One of the first things you have to do when setting up a new website is to choose a hosting company. If you only just recently learned what hosting even is, you probably have no idea how to pick a good one. You could do what a lot of new website owners do, which is to a) pick the cheapest option, or b) pick the option some step-by-step how-to-start-a-blog article told you to choose (which was most likely either BlueHost or HostGator).
Not all hosting plans are created equal.
I recommend that you spend a little more time evaluating hosting companies before making this decision, because while any hosting company can have your website up and running in just a few days or hours, let me tell you it is a very unpleasant, helpless feeling to visit your website one day and see this instead:
…and then have to spend time emailing, chatting, or talking on the phone to a customer service agent trying to get the issue resolved. And then to have this start happening once a week. And it is a very big relief, after having one’s website go down for an hour or two per week, or after finding that it fails most website speed tests, to switch to a new hosting company with friendly and helpful customer service representatives who make all your server and website speed problems go away.
So that is why I recommend taking a little more care in choosing a good hosting company to begin with.
What to look for in a hosting company
These are the factors I recommend taking into consideration when choosing a hosting company:
- Customer service. When you Google the company’s reviews, do you find lots of complaints about their customer service? Or do you find people reporting that the company is fairly easy to reach and deal with?
- User-friendliness. What is the setup process like? Is the website easy to navigate with clear instructions, or is a customer service representative helping you? Or do you feel overwhelmed with jargon?
- Scalability. When you’re first starting out, you probably won’t experience any issues with your site lagging or going down, but if you start getting an increase in traffic, if your cheap hosting plan doesn’t have enough server space delegated to you, you may suddenly start having problems (that’s what happened to me). You can avoid this by choosing a hosting company that offers a plan with enough storage space to handle the amount of traffic you expect to get (or a plan like this you can easily upgrade to).
- Cost. Apart from determining which plan you can afford, be sure to also look at what all is included. Does your plan include free backups? An SSL certificate (related to website security)? Free site migration (if you’ll be moving your website from a different host)? Website caching (which helps your site run faster)? I realize these are things you didn’t realize you needed, but a lot of the cheaper hosting plans charge an extra fee for these essential features.
By now hopefully you can see why it’s important to consider multiple factors when choosing a hosting company and service plan.
BlueHost and HostGator
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people who teach about starting a blog recommend BlueHost or HostGator for hosting. I have never used BlueHost, so I can’t tell you from personal experience whether or not it’s a good company. However, I can tell you that a quick Google search will reveal that a lot of bloggers end up wanting to leave BlueHost for one reason or another. Maybe the people recommending BlueHost have one of their more expensive plans?
HostGator is comparable to BlueHost for its cheaper shared hosting plans, and there’s a good reason for that: they are owned by the same company. My husband and I were actually using HostGator for all our hosting when I first started RVinspiration.com, but we switched fairly early because my husband was building websites for clients and a basic level hosting service no longer met his business needs.
I can say from personal experience that switching hosting companies isn’t the easiest process, even with an excellent customer service team helping you, so I really recommend starting out with a company that has a great track record for even its bottom tier plans.
Hosting companies I recommend
Here are the hosting companies I recommend:
- SiteGround.com– Although I haven’t personally been a customer, if I were starting out as a blogger with the knowledge I have now, this would be my choice of the most popular hosting options. They’re well established with a good reputation, and even their basic plan includes features I’ve come to realize are important. While their hosting does cost a little more per month, I believe you get what you pay for: I haven’t heard any of the complaints about SiteGround that I’ve heard about some of the cheaper companies, and yet their costs are still quite affordable for smaller websites and bloggers starting out. They also offer plans that can handle an increase in website traffic without your site slowing down. Since this company is so widely used, you can easily Google and find blog posts and videos to answer any questions you may have about getting set up with Siteground (and their website has extensive tutorials and a fairly user-friendly setup process, so you shouldn’t need much outside help).
- BettyLouHosting.com – This is a small hosting company run by an RVer I know named Amanda Figlio (I actually featured her DIY sofa bed in one of my blog posts on RV Inspiration–see #6 in this article!). She comes highly recommended and specializes in helping bloggers and small businesses get set up with quality web hosting, and like SiteGround, offers several plans to match your website data needs. If you prefer to do business one-on-one with someone who will personally respond to your questions and solve your problems, Amanda is who you want on your team. She also offers hourly one-on-one WordPress coaching and consulting, so unlike any other hosting company you’ll find, she can help you with other website problems you run into that aren’t related to hosting.
- Kinsta.com – This is the hosting company I personally use. I switched to this company after constantly having issues with my site going down and running slow due to heavy traffic volumes. Their customer service has been great, and my site runs much faster and more reliably. However, Kinsta is pricey and probably overkill for a new website. I would recommend new website owners start with a cheaper hosting service, but if you happen to be reading this and you’ve been blogging for a while and you’re not happy with your current hosting company and ready to just pay someone to make all your hosting problems go away, you won’t regret switching to Kinsta. Kinsta would also be a great choice for an e-commerce website.
- WP Engine – When I was ready to pay for the very best hosting I could afford, my decision was between WP Engine and Kinsta. I ultimately chose Kinsta because the pricing made more sense for me, but I feel confident that WP Engine would have been a good choice also. I would look at WP Engine or Kinsta if you’re building an e-commerce or site or some other type of website that needs to be able to handle high volumes of highly traffic requiring a lot of interaction with your website (as opposed to just scrolling down a page reading text).
Once you’ve chosen a hosting company, you’re ready to build your website!