Setting up a website might feel like rocket science if you are doing it for the first time, but trust me, it is not that much complicated. Of course, it is not too easy either, and many things can go wrong if you start with the wrong choices, especially for your content management system and web hosting provider.
While there are dozens of different platforms available to set up a website, WordPress is undoubtedly the best of the open-source choices available to everyone. WordPress is known for being one of the most user-friendly and feature-rich content management systems for setting up blogs and websites of any sort; including e-commerce websites.
And the best thing about WordPress is that it’s completely free. So, if you have chosen WordPress to power your website; congratulations, your first step is just perfect!
Everything else in the launch process now boils down to the technicalities of the site setup, and web hosting is one of the most crucial factors that can easily make or break your project.
This article serves as a quick resource for people who need help choosing a host for their website. The following points and tips should be at the top of your checklist when searching for a new web hosting provider.
1. Watch Out For Misleading Reviews
Sadly, many of the reviews you find on review websites, especially those dedicated to web hosting, could in fact be fake!
Most host review websites are in one form or another associated or affiliated with the companies they endorse and rate as the “best”. So it is not advisable to base your decision strictly on others’ reviews, regardless of how “real” and “unbiased” they may claim to be.
Alright, so where could you find honest reviews by real customers?
Well, go the unconventional way I would say! Instead of looking on hosting-related review websites, use general, non-commercial review websites like Trust Pilot, Pissed Consumer, Consumer Affairs, BBB, etc. That is where you’ll probably find the most genuine and helpful reviews by actual customers.
I’m not saying that all hosting-specific review websites are fake and shouldn’t be trusted, but you should always take your time to search multiple review/complaint platforms and do your homework before you decide to invest your money and time in a specific service.
2. WordPress Support
Most of the major hosting companies provide WordPress oriented solutions, which often come as separate plans that are specifically optimized for WordPress sites. This type of managed hosting normally includes pre-installed WordPress with various essential plugins and tools that make it easier to set up, customize and manage your website.
If you have never used WordPress before, or if you don’t want to deal with installing, updating and securing it yourself, you can find many managed WordPress hosting services with helpful features and specialized technical support.
However, you should note that managed WordPress hosting is often more expensive than generic hosting plans. If you already know how to install and manage WordPress yourself, or if you have a webmaster to do that for you, you can save a considerable amount of money by purchasing a generic (shared or VPS) hosting plan and taking care of the rest yourself.
3. Server Location
The location of the data center and server that will host your website is also an important factor that should be taken into account when comparing different providers. Ideally, you want the server to be located in the same country where most of your website’s visitors come from.
The closer the server to the end-user, the faster your website’s content will load, the better the user experience will be. This is particularly important for websites with a lot of sizable media content like videos and photos.
So, for example, if your main target audience is North American web users, you should look for a hosting provider whose data center is located in the USA or Canada. An article on Dummy Webmaster compares a handful of the most popular Canadian web hosts and discusses reasons why some website owners prefer Canadian providers over US-based ones.
Now, what if your visitors come from all over the world and you want everyone to enjoy a smooth and fast browsing experience? Well, in this case, you should consider taking advantage of a global content delivery network (CDN), such as Cloudflare. Many hosting companies offer built-in Cloudflare integration with their services.
4. Storage, Bandwidth and Technical Specs
If everything else is sorted, your website’s speed and user experience will now depend on the storage, bandwidth and other technical specifications of your server.
Different providers and different plans from the same provider will offer different specifications and limitations that can affect the performance of your website, either immediately or down the road as it grows larger and more active.
As a general rule of thumb, choose the plan that offers a little bit, or much (if your budget allows), more than the disk space, bandwidth, databases, emails and other technical specifications that you think your website will need in the short run.
For a brand new WordPress website, 1+ GB of disk space, 10+ GB of monthly traffic, and at least 1 MySQL database should be more than enough for its first year.
If your traffic and resource consumption is higher than what your current plan allows, you might start experiencing downtime on a frequent basis, which can be detrimental to your project or business.
You should regularly monitor your disk space, bandwidth, and other resource consumption statistics, and if you are close to hitting the allocated limit of any resource, then it is time to consider upgrading to a more advanced plan.
If your budget allows, and if you have high hopes for your website, it is always better to have abundantly more resources than needed instead of squeezing your site into a cheaper plan.
It is worth noting that some web hosts offer unlimited storage space and bandwidth, but nothing is really unlimited! While this often means they don’t have preset limits, you will always be limited by the company’s fair use policy, which does limit resource consumption. The “unlimited” offer is more of a marketing trick and shouldn’t be taken literally.