As a web designer, I’ve worked with many web hosts over the years. Unlike where your domain name is purchased, where your web hosting plan comes from is critical to the success of your website. Here’s some of what it determines:
- How secure your site is. There are bad actors out there looking to exploit the vulnerabilities in your site to hack into it and use your bandwidth, redirect people to other places, and install malware on your site visitor’s devices. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the shape of the internet these days. And the setup that your web host uses is one of the biggest influencers in how easy or difficult it is to hack into your site. Beyond keeping your WordPress install up-to-date (which is easier than ever these days with auto-updates) your web host should be regularly upgrading their servers to keep you safe too. Many web hosts offer firewalls, and malware scans, and backups to help keep things running optimally for you.
- How fast your site is. You can (and should) optimize the content of your site to keep it loading as quickly as possible, especially as it’s a factor in your search ranking. There’s an element of both caching and server response time that are dependent on your web host, however, so you want to use one that is optimized to serve up your site as quickly as possible.
- How easy it is for you to update and maintain. WordPress websites need to be kept updated to keep things running optimally — WordPress itself, your plugins, and your theme regularly release updates of themselves to fix bugs, offer new features, and remain compatible — and that’s a task you (or your web designer) should be doing regularly. Some hosts offer automatic updates, which is nice if you don’t want to think about it and are okay with the risks of auto-updates, but they’re not all created equal. I can think of one very popular hosting service that regularly breaks plugins as part of updating them, rendering them unusable and sometimes breaking your site.
- Giving you control. Some hosting services have limitations in place that require you to install their plugin on your WordPress site so that they can keep things running smoothly, which is fine as long as it isn’t taking up lots of valuable storage and bandwidth. Others won’t let you delete things like certain themes or plugins, and likewise won’t work properly if you use other themes or plugins. Ideally, you want a web host that is set up to seamlessly work with popular plugins and themes regardless of their origin, and that includes things like email addresses and SSL certificates with their plans, rather than nickel and diming you for the basics.
- Supporting you as the site owner. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to contact a web host on a client’s behalf only to reach a help desk that knew less than me, tried to blame me for something that is clearly their responsibility, and/or left me with no upgrade path when they changed things up on the account. You want to work with a company that is responsive to your level of expertise and where you’re not left feeling entirely unsupported while they take your money. Of course there are areas of maintaining your website that are up to you, but having worked with many different web hosts I can tell you that while I’ve had to spend countless hours sorting things out with some, I’ve never even had to think about those same things with others because they just work.
I’m not going to spill any tea here, but I will say that my favorite web host is currently SiteGround. They’re competitively priced, super helpful, offer everything your site needs to be included in your hosting plan, serve up your site quickly, have a focus on security, and give you lots of control.
Over the many years I’ve been doing this I’ve worked with and recommended different companies, but as everything evolves it’s important to reevaluate and determine what’s working best currently, and whether service has gone downhill with a once-great company. I host this website with SiteGround, and currently recommend them to most of my clients who need a straightforward WordPress site.
It’s no joke to move your site from one host to another, so they offer a WordPress migration tool that makes it easier, or you can pay them a reasonable amount of money to do it for you. If you do move your site consider switching your domain name over too, not because any domain registrar is any better than any other (they’re not) but because it will be easier for you to keep everything in the same account together when it comes time for renewal.
I share this info with you as someone who has recently seen the stark contrast between the service of one host versus another and in an effort to save you time, money, and grief by working with a service provider that won’t give you the runaround. The links in this post are affiliate links if you decide this advice is worthwhile and want to make a move, and the advice is free-of-charge even if you don’t. Happy hosting!