We’ve noticed a lot of questions in freelancer communities concerning web hosting and domain name management. It makes perfect sense, since there’s such an overload of companies offering the services which also leads to a whole variety of ways to actually execute what you’re trying to do.
Our focus will be centered on WordPress here, since this seems to be one of the most recurring questions: ‘How the hell do I get started with a WordPress website?’
In this post we’ll show you some of our favorite providers and in our second part we’ll give you a non-technical explanation on getting everything set-up.
We’re not going to get into too many technical details about shared hosting, vps and the like.
Let’s just agree that while starting out, you’ll probably be okay with the cheapest subscription a provider offers and you can scale up when you notice an uptick in traffic and requirements.
Now there’s some things to keep in mind. If this isn’t a completely new website (f.e. a redesign or a migration) or if you already have an existing mailing list that will guarantee you traffic, it may be better for you to skip the cheapest program or certain hosts from the start.
Your best bet here is to ask any necessary questions through a hosts live chat function (they all have it nowadays) as this will give you a pretty good idea of the quality of their customer service and noob friendly-ness.
Tell them your (expected) traffic and whether you’ll be doing anything particularly bandwidth-heavy (full screen photographic background portfolios come to mind).
Who to choose?
There’s been some controversy about certain hosting companies and I’ll try to shortly summarize them.
The biggest one in the world, GoDaddy, has had its fair share of drama and probably deservedly so.
They publicly supported SOPA, which caused an exodus of clients, their favorite form of publicity are controversial super bowl ads and they tend to host too many websites on a single server.
The 2 first points are pretty political and don’t have any impact on the way your website runs, the last one definitely does.
I’ve even heard of websites showing malware notifications to visitors because another website on the shared server had been blacklisted.
They used to be notorious for their awful support but more recently there have been reports that mention that part of their service has improved tremendously, so that’s a plus.
Their pricing is definitely too high for what they’re offering, but when they offer some of their super-sales you may be able to snatch up a good deal. These deal conditions probably won’t apply to your yearly renewals so if you don’t cancel or move after the first year, you’ll still be overpaying.
I’d avoid using them as your host, not so much because they’re bad but more because plenty of good alternatives have popped up recently.
Such as …?
They’re rreeeally cheap, especially during one of their sales or by using a discount code you can easily find if you spend some time googling.
They were also the first host I ever used and their knowledge base is incredible. It takes you by the hand through the entire setup process and you can search for any other possible questions you may have.
Their live support and ticketing system aren’t the greatest though, so if you do have a quick question or an actual technical issue, you may have to wait a couple of hours/days or resort to public forums.
Still, if you follow their instructions to a T you shouldn’t have any issues while setting up.
They have a WordPress QuickInstall (most bigger hosts do), which means you can just install it from your dashboard and you won’t have to use any FTP software and play around with files and manual installs.
Comparable to Hostgator and also owned by the same parent company.
Online accounts mention they seem to invest in upgrades more often that other hosting companies which makes for a great user experience in their dashboard.
Seems to have some issues with their live chat as well, not so much in response rate/time but more in the quality of the support.
Something to keep in mind with these huge hosting companies is that when something does go wrong with your website and for some reason they decide not to help you or just remove the website (for example, you’ve been attacked by spammers), there’s not really anything you can do.
You can find plenty of online accounts of this happening and your only solution will be to move to another host, even after paying for an entire year.
This is however, the exception to the rule of course.
A relatively new player on the scene, and they can be a bit intimidating at first. They don’t have the huge knowledge base the other hosts offer, but there’s a pretty good method to their madness: it’s just not necessary.
They offer an incredibly intuitive ClickAndGo dashboard and promise to be optimized for performance, a claim which seems to hold up under the scrutiny of experienced web host technicians.
Their e-mail/ticketing support is top-notch and they’ll go out of their way to keep you happy. I reported a performance drop and they immediately went to work, tinkering with my server settings until everything was as optimized as possible.
A downside is their live chat. The operators are not native English speakers and tend to resort to standard replies at times that you could definitely use a more in-depth answer.
I’ve had them disappear at times as well, having to start up a new chat window to try and get some support.
Their technical knowledge is pretty lacking as well.
They prefer to refer you to knowledge base articles or advise you to upgrade your data package to increase performance, in cases where this can be completely beside the point.
I haven’t used their email service yet, so I can’t comment on the ease of setting up this vital part of your website.
Haven’t used them myself as a hosting provider (I have used them for other services as you’ll see below) but they have a great reputation.
Their back-end is very barebones which may look … crappy at first, but it soon proves to be a very valuable asset as there’s no room for confusion.
You get shown nothing but the necessary and the knowledge base perfectly highlights what needs to be done.
One current issue is that they have no phone support, which can get frustrating if you’d like a little bit more handholding during your first go-around.
I’ll add that this is my personal experience with Namecheap. Some online reviews mention terrible support so I may have just gotten lucky with my operators.
In contrast to hosting, domain names are rented for a minimum of a year at once, where hosting can be billed monthly.
There are several hosts that offer a free domain name when you sign up for a year of hosting or other great deals, so definitely be on the lookout for these packages.
If you can’t get a package deal, I feel like there’s only one service I can recommend here and that’s Namecheap.
They offer cheap prices, great support, they don’t try to force cross-sells or up-sells on you and seem to be perfectly transparent in everything they do.
.COM domains cost $10.69 (€9.84) a year, where other providers may charge up to $19.99 a year.
Which brings us to …
SSL encryption is required for any website that accepts sensitive customer information such as credit card numbers.
Anytime you see a green lock in your address bar or a green box with the company name, it means they’ve secured their site with SSL.
Now, I’m no SSL expert and could not begin to describe you all the differences between a $9.00 SSL certificate and a $999.00 one, but I can tell you that if you just started your first E-commerce project the cheap one should do just fine.
Once again, Namecheap offers one of the cheapest and easiest to install solutions on the market.
If you’ve just set-up a Woocommerce Install on your webshop and want to combine it with a Stripe integration for example, this certificate will have everything up and running in no time.
Stay tuned for the next installment where we’ll guide you through the website set-up jungle!
Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.