Who you choose to host your site matters. This decision impacts reliability, speed, user experience, and much more. (Not to mention the impact it can have on your stress levels!) No host can launch your site to success, but bad hosting can tank it.
With each WordPress host trying to convince you they’re the best, how do you wade through what actually matters? Let’s talk about what to look for in a hosting
What is hosting?
First, just to be sure we’re all on the same page, what do we mean by hosting?
Hosting refers to the technology and services that make websites available on the internet. Websites are hosted on servers (computers that are primarily used to store and serve websites). When you click a link, it basically “calls” the server. That server then sends the information to your browser so you can view the site.
There are many different ways to set up hosting environments and even more terms used to describe those setups. It’s important to understand the differences so you can ask the right questions.
To start, let’s look at an analogy Peter used during this interview with Mediavine last year:
In general, we can look at different types of environments by looking at real-life housing differences. A host is a property owner – let’s say they own five acres of land. They can subdivide that land in the same way they can subdivide their hosting resources to provide different “packages” in both cases:
Shared hosting is analogous to putting a bunkhouse on that land. It’s a building with a single room that might have 40 bunk beds shoved in there (or more – higher density is always better). Tenants are loaded into the beds as tightly as possible to make the best use of the space and aside from a small locker, all space is shared. You cannot personalize anything about your environment, as you get only what everyone else gets.
Virtual dedicated hosting is analogous to putting an apartment building on that land. It can be high- or low-density depending on the type of tenant you want; the higher the density, the lower the price. But within that building, you have your own dedicated space. You can generally personalize your space however you want, though it can require permission from the landlord.
Physical dedicated hosting is analogous to putting private homes on that land. The homeowners have full control over the design of the house and what they do with it. They can put up walls around their yard to ensure that no one can encroach on their space in any way … Physical dedicated hosting is more common for enterprises, as it’s more expensive and it provides fewer tangible benefits for publishers beyond what they can get from virtual dedicated hosting.Read more: All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Hosting But Were Afraid to Ask
Cloud hosting is one type of virtual dedicated hosting. It has the added benefit of providing redundancy across multiple servers as well as scalability when sites need additional resources quickly. We believe that cloud hosting offers the best value for most professional bloggers because of its flexibility and redundancy.
When considering cloud hosting plans, here are the features you want to look for:
1. WordPress optimized servers
WordPress provides a powerful content management system (CMS) for bloggers of all sizes. But with that power comes complexity. Professional bloggers should choose a host that specializes in WordPress. You want confidence the servers that power your site are optimized for the specific requirements of WordPress so your site will run faster and be more stable.
2. Proactive approach to security
Security is an ever-evolving concern due to changing technology and sophisticated hackers who spend their time looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. Whether it’s a brute-force attack, a plugin vulnerability, or malware on your site, it’s not enough for your host to be ready to respond to security issues when they happen; you also want to look for a host that keeps their ear to the ground to hear about changing technology, security improvements, and vulnerabilities so they can proactively address concerns that may affect your site both now and in the future.
3. Nightly cloud backups
If you’re a professional blogger, your blog is your most important business asset. You need assurance that you won’t lose all of your hard work in the case of something catastrophic. Occasional backups aren’t enough (especially since most people don’t do them as often as recommended). Your host should offer nightly backups so you can rest assured that your site can be recovered if something goes wrong. That said, backups are only as good as your ability to restore from them. Make sure your host also offers assistance in restoring backups as needed.
4. Personal & expert support
When something goes wrong, you need to speak to a real person with WordPress and server expertise so the problem can be resolved as quickly as possible. Chatting with someone who can only offer generic canned responses or doesn’t truly understand the problem—or the importance of solving it—is frustrating when your blog is your business. Look for a host that offers personal phone and email support, replies to messages on social media, and provides detailed answers to your technical questions. What you want is a tech partner who will be there to support you and your business!
5. Tailored solutions
While the WordPress core is the same for every WordPress site, there are millions of different combinations of themes, plugins, and customizations that make each site unique. To perform at its peak, your host must be willing and able to tailor your hosting package and the configuration of your server to your specific needs. This involves not just expertise but also a willingness to test and tweak things to truly optimize the site.
6. Focus on speed & performance
How fast your site loads not only impacts customer experience but can impact your search engine rankings as well. Professional bloggers should look for a host who understands the importance of a site that loads quickly. They
7. Scalable plans without arbitrary limits
Did you know that the number of page views your site receives doesn’t actually determine the resources it needs to run? There is a loose correlation (more traffic = more resources). But things like the number of images you use, the number of plugins you have installed and activated—and how resource-heavy each of them is, and the complexity of your theme play a larger part in determining the resources you need.
Many hosting companies limit plan sizes to a specific number of pageviews, with large price jumps between each plan. Growing sites should look for a host that can add resources as needed to support your site(s). This will save you money as well as allow you to temporarily boost resources during high traffic periods without having to permanently jump between plans.
8. Staging site
Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or an experienced programmer, working on your live site can impact your visitors’ experience. A staging site is an exact replica of your site that allows you to test updates and changes to your theme, plugins, code, and more before making them live on your site. This is especially important for professional bloggers who value uptime and user experience and want to be able to tweak their blog without impacting those things!
In addition to the requirements above, you also want a host that provides the following services to support your business:
- Migration Support. Migrating from one host to another is tricky. Many hosts will take your site offline for hours during the process. Before signing up with a new host, ask them how long your site will be down. An experienced WordPress host should be able to limit your downtime to just a few minutes.
- Email Service. Your hosting account should include hosted email that supports your domain name.
- SSL Support. E-commerce sites have traditionally used SSL certificates to build trust with their customers. But Google now actively penalizes those sites (e-commerce or not) without SSL. Your host should provide a free SSL certificate for each of your sites as well as help configuring your site to use the HTTPS protocol.
- Host Multiple Sites. Many low-cost hosting providers require a separate account for each site you own. If you own more than one site (or might in the future!) look for a host that bases their plans on the resources you actually use and doesn’t limit the number of sites you can have on your account.
We also recommend talking to friends about their hosting experiences. This can be especially helpful for figuring out the speed and thoroughness of a company’s customer and technical support.
Looking for a host that can grow with your site?
Email or call (888-543-9766) today to talk to a real person about how we can support your blogging efforts with our reliable, scalable cloud hosting packages!
With 10 years of experience as a professional blogger—and as a former Agathon hosting client herself—Mandi’s passionate about the good work Agathon does and sharing that message with more people.