Choosing a reliable hosting plan

5 June 2017

What is a hosting plan?

In order for your website to be visible to the world, it needs to be hosted on a server somewhere. The server is basically a big computer, but it’s configured especially to deliver web files. It means that when someone types in your domain name, wanting to visit your site, the hosting provider, serves up the correct web files associated with that domain name. (If you haven’t registered your domain name yet, you can go through the steps on my previous post)

While we all see the value of producing fantastic content on our websites, sometimes the business of where we choose our website to live (ie our hosting company), is rather overlooked.

Reliable web hosting is a crucial part of building a robust website which is available 24/7.

What happens if we make the wrong choice?

  • Possible loss of revenue. It goes without saying that if people are visiting a website which is offline, it could negatively impact your ability to convert people to customers. Not only that, often your hosting company will be looking after the delivery of your business emails as well. If your website and your emails go down, you may not only lose credibility, but customers too.
  • Negative impact on your search engine visibility. If a search engine is driving traffic to your website, and it repeatedly can’t find it, it’s likely to negatively influence your search engine ranking.
  • Security. There are no guarantees when it comes to malware attacks, but your hosting provider should be taking definitive steps to lock down their servers against malicious hackers, and be taking daily backups of your site, so it can quickly and easily be restored in the event of an attack. Choosing a hosting provider without this service, and failing to take your own backup, could mean starting your website again from scratch, and being offline for weeks or months.

So now that we have recognise how important it is to make a good choice with your web host, what kind of things should we be looking for in terms of features?

What features should we look for in a web host?

  • More than 99% uptime. Any less than that, and it’s not reliable enough to trust your website with. I would even go as far as looking for 99.5%. 100% is verging on impossible to guarantee.
  • Excellent customer service. This company is going to be looking after a fundamental cornerstone of your business, so you want to be able to make contact with them. I always try out the support function before I make a commitment to a hosting provider. Try out the live chat, or call the support line and see what the service is like. I usually ask them how they would help me migrate a site over to them and see how helpful they are.
  • Room to grow. You may be starting small, but if you have ambitions for your business, you need to know that your hosting company has the ability to accommodate growth in your site and in your volumes of traffic. This may simply mean upgrading your server space, or possibly moving you from a shared hosting environment (where you share space with other companies) to a dedicated server (where only your files are on an exclusive server)
  • Ability to host more than one domain. You may start with one domain name, but in the long run, you may want to include different domains for different services or programs which offer, and to keep things simple, it would be easier to have them all on one hosting plan.
  • Cost. Price is obviously going to influence your choice. Be informed about what other providers are charging, as I have seen people paying WAAAAY too much for their hosting services. Keep in mind though, that you usually get what you pay for, so the budget plans may be missing some vital features, such as security and back ups. Basing your decision solely on price may be a decision you regret if your site goes down and you lose everything.
  • SSL. Sounds really geeky, and it kind of is, but SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and having an SSL certificate means that your website starts off https:// rather than http://. It also provides that padlock in the browser toolbar which indicates that all the data passing from your computer to the server is encrypted. This used to only be important if you were taking online payments through your site, but is becoming increasingly important for search engine rankings. Some hosts will charge you a lot of money for an SSL certificate, but many hosts now provide a Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate which you can install for free.
  • Specialisation. I now only use hosting providers who specialise in WordPress hosting as they configure their servers specifically for WordPress which usually means that they serve the pages faster and are familiar with any WordPress-related issues which may arise.
  • Green credentials. This carries different weight depending on your stance on the environment but for many of us, it’s important to check the ecological credentials of the organisations that we’re working with.

Who to choose?

There are lots of hosting providers out there, and many of them do a really great job.  I choose to use SiteGround for all my sites as they satisfy my checklist of features to look for in a host, and provide a great service.

Here are some of the reasons that I love them:

1) They are one of the few hosting providers recommended by WordPress.org. They also have a data centre in London. 

2) They offer three shared hosting plans so there is something to fit every scenario

  • StartUp – can host one website, it can handle up to 10,000 unique visits per month and has the first level of our SuperCacher plugin enabled which is static cache, 24/7 client support, free CDN, Let’s Encrypt SSL, Unlimited Emails & DBs, free daily backup, etc.
  • GrowBig – you can host multiple websites and this plan can handle up to 25,000 visits per month, 30 backup copies and free restore, all 3-levels of our SuperCacher, which aids loading time tremendously, technical support with priority, although we have insanely fast response times, our Grow Big and GoGeek clients are handled with priority, very important for beginner users.
  • GoGeek – can host multiple websites and offers even more space, can handle up to 100,000 visits per month, includes all features of the other two plans plus 1-click WP staging, free backup on demand, and fewer accounts on the server.

3) They are GDPR compliant so they comply with the new data privacy laws in the UK.

4) They offer amazing speed, security and support.

Other hosting providers recommended by WordPress include Dreamhost and Bluehost.

Getting started

We love SiteGround so much, and send so much business to them that when you visit our link, you’ll see our customised page.

This will take you to a page with 3 options. For most small businesses, the StartUp Plan is adequate. You can get started here, and upgrade later if you find that you need more space.

When you click on ‘Get Started’ under your plan, you’ll have an option to purchase a domain name, or specify the one that you have already registered. If you already have a domain name registered somewhere else, click the ‘I already have a domain name’ option, and specify the one which you are going to use as your primary web address. Click ‘Proceed’.

If you need a domain name too, choose the ‘Register a New Domain’ option, enter your chosen domain name and click ‘Proceed’.

select domain

Choose ‘I don’t need help’ from the next screen.

Fill in the client information and your payment information on the next screen to create your account. Under the ‘purchase information’, if you can stretch to include SG Scanner, it’s a very worthwhile service, as it scans your website for malicious activity and helps protect you from hackers. If it’s too much of a stretch financially, you will be fine without it – it’s just a great safety net to have in place.

Agree to the Terms & Conditions, and complete the purchase.

As a sidenote, even though the prices are listed as monthly fees on Siteground, there isn’t a monthly payment option. You have to sign up for a year. 

Your hosting plan is now in place. You will receive a couple of emails from Siteground confirming your account details. Don’t forget to keep them safe!

Now you have your hosting plan ready, and your domain name, we’re going to connect the two of them in our next post which talks about redirecting your domain name.

Disclaimer: Some of the links that I use in this post and throughout this challenge may be affiliate links. That means that I may be paid a commission for purchases made through these links. It doesn’t cost anything more to purchase through an affiliate link, and I use any commission payouts to advertise these kind of challenges to ensure I’m able to reach and help as many entrepreneurs like you as possible. I will only ever recommend products or services which I myself use and trust. 

Vicky Etherington

Vicky Etherington has been running her own online marketing agency since 2003, and in 2015 transitioned to working with coaches and therapists to teach them how to create their own client-attracting websites. 

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Posted in: Web design
Tagged as: hosting

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