How to choose a web host without fear of costly mistakes: 1. types of hosting

How to choose a web host without regrets is the #1 issue for DIY WordPress users who are non-designers and non-developers. Good web hosting is an essential factor in running your own website without frustrations.

In this first in a series of articles on web hosting, I’ll explain what to look for and what to avoid when you choose a web host for your WordPress site. Read all articles, and you will be able to pick your ideal web host with confidence.

Choose a web host, knowing the different types of hosting.

Before you choose a web host, it’s very important to understand the different types of hosting and which one is right for you.

In this article I limit the types of hosting I describe to the essential ones. WordPress self-starters won’t need to know more.

If you want a more extensive list of all possible types of hosting, here’s a comprehensive article on the subject.

Shared hosting

As you start, I think it’s fair to say that shared hosting is probably your best option.

Shared hosting means that your website will live on a server that it shares with many other websites. It’s a bit like sharing a flat with flatmates. As well as the living space and storage, you also share the operating system and other resources.

Shared hosting has its drawbacks, but it’s the cheapest option and the easiest one, too.

The main problem can be the ‘bad neighbour effect’: big websites sucking up resources in the shared space and making your own site slow down.

Having said this, most good web hosts providing shared hosting offer many ways of speeding up your site and they will always look after your site properly.

Middle eastern meal. Shared hosting is like sharing an abundant meal: plenty for everyone, when nobody is greedy. And when the host is generous, there will always be plenty more in the kitchen.
Shared hosting is like sharing an abundant meal: plenty for everyone, when nobody is greedy. And when the host is generous, there will always be plenty more in the kitchen.

Please head off to the 3rd instalment in this series if you are looking for hosting recommendations.

VPS (Virtual Private Server)

A VPS hosting environment creates a virtualised private server. Your website lives in its own little apartment of its own.

It’s technically sharing the same space, but it has its own facilities, its own operating system and so on. In practical terms, a VPS is shared hosting as well as dedicated hosting.

Having said that, there are 3 major elements that make VPS hosting very different from shared hosting.

First of all, usually the space on a VPS is shared by only a handful of users, thus giving each users access to more disk space and memory.

In the second place, your account on a VPS is managed on a virtual separate machine (hence the name). This means that you can configure your own server in the way you prefer. This is impossible with shared hosting, because the environment is the same for everyone. So you can’t modify your own control panels without modifying everybody’s.

In the third place, a VPS is highly scalable, which means you can increase the resources should you need to.

If you are only starting out, a VPS is definitely overkill.

A VPS is usually ideal for web developers who host their clients’ sites on their own server. Not recommended for first-time WordPress users: you simply don’t need it.

Also, in the case of a WordPress website, the first step up from shared hosting should really be managed WordPress hosting rather than VPS.

Cloud Hosting

When you choose your web host, you can make your web home in the Cloud.
Cloud hosting is provided to customers by a cloud of multiple connected servers. This unlimited number of separate machines can act as one system thanks to cloud computing technology. This is SiteGround’s explanation. 

Still according to SiteGround, Cloud hosting has many benefits in terms of website performance (guaranteed by multiple machines), guaranteed server resources, no single point of failure (because of the many machines), flexibility for your website to grow, lower pricing than a VPS and more.

While all this may all be true, my own experience with SiteGround cloud hosting wasn’t that great. The operating system was taking up a huge amount of resources (we’re talking 14 GIGAbytes) so my 30gb allowance was eaten up quite quickly. There were a few more problems, so in the end I decided to move to managed WordPress hosting with Flywheel.

Disclaimer: I still think that SiteGround are one of the best web hosts out there. I wholeheartedly recommend their shared hosting. Their support is second to none.

Dedicated Server

This is a whole server, all to yourself. No sharing at all: all space and resources belong to you. Usually for websites that receive over 100k visits a month. It’s expensive, but websites that receive that kind of traffic usually have no money problems.

So for self-starters in the process of choosing the best web hosting for their website, there’s not much point to a dedicated server. Even if you are thinking VERY big, you should start small and move on later.

To know more, read this article that explains very clearly the different types of web hosting.

Managed WordPress Hosting

Photo credit: raspberri cupcakes via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

This is the cherry on the hosting cake for WordPress users. That’s why it comes last in the article. Managed WordPress hosts specialise in WordPress hosting. They offer a service that’s specifically tailored to WordPress websites.

For this reason, if you have a WordPress website, then managed WordPress hosting is the absolute top. It’s stil shared accommodation: but it’s like sharing a 5-star hotel. Shared hosting is like a camping site in comparison.

In theory, even SiteGround offers managed WordPress hosting. However, that’s only a section of what SiteGround offers.

The best managed WP hosts are the ones that dedicate themselves solely to WordPress – nothing else.

My reason for moving to managed WordPress hosting on Flywheel was the security. Managed WordPress hosts like Flywheel and WPEngine offer tight security at server level, thus preventing hacking attempts. And even if you do get hacked, they’ll clean the website for you. This is what they did for me when I moved from SiteGround.

On shared hosting, you’ll need to set up a service like Sucuri if you are concerned about security. I simply didn’t want the nightmare of a hacked site again (yes, I was hacked). I also didn’t want the expense and hassle of setting up Sucuri, so I moved to Flywheel. It was a lazy move on my part, I’ll admit. I still really love SiteGround and miss their chat window.

If you are on shared hosting and are concerned about security, then you must read this article by Rob Cubbon. It will tell you all you need to do to make it difficult for your website to get hacked.

If you are interested in getting all the advantages of managed WordPress hosting via Flywheel but don’t fancy doing it yourself, get in touch with me to get your website on my Flywheel account. I’ll take care of everything.

EDIT post-published date: after I wrote this, Chris Lema published an article on managed WP hosting and you should definitely read it if you want to know more on the subject.

Conclusion

In a nutshell:

  • If you’re starting up, used shared hosting. Choose your host wisely as it will make all the difference (host recommendations in the 3rd episode of this series).
  • If you’re starting up but can afford spending around $30 a month, go with managed WordPress hosting. It’s worth the extra money for the service.
  • If you’re starting up there is no point using a VPS, Cloud hosting or a dedicated server.

In the next instalment of this series, you’ll get:

And in further instalments you’ll get:

  • Web host recommendations
  • Jargon-busting cheat sheet

As ever, I look forward to your comments and reactions. And if you want lively, immediate debate and interaction, come join our great Facebook group.

A little disclaimer

Web hosting is a huge subject. I do not claim by any stretch of the imagination to be an expert in it: it’s a whole profession into itself.

On the other hand, I do feel qualified to provide advice to beginners, self-starters and other small enterprises who need help with choosing their web host. This is all.

I am also, as ever, quite happy to stand corrected should I say anything that’s not accurate or old information.

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