There are a lot of things that go into building a website – design, colors, what platform (WordPress? Joomla? Squarespace?) – but one of the most critical, and the one that most people spend the least amount of time thinking about, is hosting. Because it’s lame sounding. But from a web designer’s perspective, not having the right hosting can throw a massive wrench into the whole process.
What is hosting?
It’s not the most exciting of topics, but hosting essentially is where your site “lives.” To backtrack a bit, there are a lot of similarities in building a house and a website. Website hosting is the server where your the data that makes up your site is stored. Super exciting, right?
Why is it important?
Unfortunately, because it just sounds lame, most people gloss right over hosting, and go with whatever is cheapest – because they’re all the same, right? It’s just some server, in some warehouse somewhere. Not so.
I’ve heard it said that your website is your “digital storefront” and there is a bit of truth to this. To go along with this metaphor, picking the cheapest host is akin to ignoring location when picking a physical brick and mortar store location. Additionally, there are several effects to cheap hosting. In keeping with the metaphor, it’s kind of like:
- Your landlord only allowing 3 customers in your store at once.
- These customers can only look at 6 items per hour.
- You can only have 2 aisles.
- You can only carry 8 items.
- And if you want to upgrade any of these, it’s an additional charge, of course.
What should I avoid/look for?
There are several tell tale signs of a web host that won’t serve you well. Firstly, of course, is price. Before I go too far down this rabbit hole, let me explain a bit about price. For the vast majority of people, unless you’re Amazon or Pinterest, good hosting will run you $8-$10/month. Not good hosting will run you $3-$5/month. So do yourself (and your web designer/developer) a favor, and spend the extra $5/month.
The one exception to this rule is if companies offer an initial discount to new accounts. Like the cable company or cell carriers, hosts often offer incentives like this to sign new customers, where the first X number of months are some percent off, then it goes to the normal price. Look at the “normal price” when determining the quality of a host.
So first indication of quality of web host – price. It’s a cliche, but you get what you pay for. Second, if you have to start picking and choosing how much processing power/speed, storage, or any other things like that, then you’re setting yourself up for either a slow site, a site that doesn’t serve you well, or to be nickled & dimed. I’m not typically a fan of calling out specific companies, but GoDaddy recently went to a model like this, where your site starts getting slow or crashes if you don’t upgrade all sorts of functions like this — and there’s 5 or 6 things to upgrade. And of course, anyone but an IT professional doesn’t know what they are. Simply put, you shouldn’t have to worry about this junk. Pick a host that doesn’t make you worry about picking a level of speed or storage or processing power.
Paired Inc.’s Recommendation
There are a lot of hosting companies out there that aim to be the cheapest as their unique value proposition (and they cut back on services/speed/power, etc to do so). And that’s fine for some people with very small and simple sites. But that’s not most people.
Our number 1 recommendation is Dreamhost. Dreamhost, like the aforementioned “good hosts,” will run you about $9/mo. However, because we’ve built a lot of sites with them, they’ve allowed us to offer $50 off your first year, knocking the price down to $5.78/mo. And it comes with a free .com domain name. (You can click here to get it: Dreamhost $50 off). We like Dreamhost for several reasons – they don’t try sell you cheap service by cutting back resources, they’re socially responsible and using renewable energy to power their servers, and they have great customer service and technical support.
Make sure you pick a solid host that will serve you, your web developer/designer and your visitors well, and you won’t have to worry about your site crashing, slowing down, or running out of space.