First things first: what exactly does website hosting mean?
Website hosting is kind of like a digital file cabinet. Think of your website as if you wrote a bunch of pages in a book. Even if your site only has 3 or 5 pages to start with, if you created your site with WordPress, there are actually hundreds more pages that work behind the scenes that you don’t even see that enable your website to be brought up on people’s computers, phones, and tablets. These pages include all the computer science codes that enable a browser to read the designs, colors, photos, logos, and everything that makes your site unique, including forms such as a contact form, social media integrations, and even the ability to embed video.
Even though WordPress makes it much easier for the average person to create a website these days, all the functionality that makes WordPress work behind the scenes is done with coding languages. The more I browse Pinterest, the more I see folks in the blogosphere giving advice about “how to start a blog and make money”. That's all fine and dandy, but if you’ve never heard of words such as: LAMP Stack, SAAS/LESS, MYSQL, PHP, jQuery, NodeJS, and Task Runners, then please don’t pretend to give advice to people about how to create their first website. Although being proficient in the use of WordPress is a wonderful skill, I myself do not even claim to be a web developer…and I've been creating WordPress websites for businesses both large and small for the digital agencies that I've worked for, for 14 years.
What Do Regular People Need to Know About Hosting?
All that aside, here’s what regular people (like someone who wants to start their own blog) needs to know: Hosting is the virtual environment (sometimes called a “server”) where all your the electronic files are stored. These files make up your website. Your hosting account is what makes your website available for people to find on the internet 24/7. If you’ve ever taken a manual backup of your website (by using a plugin such as UpdraftPlus) then you may have downloaded a bunch of zipped up files to your computer, only to open them up and find a lot of unreadable gobble-de-gook (is that you you spell gobble-de-gook?). Anyway, no need to worry if that happens…as your computer will be able to reformulate the gobble-de-gook back into your beautiful WordPress blog.
What Else Do I Need to Know About Hosting?
Everybody who has a website needs hosting to store their files, and everybody who owns a website should also own an SSL certificate. That is the security feature that automatically protects your site with the https protocol. Recently Google publicly announced that their search results will favor secure websites over insecure ones, and further, they will show the user a message that your site is not secure. Yuck! Who wants that kind of experience for the readers of their blog or their potential customers! This is why it’s so important to have https. What I’m trying to illustrate for you here is that with website hosting, you simply get what you pay for. Why not get SSL for free with your hosting plan from a reputable hosting provider? As a veteran in the industry for 14 years, I use both GoDaddy and Bluehost. For newbies and bloggers setting up WordPress, I highly recommend Bluehost. Still…if you're researching hosting providers, how do you know who to trust? Below is a brief outline of the most well-known hosting providers.
A Little Perspective & Background on Hosting Providers
While this article will speak to the most widely recognized hosting providers, it’s important to note that there are literally thousands of small hosting provides across the globe. Heck, I am even a hosting provider. How is this possible? For digital agencies who want to set up hosting for their clients, they become a sort of intermediary. For example, if you looked at my hosting services through Vogue Media (this link is for informational purposes only, please, PLEASE do not create an account and buy your hosting through this link because this is not my business model any longer. I set this up when I was strictly building websites for clients back in 2006 and I still have a few active sites on this hosting plan, but I’m showing you this link simply for illustrative purposes so you can see how versatile the hosting providers really are). In this model, I am/was a reseller of GoDaddy hosting. You'll see how similar my “shop” looks to GoDaddy. What that means is that I can sell GoDaddy domains, hosting, and any other product available on GoDaddy through my own store. It's different from an affiliate program, I'm actually a reseller, not an affiliate. The program came out well before most internet affiliate programs and is only available to digital agencies. Interesting right?! So the point I’m trying to make here is that smaller hosting companies may not provide the same great service as large ones do. So what does that mean for bloggers? Here are the critical points you should know about the most widely recognized hosting providers:
1&1 and GoDaddy are vying for world hosting domination for the largest global providers for enterprise business, global corporations, and also small business. The drawback is that for the newbie blogger, these hosting provider can make things seem super techy and completely overwhelming. As someone who worked in a Digital Agency, I used providers like this for large corporations. This is why I very highly recommend Bluehost for bloggers, but more on that in a moment. 1&1 is a European company while GoDaddy is a US based company. Both offer essentially the same services, however, for larger businesses (and businesses who gross between about $1 million and $10 million and have their own tech team) I prefer GoDaddy over 1&1 simply because their dashboard is more intuitive. I’ve used both for different clients since 2006, and feel confident in GoDaddy’s ability to deliver to the larger business and corporate business for web hosting.
Endurance International Group owns two big players, Bluehost and HostGator, as well as Constant Contact and iPage. Bluehost is known for their user-friendly WordPress hosting and they also offer a FREE SSL Certificate which makes them a very good choice for new bloggers. HostGater is for larger businesses, but from a flexibility standpoint, cannot compete with GoDaddy and 1&1. Bluehost is significantly easier for the average person to navigate, and their customer service team caters to the average, non-techy person.
SiteGround Hosting is an independent web hosting company founded in 2004. They are based in Bulgaria. They are heavily marketed in the affiliate blogging world because of the low up-front hosting fees, however, they collect large fees on the back end. That means after a year or two when it’s time to renew, it will be several hundred dollars for the year instead of $40. This is not ideal, and they also do not offer Free SSL or stress the importance of SSL, therefore I do not recommend this company.
Other companies that offer all-in-one hosting packages are those such as Wix and Weebly, but you absolutely get what you pay for. The ability to monetize, customize and add plugins and integrations is very limited with these types of website builders. These website builders are best for the hobbiest, but you’re planning to use your site for business, then this is not the best option.
Do I need a Shared or Dedicated Server?
Next question, do you need a shared server or a dedicated server? This is an easy one, if you are a small business and you’re not expecting millions and millions of views, you don’t need to pay extra for a dedicated server. Facebook needs a dedicated server. Your business probably does not. And even if you become the most successful blogger in the world and you do start generating millions and millions of views each day on your website, then you can very easily upgrade to a dedicated server. Easy to understand that right?
Should You Transfer to Another Hosting Provider if You're Not Happy with Yours?
If you were one of the unfortunate ones who fell victim to an affiliate promotion and purchased a plan through a shoddy hosting provider, how hard is it, really, to transfer your site somewhere else? I’m here to reassure you, it’s not that hard and I can help you do it in less time than you think. I know what you’re thinking, you did a lot of work on your blog in the last year and you don’t want to lose everything. It’s really not that complicated and I’m going to fully walk you through it, step by step of how to transfer your website from one host to another with very minimal downtime, in fact, the entire process can take as little as one hour. So if you’re interested, make sure you click head over to my YouTube Channel and click that subscribe button. Note that Subscribing to my YouTube Channel does not add you to my email list, and it also does not send you any automatic notifications (I get it…I'm busy and I don't need to be pinged every time someone posts something!) You'll simply see my channel in your “lineup” any time you visit YouTube. So go ahead and visit my new channel for high quality and free blogging tips! I have the “how do I move my hosting” video planned for mid-April.