Starting a Website: Choosing Your Hosting Service
Choosing Your Hosting Service
In the second part in my series on how to start your own WordPress site, I will be discussing choosing your hosting service. In the first part of this series, if you found that your best option was to choose free WordPress over self-hosted, you can kick back and relax for most of this post, as you’ve already chosen to go with WordPress.com.
For anyone using self-hosted WordPress, it is important to find the right hosting service plan for you. Choosing the right service is about more than just choosing the provider that best suits your needs. It is also about choosing the right options out of the services that they provide. All hosting providers offer a plethora of options that can seem intimidating. ConsumerRankings.com provides an excellent review list here of top ten ranked web hosting services.
I’m going to cover the basics of what to look for in a hosting service as well as give you an idea of what types of packages that most providers offer. Since all businesses adapt to the marketplace over time, I’m not going to go into too much detail on things like pricing and features offered in specific packages. I am focusing on services that you should know are available. All providers have their pros and cons, so the host you chose and the service package you chose should depend on your own needs.
Consider Provider Options
When choosing a web hosting provider, there are many options to consider. The first that many people look at is price. And while staying within your budget is very important, there are many other factors to consider as well. When researching which provider to choose, it is usually best to find one that can fill all of your needs. A one stop shop’s convenience can sometimes be more important than finding the best price for each individual component.
Does the provider you are considering using handle domain registrations? If you want to set up an e-commerce site, do they offer the tools you need for success? Do they offer SSL certificates from a trusted certificate authority, and if so, will they apply the certificate to your site or do you have to set it up yourself? What guarantees to they give on up-time? Do they rate high on speed test sites for their server speeds? How do other users rate their customer service? These are all questions that you need to consider before choosing a hosting provider.
Choosing a provider is a very important decision. Over the years, I have changed providers twice. The first time I switched providers was because my original provider was sorely lacking in every metric that was important to me. My most recent switch came for a variety of reasons, mostly performance based. Changing providers isn’t a task to take lightly, so do your research on what features and options all of the providers that you are considering offer.
Types of Hosting Packages
The first choice to make in choosing a hosting service is to look at the various packages that each company offers. Since product offerings tend to change over time, I’m going to provide a general outline of what types of packages you can expect most providers to offer.
For most beginners, the best option to start with is WordPress hosting plans. Most providers offer multiple tiers of service for all of their plan types. Typically, there is an entry-level tier that provides the basic setup of a single WordPress site with limits on monthly visitors and storage. Each successive tier typically offers more storage, more monthly visitors, and sometimes additional WordPress installations. They may also include additional add-ons, such as SSL certificates and e-commerce tools, on the highest tier packages.
Some amount of technical knowledge is necessary, but the hosting company handles most of the in-depth technical work.
I expect that most people reading this post would be starting off with this type of service. If you want a mostly hands-off experience when it comes to the technical tasks of maintaining a WordPress site, this is the best hosting service package for you.
Shared hosting, or web hosting as some providers rather ambiguously call it, is basically a mid-range level of service. Again, most providers offer multiple tiers of service. Shared hosting gives you more power to do things on the web server, typically through an interface called cPanel. Access to cPanel gives you greater control over account and application setup on the web server, the ability to set up scheduled tasks, and control of file maintenance, such as file manager access and access to set up your own scripts on the server.
The more power you have, the more responsibility you bear. With shared hosting, you have the power to do a lot on the web server. This means you also have the power to break a lot. Your site is sand boxed. This means that code you run shouldn’t affect other sites in theory. However, if you do something that degrades overall server performance, it can impact other sites on the server. This is because your site is sharing hardware resources with other sites. You should only consider shared hosting if you have experience managing web servers, as the tools offered with shared hosting can overwhelm someone unfamiliar with what goes on behind the scenes.
Hosting services also provide an option called dedicated hosting. This means that all of the server’s resources belong to you. Dedicated hosting provides you with the most access to the server. You can do anything on it that you would be able to do from a terminal. Only established businesses with dedicated IT departments should even consider dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting is expensive, and technical support calls if you manage to royally break your server are not going to come cheap either.
Choosing Your Service Package
Unless you’re an IT professional specializing in web server administration, I recommend starting off with the base WordPress hosting plan. If you need more storage or higher visitor capacity, you can always upgrade to a higher tier WordPress Hosting plan. Changing to another type of hosting package, such as from a WordPress to a shared hosting plan, usually requires a migration. Migration means moving your site from one server to another. Migrations do typically result in downtime. This is one reason it is important to choose your hosting plan and provider carefully.
In evaluating my options, I decided to go with HostGator shared hosting. I chose HostGator based on reviews that I had read from several sources. I was looking for a provider with high up-time and excellent customer service.
So far up-time and has been excellent, and their customer service and tech support has been outstanding. These things were important to me because my former host was failing in these areas. I went with their shared hosting because I needed to migrate from my old host quickly. Because of my IT background, I was able to complete the migration myself overnight. They also offer a migration service for all of their hosting plans, however there is usually a wait list for this support. Shared hosting gave me the tools I needed to complete the migration on my own.
Additionally, most hosting providers offer affiliate sales opportunities for their customers. HostGator gives their affiliates the power to offer discounts to their referrals. Check out the link below for details on the deals HostGator is currently offering.
Get Going with WordPress
Once you complete choosing a hosting service, you will need to have WordPress installed. For both WordPress and shared hosting plans most providers have a one-click solution to quickly install a WordPress site. On self-hosted WordPress sites, you will just need to provide your domain name and setup an administrator account. If you are on WordPress.com, you won’t have to provide a domain, but you will need to set up an administrator account.
The next step is designing your site. We will be discussing this in the next part of this series.