So you’ve made the shortlist of web hosts and you’re looking at Siteground vs Bluehost. After looking at countless articles and reviews from people who used either one of these web hosts.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a side by side comparison of Siteground vs Bluehost? If I were in your shoes I certainly would love that.
The truth is that depending on where you are in your journey of finding the best hosting plan for your website or blog it is important to consider some key elements.
Many people struggle with finding the right hosting partner for their business because they make the final purchase for all the wrong reasons.
They may have bought it because their friends use the same company or it suited their budget or it was an impulse buy as the web host had a sale.
I can assure you that those are not the right reasons for choosing the perfect website host. There are far more must-haves to consider before clicking the buy now button.
In this post, I’m going to spend some time with you looking at what exactly is web hosting, why it is important and the steps you need to take to choose the right one for your needs.
What is website hosting anyway
Well, every single website needs a place to store the files or pages images and code that make up their website. This place of storage is called a web host.
In simple terms, a web host can be seen as someone with a very powerful computer that remains on 24/7 with a special address that people can use to find the files stored on this powerful computer.
This powerful computer is also known as a server and as you can tell it serves up files. images and pages from an address which is known as an IP address.
The people who maintain this server would need to have the knowledge and experience to host all different kinds of websites so that they can ensure that these websites don’t have any downtime.
I do remember at one point over the last 10 years I wanted to become a web host that focused on helping women in business host their website.
So, I purchased the domain name and set up my server with WHM, etc. Soon, I realised that it is too boring for me and even got hacked in the process. So my web hosting career was over in short order.
Disclaimer: please note that this post may contain affiliate links which means that if you buy one of my recommended products I get paid a commission for sharing the link. I only recommend products that I have tried myself and have experienced success.
Anyone can decide that they are on a tight budget and set up their computer as a server giving their audience access to their website.
The difficulty with this is that you will find that maintaining your computer 24/7 is not worth the effort and that you are probably better off using a tried and tested hosting company.
This brings me to the point of explaining why a web hosting company is important. You can hire a company who has years of experience hosting websites for less than a Happy Meal at McDonald’s.
You can pay them only $3.95 a month to keep your website up and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you think that is a lot then compare it to the hourly wage in your country.
At this point, you are probably wondering how on earth can the staff at your web host survive on $3.95 a month? Well, they host hundreds or even thousands of websites every month so this is ‘no skin off their backs’.
Just in case you think that they are totally bored watching websites all day they can be quite busy if they have hundreds of websites in their care.
The key thing to remember is that websites need to be kept secure and there are several rules when it comes to data protection. There are also a lot of hackers who keep them busy just for fun.
What are the key features of a good web host
Depending on the type of website that you are looking to create there are some standard features that everyone needs.
The acronym SSD means solid state drive. This is a newer kind of drive that was invented in recent years to replace the standard hard disk drives (HDD).
When comparing the HDD to the SSD the standard drive had a lot of moving parts which greatly reduced the speed of access to the files stored on that drive.
The SSD, on the other hand, is solid throughout and uses flash technology so that there is no need for it to generate as much heat. This means that they are quieter than the old HDD.
The benefit for your website is that people do not need to wait long for your website or web pages to load if they are stored using SSD technology.
SSL is an acronym for Secure Socket Layer. As you probably guess it has to do with website security. So many people now conduct their business online including giving their personally identifiable information.
We live in a world where identity theft is real and can be quite soul-destroying if it happens to you. The need to keep data secure continues to be in high demand and this should be a standard feature for your website.
In the last two days, I visited about 20-30 websites that did not have an SSL certificate installed on their website and I found that quite surprising.
It is important of course if you have an e-commerce store to offer website security so it is easy to argue that if you don’t have a shop then you don’t need it.
The truth is there are cookies (tracking codes) on every website as well as blog commenting forms and contact us forms so it is definitely essential for every website.
The recent introduction of GDPR means that by law you need to take extra care in protecting the information of your website visitors.
This goes without saying but just in case it is important to have the ability to contact your web hosting company 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Your website is supposed to be always on so the staff that is hosting it need to be always available to handle your query.
In the last 10 years, I have experienced hosting with over 20 web hosting companies so I can tell you that this is super important especially if your website is down.
The most important aspect of support is the ability to contact them using different communication channels. In other words, they cannot be email only or phone only that is a bit ridiculous.
They should offer 4-5 different ways that you can contact them. It is, of course, important to open a support ticker but depending on the urgency you may want to follow up by chat, email, phone or Facebook Messenger.
A few people have a love/hate relationship with cPanel. Personally, I love it probably because I have been using it for years. It is also standard software with most web hosts.
For those of you who hate cPanel hear me out. Once upon a time, I moved to a new hosting company, years ago, and I was lost. I think it was called IX web hosting at the time. I just did a quick search and it has been migrated or acquired by Site 5.
Every time I needed to make a change, create a subdomain or find my files I had no idea how to do so I needed to contact support.
I am very hands-on when it comes to hosting. So, I created my first website at a time when one needed to manually needed to install their WordPress website including creating a database.
The independence of doing those things is what I enjoy totally so it is really your choice when making a decision around having cPanel or not.
Do remember that if you opt out of cPanel you will always need to spend time finding your way around the host user interface.
In my opinion, having your business email is so important if you want to be portrayed as a professional brand. When I say business email I mean having an email that reads like this: [email protected]
I continue to see two glaring mistakes with small businesses. Many companies will have a website which is fine but they will also have a contact email of [email protected]
What does that say about you or your brand? How can anyone take you seriously? Your web host should at the very least provide you with a facility for a business email.
The second mistake I see is web hosting companies refusing to provide business email as standard. What on earth is that? How could they charge you for hosting and not provide business email as part of the package?
The truth is if you decide to get into business think of long-term growth and development. Always have an exit strategy where if you plan to sell the business you can at least sell on the brand including the emails.
Your brand has a value that you build over time so don’t take it for granted.
The reason why I decided to put a figure when it comes to storage size is that as a business you will need to grow. Your audience will demand that you give them the full media experience of text, images, video, files and audio so you need to be ready.
I have personally come across cheap web hosting plans that offer 1GB of storage. Do me a favour and run in the other direction because 1GB is insufficient at any level.
Some hosting companies will advertise a boatload of features but when you click the buy now button you soon realise that things are different.
The feature that you thought was standard is, in fact, an extra charge so always read the fine print.
It is important to remember that storage and bandwidth are two very different things. To help you understand it storage is like a filing cabinet.
Bandwidth, on the other hand, is the number of people that are allowed to access the files in the cabinet at the same time.
I am yet to come across a hosting company that offers a ridiculously low bandwidth. I have seen it range from 10,000 visitors a month to unlimited.
It is really important that you check what is being offered before you commit to buying. If you believe that your business will scale quite quickly then go for unlimited.
CMS is the acronym for a content management system. In the last 20 years, there has been a variety of CMS platforms available. Some of these include WordPress, Joomla and Hubspot just to name a few.
Whichever one you decide to use do remember to check that your hosting company has staff members that are experienced in this area.
The last thing you would want is for your website to experience issues and the support staff have no idea what they are doing or how to resolve the issue.
You are paying them for their expertise so they should be able to give you a solution in record time.
If you think that you may add a shop to your site in 6-24 months then you will also need to ensure that your web hosting company offers the ability for e-commerce plugins and/or hosting.
If you don’t know yet what platform you will be using for your shop or even if you decide to use Etsy or Shopify still check to see to what extent your web host can support you.
I personally did not plan to have a shop but I do have experience using Shopify. In the end, I decided to go with a WooCommerce plugin because it is free.
You can do the same until you are at least getting a good return on investment or you can use Etsy or Creative Market simply because your customers are already there.
Free migration is super important because it is super easy for your host to migrate a website rather than you spending time messing about with FTP uploads.
It will take a lot of time and headache for you to migrate your own website compared to a seasoned professional doing it for you for free in 24 hours or less.
It would make more sense for you to spend the time adding value to the lives of your customers and prospects rather than faffing about with a website migration.