Hey, hey, hey! Welcome back to part 2 of our How to Start a Blog Series!
WEB HOSTING SERVICES
I’m guilty of over-explaining sometimes (occupational hazard- former social worker & current college prof) so bear with me while I try my hardest not to do that. I know lots of people just want the quick and easy version and to get on with it. If that’s you, jump down to the last section where I talk about the hosting companies I’ve used and help you find one that fits your needs.
For those of you that have a geek gene, this is for you.
HOW SERVERS AND HOSTING WORK
You can’t have a blog or a website without a hosting service. Well, you can, but we covered that topic in Part 1 of How to Start a Blog. Free platforms are for amateurs that don’t ever intend to earn an income online. Hobby blogs are great and I’m a fan, but you want to build an online business, not a free hobby, right? Right.
A quick explanation as to how hosting works for my geek squad who are interested in how this rolls together.
Basically, web hosting is a service business that allows anyone wanting a website of some sorts to put their site up onto the internet. The hosting company provides the tech and services that you’re going to need if you want your work to be available online. Your site is “hosted” on a company’s server which is basically a specialized type of computer called….you guessed it, a server. When someone plugs in your domain name (eg. myblog.com) they are going to the special computer where all of your files are stored.
If you think of your website or blog’s domain name as a phone number, the hosting company’s server acts as the phone company to connect your number so that other’s can reach you. No hosting means you’re number isn’t in service.
When someone types in your domain, their computer connects them to the server where they can view your site. If anyone here is as old as me, you’ll all remember the dial up days where you literally turned on the internet and waited while they dialed up the server. Sometimes you could make coffee and by the time they were done dialing, you could surf the magical web.
Personally, this never failed to excite me. Still does actually. I mean, how do people even parent without being able to look up every color of baby poop on the internet to make sure your kid is healthy? God bless the internet and the hosting companies for helping me to parent these last number of years.
Generally, the hosting company is often one stop shopping in that you can purchase your domain name (often free with purchased hosting packages) along with a personal email address attached to your domain which makes you look uber professional.
The thing I hear most often when helping clients choose hosting is that they don’t understand what all the options are about and exactly what they need. Because, let’s face it, when you pop over to a hosting company, it all kind of looks like jargon. Specifically, this kind of jargon.
SHARED HOSTING vs VPS vs DEDICATED HOSTING
When you arrive at most hosting companies you’ll be greeted with an array of packages and options. Sometimes the old saying “You get what you pay for” matters and sometimes it doesn’t. Generally, you’re going to be asked to choose between shared hosting, VPS, and dedicated hosting.
What the heck does that even mean?
Shared hosting means you’re sharing a server or computer with a lot of other websites. That’s not a bad thing at all depending on your needs. If you’re just starting your first blog or website, shared hosting is your best choice because it keeps your costs down. You and lots of other people are all hosted together in one space. Kind of like living in apartment. Lots of people live there, apartment living is more affordable because you’re all sharing one space, occasionally it’s hard to find parking or your neighbors are annoying. But for the most part, it’s a great way to get your own place when you’re just starting out. In life and online.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server and it means that while you still share some aspects of hosting there are specific zones or spaces in the server that are just for you. That costs a bit more because you’re using up more space, largely because you have more traffic to your site. There are way less people using the VPS space which means there’s more space for you but the cost increases accordingly. It’s like moving to a bigger house and finding a roommate where you share the space but each pay your own hydro or have your own groceries in the fridge. More expensive but more space and bigger benefits.
Dedicated Hosting is like buying your own house in the country. It’s all yours baby and it shows in the price. You have your server all to yourself because you have a huge site or many sites with loads of traffic and tons of resources, files etc that need to be stored. You’ve got your own space, lots of bedrooms, no worries about where to park your car or cars, etc. You also have a huge budget because you have a huge income.
Most of us starting out do just fine with shared hosting until our traffic grows too big to be accommodated any longer. This is sometimes why sites crash. Too much traffic all at once, and the server can’t manage any longer. Apparently this happens to Kylie Jenner every time she launches her new lip line products. While no one ever wants this to happen, it does kind of mean you’re a big deal and you’re gonna need more hosting space.
Sites can handle lots of traffic throughout the day but when everyone shows up at once, you’ve got yourself a traffic jam just like your morning commute.
(Us self employed people however, get to skip that nonsense! There is no traffic jam from my bedroom to my home office. Just saying. Go ahead and feel smug about that for a few minutes if you’ve committed to building a business where you can work from home!)
HOW TO CHOOSE A HOSTING COMPANY
When I decided to move my blog from blogger to WordPress and become self hosted, I was fraught with anxiety over choosing hosting. I had no clue what any of those fun tech definitions meant and I freaked out. Which means I paid someone to move my site for me to the tune of $350.
Indeed. And I lost a shit ton of work and pretty much had to go through all my previous posts and make sure that everything transferred okay and was readable. It wasn’t.
That wasn’t covered in the agreement with the service person, by the way. I spent months reloading photos and making paragraphs look like paragraphs and trying to find where my information had gone. Seriously. If I had know that it would be such a disaster, I would have saved myself that fee and just done it myself anyways.
This is why I’m pushing you to start as you mean to go on. If you hate blogging or your online business isn’t what you’d hoped for, you can always choose not to renew. If you love it and it becomes you’re bread and butter, you’re not going to have to deal with the headache I had of trying to replicate or patch up three years of work.
Basically, you want to choose the easiest and most user friendly site with good pricing and excellent service and support. Because it’s the internet and there are going to be issues. Like the time I accidentally lost my entire blog for two days and stared at “The White Screen of Death”. Bluehost fixed that for me and held my virtual hand while I sobbed down the live chat and all over a bottle of wine.
OUR FAVORITE HOSTING COMPANIES
To keep things super simple, because I think too many choices is what has most of us chasing our tails and unable to make decisions, I’m sharing my top 5 favorite hosting companies along with their pros and cons. Again, I’m affiliated with all of them and super appreciate you using the links to sign up for hosting when you’re ready to do that. Got to feed these kids and all that good stuff.
Something to bear in mind when you’re checking out hosting companies and reading reviews is that all companies have occasional down time and things happen. There are going to be angry customers who will swear that So and So Hosting or whatever is the worst. There will be other customers who have had nothing but good experiences. Spare yourself the agony and pick one from below. Reviews seem to be full of overly positive and slightly suspicious praise (just trying to make a buck from their affiliate links) or people who are so furious, they’re lashing out and often the problem they’ve experienced was later resolved. No one ever tells you that or updates their reviews, either.
Bluehost is pretty much the most well known hosting site around. They’re number one for a reason because they make things so incredibly simple to use. It’s insanely easy to find and register your domain and then to add hosting. All in under 10 minutes. The 1 click WordPress install is a beginners dream and the cpanel (Control Panel) is easy to use and figure out, even when you’re new.
I’ve had a handful of issues with Bluehost over the past few years and with the exception of one snotty gal, the service has been good. The caveat is that because it’s so popular, you’ll often wait a while to actually get help. Last winter, I waited for three hours because my site had crashed and it turned out to be a simple fix. I’m not a tech person so I needed the walk through to help me figure out how to fix it. The 3 hour wait completely pissed me off, though and I jumped ship the next day with a few of my sites to explore other hosting options. They still host a number of sites for me however, because they’re the simplest to use and have an easy learning curve. And they’re pretty cost friendly as well.
- Fast. No worries about your site being slow, ever.
- Easy to use, simple and reliable
- Unlimited band width and disk space (which means it doesn’t matter how many posts, videos, pics etc
you have on your site that take up space) Some hosts have a cap and then bump you to a higher price
point. Bluehost doesn’t.
- Easy access to customer service online (I always use the live chat feature to get help!)
- 1 click WordPress install (The easiest ever!) which is why I love it for newbies
- Unlimited traffic means you won’t need to upgrade (ie. spend more money) when your traffic grows
- You can add subdomains (if you start wanting more than one blog or site) for no extra cost
- Service wait times can be agonizing when you need a quick fix or answer. Think hours instead of minutes if it’s busy.
- The servers actually crashed a couple of years ago and my sites were down for over a day. Bluehost did a crap job of helping people understand what the problem was, leading to some hilarious memes and furious customers. I was one of the furious.
- The live chat feature has been inconsistent at times. It’s outsourced overseas and you never get the same person. Most are great. One was simply awful. And, yet, I’m still with them.
- The 1 click WordPress install comes with way too many useless plugins and advertising. They want to upsell you things like marketing tools, themes, etc and the plug ins are auto installed. It’s a bit much and I try to remove most of them before I start.
HostGator is one of the most popular web hosts in the industry and it’s big like Bluehost. Hostgator is also simple to use with 1 click installs for WordPress. I like them a lot because you can pay as you go which is not the case with other hosting companies. Most will advertise a monthly price but you have to pay for an entire year. Hostgator allows you to pay monthly which means if you decide you hate blogging, or maybe you just became the CEO of a fortune 500 company and don’t want to blog anymore, you’re free to go. Bye, Felicia.
- The pay as you go monthly plan!!
- Free transfer of your site if you’re coming from somewhere else (major headache avoided!)
- Good service by phone, live chat, or ticket (HINT- always use the live chat, regardless of your hosting company if they have it!)
- 1 click WordPress install
- 45 day money back guarantee
- Unlimited data, services, emails with everything but the “Hatchling Plan”
- Not the fastest to load but good once your site is up. If loading time is an issue for you, you may want to consider a different site
- Some have alleged that HostGator is cramming too many sites on their servers, which they deny, but might be a reason for the slow upload
- Buy your domain elsewhere. They charge more for domains than most other hosting companies
- Pricier than some of the dirt cheap hosting companies (but still affordable).
Inmotion Hosting was recommended to my by a fellow business babe and they’re the latest of my hosting test runs. If you’re looking for shared hosting, they refer to it as business hosting and it’s fast and but also a bit more expensive than other hosting companies. Like Bluehost, Inmotion offers unlimited websites, disk space, and monthly data transfers. I find them one of the most popular hosting companies among those of us that write about blogging and online businesses which says a lot. To me, at least 🙂
- Fast and helpful customer service if you get stuck
- Good up time and fast speed. Like super fast loading which readers love!
- An almost unheard of 90 day money back guarantee!
- Lots of free features including support for e-commerce sites
- Unlimited disk space
- Free backups up to 10GB
- I find Inmotion to be less user friendly in that it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with 1 click WordPress installation
- Account activation takes awhile. Not the greatest if you’re on a roll and ready to go.
- More expensive than other hosting companies
- There are so many log ins! One for the server, one for your website builder, and one for the cpanel. I find this kind of painful since I’m not a patient person and I hate having to keep all my login information handy when I need access.
FatCow is the latest addition to my hosting team and I love them. I swear I didn’t choose them because of the name (like I do with wine) but, come on, that totally caught my attention. I like clever names and good branding. One of the things I really like about is if you’re strictly interested in setting up just a WordPress blog, you can sign up for their WordPress hosting starting at $3.75 a month. For businesses and online shops you’ll want to check out the Essential Plan for extra security. Oh, and they’re wind powered. Cool, no?
- The WordPress plans are perfect for first timers who don’t need options of extending their hosting to include other sites down the road.
- Very easy to use and to navigate
- Strong up time record
- Environmentally friendly (wind powered)
- 30 day money back guarantee (but only if paying with a credit card)
- Unlimited domains and space
- Great customer service and hand holding as you launch your first site (no question was too dumb for them!)
- Read the fine print carefully. Some customers have expressed surprise when the rates went up after the first year. This is common practice for most hosting companies and I was aware of it but some people weren’t and feel like this wasn’t fully disclosed to them in the beginning. It does appear that they have remedied this somewhat in the last year or so with clear pricing. (FYI- all hosting companies do this.)
- The unlimited hosting really isn’t and you can find your account suspended when you go over your limit.
- Beware of up-selling. FatCow will load free software and free trials into your dashboard. They are enticing and if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself owning those free trials. Delete any software you didn’t ask for and be aware that free trials end and you’ll be looking at your credit card bill and wondering what happened.