How to select good quality hosting for your new website
You’re setting up your very first website, or your biz is growing and you need a new online home.
One of the things you’ll need is website hosting.
In this article you can read all you need to know about hosting and how to select a quality host for a good price.
The goal of this article is to empower you to choose a good hosting provider yourself, by sharing with you what we know, and what you should look out for.
Why do I need hosting?
Every time you visit a website, the text and images that make up that website get downloaded from a computer to your internet browser, which then displays it on your screen.
This is done by servers: computers with ‘superpowers’ that are always on.
Enter hosting companies. They have powerful computers that are specially setup to serve websites to browsers.
When you buy hosting, you rent a part of such a server. You can then put all your website files on there, link your domain to it, and now when someone clicks on your website link, files get downloaded from this server onto the device of your website visitor, and your website appears : )
Our recommendation: keep your hosting & domain name separate
First to start off with something important; we recommend you keep your domain name & hosting separate.
This makes you much more flexible and gives you much more control over your website.
There are many reasons why, and you can read more about this in our domain name email. Domain name companies will almost always try to sell you hosting, and hosting companies will try to sell you a domain name through them.
But in practise, this is not in your best interest.
Our advice: keep them separate. Buy your domain name from a domain name registrar, and your hosting from a hosting company!
Why good quality hosting is a great idea
There are different kinds of servers. Just like computers keep getting better, server technology also evolves.
Hosting is a very competitive market, and a hosting company can choose all kinds of strategies to compete.
Some try to be the cheapest. But usually a cheap host is going to have to save on something. They’re a business after all, and they have to make money.
Other companies try to be the best at everything. So they have amazing technology, the best internet connections, wonderful customer service, and super everything. This is great, but can also cost a lot more.
We’d like to find the happy medium for cost and quality!
Here are some things to consider:
New servers with up to date technology = quick website
You probably know what it’s like to have a slow computer. It’s the same with hosting. If you put your website on a crappy server, it’s going to load slowly. Or, maybe you have this cool new technology you’d like to run and you can’t. Hosting companies that own new and quick servers are a better choice.
Avoid companies that oversell
Budget hosting companies often oversell their server space, so they put more websites on their servers than they should.
This is hard on the resources of the server, and slows the server down (you may have noticed how your own computer gets slower as your harddisk fills up).
Budget companies need to make savings everywhere so they can offer their service at extremely cheap prices.
Search engines rank faster websites better
Search engines such as Google rank faster websites better. Going for a good host is like investing in a quick computer with a good internet connection. It’s going to make working on your website a joy, and also your website visitors will expect your website to run smoothly when they browse your site.
Search engines also give better rankings to faster websites, because they know people like quick websites.
A good hosting company has fast servers, with plenty of space, well maintained, good technology, and plenty of bandwidth.
Another important point: do they take your website seriously? Do they take regular backups?
A good quality host will take what’s called ‘nightly backups’ (or some call it daily backups). What it means is that they take a complete backup of all the files in your hosting account. That includes your website and also your email account.
How is their customer service?
Does the host have good customer service to assist you when you need help?
We have firsthand experience with quite a few hosting companies and I can tell you there are noticable differences.
Try to choose a host that offers more than just email support. Make sure can you call them or chat with them if you need help.
Note: some of the cheapest budget hosts may offer all of these but then waiting times may be very, very long.
Money back guarantee
Most good hosts feel confident enough of their service that they offer 30 day money back guarantees. This is usually a good sign!
A good host will often migrate your site over to them for free. If you are thinking of switching hosts this may be a good feature to look out for!
Do they offer free SSL certificates?
A good host will offer it’s clients an SSL certificate free of charge, based on auto SSL technology. An SSL certificate allows you to run your site over a secure connection, the little lock you see next to your domain name in your browser if you access sites with an SSL certificate:
From June 2018, several browsers will start to give your website visitors a notification that your site is not secure if it doesn’t load over a secure connection. So make sure you check that a host you are considering can offer you this. If a certificate is not included, the SSL certificate may cost you an annual fee of between $50 -100, plus you may need help from a webdesigner to set it up on your site.
How to choose a great host for a good price
Most people are on a budget when they’re just starting out with their business and they want to go for the cheapest option.
But consider this: the price difference between a budget host and one that’s noticably better is maybe $5.- a month. So for only a small extra investment your site can do a lot better, it really makes a difference to steer away from the very cheap options.
If you are starting, you also don’t need ‘the best of everything’ hosting. Because your site will probably have a couple of thousand visitors a month.
At the same time, you do want your website to work as well as possible for those visitors that come. Because they’re so important. They are what you’re building your business on.
In our experience, if your site gets upwards of 5,000 to 10,000 visitors a month, it starts to make sense to look into more powerful hosting.
How much should I expect to pay for hosting?
Well, it depends, but here’s a rule of thumb:
Less than $6 a month: If it’s less than $6 a month, you generally want to steer away from it. This is really the cheapest of the cheapest hosting.
Between $6 and $10 a month: Most reasonable budget hosts cost between $6 and $10 a month. And that’s what you can expect that most of your online colleagues are probably paying. If you’re just starting out you likely won’t be getting more than 5000 visitors a month and you can safely start in this price class.
Between $10 and $20 a month: If you’re a small business, and you get more than 5000 visitors a month, the sweet spot is somewhere between $10 and $20 a month.
More than $20 a month: If you’re doing business in a highly competitive market, you may need to do everything you can to get noticed between other offerings. In that case, higher-end hosting may become important to you. Also, if you expect upwards of 10,000 visitors a month, you may want to consider paying more for your hosting. From over $20 a month you start to talk about more serious hosting.
What specs to look for when buying your own hosting
When you’re comparing hosts yourself, you’ll come across all kinds of technical things that you may have no idea of what they mean. But it’s important to look at them. Because otherwise all you have to go by is the sales page’s marketing speak. And of course everyone tries to make that sound like it’s the best ever. Here are the 3 most important techy things to check. When you’re comparing hosts you’ll come across many more, but these three are the big ones.
The 3 top geeky things to look out for:
CPanel Access: Look for a host that offers cPanel access. This is a hosting control panel interface. It’s where you’d make email accounts, upload files, etc. There are a few others, but cPanel is very good and easiest to work with.
An Apache or Litespeed webserver: This is the software your server runs to serve webpages. Both Apache and Litespeed are quick, secure, and stable. There are others too, but these two are really good choices.
PHP 5.6 or higher: PHP is a programming language that many website platforms rely on (including WordPress) and newer version of it tend to run faster. If your host offers multiple versions, that’s good. WordPress currently runs best on PHP 5.6 and higher. You can get up to 7.x already with some hosts.
Space and bandwidth – and the truth about ‘unlimited this and that’ promises
Many budget hosts advertise with unlimited space and bandwidth. They’ll also give you unlimited email accounts, unlimited databases, unlimited sub domains, etc. But they don’t have unlimited space or resources. They may have lots of it, but it ends somewhere.
So how can they offer you unlimited everything? Well, they can’t. It’s just marketing to convince you to get on board.
If you look in the small print you’ll find something about server resources or similar, and this is not unlimited at all. They’ll indicate you’ll be able to use a certain portion of server resources and that they’ll limit your account in some way if you go over it.
And typically, those limits are similar to those you’d get with hosts that are upfront about it.
With a well setup website, a few Gigabytes of space will be plenty. And unless you’re expecting thousands of visitors a day (which is loads for most websites), bandwidth won’t be something you have to worry about at all.
You probably won’t need more than a few email addresses. And usually you’ll just run a single website, so one database is enough.
So don’t be afraid to put your site on hosting that gives out limited resources. Usually, it’s actually a good sign that they have healthy limits in place.
Hosts with good customer service
Making sure you choose a host with a good customer service can be tricky. You might never need to get in touch with them, but if you do, you don’t want to wait forever for a reply.
See what a hosting company says/promises themselves.
Try to read a few reviews (but keep in mind that you’ll find positive and negative reviews for almost every hosting company, and also that some of them may be fake).
And give it a try. Most reputable hosts have a 30-day try-out period, and you can use this to figure out how you feel about them.
We recommend using hosting companies that offer 24 hour chat support and phone customer support next to email support. This means there will always be someone available to chat to if there is a problem.
There are also many hosts that offer a free migration service. This can be great if you’re moving a current website to a new host. Especially in combination with a 30 day money back guarantee this can be a good way to test a new host if you are unhappy with your current hosting package.
We hope this article has given you all the info you’ll need to choose an affordable but quality host for your website!
Can you recommend a hosting provider?
In the years we’ve been professionally active as web-designers, we’ve seen hosting companies change and develop. Sometimes these changes are positive, other times they’re not. For example, a hosting company can be taken over by a bigger webhost, or the management can change. And depending on the situation, the hosting provider you were happy with for a long time, may suddenly have a drop in quality. In practise this means that it’s difficult to give you a solid recommendation, so please keep this in mind. We do of course use hosting for ourselves and for our clients, and right now our hosting provider of choice would be SiteGround for a host with a very good quality service. SiteGround offer StartUp hosting for €7.95/month (and the first year you get 50% off!). Another hosting company that we have good experiences with (and slightly cheaper) is Site5. Their hostbasic package is $6.95/month and you can see more about them here. [Please note that we no longer recommend Site 5 as a host for your website – they don’t offer SSL certificate without charging for it, we have spoken with them about this a few times. An SSL certificate let’s you run your website over a secure connection, and is something that is necessary under the new EU Privacy Laws.]
We have professional plans with these hosting providers so can offer higher value specs at a more competitive rate. For example, our website pack clients receive hosting comparable to Site’s 5 Host Turbo at $13.95/ month and SiteGround’s Go Geek at €11.95/month, but the price for our clients is only €10.-/month. An added advantage of hosting your site through us is that you can talk to us as your point of contact. So if there is a problem we take care of it, and you won’t need to deal with hosting support yourself.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to get in touch with us.
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