You’re finally taking the plunge and creating a website for your practice or business. Or you have a website, but you’re not sure whether your hosting company is the best choice for you. Either way, you may be one of the many website owners who finds it challenging to choose a web host.
Let us help.
What’s a web host?
Your hosting company’s job is to give your website a place to live. They keep your website live online by hosting it (there’s the host part) on their servers.
Companies you might have heard of include WPEngine, GoDaddy, GreenGeeks, DreamHost, and Bluehost. However, there are literally hundreds of thousands of hosting companies, from small local shops to enormous firms.
Chances are, your web host is not your webmaster, your web designer, your web team, or your IT department. Web hosting is a specialized service and most hosting companies don’t really do anything except keep your website online.
The problem with this is shown in this screenshot from Sky Shabatura’s Facebook page:
I have no context for this, but it reminds me a lot of the things I hear people say about web hosting. Most site owners have limited tech knowledge. This makes sense, because they have jobs that do not include lots of tech knowledge. As long as nothing goes wrong, they may not even know who their hosting company is. When something goes wrong, they want it fixed.
The #1 thing to check for when you choose a web host
Among website owners I know, the #1 item they check for when they choose a host is price. #2 is bandwidth. People can get very emotional about both these topics. Seeing unlimited bandwidth for $5.00 a month, they sign right up.
This is fine as long as you never have a problem. It’s also fine if you have an IT department which will take care of any problems for you.
If you ever have a problem, you will quickly discover the most important item: support. The screenshot from a popular hosting company shows “Award-winning, 24/7 support.”
But that doesn’t mean they actually fix things for you. Here is another screenshot showing their separate support plan. They have a catalog showing how many credits are required for technical assistance of various kinds. For example, one credit will pay for someone to install or to update a plugin for you, update your WordPress version, or troubleshoot a 500 internal server error. Some of these tasks take about 10 seconds to accomplish, so this can be quite pricey service.
If you don’t know how to install a plugin and have no one to do it for you, it might be worth $50.00. But this company, we happen to know, doesn’t even include back ups as part of their hosting. Everything is available at a price, but that “Award-winning, 24/7 support” is answering questions, not fixing problems.
Team Haden member Josepha just got back from Cloudfest, where she was able to confirm for us that most hosting companies do not offer support as part of their hosting, and that it’s very hard to tell just what you’ll get as part of your hosting plan. In most cases, there are many different kinds of plans and add-ons and it is extremely hard to get the details straight.
Again, this is fine if you never have a problem.
You should not assume that you will never have a problem.
Look for “24/7 chat support” or “phone support” when you pick a hosting company, and find out just what that means.
Who do we recommend?
We have extensive experience dealing with hosting companies. We have gone through the frustration of waiting for ages, talking with chatbots, and being told that our client doesn’t get any support at all with their hosting. We’ve supported clients through days and even weeks of attempts to get a problem solved.
We have had this experience on behalf of clients who tell us that they can’t get their problem solved because they can’t understand what their hosting company is saying to them. We don’t have this problem ourselves because we have good hosting.
We recommend WPEngine. We’re even an affiliate of theirs, and we’re not shy about it. That’s because we really believe in their services. When you have a problem with your website and WPEngine is your host, you ask them for help and your problem will be solved, usually within minutes.
The other hosting company we recommend is WordPress. WordPress.com is an enormous hosting company, even though you might not think of them that way. If you want cheap hosting, you will be going to the right place.
They have a free option. Once you choose to pay anything, even $5.00 per month, you get support. Not much support — they won’t fix things for you, but they will help you figure out how to do it yourself.
Bandwidth is hardly ever an issue for a small business. Support almost always is.