Building a website for the very first time is pretty exciting! It’s like opening the door to a brand-new world, letting everybody know you are open for business. And having a good web hosting account to house your website is an important decision
But just like anything you do for the first time, it can be a bit scary. There are many technical things to understand to get your ducks in a row before taking your website live. But I promise, after the first time, building a website becomes much easier and really fun! In fact, many of my Website Creation Workshop students come into my program thinking they would like to build just one website, but end up creating many websites!
While I believe making mistakes along the way is a great way to learn when trying out something new, there are also things that will make your life much easier if you are equipped with some knowledge first. Choosing the right web hosting company for your business, for example, will save you so much time and headache later.
Just to be clear, we are talking about web hosting and not buying a domain name. Don’t know the difference between ‘website hosting’ and ‘domain names’? Click here for that article
10 Questions to Ask before signing up for Web Hosting:
Here are the 10 questions to ask yourself before you sign up for a web hosting account:
1. Do You Need 24/7 Phone and Chat Support?
As much as we want everything to go smoothly without a hitch, the chances are, you’ll need to contact your web hosting company with questions and, at some point, technical support. Website hosting companies’ technical support comes in many different styles, so it’s important to choose a company that provides the kind of support that you need and like. Do you want a phone support, or would you prefer an online chat? Or an email ticket system? Is it important to you that they are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day? Do they have different hosting plans that come with different levels of support?
2. How many domains do you want hosted?
Do you already know how many domains you’d like hosted? Some hosting plans allow you to host only one domain while others include 5, 10, or even unlimited domains. Make sure your hosting plan will let you host the number of domains you’ll have. If you don’t know the difference: Read this post on the difference between domain registration vs. web hosting. Also, definitely get domain privacy! You can go here to learn what domain privacy is
3. Do you want a web hosting plan that comes with email hosting as well?
Most of the popular website hosting plans usually include email hosting, meaning you can create email addresses and send/receive emails as a part of your website hosting. But there are some website hosting companies that don’t offer email hosting. If you want an email address, such as yourname @ yourdomain.com, then make sure you get a plan that includes email hosting. Now note that this is different from email marketing (i.e. sending out email blasts to your whole email list.) If you instead need an email marketing system go here to read about those resources.
4. Does the Web Hosting Company do Automatic Backups?
Just like many things in the technology world, things can unexpectedly go awry with a website. You might unintentionally end up doing something to mess up your website, or your website might one day become a target of a hack attack and stop working.
It’s always a good idea to have a backup of your website. And while I highly recommend regularly backing up your website by yourself, having your hosting service back up your website is also great as added insurance. If you want to go with a hosting plan that offers backups, remember to ask exactly what they back up, how often they run backups (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.), how many copies they will keep for you, and for how long do they store the backups.
5. How much disk space and bandwidth do you need for your website?
You normally do not need to worry about the space and bandwidth especially if you are building a regular website. But *if* you are running an event website, for example, and expect a big traffic spike even for a short period of time, you probably should speak with the hosting company to select a plan that won’t go down with an unusual amount of traffic. Even if you see “unlimited bandwidth” or “unlimited space,” that doesn’t mean your hosting plan can handle anything, especially you are on a shared hosting where you’ll be sharing resources with other websites on the server.
6. Does the Web Hosting include a Free SSL certificate?
Due to the security concerns, it’s now highly recommended to install an SSL certificate on your website. What is an SSL? Simply put, it’s a way to secure the communication between a web server and a browser. A website address with an SSL starts with “https://” (like this website you are seeing) instead of “http://”. Here is an explanation of how Google sees your site as secure or not secure
The easiest way to install an SSL certificate is via your website hosting company, and thankfully, there are many hosting plans that already include a free SSL certificate. Make sure your hosting service/plan provides a free SSL certificate and an easy way to install it if you want to take care of this without a hassle.
You want a web hosting company that makes it easy to open an account with them. One of the web hosting companies I recommend is Bluehost (my affiliate link) and I have a step by step article on “How to Open a Web Hosting account with Bluehost” here.
8. Do You Need Shared hosting or dedicated hosting?
Most beginners only need shared hosting. But you can also get dedicated hosting or VPS Hosting.
A dedicated hosting plan gives you an entire server for your websites to live on; no other businesses will have their website on that server. On the other hand, if you are on a shared hosting plan, you will be sharing one server with others. It’s like you are in a one-room building with other people sharing the same space and available resources. With a VPS (virtual private server) hosting plan, you also share a server with others, but the space for your website there is reserved like an apartment unit in a building; you won’t be sharing that space and assigned resources with others.
There are pros and cons to each scenario, including performance, pricing, security, and more. Spend some time to decide which plan will best meet your needs before signing up for a hosting plan. In general, most beginners should start with a shared hosting account.
9. Does the Web Hosting plan offer an easy-to-navigate control panel?
Occasionally, you might need to get into your hosting account’s control panel to perform some updates and maintenance work. Depending on hosting companies, the control panel could look pretty geeky and overwhelming. Unless you run complicated websites with unusual requirements, just go with a hosting company with a standard control panel (called cPanel®) or a simple control panel. Some hosting plans even come with a control panel made specifically for WordPress, so you may want to ask about that, too.
10. How Long is the Commitment?
You are expecting your business to grow, right? And you most likely would like your website to grow with it. That might mean having to upgrade your hosting plan. While most hosting plans allow you to upgrade in the middle of the committed term, it’s a good idea to check how it will work before signing up for a hosting plan.
Hosting companies come in all sorts of shapes, services, and business models. Unfortunately, there are hosting companies that seem to generate negative reviews. Also, there are companies that are simply reselling other company’s hosting plans, too. Do your due diligence: Go with recommendations and ask your friends. Below are 2 hosting companies that I know well and trust.
My favorite web hosting companies for People Starting Out:
They are an eco-friendly green web hosting provider with fast and secure hosting services utilizing their multiple data centers in North America and Europe.
Bluehost has all of the above, and a great support line! Go to: www.christinasresources.com/bluehost – (my affiliate link)
Siteground is another great web hosting company for WordPress. They have excellent service! Go to: www.christinasresources.com/siteground – (my affiliate link)
WPengine is a super fast web hosting company for WordPress. They have excellent service! But they do not provide email support with your hosting account.
Go to: www.christinasresources.com/wpengine – (my affiliate link)
I hope these 10 tips above will help you find a perfect hosting service for you. I know you will learn lots just by asking yourself those questions!