Launching a website can feel confusing and overwhelming. Specifically, many newbie bloggers delay the launch of their blogs because they are afraid to choose a paid hosting company. If you know what criteria are most important, though, you can select a paid web host with confidence.
When I started blogging, I made the mistake of going for a free website’s instant gratification and then moved to a paid hosting service. I later moved my blog a third time as well. Nina Amir, the founder of this blog, began with a free site for the same reason—speed to market. She quickly moved the site to paid hosting and has migrated it to different web hosting services four times since.
Obviously, it’s possible to switch web hosting companies. However, migrating your site from one hosting company to another can be challenging and requires patience and a little know-how. Therefore, it’s best to look at your long-term business goals and clarify how you want your business to grow. Then you can choose a web hosting company that can support a website that expands with your business.
3 Criteria for Choosing a Web Hosting Company
To avoid overwhelm when researching the broad range of web hosting service providers available, focus on three priority criteria. By approaching the choice in this manner, you are likely to discover the ideal host for your blog.
The three criteria are:
There’s nothing wrong with using a free blogging platform, like WordPress.com or Blogger.com, if you’re a hobby blogger. But if your blog is part of your business, you need to factor a paid hosting service into your budget.
The free web host I chose when I launched my blog didn’t allow me to use a custom URL. Nor did it allow me enough control over the look and feel of the website design, so I switched to my first paid hosting company. This host had recurring uptime issues, and their dashboard had a steep learning curve. So, I moved to BlueHost, and I’ve been with them ever since.
Moving was challenging. I had to migrate my site and domain names between hosting services, but now I have a long term solution to support my brand.
It’s tempting to opt for a free web hosting option, but you will have to give up some control over what is displayed on your website. Some free hosting providers will splash irrelevant ads on your site, or they’ll only provide a limited set of design options and functionality. As your business needs expand, such issues cause you to outgrow the web host. You’ll be forced to change your hosting company because the restrictions and lack of control become an impediment.
All paid hosting companies offer different tiers of service based on a variety of criteria. When you’re just starting out, the basic plan will serve your needs, and you should base your decision on the type of content and how much of it you plan on publishing.
As you can see in the example below, the storage options offered in the basic web hosting plans vary widely:
- The SiteGround basic plan includes 1 website and 10GB of storage space.
- The Bluehost basic plan includes 1 website and 50GB of storage space.
- The A2 Hosting basic plan includes 1 website and 100GB of storage.
- The HostPapa basic plan includes 2 websites and 100GB of storage.
For the average blogger, the 50GB of storage will be sufficient. If your blog posts are primarily text, you’ll be able to blog for years and not outgrow the basic plan. But if you intend to create a media-rich site with lots of large videos and image files, these will consume your storage capacity.
When you’re blogging and including images, make sure you optimize or compress your files before uploading them to your website. High quality is essential for print, but you can get away with smaller files for websites.
Most popular hosting companies offer an introductory rate for new subscribers. Check their regular rates so you know what the increase will be when your trial period ends.
There’s nothing more damaging in the online world than a site being down, which means its inaccessible. It doesn’t instill much confidence in your web visitors if they can’t access your site. Also, if your site is unavailable when bots are due to crawl it, then this has an adverse effect on your search engine rankings.
When looking at a web hosting company, check their uptime metrics, which indicate the amount of time their system is operating successfully.
WhoIsHostingThis.com shares tips and advice to help webmasters find their ideal web hosting provider, and here are the top five ranked web hosts based on their uptime:
Choose a company with a reported annual score of 99% or higher, and avoid any company that reports uptime scores below 95%.
If your site gets hacked, this causes downtime—as well as a variety of other issues. Therefore, it’s enormously important that your web host provider has a good site security reputation.
WhoIsHostingThis.com assessed hosts who offer SSL, security and virus protection, and a firewall. Here are the top five ranked web hosts based on their uptime:
Personal Data Security
Have you noticed that some URLs start with “http://” while others begin with “https://”? The extra “s” means your connection to that website is secure and encrypted. Any data entered onto your site is safely shared with that website. The technology that powers that little “s” is a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. This technology encrypts data between the user and the server; only your server and the user’s browser can decrypt the data sent back and forth.
Even though Bluehost offered free SSL certificates as part of my hosting plan, I didn’t activate them initially. I didn’t see the need. But without this, when people left comments on my site, their personal information (name, email, and IP address) was vulnerable. It wasn’t being encrypted when the data is transmitted.
Your site visitors deserve the most basic level of security when entering any of their personal data. With an SSL certificate, you’re providing your site visitors with the peace of mind they deserve.
Making your Choice
Everyone’s website needs differ, so there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation when it comes to choosing a web hosting company. Look at your long-term business goals before you choose a web host to make sure it can meet your requirements and allow your site to grow. Then assess the functionality your website needs to support the content you plan to publish.
It’s tempting to base your decision solely on price, but don’t succumb to that temptation. Put your site visitors first; prioritize reliability and security.
Do you have a self-hosted blog? What criteria did you use to choose your hosting service? Let us know in the comment section below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share it on social media or with other writers or bloggers.
About the Author
Jay Artale abandoned her corporate career to become a digital nomad and full-time writer. She’s an avid blogger and a nonfiction author helping travel writers and travel bloggers achieve their self-publishing goals. Join her at Birds of a Feather Press where she shares tips, advice, and inspiration to writers with an independent spirit.
Photo courtesy of efks.