Web Hosting: The Good, the Bad, and the Deadly
Today we’re talking about web hosting! 🤓
The root cause of many slow websites can be traced back to a bad host, and fast websites convert better than slow ones. Not to mention the ding you take from search engines for having a sluggish website!
While it might not be considered a thrilling topic, it’s importance to the foundation of your website really can’t be understated.
But first, some context
This web hosting guide assumes that you plan to join 40% of the internet and use WordPress as your content management system, and so all hosts recommended here will use a PHP server configuration known as LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP).
WordPress is written in the PHP programming language, which requires a LAMP configuration to run.
You don’t want to use a Windows-based host for WordPress, even if you use Windows on your computer.
What makes a good host?
Before we dive into the best places to host a WordPress website in 2021, let’s determine some parameters for what actually makes a good host.
At a recent industry conference, it was shared that if your site takes more than 2.8 seconds to load, Google is penalizing you and you risk losing out on visitors and revenue.
When something goes wrong, you really want the people who you turn to for help to know more than you do about the subject so you can resolve your issue as quickly as possible.
Watch out for a massive surprise jump in price after your initial subscription period ends, it’s a crummy tactic used by too many hosting companies.
Easy to use
Hosting is a complex subject so it’s important to host somewhere that minimizes that complexity with an easy to use backend.
First up, Cloudways. Full disclosure: my entire business lives on Cloudways at this point. All of my websites, and all of my VIP clients reside on DigitalOcean droplets that I manage via Cloudways.
If you sign up for Cloudways hosting via my link, I’ll receive a commission for telling you about them but it does not affect what you pay in any way.
I’ve been there for several years now, and I couldn’t be happier with the level of quality service they’ve consistently provided. It’s been the longest run I’ve personally had at a hosting company since before mediaTemple was acquired by GoDaddy.
Why they’re good
- Dedicated environments – unlike shared hosting, your sites are kept separate from others, so you’re not sharing resources with bad websites.
- Blazing fast SSD drives – if you’ve made the switch from a standard hard drive to a Solid State Drive (SSD) on your personal computer then you know what a crazy difference it makes.
- Easy to scale performance up instantly, add more RAM and CPU power in a few clicks
- Seamless staging management for safe upgrading
- Truly expert level support, friendly, and fast to respond (both chat and email).
That’s just a sample of their features, check out the full feature list here.
If you’re migrating a WordPress site to Cloudways it couldn’t be easier. They provide a plugin that does all the hard work for you.
I had all of my sites with Dreamhost a long time ago, and I really only left because of a better deal (with a host that went on to sell out to hosting villain EIG, ugh). Their performance was good and the pricing was straightforward.
What I found when I left was that it was impossible to migrate using automated tools and so when I had to move hosts again in response to the new company’s new ownership I decided to move to Siteground instead of back to Dreamhost because I didn’t want to be locked in to another proprietary admin panel (which is what happened anyway).
Kinsta & WPEngine
I’ve listed these together because they are very similar companies that I don’t have much personal experience with. They both have excellent reputations for high quality service so I feel comfortable listing them here as good hosts.
Kinsta and WPEngine are managed hosts, which means they hold your hand with premium support through everything about hosting your site, but it comes at the expense of granular control. For those who want to be hands off when it comes to hosting, either of these companies are an excellent choice. They’re popular and well-respected in the industry.
The Bad (and the Not-So-Great)
Siteground (the not-so-great)
This one makes me sad. I loved Siteground for years before I finally accepted that they are not the company they used to be.
A few years ago, I wondered if Siteground had met the same untimely demise that so many other hosts experienced at the hands of EIG (more on that in a bit). As far as I can tell they haven’t sold out, but they also aren’t providing the high quality experience that their price tag should command anymore.
Siteground isn’t a bad host, but it’s not great either, especially for the price you pay after the trial rate period ends. I found their custom backend to be buggy and outdated which led to a poor overall experience (and led me to Cloudways).
WordPress.com (the okay)
As a WordPress developer who has spent years coaching noobs on the difference between WordPress.ORG and WordPress.COM, I’ve always been frustrated with Automattic’s choice to muddy the brand in order to compete with Squarespace and Wix.
As an entrepreneur, I understand the necessity to monetize free offerings.
My beef is with the confusion the ambiguous branding has caused among new users. At this point, the monetized WordPress.com platform is a completely different experience than it’s open source .org counterpart. This leads to issues when a user needs to find a solution and turns to Google which provides them with loads of irrelevant results because they’re not really using the same WordPress that the majority of tutorials and solutions are aimed at.
If you want the real WordPress experience, the one with all the freedoms and options to extend it, use the free software from wordpress.org and pick your own host.
GoDaddy (the bad)
GoDaddy has been chasing a glow up for years, and they certainly seem to be trying to be a better host than they were but they’re still owned by a company that went from being gross and sexist to trying to cultivate a kinder, softer image because their bottom line was under threat.
Personal feelings aside, GoDaddy is in heavy competition with Bluehost for the title of Web Host People Pay Me to Fix Most Often, so there’s that.
They are guilty of a myriad of shady practices, such as charging a premium for features that are offered for with most standard hosts (like free SSL certification and WHOIS privacy), offering domains for *insert bait and switch here*, and overselling their hosting capacity to the detriment of thousands of websites.
Okay, so deadly is a bit dramatic, I admit. But if there is one true rule when it comes to web hosting it’s to avoid a certain company like your life depends on it. Because your business kinda does.
Now allow me to introduce you to the worst hosting company in the world.
Endurance International Group (EIG) has made it their mission to gobble up lovely, supportive hosts, cram as many sites as possible onto their outdated, underpowered, overworked servers, and then employ far too few knowledgeable service agents to serve their millions of customers.
This poor support has been found across hundreds of “different” hosting companies that aren’t different at all for many years at this point.
With their own faux-monopoly they can then manipulate pricing across their vast network of seemingly unrelated hosting companies. This is called price fixing, and it’s illegal.
But EIG doesn’t market itself as a hosting conglomerate. They actually go to great pains to keep their new acquisitions as quiet as possible.
As villains tend to do, EIG operates under a pseudonym. Quite a few, in fact.
Full list of current EIG hosting companies for 2021
You may know them by their common names:
- A Small Orange
- Big Rock
- Blue Domino
- Constant Contact
- Host Excellence
- SEO Hosting
- Virtual Avenue
In conclusion: don’t skimp on hosting and run quickly away from EIG’s 50+ current companies
If you’re serious about your website, you need to prepare to pay at least $25/mo for hosting, especially if you are running an ecommerce business.
It will cost you more in the long run to host somewhere cheap and have to move your existing website to a new hosting provider while minimizing downtime and lost orders and leads.
It’s stressful and time consuming, so pick a high quality host the first time to save time.
I hope this web hosting guide has cleared up any questions you had about the best place to host your website in 2021!
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