The Importance of Quality Hosting
We optimize a lot of websites, and one of the most common things we run into with our clients is substandard hosting. Many of our clients are still with the same hosting company they had when they started their business years ago. Some have just started and decided to go with whatever company came up first when they searched Google. Unfortunately, there are a lot of hosting companies with old hardware, out-of-date technology, and less-than quality customer service. In this post we’ll go over the different types of hosting, things you should look for in a host, and some of our recommendations.
Shared hosting consists of web hosting where the service provider hosts and serves multiple websites for different customers from the same web server. Each site has it’s own domain but shares resources with the other sites on the same server. This is essentially entry-level hosting and the least expensive option. For websites that require more resources like those with high traffic or ecommerce, shared hosting usually does not provide enough power.
WordPress Managed Hosting
WordPress managed hosts are fully managed turn-key hosting solutions. These hosting companies provide highly optimized and powerful platforms for you to build and develop your WordPress sites. They keep the sites tuned, maintained, and help with security. As part of this, they may limit some plugins from being installed. These platforms are more expensive than the shared hosting options.
Virtual Private Server
A virtual private server is similar to shared hosting in that multiple customers can be hosted on the same shared server hardware. Where it differs is that each customer will have their own virtualized instance of the operating system and a guaranteed minimum of resources (vCPU cores, RAM.) VPSs are much more flexible and can provide enough power for sites with high traffic or that demand more resources. VPSs can often be customized to meet your needs. These cost more than shared hosting.
A dedicated server is just what it sounds like, a standalone dedicated server that hosts only one customer. Dedicated servers can be very powerful and offer lots of control and customization. They are great for large or resource intensive sites with predictable traffic and utilization. The drawback to dedicated servers are the lack of flexibility. If at any point you need fewer or more resources, you need to move to a different server. The base cost for dedicated servers is generally more expensive than VPSs.
Enterprise Cloud Hosting
Enterprise cloud hosting is the most powerful, flexible, and customizable option, but also the most complex. These offerings allow you to everything from installing a small single WordPress site all the way up to large enterprise sites and applications. These providers allow you to customize everything about your architecture from the types of hardware, add on storage and processing units, to separate database servers and graphical processing, AI and machine learning servers. This level of hosting offers everything from free and low cost options for small single sites, all the way up to complex enterprise architectures and everything in between.
Things to Look for in a Quality Host
The performance and speed of your website start with the quality of your hosting. You can optimize your site using caching, CDN, and reducing your image size, but if you don’t start with good hosting, it can only take you so far.
- Your host should support HTTP/2. This is a new protocol that allows for your server to transfer many files simultaneously.
- Your host should be running solid state drive (SSD) storage. It’s significantly faster than normal hard drive storage and helps serve files and images to your users more quickly.
- Your host should default to at least PHP 7.0 – preferably PHP 7.1. Many hosts still default to PHP 5.6 or even 5.2. These versions are both insecure and inefficient.
- Your host should support TLS 1.2 or 1.3. These are the protocols used to encrypt web traffic over SSL.
- Some hosts now support free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates. These are very convenient and provide your site with an added level of security. Let’s Encrypt recently started supporting wildcard certificates as well.
- It’s very beneficial if your host has either Memcahced or Redis server caching available. This can help speed up your site performance significantly.
Hosting Companies to Avoid
We’ve worked with a lot of clients and hosting providers, and there are a number of hosting companies that we recommend avoiding. These companies generally have dated hardware, protocols and technology that are not up to date (PHP and TLS,) and poor customer service. Two of the larger companies we recommend avoiding are BlueHost and GoDaddy. They both have older technology, out of date protocols, limited features, and subpar customer service.
BlueHost is a subsidiary of a larger hosting company called Endurance International Group. They buy up smaller hosting companies after which their quality tends to decline. A listing of EIG companies can be found here.
Recommended Hosting Providers
These companies have great options for entry level hosting, reasonable prices, and great customer service. They also have options for VPSs and dedicated servers.
WordPress Managed Hosting
These companies have some of the best and most reliable WordPress hosting available. These are great options if you need your hosting to just work and don’t care as much about customization or flexibility.
Virtual Private/Dedicated Servers
These companies excel at affordable, flexible VPS and dedicated server options, letting you select exactly what you need. These can take a little more experience to run correctly but there are also managed options available.
Enterprise Cloud Hosting
The big three provide all the power and options you could want, but there is definitely a learning curve. Because of the complexity and customization available, it may benefit you to work with someone certified on each of the platforms.
There are affordable, quality options available no matter the size or complexity of your next project. Selecting the right host can save you lots of headache and inconvenience in the long run. Take some time, read some reviews and set your website up for success with a quality host with the feature set and support that you need.