HOW TO AVOID A TRAGEDY
If you have a website, you need website hosting. Hosting is the service that provides a computer (web server) that holds your website, connects to the Internet and serves up your site to people who want to view it. When you type in a website address (URL) you’re telling the internet where in the world the server is that your website sits on.
That being said, what’s the problem? You pay somebody – GoDaddy is the biggest – a small amount monthly for this service. No problem, right?
If only. Just now we’ve had a client’s website go down (can’t be reached online) because the hosting service they had – from GoDaddy – was not what it should have been. The name of the service “Managed WordPress Hosting” was a lie.
RULES FOR HAPPY HOSTING
You don’t have to be an expert on the subject but there are some things you should know.
The first rule is, generally speaking, bigger is better.
You may think you can get cheap personalized hosting service from a small company or one-man band. Two problems with that. They may not know everything they need to know. And they may be too small to deal with the hazards of hosting.
The Internet is by definition, international. And there are many thousands of people out there – hackers – trying to break into computers for fun or profit. You’ve probably read about them. Sure, your website is not a big target, like banks are. But there are a lot of people out there who might be interested enough to go after your site.
So, without going crazy, you need big league protection, and only big companies have the resources to provide the protection you need and the capability of rapidly and effectively dealing with problems when they arise.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use a small provider. We offer hosting to clients on servers we lease from a large company which provides all the “big company” infrastructure our clients’ websites need.
HOW BAD IT CAN GET
We had a client who hosted their website with a small company. One day, the company went out of business. They didn’t pay the bill to the company they were using – they didn’t run their own servers. Their website disappeared. Any backups disappeared with it.
That website was lost. Gone. Start over from scratch.
TRUTH IN HOSTING
There are thousands of companies offering website hosting, with prices ranging from 0 to many hundreds of dollars per month. If you read over what they say they are selling, you would probably end up scratching your head. Seemingly identical offerings have wildly different pricing. They must not be telling you everything.
Hosting is actually a rather technical subject. Finding the right hosting service if you don’t know the technology, or what is important, is like trying to buy a car if you don’t know the difference between one make and another, what mileage or horsepower are, or even the difference between a sedan and a pickup truck.
I kid you not.
Most people have very simple hosting requirements and simple websites. In that case it is harder to get in trouble, but far from impossible.
Ultimately you need someone:
- Who knows what they are doing.
- Who you can trust to give you good honest advice.
There really is no other solution.
WHAT YOU NEED
Most companies have simple hosting requirements. I can at least summarize them for you.
- A big company.
- The right type of hosting. For a WordPress website you need what is called Unix hosting.
- Your website needs to be backed up daily, and previous backups need to be saved for some time, ideally 30 days.
- You need maintenance. Again, assuming yours is a WordPress site, parts of the WordPress software are constantly being updated. Without proper maintenance – and sometimes even with – the site is going to break sooner or later. So you need someone to do the updates and to fix things when they break.
WHAT YOU DON’T NEED
If you don’t have an IT company, there are high end hosting companies you aren’t equipped to make use of. Prime example: Amazon Web Services. For almost anyone this is both overkill and over your head. It’s a wonderful service. You don’t need a Formula One car for driving around town.
Managed WordPress hosting services are a slightly different situation. They supposedly take care of everything for you, except they almost always don’t. GoDaddy is the worst offender on this. Theirs is like regular car maintenance, only it doesn’t include oil changes.
Again, a different scene, WP Engine has managed WordPress hosting which, depending on the option, does take care of things. But it is difficult to work with if you are going to make changes to your site or do search engine optimization.
THE BAD SOLUTION
Many people to avoid the pitfalls go to hosted website providers, such as Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify.
Sometimes these are a good answer, actually, but as always there’s a catch. They are inexpensive, offer set-and-forget hosting, and often lots of bells and whistles for free. BUT:
- Sometimes you don’t own your site.
- Sometimes your site can’t be moved to another hosting company.
- Often you are very limited in things like design.
- Some cannot be search engine optimized.
- Some are just plain hard to do even simple things with.
As always, let the buyer beware, but as I said, the real answer is someone who knows what they are doing, that you can trust, to provide good advice in this area.