Every website on the planet requires a web-host. But which one should you choose?
Here are 10 essential questions you must ask to help you determine which web-host is right for you.
Below are the topics of discussion in this article. Feel free to click on any one of the following links to skip to that section.
- Where is the server located that my site will be on?
- How fast are the servers that my website will be on?
- How many customers share the same server that my site will be hosted on?
- Do they offer “1-Click-Installation” for WordPress?
- How easy is it to upgrade or downgrade my hosting plan?
- What plan is in place if the server dies?
- Do they provide free SSL?
- How responsive is their customer support?
- Do they provide a money back guarantee?
- How much does Hosting cost?
- BONUS: What web-host do I use and why?
- BONUS: SiteGround Customer Support
What is Web-hosting anyway? In short, it is a place where your website is stored. According to the Netcraft January 2018 Web Server Survey there are over 1.8 billion websites online right now. Every website on the internet is hosted somewhere, but not all web hosts are equal.
Some web-hosting companies market themselves well and are very popular, but that does not mean that they are the best by any means. Some of them, in fact, are quite lousy. Below is a list of 10 questions that you should ask before determining where you will host your website.
Where is the server located that my site will be on?
The reason that this is an important question that must be answered, is because you want to make sure that your website will display quickly when visiting it.
For example, if you live in the United States, and your website is hosted on a server somewhere in Australia, visitors from the United States will have to wait an extra second or two before your website displays on their screen. This may sound a bit extreme, but if your site take longer than 1-2 seconds to load, people will leave and somewhere else. This is known as “latency”. Latency is the is the amount of time it takes for the web-host server to receive and process a request, so that the page will display.
The closer that your web-host is to your target audience, the faster your website will display. This, of course, assumes that the web-host utilizes fast servers.
How fast are the servers that my website will be on?
This can be a “geeky” questions, but it needs to be asked. If you don’t know what would be “good”, share what they tell you with a computer geek friend of yours.
Basically, you want to make sure that the server is running on SSD drives and you want to know how much RAM will be allocated to YOUR website.
If the web-host can not, or will not answer either of these two questions, run. Don’t bother asking them any other questions, because you will be wasting your time. Any web-hosting company worth their salt should have the answers to these two questions on the tip of their tongue.
How many customers share the same server that my site will be hosted on?
Shared hosting plans are just that. Shared. They generally are very inexpensive, and that’s because you are sharing the hardware with other websites. How many other websites is the question.
Shady hosting companies will not want to share this number with you. But if they do tell you up front without hesitation, that also says a lot. It says that they are confident that their servers can handle the traffic and that they have (or can allocate), sufficient hardware to accommodate the traffic as needed.
Do they offer “1-Click-Installation” for WordPress?
Some web-hosts do not make it easy for users to get their website up and running quickly. Their only concern is getting you to sign up for their hosting plan.
There are hosts, however, that make you extremely easy to get your website up and running within minutes. They offer the ability to install your WordPress website with one click. Web-hosts that offer this type of automation make it really simple. They intentionally make it easy for you, with no hard geeky-questions to answer.
How easy is it to upgrade or downgrade my hosting plan?
It’s a good sign if the web-host makes it easy to upgrade or downgrade (without penalty). Of course, you will pay more to upgrade, but you should pay less to downgrade without being penalized for doing so.
Why would you want to upgrade or downgrade your hosting plan? Because when signing up for a hosting plan, you really do not know how fast the traffic to your website will grow. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard an ad on the radio advertising a product where they gave the name of the website, only to find that the website would not come up because they had chosen a very basic hosting plan that did not allow for lots of traffic at the same time.
Because the host could not handle the traffic, they lost a lot of potential customers. Perhaps you won’t ever advertise on the radio, but what if a friend on FaceBook were to recommend a product or service of yours, and for whatever reason, that Facebook post went viral? Would your hosting plan allow for the traffic?
Given this possibility, you need to know how long will it take your web-host to upgrade your hosting plan, should you find yourself in such a situation. On the other hand, you may find that the traffic that you anticipated is substantially less than what you hoped for.
Most web-hosts will allow you to downgrade your plan as well. In either case, a good web-host will allow you to easily upgrade or downgrade your hosting plan, even temporarily, if need be.
What plan is in place if the server dies?
Computers are not infallible. Even with our best efforts, they are still susceptible to power outages, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. Additionally, occasionally, servers have to be rebooted and software needs to be “patched”. This all happens in the background and you have nothing to worry about, however, given Most web-hosts will boast an “uptime of 99.99%” which is not perfect, but acceptable. The question is, when the server is down, is there a backup server that mirrors your server so that your site does not go “down”?
When rebooting a server, it means that the website will be down for 2-3 minutes, 5 minutes at most. For most websites, this is not really an issue, unless you are running an online store. In that case, you definitely want to ensure that your hosting plan allows for a mirrored server. That means that your website is hosted on one server that is mirrored in real-time, so if one server goes down, the other server will instantly pick up where the other one left off.
Do they provide free SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. When you enter information on a form, anything from an email address when signing up for a newsletter, to a credit card number, that information is passed from computer to computer until it makes its way to the destination server.
Any computer in between you and the server can see any information that you submitted on that form, be it the credit card number you submitted, usernames and even passwords.
It used to be that you would only use an SSL certificate on a site where you would submit credit card information. However, with the increase of identity theft and credit card fraud, SSL is now becoming the norm.
In fact, Google has announced that they will be flagging ALL websites that do not have an SSL certificate. This means that when you visit a website that does not have an SSL certificate, it will read, “Not Secure” in bright red in the URL of the browser.
So, when people visit your website, if you have an SSL certificate on the website, the URL will show https:\\ instead of simply http:\\.
Because of the direction that Google is going, in time, if a user does not see https:\\ in the URL of your website, they will likely not submit any information, even an email address, and certainly not a credit card number. Just make sure that when you purchase a hosting plan, ensure that you get an SSL certificate with the hosting plan.
How responsive is their customer support?
It is imperative that you find out the answer to this question, as it is probably the most important question to ask, and definitely should NOT be overlooked.
Here are three things you can do to ensure that their Customer Support is all that they say that it is BEFORE you ever become a customer of theirs.
Call their toll-free number
How long it takes to speak to a real person on the phone. I’m not talking about “Press 1 for Customer Service, Press 2 for Billing, etc”. I’m talking about a REAL person.
I did this one time. I literally called the toll-free 1-800 number and to my surprise, when they picked up the phone after three rings, and said, “How can I help you?”, I was blown away. I replied, “I’m considering using your services and I just wanted to know how long it would take to speak to a real person. You passed with flying colors! I didn’t even have to interact with a machine!”
Utilize their “Chat Support”
It doesn’t take long to tell if the chat support representative is a part time 11th grader, hoping to get a few hours in before bed time 😉
Send them an e-mail
See how long it takes them to respond. My web-host usually responds to email tickets within 10 minutes. That’s just ridiculously fast. I have personally dealt with one “web-host” that could only be contacted by email, and even then, “they” (really, it was one guy), took two days to respond, . . . asking me for additional information!
It was during this crisis situation, that I realized the value in ensuring that a web-hosting company had top-notch customer support. I had discovered the value in getting a response quickly from people who knew what they were doing.
Do you really want to entrust your business website to an 11th grader who is more concerned about posting on Facebook than he is about ensuring that you get the help you need?
Do they provide a money back guarantee?
Why is this important? Because when setting up your website, you may find that the hosting company is not as “responsive” to your requests as you would have liked.
You also may find that navigating your way around their hosting services is a lot more difficult than you anticipated. If the hosting company does not offer a “30 Day Money Back Guarantee”, there are plenty of others that will.
Offering that guarantee also helps to build credibility by letting the customer know that they really have nothing to worry about, and if they do, they can get a full refund.
How much does Hosting cost?
There is a lot of competition out there. Hosting is inexpensive. Very inexpensive. Packages start at about $3.95 per month. The next step up is usually $5.95 per month. It’s still ridiculously inexpensive.
Given how inexpensive hosting plans are, cost should not be the reason for choosing one web-host over another. Customer Support definitely is, however.
I know that we just talked about this, but when you have a real need, and you need to speak to a representative on the phone, or via chat, which host is going to be more responsive? How long does it take them to respond to a support ticket that you submit? I would GLADLY pay even more, just to ensure that the Customer Support is always there for me, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, should I require their services.
What web-host do I use and why?
Before I tell you, let it be stated that I’m recommending this company because I believe in them, and they have served me exceptionally over the years.
This web-host does not know me from a hole in the wall, even though I have received support via chat and the ticketing system. This adds even more credibility to my recommendation.
I host all of my websites on SiteGround. SiteGround was founded in 2004, and hosts over 1,000,000 domain names. They employ over 500 employees, which speaks volumes. In other words, they are not some risky-dink operation operating out of their Mother’s basement.
Siteground offers a wide range of services at a very competitive price. I love that their shared hosting servers are hosted on SSD drives. So, for their basic package at $3.95 per month, the latency on your website (the time it takes for the website to display), is very fast.
I have built sites that display in under half a second that are hosted on SiteGround. The hardware that the servers utilize plays a part in that.
Though they are located in Sofia, Bulgaria, don’t let that fool you. On a whim, I could choose to move my website to another server of theirs located in either Amsterdam, Singapore or London. Currently, my site resides on their server located in Chicago, Illinois here in the United States.
They have this thing called, ‘Softaculous’, which is “a 3rd party auto installer add-on which is installed in cPanel on all SiteGround hosting plans. Softaculous offers more than 230 applications and scripts and it allows you to install them with just a few clicks. Currently, it can install a large number of applications and scripts ranging from bulletin boards to content management systems and even Java Script libraries.”
They make a daily back-up of my site, so that if I inadvertently mess things up big time, worse case scenario, I can always restore the entire website back to yesterday. I never have to back it up, they just do it automatically. Gotta love that.
SiteGround Customer Support
The customer support offered by SiteGround is just excellent. I know that I can get real time help via chat any time of the day or night, even on weekends.
If the chat support representative is not able to resolve the issue, they will open up a ticket for me, escalating the issue to a higher level of support. I have known their “Tier 2” support representatives to respond within 10 minutes of submitting a ticket! Who does that for $3.95 a month!
I once left SiteGround for another company, only to return within 6 months. The customer support offered by SiteGround could just not be matched, and when you have a real need, getting a problem resolved in short order is of utmost importance, especially to your clients.
The bottom line is that they way over deliver on the services they offer, which is why I am so impressed with SiteGround. They deliver on all of the positive things that I have mentioned in this article and I would highly recommend their services to anyone looking to for a web-hosting company.
What is a good company to register my domain name with? Namecheap.com is a reputable company that will register your domain name for only $8.88 per year. Their site is easy to navigate and simple to set up. Unlike NameCheap.com in every way, Godaddy.com may only charge $2.95 for the first year, but then will charge you $15.00 every year thereafter.
Why are there so many web-hosts out there?
There are literally thousands of web-hosting companies out there. Some offer fantastic services and support. Others are “Mom-and-Pop” operations who’s servers are located in their mother’s basement, with no support at all. Choose wisely. Choose a reputable web-host.