I’ve spoken a few times about website hosting and why it’s important to pick a reliable host for your website, but now I’d like to go a bit deeper and tell you how exactly you go about doing just that.

It’s not that hard to pick a quality, reliable web host, but it’s far too easy to pick one that isn’t any of those things.

What is website hosting?

Think of web hosting as a space on a web server where all of the files and databases on your website are located – where they can accessed by site visitors and search engines.

The best way I like to think about it is to consider your website hosting company like a new-build condominium building, in which you can purchase a unit and pick and choose your options to make it your own. Instead of filling your purchased unit with furniture, your purchased unit is where you store your files and make them available for visitors to view.

If you use a site builder program like Squarespace or Wix, they will provide the hosting for you because, in order to use their website building software, they HAVE to host your sites so that you can continue to use their software.

Whereas, if you build on a platform like WordPress, then you’re going to need to set up a website hosting provider to store your website files.

To go back to our real estate developer analogy, consider site builders as providers of units that are already mostly finished, so your options to customize the space are super limited – which is totally fine if you’re happy with the choices they’ve already made on your behalf.

WordPress, however, requires you to find a host who will allow you to customize your living space as you see fit.

Choosing a host can feel overwhelming

There are SO many hosting providers out there. It can become very overwhelming to decide which one to choose, and when you’re a business owner, it can be tempting to choose the least expensive option you find.

Please, TRUST ME when I say that this is one of those times when you get what you pay for. The cheap hosting companies are not reliable for long-term support of your business’s website.

Please do not go with one that promises the world for a few bucks per month. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

I’ve had more than my share of experience with these jack-of-all-trade, offer-you-the-moon-and-stars providers. Stay away. Stay far. Far. Away.

Reliable web hosts

There are currently only two hosting providers that I will confidently recommend: Siteground and WPEngine.

Siteground

I use Siteground to host my own websites. For clients looking for a reliable hosting provider for their WordPress-based site, Siteground is who I will typically recommend.

Siteground does offer a heavily discounted rate for their first year of service, so please note the regular rate (which is what you’ll pay from year two, onwards) to ensure you aren’t surprised when renewal time comes around.

That said, Siteground allows your first period of service to be up to 3 years, so if you’d like to take full advantage of that initial rate, it’s worth paying a larger hosting cost up front and then you are set for 3 years at the heavily discounted rate.

WPEngine

WPEngine is a little more expensive but also excellent and I have a number of clients happily using their hosting services.

Plus, they include a solid backups service with one-click restores as part of your annual fee (we particularly like it because they let you make your own, on demand backups in addition to daily automated backups).

Key things to consider when choosing a web host

Just like when you’re shopping around for a real estate developer to build your dream home, there are certain things need to keep high on your priority list of considerations.

To get a checklist of hosting company must haves, grab a copy of my Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Next Website.

Support

It’s all fine and dandy to pick a provider who you can be confident will EVENTUALLY get the job done, but you don’t want ever have to fight to get in touch should you have questions or concerns.

You should be able to expect reliable and fast support from your web host. If your website goes down (and it could), you want to be able to submit a ticket or phone your host and get that resolved quickly. A hosting company with poor support is worthless.

If your web host doesn’t provide fast and quality support, you may be left with issues that cannot be fixed and will result in you having to switch providers in the end.

See what the hosting company says about their response time. If they say nothing, chances are their support is poor. In which case, keep on looking for another web host.

Reputation

This is one of those times where a recognizable name means entirely nothing when it comes to expectations of quality. Some of the big names you may be familiar with aren’t necessarily the best option.

Just because you’ve heard of them, doesn’t mean they are good.

Do your research. Google is your friend.

Read online reviews and see what people who have actually used their services say about the big name providers. You’ll be surprised to hear how some of the most popular hosts are the most difficult to work with.

Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of countless unhappy customers.

Do your due diligence

Yes, Google is good for research. But, remember, many businesses plant their own reviews to make them sound better than they are, so don’t rely on Google alone.

Talk to people in your peer community about who they have used. If you don’t know many people who are in your line of business, research groups on social media that you can join to ask. Social media is an incredible resource.

If you are working with or, know of a highly experienced website developer ask them who they know and trust, and who they would stay way from. (You can see my own recommendations above.)

Bigger, in this case, is better

I am a big fan of supporting small, local business but, when it comes to web hosting, I recommend going with a well-established company.

The fact is, your small, local hosting company generally won’t have the capacity to give you what you truly need in terms of support. And, like I said, you need to have reliable support.

Features

Understand your needs and, if you have specialty needs (e.g. if you need a dedicated server), make sure the host you decide on can provide them all.

Also, if you think your website will require more features or have greater needs later, make sure you can scale up. If your web host can’t help you take your business (and thus your website) to the next level later, then they aren’t the right web host for you now.

Look for backups and other additional features (e.g. staging sites) that your website needs. Look at the added features and the appropriate plans.

Price

This isn’t one of those times I suggest looking for the best deal. You don’t want to go with the cheapest option. That said, if you have a small, non-commerce creative service professional website, chances are you do not need to spend $100 a month, either.

Get social

I highly recommend joining relevant business Facebook groups and ask the community for their input and ideas. They will share their faves and you’ll have a shortlist from which to narrow down.

Choose wisely

Just like when you’re choosing where to live, picking your web host is a very important decision. You don’t want to put all of this work into picking a home for your site only to realize it’s insufficient for your needs.

To get a checklist of hosting company must haves, grab a copy of my Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Next Website.

Once you know what to consider, what to ask and where to look for a reliable, quality host for you website, you can sleep easy knowing you can set up camp and stay a while.

Get the Guide

If you’re looking for guidance on how to plan your business website, be sure to download a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Next Website.

Get Your Copy
Bon Accord Creative's Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Next Website Book Cover