average servers
- A lot of server downtime
My Experience: When I used GoDaddy, they did not have cPanel support. Instead, they offered their own control panel which was difficult and confusing for a lot of customers – especially those who are new to hosting. They have since switched to an industry standard cPanel.
Unfortunately, it felt like my website was always down for one reason or another – maintenance, technical difficulties, other customers on my shared server eating up all of the resources, etc. Ultimately, I switched to a different company because of the later, when GoDaddy basically told me that there was nothing they could do about the resource hog server-mates, and instead tried to sell me on a dedicated server far beyond what my little HTML-based website needed.
Not well known, but an oddly affordable web hosting company – especially if you just have an HTML-based website you’re looking to host. I made the switch to JaguarPC at the recommendation of an old friend who happened to be a Network Administrator and had been using their services to host his websites for a few years.
- Extremely affordable – especially long term
- Packaged Options to choose from
- Excellent hosting re-seller options for businesses
- Complicated cPanel arrangement
- Poor customer service
- Not WordPress user friendly
My Experience: Coming from GoDaddy, JaguarPC seemed like a dream come true. They are so super affordable and they offer a lot of bang for your buck. That is… until something breaks or you need customer service assistance, which for me was often after I started utilizing WordPress in 2009.
Unlike other hosting companies, JaguarPC doesn’t offer a WordPress friendly specific hosting plan. That meant that once my website started to grow, I started experiencing server downtime as I became the aforementioned jerk that was hogging up all of the resources. I migrated away from JaguarPC for their lack of good customer service and multiple bad experiences with their staff.
That said, I recently reached out to them and had a very pleasant conversation with a member of their customer service staff. My hope is that they have improved.
Another well known hosting company, HostGator is home to a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of WordPress-based websites. I was turned onto them while doing some research as I kept hearing a lot of good things about them from friends and bloggers.
Unfortunately, HostGator is but one brand of the same holding company best known as EIG, which manages over 60 different hosting companies across the web (including Dreamhost, A Small Orange, FatCow, and BlueHost). This company is known for buying up hosting companies which customers later report seeing a decline in server up-time (because they overload servers) and poor customer service.
- Affordable package options
- Different plans to choose from
- Moderately easy to understand cPanel arrangement
- Good 24/7 customer service
- Owned by EIG & incredibly slow
- Although there are different plans, they don’t grow well with bloggers
- A lot of unnecessary ads and banners on cPanel
My Experience: I used HostGator with little to no problems for 4 years. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I was a happy customer and would have recommended them to anyone (and did… many times). It wasn’t until I started considering deleting some unused websites and their databases from my account that I started researching for other hosting companies I might consider trying.
That’s when I found this post about a blogger and a post gone viral (like, legit viral) and the mess they encountered with HostGator. Long story short: The blogger attempted to cover her bases and informed HostGator of the viral post. She was assured that she would be covered during the spike in traffic.
She wasn’t. And the next representative she spoke with treated her like she was stupid.
I thought to myself… “Oh crap. That could be me one day.” After a few technical difficulties that coincidentally followed after reading that post, and a recommendation to a friend gone that went sour… I decided to get serious about switching hosts. Most of my websites are still hosted with HostGator at the time of me writing this post as I am waiting for my contract with them to be closer to conclusion so that I get my money’s worth before moving away completely.
I’d never even heard of Siteground until this year when it came repeatedly recommended to me by fellow bloggers – without a referral link attached. That spoke volumes to me, so I decided to check it out. Their packages are a little more expensive than I’m accustomed to (if you need one that allows for multiple WordPress sites like I do), but still within the affordable range – especially if you opt to pay annually vs monthly.
- Affordable package options
- Different plans to choose from
- Very easy to understand cPanel arrangement
- Excellent 24/7 customer service
- Exceptional Speed & Load times
- Maybe a little more expensive
My Experience: Remember… I wasn’t really all that unhappy with HostGator, and yet when I switched to Siteground, I found a level of satisfaction I didn’t even know I was missing out on. I have been impressed with Siteground almost daily since the switch and I’ve already started to recommend them to my blogger friends. I actually cringe now when I try to blog on my lifestyle blog, which is still hosted at HostGator – because it’s slow by comparison. Yikes.
The customer service with Siteground has been stellar – both helpful and sincerely kind. Their cPanel is so straightforward – and this coming from someone who didn’t find cPanel particularly difficult to understand in the first place.
Who’s Your Host?
I’d love to hear about your experiences with any of these hosting companies. Comment below and tell me what host you are using and why.