Can I tell you one of my pet peeves?
These days many of us are completely comfortable spending $5 on coffee every day of the week. Yet I can't tell you how many online entrepreneurs I've spoken with who run their entire business on WordPress, but who refuse to pay more than $30 per month for web hosting.
Now, I get it...many of you are just starting out and you need to watch your budget while getting a business off the ground. I've been there. But please do yourself a favor and do a little research before you select a web hosting company. Please don't base your choice solely on monthly fees.
Hosting has become such a commodity over the past few years with Danica Patrick telling us that we can have a website, hosting, and maybe even 250 business cards for $4 a month. Many entrepreneurs have lost sight of the fact that hosting is an absolutely critical component of online business.
If your site is down, you earn zero.
Developing a good relationship with a solid hosting company, even if it means spending a little more money each month, can be the difference between earning a paycheck and working for free.
Another trend I see is that authoritative internet marketers tend to promote web hosting solutions that have good affiliate payouts. On the high end, some hosting companies will pay up to $200 for each referral because they know they'll make it back. That's great for the affiliate (or, excuse me, authority figure), but not always great for you.
You might be asking..."Ben, why are you jumping up on the soap box over this topic?" Let me tell you a story.
When I first started building sites and doing internet marketing, I went for the cheapest hosting I could find. I was building sites for customers and recommending this hosting solution because I was also an affiliate. To be totally honest, the hosting company I was referring my clients to actually did pretty well in the beginning. But they grew extremely fast to the point that they simply couldn't keep up with customer support and their downtime was becoming a little more frequent.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Nate and I launched Fly Plugins. Since I was familiar with said hosting company, we went with them for our first product sites. I won't mention their name, but they made us sing the blues louder than B.B. King himself. Infrequent down times turned into frequent downtimes and up to 3 days of lost revenue.
Here's what went down...
We were doing pretty well with this host at the beginning. We didn't have tens of thousands of customers as we do now and the site was running at a decent speed.
So finally one day our site went down, but then was back up with in a few hours. We didn't think much of it. I mean, every hosting company claims 99.9% uptime don't they, so we had to expect a good 17 hours of downtime in our first couple of years of business operating globally 24/7.
Although we can tolerate some expected degree of failure, every minute of downtime for us is detrimental. This is how we make our living and we rely on the hosting company's uptime. Or guess what? Yep...no paycheck.
Then our site went down again. And again. And again.
You get the idea. To any of you who made countless attempts to purchase over a 48 hour period back in 2012, all we can say is that we love you for sticking with us. Needless to say, the downtime when from hours to days. The last time we were down for 3 whole days. Let's just say I was not a happy person that week.
It was at that point that we decided to take our website and business seriously and went on the hunt for a WordPress web hosting solution that would be more reliable and provide better support, no matter what the cost. After all, it couldn't cost more than 3 days of lost revenue, right?
We studied our options and finally decided on WP Engine's WordPress web hosting solution, moving all of our sites there. Please don't take this as a referral or suggestion for your business without doing your own due diligence. You'll notice we're not trying to slide an affiliate link into "WP Engine" right there.
The point of me walking you through a bit of our journey is that so many of you are budding entrepreneurs that I just want to convey how important a consideration hosting should be when getting started.
For online marketers and entrepreneurs, websites are not just web properties that display information about you. Websites are investments that convey your image, process transactions, deliver digital products to customers, and perform automation tasks that make business easier.
So how much will a reliable WordPress web hosting solution cost?
Before I get into that, let me say this... as many of you peanut-butter-and-jelly-eating-work-until-4-am-succeed-or-die entrepreneurs know, part of starting a business is understanding that you might not get paid any time soon and the money that your business does make in the beginning should be put right back into the business to improve, grow, and expand marketing reach. [Stepping down from soapbox now].
All that said, it's very important to find a good hosting company that will be reliable and have a solid uptime to serve your online business. Sure, there's no such thing as 100% uptime. The reality is that hosting companies can't promise the impossible. Since our big move to WP Engine two years ago, we have had one single instance of downtime...one. Not even close to the frequency and the length of downtime we experienced with our previous hosting company.
What does WordPress.org recommend?
Well, unfortunately, I would have to say that I somewhat disagree with the recommendations made on WordPress.org. I'm not really clear on how the names got on the list, however, there are maybe one or two on that list that I would actually consider.
What does Ben recommend for WordPress web hosting?
It really depends on what you're doing with your site. One general recommendation I would make is to get a WordPress-focused web hosting service because they will be able to better assist with WordPress specific issues.
Since you're reading our blog, I'm going to assume that you will be running WordPress...so here are a few basic recommendations to get a solid foundation for your business website.
- Find a good domain name registrar - Separate your domain registrar from your website hosting service. Some web hosting companies also host domain names, but it's okay to separate the two services. You can Google around for best registrars, however, I've had a great experience with hosting my domain names on name.com. One good thing about keeping domain registrars separate from the web hosting service is that you don't have a single point of failure.
- Find a WordPress-focused web hosting company - Find one that is WordPress friendly and WordPress savvy. A few of my recommended hosting solutions are WP Engine, Pagely, Kinsta, and SiteGround. Beware of the bigger, trendier, and cheaper hosting companies (like the ones who can afford to advertise during the Super Bowl) because they are starting to have "WordPress" friendly plans but generally they don't have WordPress specific savviness. Also beware of where your recommendations come from. In other words, is the source of the recommendation only making the recommendation to get an affiliate commission? We actually use WP Engine for Fly Plugins and I personally use SiteGround. I've honestly not used Pagely, but by looking at some of the companies that trust their site to Pagely, I'd have to say you'd be in good company (I do know the CEO Joshua Strebel, and if you've met him you'll know that he runs an outstanding operation).
- Find a good email hosting service - Aside from SiteGround, WP Engine and Pagely do not provide email services along with web hosting. There are several services to choose from, however, my two favorites are Google Apps for Work which has Gmail for Work, and RackSpace Email.
- Name.com - You can pick up a .com, .org, or .net domain name for around $11. Check out the name.com domain price list.
- Enom.com - Enom is another one I've used in the past and pricing is similar to name.com.
WordPress Web Hosting
- WP Engine - starting at $29/month. See price plans.
- Pagely - starting at $99/month. See price plans.
- SiteGround - starting at $4/month. See price plans.
- Kinsta - starting at $30/month. See price plans.
- RackSpace Email - starting at $2 per mailbox per month. See price plans.
- Google Apps for Work - staring at $5 per user per month. Keep in mind this is a full suite of applications including Gmail for work which allows you to use you own domain name. See pricing plan.
- [NOTE] - You won't need email hosting if you go with SiteGround. They do provide an email service which you can connect to your email client like Outlook or MacMail. However, if you like the Gmail interface, you could still go with Gmail for work.
At first glance it would seem to be a pain that you'd end up having to maintain 3 separate platforms. However, it will make your business very flexible in that you can move to a different hosting solution or email service with ease. Also as mentioned before, there isn't a single point of failure. So if your website goes down, you will still have email services.
Although this gets you off to a great start, you may want to ask some additional questions before making your web hosting selection. Most of the hosting services I have mentioned will have solutions to these questions, however, some of the bigger hosting solutions may not provide these types of answers.
- Is the primary focus WordPress?
- How good is the support model? Is there a phone number or chat option? Or is it just knowledgebase articles? Also, what are the hours of support and average ticket turnaround time?
- How good is the security? Are there additional layers of security or do you have to rely on a security plugin like Sucuri?
- Are WordPress updates automatic? Some WordPress web hosting solutions will not force major revisions of WordPress to update, however, they will force the minor revisions.
- Is there assistance in moving your website to their platform?
- How scalable is the service? In other words, can I upgrade my plan without having to move my site from one server to another?
- Is there a staging site to develop and test on?
- Are there automatic and/or on-demand site and database backups?
- How easy it to restore a site or database from a backup?
- Are the web server's versions of PHP and MySQL compatible with the latest version of WordPress?
- Will the plan be able to sustain my expected website traffic in the future?
I hope that my little web hosting rant can help you determine which solution is best for you. I also hope I can encourage you to make an investment in your business by selecting good hosting solutions for your domain, site, and email.
Let us know what solutions you are using or not using in the comments!