I know, I know–it’s not an exciting topic. In the world of the web, hosting is sort of like homeowner’s insurance. It’s not fun, like hosting a party (let’s call that the social media). It’s not particularly creative, like making home improvements (à la website design). It’s not even as challenging as fixing the plumbing (er, domain management?).
Aside: This is kind of entertaining. I may need to do a post about all the ways that digital domains are like houses…
The point is, while it’s not glamorous or creative, web hosting is a necessity.
And like homeowner’s insurance, it’s easy to think you’ll get the same service wherever you go. But the web hosting service you choose can have a major effect on your site, your message, and your bottom line.
The first reason is because of speed and bandwidth. Different hosting providers use different servers, some throttle bandwidth, some have faster speeds than others. And website loading speeds have a major effect on traffic, customer conversion, and visitor time-on-page. So it’s not only important to research your prospective hosting provider, but also the different plans they offer.
Find out: What do public reviews say about access speed? Are there limits to bandwidth (that is, are there limits to the amount of traffic in and out of the site each month)? Does your hosting provider start throttling speeds after a certain amount of traffic? Will a certain amount of traffic possibly crash your site?
The second reason to compare hosting providers comes down to features. Different providers offer different sets of tools, including tools to access your account (i.e. cPanel), options for email accounts, security tools, and software (such as WordPress integration).
Ask: What features will I get with my account? Can I easily access account features? Do I get email addresses (cause, duh, every website basically needs to have associated email addresses)? What do public reviews say about things like security and ease-of-use? Are security tools and site backups included? If I don’t get these things, do I need to pay a premium for such features?
Maybe there are features you can live without, but if there are things you’re sure you’ll need (like, if you have an e-commerce site and you know you’ll need a customer support email address) ask what you’ll need to do to supplement these features.
We’ve been hosting websites personally and professionally for more than a decade. And we can say with confidence that working with a bad hosting provider can be frustrating, time-consuming, and costly.
So, quickly, here’s our list of ‘oh-no-no’s:
* Your site loads as quick as cold molasses.
* You can never reach a customer service representative, you never get a quick response, and you don’t know anyone who actually works for your hosting provider.
* There’s no easy way to log into your account. When you do log in, everything looks like Greek.
* You pay for services you don’t understand.
The point of this post wasn’t necessarily to tell you which hosting providers to use. There are a lot of options out there, from the inexpensive DIY accounts to full-service hosting, like the programs that we offer through our Hosting with Heart service. The point was more to help individuals and business owners to recognize if it’s time to reassess their hosting service.
That said, I’d be remiss not to mention a few options that we like. For a truly DIY option (as in, you better have an understanding of server systems) check out DigitalOcean. And for something that’s a little more intuitive but will still require you to manage your account, we really like A2 Hosting. Both of these options will give you the same accessibility and can integrate the same features as big-name hosting services like GoDaddy and HostGator. But you’ll get faster speed, more customization, and you’ll save money for the same services.
Now, I also have to make a quick plug for our Hosting with Heart service. Our hosting program is a full-service option that offers email addresses, site backups, tight security, ample server space, no bandwidth limits, personalized customer service, and even website edits. But best of all–we think–for every client we sign up, we give free website hosting to a non-profit. And we ask our clients to help us find deserving non-profits. Our web hosting isn’t for everyone, namely those who want to handle all the back-end work themselves. For those folks, we’re always happy to discuss other options to help you find the perfect hosting provider.
But if you’re looking to get great, personalized service and a whole bunch of web hosting features, not to mention do something nice for our partner non-profits, check out our Hosting with Heart service.
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