There are lots of options for web hosting, so which one do you choose? They’re not all equal, and you shouldn’t look at cost alone. There are different levels of server performance, uptime, security, and level of customer support, for example. If you have a WordPress site, you can consider a managed hosting provider that specializes in WordPress.
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Shared web hosting is the most commonly advertised form of hosting, with plans starting around $100/year. These providers claim to offer unlimited websites, unlimited disk space, and tons of other features. GoDaddy, BlueHost, and HostGator are some of the most popular shared hosting providers. However, you get what you pay for. You’ll have frequent downtime, a slower site, and a high chance of getting hacked. I would only recommend using shared hosting if you’re just getting started, don’t place a high value on your time, and don’t mind starting over from scratch if you get hacked.
If you have to use shared hosting, you can take some steps to improve security. However, this will require a time investment and it’s not as good as using managed hosting. I recommend reading this document and the security post I wrote.
Managed WordPress Hosting
If your website is for a business or otherwise important, you want to choose a reliable hosting provider. I recommend managed hosting, such as Kinsta, Flywheel, or WP Engine. These providers are more reliable and provide better performance than the low-cost providers, but they are well worth it. You’ll have much better uptime and site speed. You’ll have much better security, and much less likely to get hacked. And on the occasion you do get hacked, they typically will help you. If you’re using a shared hosting provider and get hacked, they typically won’t help you.
You will still have to maintain your site yourself (perform upgrades and make fixes when upgrades break your site). If you’re not proficient with WordPress and comfortable with PHP and MySQL, then I strongly recommend you get a maintenance plan to handle your upgrades and fix any technical problems.
If you hired a web designer to build your site, they usually will not continue to maintain it (unless you have a contract that explicitly states it). Web hosts typically do not provide maintenance either.
Maintenance typically refers to all the technical upkeep required for keeping your website running smoothly. In most definitions, it includes upgrading WordPress, themes, and plugins, and making any fixes (due to upgrades or other reasons). It typically also includes taking ongoing security measures, making and storing regular backups, and restoring from backups if necessary.
Consider the following:
- Do you know or are you willing to spend the time learning WordPress and the technologies it uses: HTML, CSS, PHP, and MySQL?
- If you are using shared hosting, will you make your own backups on a regular basis, purchase automatic backups (most shared hosts charge extra), or set up a plugin to create automatic backups? Do you know how to restore a WordPress site? Are you comfortable with FTP/SFTP and MySQL?
- If you are using shared hosting, will you do the necessary research on security, and make the appropriate changes?
- Will you remember to upgrade regularly?
- Can you afford to have mistakes or downtime while you figure out how to fix things?
- Can you afford to spend a significant amount of time communicating with tech support if you can’t figure things out yourself?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you should probably hire a consultant to maintain your hosting for you. You can hire the consultant on a continuous basis to make sure your site is well-maintained and running smoothly.
Or you can wait until something goes wrong, and then find and hire a consultant to fix it. This choice may seem less costly in the short term, but it may end up costing you a lot more in the long run. Fixing and cleaning up a hacked website is usually much more costly than preventing such an incident in the first place. And if you don’t have regularly scheduled backups, the consultant may not be able to fully restore your site. In fact, they might not be able to restore anything at all.
Whatever host you use, I highly recommend you sign up for free monitoring services at Pingdom and Uptime Robot to see how often your site goes down. It might be more often than you think.