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Which host should you use for your website?

Web hosting is a crap shoot. It’s fluid, a good host today may be a bad host tomorrow.

The Key is Portability:

Preparing for the inevitable is the best advice I can give you. If your site is portable, you can move it to a new host an order of magnitude easier then recreating from scratch.

Let’s break this down:

There a two key components to keeping your site portable: Your domain and website platform.

Don’t buy your Domain from your host.

When you buy your domain from your web host, they control it. If you want to move to another host it will be a pain in the butt. Think about it. How helpful will they be knowing they are losing a customer?

I use Godaddy for all my domains. Wait dude….. they are a Web Host. Yep, and a lot more. Here’s where it gets confusing.

Back in the day you would buy a Domain from a Registrar. Then buy hosting from a hosting company. They were separate. Then Registrars got into the hosting business and hosting companies got into the registration business. Wait wut… Confusing right? But good for all of us in the end.

In 1999 domain registrations were privatized, setting the stage for competition and price drops. Today you can buy a domain for $10-$15 per year. Yay! It used to be $100. The other big change was everyone jumped into the domain biz.

The lesson here is to use a company that sells Domains NOT tied to your hosting. The companies that do are simply buying your domain in their name. Probably thru Godaddy 🙂

Create Your Site with WordPress

WordPress is open. That means portable my friend. Your content and data are not locked behind a closed system.

The 800-pound Gorillas

Sqaurespace, Wix, and Weebly. All are closed systems. Your content and data are locked up and out of your control. When you need to move – it will be expensive. I move businesses to WordPress from all of them and it is a time suck. Even for a small site.

Types of hosting

There are a few distinct types of hosting: Shared, Premium, VPS, Cloud Based, and Co-located. Choosing the right one for your business isn’t too complicated. It’s based on traffic and reliability. Most likely, a small business website doesn’t get a lot of traffic to start. So let’s look the first three cheapest options.

1. Shared Hosting – roughly $10 per month

The cheapest type, many businesses start with it. Shared means that your site will be located on a server that has other websites. Each site appears to be separate, but all are located on one machine and it will be crowded. Performance slows because the traffic is shared too.

Like an event at a big venue. When the ticket counter opens early, the line moves quickly. As the event gets closer the line grows and slows to a crawl.

A low traffic site can perform fairly well with some tweaks. But as general rule, it’s not going to be a screamer.

It’s the most popular (hey it’s the cheapest), but a crowded server leads to reliability problems. Also, pay no attention to uptime claims, they’re bogus. It’s mathematically easy claim 99.9% uptime and impossible to prove otherwise. Just remember that it’s cheap and you get what you pay for.

Some decent shared hosts are Dreamhost and Midphase.

2. Premium WordPress Hosting – roughly $30 per month

This is relatively new space and has potential to be AWESOME. But there are growing pains. Not every Premium WordPress host is actually “Premium”. It ‘s going to be a big business so virtually everyone is jumping on the train. But only a few do it well right now.

Premium WP hosting effectively means restrictions. Not bad ones though. Most related to security and performance. But a few have removed some crucial features. I recently ran into one that didn’t allow FTP access, that’s not good. The space is do new that it will take time for tech support to get up to speed.

It’s more expensive than Shared, but much faster, can handle a lot more traffic, and is more secure.

Some ‘first to the space’ Premium hosts are WPEngine and MediaTemple.

3. VPS – starting around $50 per month

The next rung in the ladder is a Virtual Private Server (VPS). Oddly, this is a type of shared hosting. One machine with multiple Virtual Machines running on the same hardware. But performance and reliability are through the roof compared to Shared.

The biggest challenge with a VPS is it’s now YOUR server. Which means updates, security, and maintenance at the server layer are your responsibly. The upside is performance, which is quickly becoming a key variable for getting good Google results. Some companies offer Managed VPS. This means that they will take care of the server stuff for you – at a price. Usually a big one.

The best VPS host by far is WiredTree. I won’t bother adding any other. Their best feature? People. Their techs know their Sh!# and are always on point.

Free Hosting

You’ll be tempted, but I can’t recommend it. Remember you get what you pay for and your content will be locked up.

One more thing – Email

Email is a feature of almost all web hosts. It shares some of the same challenges. I don’t think of it in terms of “good” or “bad”. So go ahead and use it if it’s your only option. You can always switch later. I can’t cover it all here, it ‘s a topic for another post which is in the works. 🙂

So there you go. Use this as your guide and you’ll sidestep some landmines.

If you have a specific question about your business hit me up in the comments or for a private channel: contact me here.

Chris Jones

Is a Small Business secret weapon in Cleveland, Ohio. A Wordpress Ronin and IT Jedi. He's behind the scenes at many Small Businesses and Non-Profits.

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