If you are a little confused about some of the terminology you hear online such as a domain name and domain web hosting, I can help clarify things for you. I will also discuss how to choose the best web host for your site.
A domain name is like an address for your website (similar to the address for a house). It tells people where to find your website. The web hosting is more like the land that the house sits on. It’s the ‘physical’ part, the part where the actual data that makes up your website is stored.
There are several types of web hosting plans you can get and many different companies you can buy a web hosting plan from. Fortunately, these days many are very inexpensive.
For example, you can get “unlimited” hosting for less than $10 a month. Plus you can also get discounts if you buy long term hosting.
For most beginners a shared hosting account will handle your needs. Shared hosting is when hundreds of websites share one server. Each website gets part of the disk space and the computing power for their needs.
Think of it like this: imagine a big storage facility where you can rent one unit to store your stuff. Some of the bigger facilities have hundreds of units but you are only using one small portion, your unit. It’s a similar concept with a shared hosting plan.
You can also get a dedicated hosting plan. This is the best option for bigger sites that get a lot of traffic. A dedicated host means just that, you are the only one using your server.
A dedicated server is only needed if you have a huge website that gets a lot of traffic. This option is a lot more expensive than shared hosting, and may cost hundreds of dollars a month.
A hybrid of both dedicated and shared hosting is the Virtual Private Server – VPS. This is a shared server but set up so that it appears to be a dedicated server. Confusing I know, but think of it as a more expensive (with more options) version of shared hosting and a cheaper (but still with more options than a shared plan) version of dedicated hosting.
One thing to keep in mind with a VPS is you may be responsible for all updates of the operating system and other software on the server.
The last form of web hosting is the reseller hosting plan. This is a plan where you can sign up for an account and get a dedicated server but instead of using the server all by yourself you can resell space on the server to your clients.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed deciding which type of web hosting will be the best choice for your business. Start small with shared hosting that will handle the needs of a small to mid size internet business. As you grow and get more traffic (and have more money) a dedicated or VPS site may make more sense. But for now, shared is your best option.
Best Web Hosts
Now let’s talk about choosing the best hosting company for your needs.
You can get free hosting but if you’re serious about starting and building your online business you won’t. Free hosting can be unpredictable at best. You may not be able to get the exact domain name you want and you’ll have to deal with advertisements (that you aren’t earning any money from) on your site. With hosting prices so cheap it just doesn’t make sense to sacrifice the features you really need just to save a few dollars.
When looking for a hosting company you want to compare prices, but also other features. For one thing you want to know how much server up time they guarantee, and they should guarantee it. Most quality hosting companies guarantee a minimum of 99% up time.
Frankly, even though 99% up time sounds high, it’s actually not. Look at it this way: 99% up time means 1% down time. That means your site may be off line for almost 4 days per year!
You want a host that guarantees at least 99.9% up time and offers refunds if your site is down more than 0.1% of the month.
If you only have a few websites that don’t get tons of traffic, then shared hosting should work fine for you. The hosting company will cover all maintenance of the servers along with a lot of other features.
The Importance of Support
Look very closely at the support options each hosting company offers. You will want to deal only with companies that have solid 24/7 support in case you ever need it. Trust me, there will come a time when you need support.
If you encounter a problem in the middle of the night that shuts down your website you are effectively out of business until someone (your hosting company) clears it up or helps you figure it out. You don’t want to have to wait until ‘normal’ business hours. You want it fixed now.
Choose a company that offers support via email, telephone, and online chat. Personally, I prefer the online chat. I don’t like being on hold on a phone call.
Shared web hosting costs only a few dollars a month. Depending on the host, they may offer a monthly rate with discounts for paying by the year. You may also be able to save by paying for more than one year at a time. However, I recommend not paying for more than one year at a time.
Let’s get specific about some of the popular hosting companies out there. Here is the list of the companies that I’ve had experience with either directly or because my clients have used them:
- SiteGround – my current hosting company
- 1&1 Hosting (now called 1&1 Ionos)
- Blue Host
- Dream Host
- Go Daddy
- Host Gator
- Name Cheap Hosting
- WPX Hosting
I’m sure you noticed that SiteGround is the only hosting company I’ve linked to in the above list.
These days SiteGround is my preferred host.
They offer 3 shared hosting plans:
- StartUp good for about 10,000 monthly visitors
- GrowBig for about 25,000 visitors
- GoGeek for about 100,000 visitors
When you shop around for hosting, you will find many hosts offering unlimited everything. We all know there is no such thing as “unlimited.”
SiteGround does say with their GrowBig and GoGeek plans you can have “unlimited” websites. But you’ll also notice they limit how much web space you get and estimate how many monthly visitors each plan can accommodate.
They offer phone, chat, and email support. I use the chat support and have only been disappointed one time with the service I got.
SiteGround also provides one-click installation of Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates and their own caching solution called SiteGround SuperCacher.
One other thing to keep in mind with hosting companies. I think you should choose a company that uses CPanel. CPanel is a set of tools to help you control your website. Every hosting company will have some dashboard that gives you access to the back end of your website. In my experience, CPanel is easier to use than the other dashboards and makes it easier to move your website to a different host if that becomes necessary.