How to choose a web host (7 factors to consider)
If you want to build a website or blog with WordPress, you need website hosting. Learn how to choose a web host that fits your needs and your budget.
Find the right web host and start creating
If you’re building a website or blog with WordPress, you need a web host. The right web hosting provider will make creating and managing your website easy, so you don’t have to worry about the technical headaches and can start creating content ASAP.
Here are seven factors to keep in mind when choosing a web hosting provider:
- Type of hosting: Do you want shared hosting, VPS hosting, or a dedicated server? We recommend VPS or cloud hosting for the right balance of affordability and available resources.
- Server resources: Look for a web host that offers ample storage, bandwidth, and scalability. These features will keep your website running smoothly and your visitors happy.
- Cost: Different levels of hosting have different price tags. Don’t forget to read the small print - many providers raise prices after the first year.
- Uptime: Website downtime is bad for business. Your web host should offer an uptime guarantee.
- Security: WordPress websites are inherently insecure. Look for security features like firewalls, malware detection, and SSL encryption.
- Control panel functionality: A control panel makes it easy to manage your website without having to worry about learning code or buying a bunch of extra tools.
- Customer support: Choose a web hosting service with reliable customer service hours, response times, and channels.
With this piece of the puzzle in place, you’re ready to get out there and create the WordPress site of your dreams.
Whether you want to start a blog, sell digital products, or launch an online community, you need a website.
But the jargon and technical details around building a website can quickly get confusing. What’s the difference between a website host and a website builder? What happens to my website in the cloud? What the heck is VPS?
It’s enough to make your head spin. But finding the right web hosting provider is a key part of building a website, especially if you’re starting a blog.
That’s why we put together this guide on how to choose a web host.
How web hosting works
The different factors to consider when choosing a web host
Three of the top-rated providers for small businesses and bloggers
Before we get started, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. What exactly is a web host? And do you really need one?
What is a web hosting service?
Web hosting services provide a place for your website and all of its files and data to live online.
We tend to think of the web as a nebulous place, but every website has to live on a server somewhere. When you use a hosting service, you rent space for your website’s files and data on a provider’s server .
Do I need a web host?
The short answer? Yes.
Every website — from lifestyle blogs to ecommerce stores — needs hosting. Whether you’re responsible for finding and paying for hosting depends on what type of website you’re building and how you set it up.
(Don’t have a domain name picked out yet? Check out this guide to choosing the right domain name .)
If you’re using an all-in-one platform or website builder, like Shopify, Squarespace, or Podia, you don’t need a web host. The platform will handle hosting (and a whole lot more) for you.
For example, creators who set up their website with Podia can:
Build and easily manage a custom, mobile-friendly website with the Podia site editor .
You can also use WordPress for blogging alongside your Podia site.
Let’s say you want to monetize your blog by selling digital downloads or launching an online community. You’ll still need a website host for your WordPress blog, but you can host your digital products and online community forums through Podia.
(Learn more about creator monetization methods in this article, and try it out for yourself with a free 14-day trial of Podia. )
Now that you know why you need a web host, let’s get into the tricky part: Finding the best website hosting service for you.
7 factors to consider when choosing a web hosting provider
1. Type of hosting (Shared vs. VPS vs. dedicated hosting)
There are three main types of web hosting :
Shared hosting plans are the most inexpensive hosting option — but you get what you pay for.
As the name implies, you share a server with several other websites. These hosts often overcrowd shared servers, meaning your website might be on the same server as 500+ others. This can lead to slowdowns, performance issues, and even crashes.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting plans are a step up from shared hosting in price and features.
Your website will still share a single server with other sites; however, the main server is split up into multiple virtual servers. You “rent” one of those virtual servers, which means you get dedicated server space and less competition for storage and bandwidth.
As you look at web hosting options, you may also come across cloud hosting.
Cloud hosting is similar to VPS, with one major difference: Instead of storing all of your website data on one physical server, cloud hosting lets you spread it across a network of interconnected servers working together as one. These servers exist in a virtual environment, a.k.a. the cloud .
Because it uses multiple servers, cloud hosting offers more scalability than hosting with just one physical server. We’ll talk more about why scalability matters in a bit.
Dedicated hosting is the most expensive and customizable web hosting option.
You get a dedicated server for your website, so you don’t have to worry about sharing resources with other websites.
This means better uptime and faster loading speeds, but it can also be prohibitively expensive. That’s why dedicated hosting plans are typically reserved for websites with over 100,000 monthly visits , like large ecommerce sites.
When you’re first starting out, you don’t need dedicated hosting. If you can afford VPS hosting, it offers an excellent balance of affordability and access to server resources.
Which brings us to our next point…
2. Server resources
When we talk about server resources, we’re referring mainly to storage and bandwidth.
Your web host’s server stores all of the data for your website. Those servers are physical systems that live in a data center. Each server has limited disk space. How much storage space you have depends on your web hosting plan.
How much storage you need depends on the types and sizes of files on your website. For example, a simple blog created with HTML and CSS uses much less storage space than a website streaming video content or selling digital products.
Your web hosting bandwidth determines how much data can be sent back and forth between your website and the server, which in turn affects how many people can access your site at once. If too many people try to visit your site at once, your website might crash.
If you use shared hosting, these server resources are shared between hundreds of different websites.
This means that if one website uploads a ton of files or sees a huge influx in traffic, it can use a massive portion of the available resources and leave other sites struggling to make do with the rest.
That’s why we recommend a VPS or cloud hosting provider. It may cost more upfront, but it’s well worth it for the peace of mind later on.
Storage and bandwidth also affect scalability, or how well your web host handles fluctuations in traffic.
If you have a web hosting plan that offers limited resources — for example, bandwidth and storage that cap out at a certain level of traffic — you might find your website struggling to handle an unexpected spike in traffic.
On the other hand, scalable web hosting lets you use more or fewer resources as needed, so you don’t:
Overpay for a plan with resources you won’t need.
Hurt your site’s performance when you hit the limit on a lower plan.
Finally, your server resources can also impact how quickly your website loads. Load time and page speed play a big role in your visitors’ user experience.
26.9% of ecommerce website visitors will wait less than four seconds for a page to load — and 45.4% of visitors said they would be less likely to purchase something if the page loads slower than expected.
You can check your website’s load time with GTmetrix .
One of our favorite free SEO tools , GTmetrix analyzes the loading speed of your web pages. If it finds that your site is slower than it should be, GTmetrix will tell you what’s slowing you down and offer recommendations to make things load faster.
Load time can affect your search engine optimization (SEO), too. According to the SEO experts at Moz , “Google has indicated site speed (and as a result, page speed) is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages.”
With organic search responsible for 53% of all web traffic , grabbing the top spots on the results page matters — especially when you consider that the first five results of any Google search account for 67.6% of all clicks .
Search engines care about website speed, and slow-loading pages can hurt your chances of grabbing one of those top spots.
All in all, server resources can make or break your visitors’ experience on your site, making them one of the most important elements of your web hosting service.
This piece is pretty straightforward. The cost of web hosting depends on what type of hosting you choose. For example, shared hosting with Bluehost starts at just $4.95/month and includes a free domain name, while dedicated hosting through the same provider starts at $79.99/month.
Go into the selection process with a clear budget in mind, and don’t forget to read the small print. Many providers offer rock-bottom prices upfront for shared hosting, then significantly raise them in the second year.
Uptime refers to how often a website is available to users in a given period. Downtime is the opposite: how often your website is unavailable for use.
Too much downtime — planned or otherwise — is bad for business. If your website goes down, it can hurt your traffic, SEO, and customer experience .
Look for a web host that offers an uptime guarantee. No web host can guarantee 100% uptime, but most try to meet a goal of 99.999% uptime.
99% uptime might sound acceptable, but that adds up to a whopping 87 hours, 36 minutes of downtime every year .
Every web hosting company will advertise high uptime. To double-check those claims — and get a feel for all of the factors we’re talking about today — read a web host’s customer testimonials on independent platforms like G2 or Trustpilot before you sign up.
WordPress uses open-source code, meaning anyone can dig into the platform’s architecture. This feature allows for tons of plugins and customization, but it can also create some security issues.
Hundreds of thousands of WordPress sites get hacked every year. To avoid being one of those sites, look for a web host that offers security features as part of your hosting plan or at an additional cost.
For example, WordPress websites don’t automatically come with SSL encryption, but an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate is a must-have to keep customers’ information secure. Many web hosts offer free SSL certificates as part of their hosting plans.
Even if you’ve never heard of SSL certificates, you’ve undoubtedly seen them in action. Podia has an SSL certificate and provides them for free to all of our customers to keep your and your students’ information secure.
Here are some additional security features to keep an eye out for:
Automatically applying the latest Linux or Microsoft Windows operating system patches to your server to keep your site safe from vulnerabilities.
Installing server-level firewalls to keep out hackers.
Need another incentive to prioritize security features?
In addition to keeping your visitors’ info safe, a secure website is good for your search rankings. In an effort to make the internet a more secure place, Google gives an SEO boost to encrypted websites.
6. Control panel functionality
Many web hosting packages include a browser-based control panel to help website owners manage their sites. Without a control panel, you’re going to end up either doing a lot of manual technical work or buying additional tools on your own.
Control panels make it easy to handle every part of website management, including :
Domain and server management
One-click installation for WordPress and plugins
Email account management
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and file management
The most commonly used control panel is cPanel , but your web host may have another software of choice.
Either way, control panel functionality is a must-have.
7. Customer support
Last but certainly not least, make sure to choose a web hosting provider that offers reliable customer support.
As an online creator, your website is a crucial part of your livelihood. If you run into an issue with uptime, configuring your server, or updating your business website, it needs to be dealt with ASAP.
Keep these questions in mind as you assess your potential hosting provider:
What support channels do they offer? (Phone, live chat, email, etc.)
What are their support hours? Do they offer 24/7 support? If not, what time zone do they operate in?
What is their average response time and resolution time?
OK, now you know what factors to look out for on your website hosting journey. To give you a head start with your selection process, we’ll share three of the top-rated web hosting companies for bloggers and beginners in our next section. (All pricing is accurate at the time of writing.)
3 best web hosting services for bloggers and small businesses
1. Best overall for beginners: Bluehost
If you’re looking for a tried-and-true option, Bluehost is one of the most popular hosting services available. PCMag named Bluehost the “Best for Building WordPress Sites”, and WordPress itself has been recommending Bluehost since 2005.
They offer plans at every level, including shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers.
Bluehost’s recommended “Plus” shared hosting plan includes:
24/7 customer support
Basic website building tools
Free domain for one year
Free SSL certificate
Free domain name for one year
Pricing: Starts at $4.95/month for shared hosting, $19.99/month for VPS, and $79.99/month for dedicated hosting.
2. Best shared hosting: HostGator
If shared hosting is the best option for your budget, we recommend HostGator. They offer reliable shared hosting at an affordable price.
HostGator’s shared hosting plans include:
99.9% uptime guarantee
Free SSL certificate
Free domain name for a year
One-click WordPress installation
cPanel web hosting control panel
A very fun alligator mascot
45-day money-back guarantee
Pricing: HostGator’s shared hosting plans start at $2.75/month for one website. They also offer a plan at $3.50/month and a business plan at $5.25/month for unlimited websites.
3. Best managed WordPress hosting: Kinsta
Managed WordPress hosting is built and supported by WordPress experts to keep your site running as quickly and securely as possible. It handles many of the technical headaches of WordPress sites, from caching to maintaining uptime and load speed during traffic spikes.
It costs more than shared hosting, but the perks and customer support are well worth it — and Kinsta is no exception.
Kinsta’s managed WordPress hosting includes:
Cloud hosting using Google Cloud and Cloudflare
24/7 customer support from WordPress experts
Free SSL, CDN, and website staging
Automatic daily backups
30-day money-back guarantee
Pricing: Kinsta’s Starter plan costs $30/month for one WordPress site with up to 25,000 monthly visits and 10 GB of disk space. They offer additional plans depending on your needs, with monthly prices ranging from $60 (Pro plan) to $1500 (Enterprise 4 plan).
Before we wrap up, remember that these recommendations are just suggestions to help you get started.
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all business solution. We recommend asking your fellow creators and doing your own research to determine which web hosting service is best for you.
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