If you would like to start with a blog and don’t mind investing a bit, a hosting plan is the way to go. I have already talked about free places to start a blog, and how to get your own domain name. If you really want to start blogging seriously, or just want to be more professional about it, you need a place to host that domain.
What is a hosting plan?
A host is a place that serves your site to the world wide web. When you make a website and want other people to see it, you will need to publish (or upload) it with a web hosting service. Web hosting services work by storing your website files in high-powered computers (web servers) connected to a very fast network. When someone types in your web address, the Internet connects to the web server holding your website files and then transfers your website information back to their computer. From there, they can surf and view the pages of your website. Hosting services are most often used for hosting Web (or blog) sites but can also be used for hosting files, images, stores, games and other content.
Today I am only going to talk about blog hosting services. You should know some things first.
Why should you pay for web hosting?
In a word, FREEDOM. All free websites have limitations. Most will use your blog to advertise for their free website services for one, among other things. Their isn’t much you can do about it on a free website, but with a host you can completely control your content. Look at the bottom and/or top of any free hosted website and you will see an ad for people to get their very own website. Always look at the fine print. Most free website hosting will limit the amount of space you use and/or the kind of advertising you can do. If you were hoping to make any money blogging via advertising, a paid hosting domain is the way to go.
There is no doubt a free site is the way to go if you are not sure you are cut out to blog regularly, just be aware you may log in one day to find that your website has vanished overnight or that your content is in other places. Either of those things can happen when you go with free websites. If you want unlimited options, you want to get a hosting plan. Also, having a website hosted with a paid plan will look more professional and make you feel more professional. I blog as a hobby, but I take my hobby seriously.
Reasons you should pay for hosting:
- control over advertising
- less downtime
- more customer support
- unlimited options
- more space
- secure server access
- no file restrictions
- your own domain name
- more SEO options
- plug-in options
- domain email
Where to find a good hosting plan
Some hosting plans are all inclusive, some only give you a place to park and don’t offer assistance. Some are very expensive, some are dirt cheap. Depending on the kind of service you need, I recommend checking out the websites of a few hosting plans within you budget before you buy. See what they have to offer. Check out hosting plan reviews. Notice that some websites may be posting very biased reviews, some of the “best hosting plans” web pages are actually just links to a certain websites hosting page. Do your research.
A great way to pick a hosting plan is to talk to other bloggers about the hosts they use. Most bloggers are happy to tell you what hosting site they use and what they really think of the services they offer. I found my hosting plan that way. In my opinion, a host should include the first year of the domain and offer lots of help for it’s users. Shop around and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Look to make sure you get locked into a price, some hosts have a one month special and then the price goes up dramatically.
When it comes to quality, more expensive isn’t always better. I can almost guarantee that the cheapest host won’t have the best service. By service, I mean technical support. These hosts have to paid their support techs, so finding a cheap host means you may spend more time on hold, or they may limit the type of help they will offer you. Every host should, at the very least offer support to help you transfer a domain from one web host (free or paid) to their hosting. That service should be free, or at least reasonably priced.
Things every hosting plan should have
- Reliability (up-time)– every time a host goes down, your site goes down. Pick a site that has a good track record.
- Band Width– this is what you use when someone views your content. When you hear that popular websites crashed due to high volume, this is what they were referring to. The average site, that doesn’t have videos, will use less than 3G per month. If you plan on hosting videos or selling products you will need much more than that. Most hosts have a limit on the amount of bandwidth a site can use and will charge you more and/or ask you to upgrade if you exceed the limits.
- Disk Space– this is where you park you website contents. Some hosts will say that you can use an unlimited amount of space, but the really mean as time goes on you can add more and more. When transferring content, you will use a lot of disk space right away. The average website, that doesn’t host videos and/or music, will not need more than 20MB of disk space.
- SSL (secure server)- this is what you use if you are selling products on your website and need a secure gateway. You may not need this at first, but this should be an option at any hosting service.
- Email– every host should offer you an email address @yourdomain.com. I have an email at my host that I then forward to my main email. This saves me a lot of trouble checking more than one email address.
- FTP, PHP, .htaccess, SSH, MySQL, Cron– you should have access to ALL of these with a web host. (you don’t need to know all of the following to make a great website, but you need access to all of them in your hosting plan) FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is used to transfer files. PHP is a server scripting language, and a powerful tool for making dynamic and interactive Web pages. Htaccess is for configuration file that controls the Web Server running your website, and is one of the most powerful configuration files you will ever come across. .htaccess has the ability to control access of the World Wide Web’s HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) using Password Protection, 301 Redirects, rewrites, and much much more. SSH access is useful for certain things, including testing certain scripts (programs), maintaining databases, etc. MySQL is the most popular database system used with PHP. Cron is a system daemon used to execute desired tasks (in the background) at designated times.
- Control Panel– A control panel is a web-based interface provided by the hosting company that allows customers to manage their various hosted services in a single place. Hosts use different words for the Control panel, but they all mean the same thing (examples: AlternC, Baifox, cPanel, DirectAdmin, Domain Technologie Control, Froxlor, GNUPanel, H-Sphere, i-MSCP, InterWorx, ISPConfig, ispCP, Kloxo, Plesk, SysCP, Usermin, Webmin, and many, many others)
- Mutiple Domains and SubDomains Options– you may only have one site today, but later you want want another website. I never thought I would need more than one domain when I picked my hosting plan, but today I have three. I host all of them at the same place for one small price.
- Reseller Options– the best web hosts offer huge amounts of space for people that want to sell hosting. Since this is an option, you should know about. You never know what options you might want later.
Every host will have several hosting options.
- Shared hosting – Shared hosting is the lowest tier available, but for many WordPress users, it is all that is needed. In this package, a single server is partitioned for use by several clients who share the server’s resources as they are needed. This type of hosting is the least secure and the least reliable, but it is also very affordable.
- E-commerce hosting – E-commerce hosting is a specialized package developed for those who plan to conduct sales through a WordPress website. It includes several features, such as an electronic shopping cart and credit card processing.
- VPS hosting – A virtual private server (VPS) is a shared server that has had its resources fully partitioned for two or more clients. This ensures that a pre-established amount of resources is always available for your use, and no crossover occurs between clients. VPS hosting is best for businesses, websites that experience heavy traffic and websites that require unique software installations.
- Dedicated hosting – With this package, you lease an entire server for your own use. The server may be managed by your own IT team, or it may be managed by the hosting provider for an additional fee. This type of hosting is the most expensive, but it also offers the most flexibility.
You have a big decision to make when choosing a hosting plan. I can’t stress enough to do your research. The following list is not all inclusive, just the one I use and a few others I think are worth consideration.I did not includes prices for these hosts due to the many options they offer. Please note that some will offer month-to-month payment options, while others will ask you to pay for the whole year. This is a list of hosts for WordPress hosting, so this list does not include hosts that primarily host Joomla and Drupal or other platforms. Although, some of these hosts offer options for those as well.
- Hostgator– 99.9% up-time guaranteed, 24/7/365 support, free domain transfer, unlimited domain hosting, unlimited emails
- Dreamhost– 100% up-time guarantee, free domain for life, 24/7/365 support, unlimited domain hosting, unlimited email
- Bluehost– 24/7 support, unlimited email, free domain (1st yr)
- iPage– 24/7 support (US only), free domain ($15 if you cancel acct), unlimited email,
- Fatcow– 24/7 support, unlimited emails, free domain
I have been using HostGator since 2010, so I might be a little biased. No hosting company can guarantee that your site will be issue-free. The question facing bloggers of all size isn’t “Will your site experience a problem?” Rather, the question is, “What will your hosting company do when your site experiences an outage or other problem?”. Customer support is my number one concern so all of the sites I have listed have 24/7 customer support advertised. I cannot vouch for all of them, but Hostgator has always been there for me when I had a problem. (to date I have broken my website 4 times, transferred 2 websites for free, and never waited more than 10 mins for an answer to my techie questions)
You should know that depending on your niche there may be hosts that cater to you. For example: if you run a book blog you probably want host at the place with the best plug-ins for book bloggers included. I suggest looking into BookHost. If you want to run a site that shows off photography you might want to check out SiteGround. If you have a parenting website you will probably want to look at MomWebs. There are hosts for almost every niche that offer plug-ins specific to the content and understand the niche needs.
Please don’t be offended if your host isn’t listed. Just tell us about why you like them in the comments. Feel free to leave us links so others can find them, too.