It is not an easy task to pick the best host! Why this can be difficult . . .
- There are a lot of hosting companies
- No one seems to agree on what is best
- It’s hard to find objective information because there are so many affiliate relationships
- Many hosting companies don’t look professional
- There is a lot of hype on the hosting company websites and also a lot of technical jargon, so it’s hard to know what’s important and what’s true
- Most of them start off with low prices and then jack up what they charge you later
- Most of them will try to sell you extras you don’t need, some will even upgrade you without your consent
- There usually are things the hosts aren’t telling you because they try to make it seem really easy
- The support people are usually frustrating
Not only is picking the best host a difficult process, but it is important for both a nice user experience and also for Google.
In addition, you want to make a good choice because, while switching hosts is possible, it can be painful. And watch out for that nice promise that they will do the transfer for you. Unless your situation is very simple, they will likely miss something and then you’ll have to scramble to fix the problem.
Getting the timing right when switching hosts is difficult as well. You want to do it on the weekend to avoid any negative impact for your website users, but then you likely won’t get the best help if you need it from the hosting company.
Your domain name and hosting services don’t have to be through the same company. (If you need a refresher . . . your domain name is your address eg. jillholman.com and your hosting is where your website files are.) Pointing your domain name to a new host is scary! (This is known as making a DNS change.) You have to wait for what seems like forever for the change to get propagated over the Internet. Things look wonky and you don’t know if it’s going to be fine or if you’re going to have to scramble to fix it. And then to make matters even worse, it’s possible that your ISP does caching, so that your website will look bad to you even longer than it does to everyone else.
And email! What a nightmare it can be for email when you switch hosts. Again, there is the waiting and the uncertainty. And then all the fussing with the settings to get everything to work right again.
How to Pick the Best Host for your Small Business Website
So, what to do . . .
1) Start early – one week before your renewal is not usually enough time to make a good choice and switch. (Also, allow extra time for those surprise complications.)
2) Check what WordPress recommends. At the time of this writing, WordPress recommends Bluehost, DreamHost and SiteGround.
3) Check to see if you can find any recent objective reviews – remember this is hard to find with all the affiliate agreements in place! Here are some recent opinions:
4) Be clear about initial and ongoing costs. For example, if they say $5/month, that means you pay upfront $60 for 1 year or $120 for 2 years. Then it jumps to $14/month, so your next upfront payment is $168 for 1 year or $336 for 2 years.
5) Think about what is most important to you. For most small business, we want to keep costs low and get good performance, which means we want excellent speed and up-time. Be sure to check any limits they impose such as amount of space or traffic or number of domains, websites or email accounts. cPanel is the industry standard – if the company doesn’t give you cPanel access, you do not want to choose them. You want SSL (separate article coming on this soon). Security measures are good. A decent guarantee and refund policy are good. Watch out for managed hosting – it is more expensive and most small businesses don’t need it. Shared hosting is usually a good place to start.
6) If you are using the transfer service from your new hosting company, over-explain any complications and be sure they will do everything you need or at least get clear on what they are doing and what you have to do. For example, clarify things like . . . I have a second domain name that points to my website. I have 2 WordPress installs. I have 4 email addresses. My email goes through G Suite.
7) Be sure to test things well after the switch. The public website looks good? You can log in and make changes? The changes go live on the website? You can send and receive email via the new host through webmail? Then, you have updated your settings in your preferred client program such as Thunderbird, Outlook? And you can send and receive email via the client program?
8) Some of the hosts will move you to a more expensive package without your consent, so watch your renewals carefully!
In summary, there is no single right choice for everyone. Helping my clients over the years, I have used many different hosting companies and I am happy to talk with you about what seems a good choice for your situation. Reach me here if you want help.