Ok cool, you’ve decided you’re ready to build a blog or a lifestyle business.
Regardless of what kind of business that is, there’s one constant: you’re going to need a domain and you’re going to need hosting (at least eventually).
If you’re just getting started, this can be a scary, daunting process. All of the services look the same, you have no idea what you should be looking for, and you don’t know the difference between dedicated and shared hosting – let alone which company is best.
Never fear, this post is the only one you’ll need to make sure you get setup with the right services, as quickly and easily as possible.
In this we are going to cover:
- The One Thing More Important than Hosting
- The difference between shared, VPS and dedicated hosting
- What the pros and cons are of each of the most popular hosting companies
- What features you should be looking for from any hosting company you choose
- How and where to buy your first domain
Why is Good Hosting Important?
If you’re building a business online there are very few upfront expenses that you have to make – at least for the type of businesses we’re advocating on this site.
That said, there’s one area where it’s worth spending a little bit of money: hosting.
Your hosting is the foundation for your entire business. If your hosting goes down, your entire business goes down. If it’s too slow, people will look elsewhere. If it doesn’t have the features you want, you’ll get stressed and frustrated.
Because of all of these reasons, it’s generally worth spending a little bit of time really figuring out what’s right for you.
If you truly have a very limited budget, then the shared hosting solutions we talk about in this post will be fine – after all, thats what I had for years.
But read on, and really think about where you’re at and what’s right for you.
The Only Thing More Important than Hosting
So it’s clear hosting is a really important component to your online. That said, there’s one thing that I dare say is more important.
If you’re just getting started online, this is the most important word for you to understand.
WordPress is a blog/content management platform that makes it incredibly easy to build and manage a good looking website. There’s a huge support community, plugins that can do anything you want, and thousands of beautiful themes and templates.
Start whatever you’re doing on WordPress and you’ll be glad you did. Most hosting companies have one click WordPress install, so it’s even easier to get going.
Now, let’s move onto the next step.
Choosing the Best Hosting Service for Your Blog Needs
There are so many factors that go into this, and things you can get confused by, so I’m going to make this as simple as I can for those of you who are just getting going.
Something you should realize is that most hosting providers are all going to be relatively similar with the same features at the lower level.
Your natural inclination is going to be to go with the cheapest option, simply because you don’t know any better and are probably on a bit of a budget.
If that’s all you want, go with Fat Cow. Location 180 was hosted with them for 3 years, and while the hosting itself isn’t the best, it’s affordable, and their customer service has always been fantastic (a very important thing if you’re just starting out).
However, before we can look at exactly what hosting company to use, it’s important to understand what the different types of hosting are. Let’s take a look at your options.
This is exactly what you don’t want. Sites like Wix or Weebly, which offer “free online website builders”, will give you zero flexibility, and pretty much make it impossible to actually run a business of your site.
Only use this if all you want to do is create a site that you’ll never update about your uncontrollable love of poodles.
In other words don’t even think about going this route, I promise you it’s not worth it.
Best for: People that don’t know any better.
There’s a good chance this is where you’ll want to start if cost is an issue for you. Shared hosting means that your website is hosted on the same servers as hundreds if not thousands of other websites.
While inexpensive ($3-10/month), this can cause all sorts of other issues. Namely, it can cause your slight to be pretty slow, can cause issues with email deliver-ability if you’re using email services through your hosting account, and security isn’t as good due to so many sites on the same server.
That being said, there are quite a few benefits on top of price. Most shared hosting providers have one click WordPress installs, an easy to manage back end, good support, and limited database access.
Best for: People with brand new sites with little traffic, and are on a budget.
With shared hosting you have thousands of sites on one server, dedicated hosting essentially means you have an entire server just to yourself. It’s fast, expensive, and if you’re reading this article, it’s not for you, so move along.
VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting
VPS hosting is a cross between shared hosting and dedicated hosting, and is the next logical step up from shared.
Think of VPS as your own little mini-server within a server. You don’t have the whole thing to yourself, but you have a portion of it that’s totally dedicated to you and your sites. So all of the downsides of shared, such as viruses and traffic slow down, don’t effect you as much with a VPS solution.
This is going to be more expensive than shared (obviously) but still isn’t outrageous.
Best for: People who want better speed and reliability from the the get-go.
The Best Hosting for 95% of You
At any given point I’ve heard both very positive and very negative things about pretty much every hosting company in existence.
Set aside price for a second, because this isn’t the cheapest option, but for the vast majority of you looking for the best hosting for your site WP Engine is probably the best choice.
Well for a variety of reasons. WP Engine markets themselves as “managed WordPress hosting” what this basically means is that if you have a WordPress site, these guys make sure everything works perfectly for you.
They have great support, have a support team that actually knows WordPress (believe me, this is big), and is fastest and most secure hosting around.
It’s also very easy scale up.
Their basic plan is $29. When your site grows and you need more bandwidth, they just flip a swtich and you’re good to go.
Don’t get me wrong, as a VPS Linode is fantastic. However, it’s a server, and nothing else. Unless you’ve got serious development chops, you’ll need someone who knows what they are doing to set things up for you. With my current setup, I can’t even install WordPress on a new domain without help from Nicky. Hosting=great. User interface=non existent.
It features a built in CDN (Content Delivery Network) so if you’re doing anything with lots of media or images, this alone can make hosting with WP Engine worth it – as this service alone is often $20 month or more.
While it’s not the cheapest solution, it’s the only hosting service that I can full on say I’ve never heard a bad thing about – with the exception being cost.
Best for: People with WordPress sites who want the best, most user friendly service possible, and aren’t afraid to pay a little bit more for it.
The Best Shared Hosting
Ok, $29 a month still a little steep for you? No problem, let’s look at the key features you’ll want to look for with shared hosting and help you decide which one is right for you.
When looking at shared hosting accounts, they should all generally have the following:
- Unlimited domains
- Unlimited storage
- Unlimited file transfer
- A free domain
- Unlimited emails
Because of that, on paper most shared hosting services all look pretty similar – so I’m making my recommendations based off of my experience working with each of these.
Again, this is what Location 180 was hosted on for 3 years.
My site would occasionally go down for short periods of time (less than 30 minutes, and this happened maybe once a year). I still recommend them because I’ve spent hours on the phone with their support team which went above and beyond whenever I screwed something up. It’s also one of the least expensive, as you can usually get your first year of hosting and a domain for around $50-75.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Bluehost when I first started blogging. Over the last couple years however, their service seems to have gone downhill. I have a couple clients who use their service and haven’t been real happy. I don’t like their backend user interface as much and their servers crashed for over 24 hours in August. Deal breaker for me.
A reseller of Bluehost. Because the reliability of Bluehost has gone down, I can’t generally recommend Hostgator. They also were down for an unacceptable period of time this past August.
Based on my experience Dreamhost is the most reliable shared hosting platform out there. It has all of the features you’d expect, good customer service, and if I were going to choose a shared hosting platform to use today – this would probably be it. A little bit more expensive than some of the others, but worth it. They also have VPS options if you decide you can afford a little bit more, and for whatever reason don’t want to go the WP Engine route.
Where to buy your domain
If you’re going the shared hosting route, there’s a very good chance you’ll get a free domain when you get setup, so if you’re just starting one new blog, then go with that and call it good.
For a few extra bucks one of my favorite sites to pickup domains is Hover. Their user interface is super simple and sleek, and over time when you start piling up domains, you’ll be really happy about this.
So, To Sum It Up…
Best Overall Hosting: WP Engine
Most Affordable Hosting: Fat Cow
Best Overall Shared Hosting: Dreamhost
Best VPS (if you’re technical): Linode