In this post, you'll learn about:
- Why you need blog hosting
- 5 factors to consider choosing a blog host
- The three primary types of hosting – and which one you'll likely need
- How to plan for future growth
My first hosting package was with Network Solutions (more than 10 years ago). I chose them because they had convincing marketing – they looked like experts. All of the other hosts I considered used chintzy logos and sites – and I was scared to use them. As it turns out – marketing isn't a good measure of capability.
Choosing a good web host is an important step in your online business – here are the options and things you need to consider. But, first: Why do you need web hosting?
Why You Need Web Hosting
Web hosting is the place that your web site lives, where the files and images reside. While, technically, you could store your sites (and all of their files) on your computer, it isn't very practical. What happens to your site when you turn off your computer? It goes down, and no one can access it. What about when 500 (or 50,000) people try to access your site all at once? It will crash your computer. It is so impractical that no one actually does it.
Buying web hosting outsources the headaches of hosting to a company with huge resources that can handle whatever traffic your site receives. When you purchase a web hosting plan you are, in most cases, buying an allotment of space on a server. Through mirroring and redundancy, your server files remain stable and safe – even during most maintenance and server upgrades.
Other types of hosting plans are actually a rental of a specific server in a specific location. Instead of incurring the capital cost of purchasing a server, you can use one of theirs. In most cases, they handle maintenance and upgrades on the server. They'll make sure that it keeps working, so you can focus on running your business.
So before we get into the specific classes of web hosts there are a few specific criteria to keep in mind.
It's important to make sure that the host has the capabilities to manage your site, specifically with what you have in mind – and what you may grow your site into. Many of the hosts, including Host Gator and Bluehost, use cPanel (control panel) which makes writing your site super easy. cPanel uses a one-click-install for WordPress which removes the technical headaches of creating your website.
5 Factors to Consider in Choosing Your Host
- Bandwidth: A measure of how much data can be transferred per month.
- Number of visitors: Some hosts gauge traffic by number of visitors instead of bandwidth. This is a little easier to grasp than bandwidth.
- Storage space: This is a measure of how many files you can store in your space. This includes not only site files but also pdf and video files that you may host on your site. It is unlikely that you'll use all the space that is offered. If you have a large number of videos and downloadable files you might consider using a file hosting service like Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). This service will serve files quickly and cheaply.
- Technical support: This is one of the biggest factors to consider in your web host. They should speak English clearly and understand hosting – not just read stuff off of a screen. I can confidently recommend both of my hosts – their customer support is superb.
- Number of domains: While you might only be planning to purchase and use one domain, you should plan on more. I started with one – and now own 17 domains. I frequently buy new domains as I'm working on a project – to ensure that I have it when the project is ready. Learn how to choose a great domain name.
In terms of hosting, it is often best to purchase more than you need at this moment. Obviously your traffic is going to increase, you'll likely have need for payment processing and hosting of multiple websites and multiple domains.
Also, consider the costs of the premium hosting packages as your traffic increases. As you get more visitors, what options does the host offer? Can you simply upgrade to a more robust package and not have to move your site? Or are their premium hosting packages so expensive that you will be forced to switch hosts, as your business grows?
What About Up-Time Percentage?
A number of hosts tout their up-time percentage as if it really means something. I don't think it does. While true up-time does matter, every host will go down once in a while: sometimes for maintenance and other times because of DDoS attacks (distributed denial-of-service attack) or even for technical failure.
In my opinion technical support is much more important than the promoted up-time percentage of a specific host. Technical support is what will get your site back up and running when there is a problem. Your site is more likely to have problems because of something you did than something that the host does. In this case, technical support is critical – choose a host that has superb technical customer support.
Three Primary Types of Web Hosting
In addition to the three primary types of hosting that we are going to cover, there are other options. For example: re-seller (allows you to sell plans to clients and friends – more hassle than it is worth in my opinion) and free (not really the right choice for a business site).
What you really need is one of these three options:
- Virtual (Cloud)
Learn About Shared Hosting
Shared Hosting: Is the most common and the most inexpensive option. Just as it sounds, you share space on a server with a number of other sites. The quantity depends on the hosting company’s settings and the level of hosting package you purchase. The obvious benefit to shared hosting is its low cost. The drawback is the potential for site downtime when another site on your server receives a burst of traffic. Not all shared hosting plans are equal. Expect to pay from $4-10 per month for a good shared hosting plan.
Examples of Shared Hosts:
- HostGator (where I host many sites)
- WP Engine a premium managed hosting package, where they take care of maintenance and site upgrades. A little pricey (compared to the other two) but worth considering if you don't want to deal with technical issues.
Why I Host With HostGator
Learn About Cloud Hosting
Virtual or Cloud: This is a great upgrade from shared hosting. While your space is also shared with hundreds, even thousands, of other sites the risks are less. The sites are hosted across a network of servers giving more power to every site, and allowing them to withstand huge waves of new traffic without crashing. Cloud hosting will often charge you more when you exceed contract bandwidth/usage instead of taking your site offline. Sites on shared hosting often expand to use virtual or cloud hosting as their sites grow. After a few years with my sites on HostGator, I decided to move a few of my sites to a cloud based host (see below). Expect to pay from $20-100 per month.
Examples of Virtual / Cloud Hosts:
Why I Host With LiquidWeb
They are a nice intermediate level between shared and dedicated hosting. LiquidWeb also offers a dedicated hosting (see below). When my traffic outgrows this package, I can easily upgrade to their dedicated hosting.
Learn About Dedicated Hosting
Dedicated Hosting: This is the most expensive and most powerful option. In this case, you lease an actual machine giving you the full capacity of that equipment. Nothing (aside from your own site) will have the ability to affect the performance of your site/server.
Dedicated hosting is best suited for websites with high traffic. A dedicated hosting package is very powerful and should be able to handle a constant level of high traffic and the sporadic bursts throughout the day. A dedicated hosting solution should be able to handle almost any hosted software. The drawback to a dedicated hosting is that it can require a certain level of technical skills unless you buy package that comes with included technical support.
It is unlikely that you will need dedicated hosting as you start your online business. But you may need to upgrade to this after your first year or two, depending on how you traffic grows. Dedicated hosting starts at $50 per month, with some plans costing $200+ per month. Compared to office space, it is actually pretty cheap.
Examples of dedicated hosts include:
Planning for the Future
My recommendation when choosing a web host, is the plan for future growth. Not only does the choice of the host itself matter, but the ability to increase both in the number of websites and to handle high levels of traffic are important.
To run a successful online business you won't need 100,000 visitors per month. In fact you may be able to be very successful with just 5,000 or 10,000 per month. It all depends on your offer and how your site/business is structured. While the majority of blogs will never need to upgrade from shared hosting, planning for future growth is important.