If there’s one consistent stumbling block that most people setting up a new website hit it’s hosting.
We’ve seen this again and again inside the Location Rebel forums. People are ready to get their blog up and running. They’ve got a good idea about the topic, who they want to reach, the products they want to promote, and then bam.
Everything gets derailed when its time to pick a web host service and get started.
Let’s stop that right here, shall we?
The fact of the matter is which host you choose depends on your needs. And while there is no true one size fits all type of host out there, for most people, especially most beginners, you can choose between a few quality web hosts and get what you need.
In this post, we want you to get the process moving. And that means thinking about your particular needs while you’re still in the idea stages of your site.
Then, once you’re ready to implement, you can move ahead without having to pause and getting off track.
These are the questions we think you need to answer before choosing a web hosting service.
Answer these questions first…
Before you start building your site, it’s always a good idea to sit down and have a little bit of a plan first. That doesn’t mean you need to have the answer to everything.
But, in general, it never hurts to think about what you want your site to be now and in the not so different future.
Believe it or not, that can help you make some key decisions when it comes to choosing the best host for your site.
Ready to dig in?
Let’s do this.
What platform are you using to build your site?
Let’s start with the basics.
Most people who get started use WordPress. But there are a growing number of people who are using sites like Wix and Weebly for blogs and Shopify or Squarespace for more eCommerce focused sites.
Some of these options, take Wix for example, have hosting already included. So you don’t need to think about much else.
But WordPress is the most popular site builder for a reason. And that’s because it has so many features and functions you can use to customize your site. A lot of the other site builder companies don’t have a lot of those features and might not be able to grow with you.
That’s something to consider.
We recommend building your site on a WordPress platform. It’s easy to use and you’ve got a ton of growth potential to update it down the road.
Are you going to get tons of traffic?
Before you default to duh, yes obviously, hang on one second.
Of course, that is the dream for new bloggers or freelancers. But the reality might be a little bit different for most of you. Freelance writers, for example, probably aren’t getting 10,000 people a month to their site to check out their portfolios.
Don’t worry, you can get plenty of clients with very little traffic. Here’s one way to do it.
Now, if you’re looking to take the niche site and affiliate marketing route, that could be a different story.
If you hit on the right product you can drive thousands of people to your site every week. So you might want to think about having a host that can hook you up with a Virtual Private Hosting (VPS) or dedicated server.
This handy little graphic gives you the basics on the types of servers web host services provide:
Most of you are going to be just fine with shared hosting to start.
Will you have certain times with lots of traffic?
Let’s say you run a niche site that really relies on using the Amazon Affiliate program for a chunk of your income. We know that Amazon (and lots of other online retailers) get hit with a huge influx of traffic around the holidays.
So if you’re planning a site that is really seasonal — for example, you see lots of traffic in November and December and very little the rest of the year — then you have to plan for that right now.
You want to make sure you’ve got a hosting situation that can handle big influxes of traffic and aren’t going to end up crashing your site or hitting you with any downtime.
If that happens during a bit moment, you’re going to potentially lose out on a bunch of money.
How’s your technical expertise?
It’s probably fair to say most of you don’t have a ton of experience with the back end of sites. Stuff like coding or design can be complicated and tricky, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
So there are some hosting services out there that are geared more towards the technical user versus the beginner. If you want to dig in and make tweaks and changes then that’s something to consider.
On the other hand, if you’d like your web host service to essentially be set it and forget it, then you want something that is going to be easy to figure out.
For most beginners, we recommend sticking to the easy learning curve to start.
How many sites are you running?
Most people who are just starting out should only worry about one site at a time.
We think that’s a good strategy. You can get that one site up and running, spend time cultivating it, get a bit of traffic, see some income come in, and then rinse and repeat.
For these people, any hosting service is going to work. That’s no problem.
But, what happens if you start building more sites over time?
Some hosting sites make it easy to add new domains to your account. And others make you feel like you need to pass an IQ test.
Remember, the goal of choosing the right web host service is to make it easy for yourself. So even if you aren’t planning on adding any additional sites right now, make sure it is an option in case you change your mind.
Is security a concern?
With hackers out there lurking around every corner, site security should matter to everyone. But there are levels to think about.
That’s especially true if you’re going to be running a site that has sensitive information or the personal data of your readers, subscribers, or buyers.
Pretty much every web host service company is going to provide a bundle of basic security features. But if you’re going to be operating in eCommerce, for example, then security should be a higher priority than someone who his just using their site for a freelance portfolio.
So check into your hosting options and see what kind of security features they offer.
Some common features that you should look for include:
- The ability to back up and restore your site to a specific point
- Monitoring the overall network for any weird blips or potential threats
- Alerting you if there is any malware or viruses that appear on your site
- Offering SSL certificates (SSL is another level of security that helps ensure data going between your site and your host stays private)
Those are the basics.
If you have additional security needs, keep those in mind as you shop for a host.
Do you have a lot of data?
While traffic volume is one metric that matters when it comes to choosing a host, it’s not the only one. Database size matters too.
Let’s say you’re planning on running your own online shop and you have a ton of products. All of those images and files is going to suck up a lot of data and take up space.
All that data loading can also impact your site’s performance, slowing it down. That’s not a good thing.
So, you probably need to think about hosts that offer you different options to cover your specific needs and have ways to ensure your site’s performance isn’t going to be impacted.
What about your budget?
It doesn’t matter how many fancy bells and whistles your hosting provider might have if you can’t actually afford to pay it every month.
A lot of people, especially beginners who are going to have relatively simple setups should look for a host that gives you a ton of value for a good price.
Most people can afford to pay upwards of say $10-15 a month for shared hosting. That is going to cover your basic needs.
If you need more, you’ll have to pay more. Both VPN and dedicated hosting are going to cost much more a month. But you’ll also get a lot more in terms of features.
Be sure to weigh those carefully.
A freelance writer who is using a site to host a portfolio, a rates page, and a few blog posts isn’t going to need a dedicated server for $100 a month.
But, if you’re running a popular niche site that sees traffic spikes and holds a lot of data, that price might just be a no brainer for the additional benefits dedicated hosting provides.
For beginners, we think you can find what you need in that lower price range that will give you the best bang for your buck.
How’s their help desk?
If there is one truism when it comes to building a website, at some point you will do something wrong and a bunch of stuff will go haywire.
That’s just what happens as you’re learning to build something.
Now the difference between getting back on track in an hour and throwing your laptop out a window is probably going to have a lot to do with how good your hosting company’s help desk operates.
You want a hosting service that has an in house team that is available all the time to help you figure things out via phone, chat, and email.
Even if you think you might never need the help team, consider it. Having a great support team can make all the difference. Especially when you don’t have the expertise or the time to figure these things out on your own.
How easy is it to switch hosts?
Sometimes there comes a day when you might have to move your current site off one host and on to another.
That might be because you aren’t happy with the service or you need to make an upgrade based on the success of your business (yay).
Ideally, your host will be able to grow with you, but sometimes you just have to make the switch. So before that happens, make sure you know what the process is going to look like.
Some hosts make it pretty easy while others can be an absolute nightmare. And, honestly, that’s probably a red flag you might want to consider as you’re looking at hosts.
Our best recommendations for hosting services
Answering these questions is going to help you determine what web hosting company is going to be the best for your needs.
Here are our picks:
- The Best Hosting Service for Most People: Bluehost
- Best Hosting Service for Established Sites: WP Engine
- The Best VPS Hosting Service (if you’re technical): Linode
For the vast majority of you reading this post, Bluehost is a great choice. It’s going to give you that combination value, ease of use, scalability, security, and service all for an affordable price.
If you want to learn more about choosing the right web host service for your needs, check out our in-depth guide that covers everything you need to know about hosting.