As a website designer and developer, I frequently get asked for my website hosting provider recommendations. I am always on the lookout for hosting companies to use myself and to recommend to my clients. Therefore I have created a checklist of what I think is important and will provide the best experience.
There are several factors that I look for in a hosting company and I have compiled my factor list as well as a list of reputable hosting providers for you to choose from. The providers that I have listed have either been recommended to me by colleagues that I respect or I have personally used them myself.
Factors That I look For in a Website Hosting Provider
Being mindful of our monthly and yearly costs is essential to running our business. Too easily we can get into the trap of signing up for too many services. Because there are so many website hosting providers available, there is a lot of competition so you can usually get some good pricing and even digital coupons! A low price is great, but if your hosting company is not up to snuff you could be paying in low speed and have a low SEO score because of it. On the other hand, you may get sticker shock on some of the prices that providers are charging – so it is important to know what is included in that price and if it will save you a headache, time and money in the future.
In my opinion, the most important aspect of working with a hosting provider is their customer service. If my or my client’s website is down, I want to be able to connect with someone immediately. I don’t want to wait until the next business day or have a company point the finger at another provider. I also want the customer service person to go the extra mile and help solve my problem, whether or not it is theirs to solve. For example – a hosting company isn’t responsible for the WordPress installation or the plugins that have been added, but I sure appreciate it when they help me with it anyway – or at least point me in the right direction.
Ability to Talk to a Human that Speaks English
If I have the ability to physically call someone and talk to them AND they speak fluent English and can understand me – that is a huge stress reducer. I love being able to use the chat feature and that works for some issues – but I want to know that I can talk to someone as well.
Keeping your website light is important, but having an abundance of space makes your site run faster with few problems. In addition, if you are running a campaign and hoping to get a lot of website visitors, you want to know your website can handle it.
If your hosting provider goes down – your site goes down as well. And your email. That is a real drag. Sometimes it happens and those are punches we have to roll with. By going with a reputable hosting prover and checking their uptime status is important and can save you a big headache should this happen.
SSL Certificate Cost and Installation
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer and it is a certificate that shows the world that your site is protected and they can visit and peruse your site with confidence. How you can identify that a site that has an SSL certificate installed is by whether or not there is an HTTP or an HTTPS in front of the www. HTTPS indicates that the site has an SSL Certificate installed. Traditionally this used to only be important for financial and e-commerce sites. Now Google is requiring all sites to hold an SSL certificate or they will be penalized with their SEO score. So it is important to have one now and I recommend all sites get the SSL certificate installed. Some hosting providers offer this automatically and will install it for you as well. Some upcharge for this service. An average price for the yearly certificate and installation is about $150. So if your provider includes it, it is a nice benefit.
Regular Web Site Back Ups
As a website owner, you are responsible for backing up your website on a regular basis. If something happens to your website and you don’t have a backup – sorry to say, but all your work, all your blog posts all your SEO effort – everything – goes right down the toilet. So please back up your site on a regular basis. That being said your hosting company should also have your back. Most hosting companies will do daily backups of the site to their servers. This is a real plus. They may charge you a fee to restore it for you and they won’t keep it forever – but at least it is available.
Ability to Add Additional Databases
If you install WordPress you will need to install a database. This is where all the content (blog posts, page content, images, etc) are collected. In essence, the database runs the site. For many website owners, one database is plenty. However – if you ever want to create additional subdomains, add domains, add sites, add a membership site, a course site, etc you will need to be able to add additional databases. Only having one database allowed on your server severely limits growth and the ability to add additional functionality to your site. Most hosting providers allow you to have unlimited databases. Go with one of those.
The inclusion of eMail services
Getting an email address at your domain name adds professionalism to your communication and reinforces your brand. It also makes it easy for others to refer you. Most hosting providers offer email addresses and space to store your email messages as part of the package or at a nominal upcharge.
Because WordPress is such a popular platform for websites, it is also the most “hacked”. To avoid unwanted malware to be added to your site without your knowledge, it is important to have ongoing malware scanning, regular updates of WordPress, plugins and themes, regular database and full backups of your site and easy restoration should everything go bad. Some hosting providers offer this service as part of their packages or as an upcharge. This can be somewhat costly, so the incorporation of this can be a great value.
Move in Service
Moving from one website hosting provider to another is a huge pain in the neck. Your site will typically be down for several days and that can also mean an issue with your email being down as well. So many things can go wrong and your SEO can take a hit as well. There are also a lot of variables on what is transferred as well. When hosting providers offer this as part of their service or a nominal charge, it makes everything so much easier. Note, it is still a pain, but much less so.
This is fun when you get some bonus tools and software just for using a hosting provider. For example, some providers offer Microsoft 365 for low or no cost. When a desktop version can cost over $400 – this can be a nice added bonus.