Before I got into having an online business I’d see ads during the Super Bowl for web hosting. I basically ignored them. Now after being online for several years I’ve learned that not all providers are equal. Oh, they all provide hosting, support, and the standard stuff that is needed to have a blog or website. They wouldn’t be in business very long if they didn’t, but there are differences in what you get. Of course, there’s also a cost associated to the level of support and options you decide you need.
(NOTE: Now just for the record, this is only about hosting for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal sites. If you want to know about hosting using other services then check out my article about Squarespace.)
Anyway, there’s what I consider the unwritten but very tangible traits that a good hosting provider should have. That said; I have below the Good Traits Your Hosting Provider Should have that will make your life and maintaining your site so much easier. There are a lot of hosting providers available to choose from these days, but this isn’t about comparing them by name. This is about what makes a hosting provider truly useful to you and your blog. It’s based on my own experiences (sometime painful and other times surprisingly great).
Frankly you already know it’s important to be able to rely on your hosting provider. That’s why you’re reading this article. So let’s consider what make hosting providers really reliable.
1. Great Service
Everyone expects great service. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, especially when promises that don’t live up to expectations. And believe me, I’ve experience both great service and situations where my expectation were not met. I’m very happy now with my current provider A2Hosting. While they’re not as showy as some of the big-name providers out there, they are about the same price level. Most hosting providers start with shared hosting plans as low as $3 to $4/month and A2Hosting is no different. I’ve had good success with them. With the customization I’ve done my sites have stayed pretty fast, even on a “shared” system. That’s good. So if you looking for hosting, I’ve got no problem recommending them.
2. Technical Knowledge and Elbow Grease
It’s is essential to have a providers that know how to fix issues, answer questions and get the job done quickly. It’s never fun to find out there is a problem that takes days to address. That’s frustrating and can impact both your site and your subscribers. My best experiences with hosting are/were when support took the time to address my issue quickly. As a plus, they then assisted with additional questions helped me with my blog.
Compare that to the opposite extreme; one of the first big name providers I used (and I’m not going to mention them by name even though I don’t use them now) had a really wide range of support. I’d call in one time and get support that barely knew anything other then to log in a ticket; other times support was tremendous. Unfortunately, my experience with that provider left me too often in a situation where support was lacking; when it came time to renew my contract I moved my site.
3. Responsive Like Your Favorite Fast Food Chain
We live in a world, especially in the US where we expect the “fast food” approach. It’s become our nature. We want to call or email for help, get it and move on. In most cases, that happens. With complex issues it takes longer to address, but if your provider is not responsive then you should go elsewhere.
4. Load, Load, Load – More Isn’t Necessarily Better
Here’s a dirty little secret most provider’s won’t tell you. A shared hosting plan may have several hundred websites on it. That’s why it’s “shared” and why the monthly fee is low. As a result, you face a couple of what I call “load” issues.
We all want our websites to be responsive and not load as slow as the LaBrea Tarpits. Part of your website’s performance is related to how you configure your site, BUT your site’s performance is also related to your provider’s system’s resources. No one wants to be impacted by another site on a shared system that is spams the world or is poorly configured. While most provider’s are good and have proper safeguards in place I say most. I know for a fact that websites which spew spam can on occasion affect email for others because I was in a previous situation where my email didn’t work for my site. It wasn’t under my control and only after hours on the phone did the provider explain that the shared system had been temporarily blacklisted until the spammer was stopped. My point is, a good provider that can take immediate action when an issue arises. My current provider A2Hosting has clearly demonstrated that they respond to issues and resolve them efficiently.
5. Flexibility – Can You Say Options?
Options are good. Options on what service plan you use, what software, backup, SSL certificates and content delivery if any. Most providers have many options; some are free and some are “add ons” to your original hosting fee. I put SSL on all my sites whether I need it or not. And I get a free SSL cert with my current provider A2Hosting. That wasn’t and isn’t always the case, so check first before you sign up with any provider. Believe me. You want SSL to login into your site and manage it. That is the secure.
Secondly, you need the ability to backup you site. I’ve learned some very hard lessons about having good backups. With them, I would have lost my site on a couple of occasions. Backups are that reality which becomes critical when you need them. Make sure you understand the backup capabilities your provider offers.
Content delivery or caching is another essential but 99.99% of the time you will be going to a 3rd party for content delivery. That cost can vary widely up to $99/month or more with some services. I show you in my course how to set up free content delivery services (if you decide you need them).
6. Security – BorderPatrol To The Rescue
Yes, security is critical. Getting hacked is what you want to avoid. Don’t be the low hanging fruit on the tree as my boss always said. A good provider patches their systems. A good provider notifies you about issues affecting your site. My current provider A2Hosting has a nice automated tool (Patchman) in my control panel. I can see what was patched on my site and when. I get emails that I need to patch or it will be done automatically. Now I also have to address Wordpress, themes, and plugins I use on my blog, but that is easy to do. Maintaining my site on a weekly basis is better discovering a problem and paying to clean it up.
7. Cost- “You Get What You Pay For”
This is the bottom line. Shared is cheap and great to start with. Shared hosting is a good option even if you’ve been around a while because you will always have costs beyond that $3/4 per month hosting fee. You should realistically plan your budget.
I’ve been on shared for awhile. Shared is the option many website owners use. I’ve already mentioned that shared systems can have hundreds of websites and are built to be robust. That doesn’t mean that issues won’t occur. With a good provider, any issue will be immediately addressed. Should you decide not to go with shared, understand that optimized systems aren’t perfect either. Once I got tried using an “optimized” plan (with a different provider then my current one). My expectations weren’t inline with what I got with optimized. When my old provider migrated my site, SSL broke and my email configuration became my responsibility as it was placed on the same system as my website. For 2 weeks it was a nightmare. It got fixed and working but I eventually change providers because I was disappointed that I was paying more for something that didn’t meet my expectations. I went back to shared and for now that works. At some point, I may reconsider my hosting plan but I’ll certainly ask more questions so I understand what to expect and what it will cost. Bottom line, cost and expectations need to be clearly explained to your by your hosting provider.
Want good hosting? Great service? Maybe the provider I use can help you; I’ve been using them a while and they’ve helped me.
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