Tips on website hosting

Hosting your website means, loosely translated, where you will store the files that make up your site so that others on the Internet can have access to them.

Sorry if that's over-simplistic for some people, but when I first started out on-line I had no idea what hosting was but everyone assumed I knew!

Deciding where to host your website and/or blog is not a decision to be made lightly. Unfortunately I DID make it lightly, because I didn't understand all the implications. Hopefully reading this wil help you avoid the mistakes I made.

Once you have decided on a hosting company, it’s not easy to move. Well – not for mere mortals like me. No doubt some people will find it a piece of cake! And – take hope – even I dare do it now, so you WILL learn.

As I found out, it’s very easy to make a mistake. Here are a few points to consider up-front:

  • Ask advice from people who you know to have successful online businesses. If you don't know anyone, ask in Internet Marketing forums (Google to find them). Which hosting company do they use? Don’t take one person’s word for it. Ask several people and take a consensus.
  • When starting out you need to balance your desire to minimise costs with the more important aspect of reliability – which is far more important for the long-term success of your business. If your hosting company is unreliable and your website is often “down” you could easily lose more sales in a day than the cost of a full month’s hosting. If I lost ONE sale of the ebook I promote on my complementary health blog that would lose me more money ($19.90) than a month's hosting.
  • Don’t assume that the hosting company will keep your backups. Ask about this, but make your own backups too in case they have a total failure, or – perish the thought – go out of business, taking your sites with them. If you've chosen a good company that's unlikely, but always be ready for the worst-case scenario.
  • Go for a monthly billing option rather than paying for a year’s hosting up-front. Not only will it be better for cash-flow, you will also have the option to move elsewhere if problems arise. I once paid for a year up-front but after two months of unreliable service I not only had the problem of moving my sites, but also of trying for a refund. I got it in the end, but what hassle!
  • Ask questions in advance via the support site and watch out how fast the response is. If they don't respond quickly to pre-sales questions, be suspicious of how well they will treat you when they have your money!
  • Don’t pay for advanced features you don’t need. A basic account will suit most beginners, and good hosting companies will advise you of your needs and let you upgrade as your requirements increase.
  • Plan for success online, confirm that there IS an upgrade path!
  • Check that they provide what you DO need. Surprisingly not all hosting companies cater for WordPress blogging; my very first hosting company didn't support php which was needed by WordPress. Ask up front if they support WordPress and Fatastico (which allows easier WP installation).
  • Check their terms of service. Some companies will not accept certain sites – for instance gambling sites. While YOU may not consider the lottery as gambling, be sure that your hosting company is happy with your site before going to the trouble of getting it set up.
  • Pay special attention to what support turn-round they offer. If you have problems you will expect FAST replies!
  • Although the company where you register your domain will almost certainly offer you hosting, it's a good idea to keep the two functions with different service providers so that all your eggs aren't in the one basket. Also, some companies are very good at one function, but not so good on the other.
  • Unless you're a whizz at all this stuff, it's a good idea to use a company that uses a “standard cpanel interface”. That's the way you communicate with your site's files. When you take any training courses, the teaching examples will usually use cpanel.
  • If things are NOT working out, ask for help in the support area. One of my sites was loading very slowly so I asked for help and the site was moved onto a faster server for me. If you don't ask, you won't get.

I actually have my sites split across 4 hosting companies. It came about largely by accident because I actually had no clue what I was doing at the outset. Later I was tempted to move them all to the one company, but then I “used up” my allocation for the plan I had chosen with my preferred company so I let the others stay where they were.

In fact there's a school of thought that if you are linking from one blog to another, Google gives more weight to links between sites on different servers (the implication being that G considers links between your own sites less valuable than links from a stranger's site). Personally I think we've moved on from this now and Google probably knows better than I do where all my sites are hosted 🙂 🙂

I hope these tips will help you choose the web-hosting company that is right for your needs.

I understand that when you are eager to get your first website up and running, it’s easy to dive in, but take some time to do the research into what will be a long-term relationship. Mistakes can be costly and time-consuming, especially when you are new and everything is confusing.

Update July 2015

After a few bad hosting experiences – where the above criteria where NOT satisfied, I am now hosting my website with SiteGround – and never been happier with a company!

Check out SiteGround here.