In this article, I’m going to discuss how to find the right web host for your blog. As one of the requirements of starting a blog, the hunt to the perfect web host is an adventure that all bloggers will find themselves on. Most of us will agree that it’s a fairly daugnting and somewhat annoying process, but mostly unavoidable. With new hosting providers popping up all the time, how do you know which web host is best for you? This article will shed some light on how to make the right choice.
Vary the source of your research
Reading a single review about a web host is not enough for you to form a reliable opinion. As with all things, people are more likely to be vocal when they are not happy about something and remain quiet when everything is running smoothly. For every blog post about how terrible a particular web host is, there are likely tens, if not hundreds of clients of the same web host who are very happy with their service.
Having an impecable track record when it comes to stability is great, but it’s also important that a web host has shown how they will respond when things don’t go according to plan. You should feel more comfortable trusting a web host with your online presense if they have encountered issues before (down time, data loss etc.) and shown efficiency when resolving the problem, rather than a company who claims they have never had any issues.
Some people get lucky and never have any issues with their web host. Others get extremely unlucky and lose valuable data or business. You may spend hours looking at potential web hosts before settling on the one you think is best for you. While it may feel like a waste of time, those hours could be worth their weight in gold.
While reading this article, remember that I am also just voicing a single opinion. When I tell you that I honestly believe that SiteGround is the best web host for those looking to start a blog, that opinion is based on my own experiences. I’m sure you could find a review that claims the exact opposite. So after reading this article, you should already be looking for alternative views and use your research to determine which basket to put your eggs in.
Beware of affiliate program reviews
In my honest opinion, the nature of affiliate programs almost ruins any integrity a web hosting review can have. When you search for “top 10 web hosts”, you won’t be given a list of web hosting companies ordered by how good their service is. Instead, you will be given a list ordered by how much the web host is willing to pay for a referral. These review sites are a decent way of finding a list potential web hosts, but they are usually no good for determining which is the best. For example, I am participating in SiteGround’s affiliate program and by using a link in this article to sign up for their hosting service, I will receive a commission of about $50. I would consider this commission to be slightly less than what most of the other web hosting companies offer, however, I am making a recommendation based on my genuine experience and therefore would not recommend any other shared host over SiteGround. If you wish to support the website, you can sign up for SiteGround using any link in this article. However, if you wish to sign up for SiteGround without my affiliate link, please click here.
Strapped for time? You can gauge the general sentiment of a web host by scrolling through social media. Spend a few minutes and see what people have to say:
Using social media serves as a way to see a wide range of opinions in a short period of time. It also allows you to easily find full reviews of a particular host, as people will promote their blog posts using the relevant hashtags.
So technically, what do I need?
While the non-technical side of things is very important, we can’t ignore one of the most important aspects of all. Is this particular host technically capable of hosting my website or blog? They may have the best customer support in the world, but if they don’t support your technical requirements, their support will not be able to help you.
Here are some of the most basic technical requirements that you should be looking for when evaluating a web host. Note: as most blogs are powered by WordPress, its requirements will make up part of the list.
- PHP 5.6 or above (recommended PHP 7 or above)
- MySQL 5.6 or above
- At least 10GB of disk space/storage (recommended 30GB or above)
- 25,000 monthly visits or above OR 100GB bandwidth
In addition to the above, your web host should provide a fully featured control panel, such as cPanel or Plesk. The 10GB space is enough for most blogs to get started, but ideally you would find a host that offers a bit more in terms of space. If you’re creating a website that is focused on heavy content, such as videos or photos, you’ll want to consider 30GB as a minimum.
The monthly visitor limit isn’t really relevant for the first few months of your blog, however, 25,000 is a decent amount and you can scale it up later if your blog starts gaining traction. Bandwidth is how much data your website can transfer. Each time someone loads your blog, your website is transferring data to the visitor in order to display the page. Again, if you’re sending lots of data (images or videos), you will need more bandwidth than those who have a blog focused on text based content.
There is no such thing as unlimited
Think of it this way. A web host might rent a server with 500GB of disk space and pay $250 a month for it (other specs aren’t important for this example). For them to break even, they would need to sell web hosting to 50 customers for $5.00 a month each, allocating each one of them (on average) 10GB of disk space. If we’re being realistic, the hosting company wants to make a profit. So instead of selling web hosting to 50 customers, they’re going to squeeze 100 customers on this server.
The disk space allocation for each customer is now only 5GB. When a web host offers ‘unlimited’ disk space, what they are really doing is betting that most of their customers are not going to be using the 5GB that they have been allocated. So if 99 of their clients only use 2GB of disk space, then the one client that wants to use 25GB can do so without affecting any of the other customers on the same server.
So what happens when the server starts to get full? The host will look at how much disk space each customer is using, find the one who is taking up the most and inform them that they either need to remove some of their content to free up space, or upgrade to a more expensive plan.
I recommend steering clear of any ‘unlimited’ offerings and simply know what resources your blog requires. cPanel offers an overview of your account usage, where you can see how much disk space you’re using as well as how much bandwidth is being consumed on a monthly basis. Use this data to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing a host. If it’s your first website and you don’t have this data, it’s likely that this isn’t going to be an issue for you anyway.
Customer support is important
This rings true for a lot of industries and web hosting is no different. In a world where a lot of web hosts offer the exact same service and features, one can standout by providing top notch customer support. There is a saying that sums up the web hosting rollercoaster.
Every web host becomes the worst in the world if you remain their customer long enough.
One of the main reasons this is true is due to how they handle their customer support. Some companies will only offer to assist with server related questions and issues. Anything on the software side of things is not covered by their support agreement. While you can argue that it is a fair stance, more and more web hosts are opening up their support agreement to include software related issues.
Look for a host that owns their mistakes and is transparent about what went wrong and what they have done to fix it. Remember, every web host will tell you that customer support is their number one priority. The only real way of knowing is to speak with both existing and previous customers to get a first hand review of how they conduct their support.
So which web host should you use?
You may have noticed that this article touches on a lot of non-technical aspects of choosing a web host. That’s because these are the elements that seperate a great web host from the rest of the pack. The reality is that almost any host that comes up in the first few pages of Google will be technically capable of hosting your blog or website. It’s fairly easy for a company to provide a server with cPanel installed and offer unlimited everything for $4.99 a month. It takes a lot more dedication and skill to provide a quality hosting environment, backed up by a first class support team and a knowledgable technical/systems administration team to keep the engine running.
Make an informed decision based on your own personal requirements. Cheap hosting sounds great, but it often falls flat. Remember, you’re trusting this company with your data and the online presense of your business. Both of those things are worth a lot more than $4.99 a month and are definitely worth the hours of your time it can take to find the right web host.
If you’re after my recommendation for a web host, I would say give SiteGround a try. I use them personally and they host the website that you’re currently reading. In my experience, they offer the best customer support, accompanied by a solid hosting environment at a more than reasonable price.