So you’ve decided to start blogging or you want to set up a website for your business. And you’ve decided to build your website with WordPress, which is already used on 27% of all the websites on Internet (and that number is growing all the time).
But before you even can start setting up your WordPress website, you need to choose a hosting provider (“host”). This company will then host your website on their servers, making it available to your visitors. On your host’s administration panel (usually cPanel) you can then install WordPress on your website, set up emails or install a shopping cart solution for your business among other things.
But as there are hundreds of thousands of hosting providers out there, choosing the right one can seem difficult or even overwhelming. I’ve gone through countless hosts and host reviews and have chosen two hosts that I recommend for you.
But before we go into that, we have to take a look at domain names. When choosing a domain name for your website it’s best to keep it short and simple. The old KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method applies here too ;). Do the radio check for your domain name: say it to someone who isn’t familiar with it, and if that person understands and knows how to write the domain name in Google search or in the browser address bar, you’ve chosen a winner. If on the other hand, that person struggles to understand your domain name or even asks you to spell it, then you know you have to rethink your domain name.
Avoid using hyphens in your domain name, that makes it harder for people to remember and write in the browser address bar.
If your setting up a website for your business, the obvious choice is the name of your business. Try to keep that also short, if your business name includes words like “Enterprises”, “Business Solutions”, “Consulting Services” or anything like that, you might want to drop those off from your domain name. If you have a business name which matching domain name is already taken, try to add something unique to it.
When you’ve found the perfect domain name for your business, buy at least the .com version. I suggest you also buy the .net and .org versions, especially if it is for your business.
Some hosting providers offer you a free domain name when you buy a hosting package from them, just keep these tips in mind when choosing your domain name.
And now we begin to look at those crucial features your chosen hosting provider should absolutely have. There are five features to look for, everyone equally important. The host you’re going to choose should definitely have all these in the best possible shape. These are the features that separate the hosting providers into the good, the bad and the ugly.
Uptime refers to the time your website is available online for your visitors. This is absolutely essential: your chosen host must have the highest uptime possible. Downtime means service breaks, these may be equipment failures, misconfigurations on servers, power outages or anything that makes your website unavailable for your visitors. Good hosts have several systems in place to prevent these outages or to make them as short as possible. Your chosen host should have an uptime of 99,99% (a maximum outage of five minutes per month).
Your chosen hosting provider should have no difficulty adjusting to your growing website and the increasing number of visitors it attracts. They should offer not only shared hosting solutions but also cloud and dedicated hosting packages. So you can upgrade your account easily within your host when needed.
And don’t fall for the “Unlimited” marketing. Lots of hosts list as their main features unlimited bandwidth, storage, emails, databases etc. There are no such things. You can be absolutely sure that when you reach a certain limit, they’ll contact you demanding you to upgrade your account to accommodate the growth. Or in the worst case scenario, they’ll close your account.
Even the best uptime doesn’t mean anything if your website is loading slowly. If your website takes more than five seconds to load, you’re in trouble. Your visitors won’t wait for your website to load, they’ll leave and you’ll lose potential leads and sales.
Your host should be using the latest SSD hardware with data centers on multiple continents, especially if you have an international customer base. These servers should have hardware and power backup capabilities to reduce downtime.
The best hosts have enabled HTTP/2 on their servers to load your website faster for visitors using HTTP/2 ready browsers (modern browser support is excellent as seen in the chart below).
Note: All the major browsers only support HTTP/2 on encrypted connections i.e. you’ll need an SSL certificate for your website. (Source: Can I Use)
The possibility to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for faster page loading and also for security is one factor to consider when choosing your host. The best hosts have partnered with CDNs making your website load faster, thus improving your user experience.
Caching provided by the host is also an important feature to look for. Caching service will help your website to serve more simultaneous visitors while maintaining the speed at an optimal level. With such an in-house caching service you don’t need an extra caching plugin. This will help to reduce the strain on your host’s server, and the fewer plugins you have on your WordPress website the better.
And remember: Google loves and favors fast loading websites in their search results.
Nowadays premium security is a must-have feature of any hosting provider. Automatic patching and updates to WordPress and plugins and regular backups are obvious features that your host MUST have. A lot of attacks against WordPress websites utilize outdated and vulnerable plugins. But sadly this is still a feature many hosts struggle with. How hosts deal with security is the definitive feature separating the hosts into the good, the bad and the ugly.
Properly and securely configured servers form the first line of defense against all attacks. And this requires capable technical personnel. Some hosts have them, others not. If your host’s servers are improperly configured, then no firewall, CDN or security plugin won’t help you.
Other tools good hosts have in their arsenal include web application firewall (WAF) with constantly updated rules and blacklists (lists of known hackers and spammers, so they can’t even reach your website), regular security audits (preferably by an independent security firms), regular malware scans to keep those nasty bits off of your website, and secure server setup isolating customer accounts from each other.
It used to be quite difficult to set up an SSL certificate for your website requiring a good knowledge of server setups. Not anymore. Now you can get an SSL certificate installed on your website with one click (on good hosts that is, the bad and the ugly are a different story altogether). And with Google determined to make the web safer, you’ll need to have an SSL certificate as Google Chrome version 56 started warning users of unencrypted connections in the address bar.
The level and professionalism of your host’s support are only revealed at its core when something goes wrong and you need help quickly. If you’re not technically adept you may need help already in setting up your hosting account. And this is also one of the important areas where the good hosts really deliver.
Technically knowledgeable and helpful support team should be able to assist you via phone, chat, tickets or email and that help should be available to you 24/7. And you better get that help today, not next week, if your website is down and you’re already losing money.
As important as those above mentioned technical issues (uptime, scalability, speed, and security) are, excellent customer support is equally vital.
My Recommended Hosting Providers:
SiteGround provides affordable shared hosting for WordPress websites (not solely for WordPress though). And when your website starts to get more attention and visitors, they offer cloud and dedicated hosting solutions. Speed, security, and amazing support make this hosting provider one of the good ones.
Recommended by WordPress.org
Kinsta offers fully managed WordPress utilizing the Google Cloud Platform. They have their own custom MyKinsta site management tool, so no cPanel here.
And they offer free migrations, free SSL, CDN, daily backups and world-class security.
The next-generation managed cloud hosting platform with 5 different cloud providers to choose from. Easy to scale up or down as needed. Excellent choice for WordPress with their in-house caching plugin Breeze and CloudwaysCDN for fast performance. Unlimited applications and a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate. This site is hosted by Cloudways.
Whatever hosting provider you choose, keep these requirements in mind.
Uptime: Minimum 99,99% (maximum downtime five minutes per month).
Scalability: Easy upgrade options once your website grows.
Speed: Only a fast loading website gets you good rankings in search results, and keeps visitors on your website and coming back too.
Security: The best security measures are absolutely necessary for anyone serious about their online business.
Support: The best hosts have this covered. Make sure you have too.