We get asked questions like the following many times a month.
“Looking at starting a new venture with a WordPress website – any recommendations for hosting? It has to be cheap but reliable for a local business and I don’t expect a huge amount of traffic, it is more so we have a presence and people can find out more info when directed to it. It will only be a few pages and possibly a blog in the future, no ecommerce.”
Choosing the right hosting for a WordPress website is a common area of confusion for business owners. Hosting a WordPress website is something that business owners often make fundamental mistakes when choosing that later cause them headaches, heartaches and wasted time and money. Hosting WordPress is a fundamental area that can go wrong and it will then impact everything else you try to do online for your business.
WordPress is Free
WordPress is a “free” website platform that often encourages business owners to then spend as little money as possible. Which is why many people gravitate towards WordPress in the first place because it is a free, widely used and well supported website platform. There are also many free resources online to help you design, build and manage your website and the ticket price “Free” is all too tempting.
Although WordPress is a free platform you will definitely have to invest time and money into getting it created, built, properly set up securely, supported and maintained and one of the firs areas that the business owner usually makes the biggest error is in their choice of hosting.
When you start any web project you have to begin with the end in mind and in some cases try to look into the next 12-24 months to decide what it is you are going to do with your website and the sort of traffic you may expect to your new website. You may start with just a handful of visitors but with the right online activity you can be surprised at how big even a very “small” regional website can get both in terms of traffic and file size.
Lets get the hosting for “free”
There are lots of options when it comes to cheap hosting, 1 and 1 do it from 99p a month and there are lots of other options out there with all sorts of low/no cost introductory offers. However if you are thinking of buying a cheap package there are some areas you need to explore.
1) Speed – All servers cost money to run, obviously, but this is why speed matters and why cheap hosting rarely delivers…
As already stated servers cost money, so does all the infrastructure to ensure they run. The wages on the staff who manage it, the electricity to run the server and the facility it is housed in. The data lines into the building, the building itself. There’s a HUGE expenditure to just get a hosting service up and running and a whole lot more to keep it up and running. All this investment has to be recouped from the subscription payments from each hosted website.
So how does a hosting company make the best return on their investment? By hosting LOTS of websites of course, and with the rise of cheap, large capacity hard drives then they can hosts hundreds of websites on a server. Thus keeping the cost down per site. However this cost saving comes at the expense of speed, because at busy times your website may be one of many hundreds that the server may be trying to access and despite the advances in modern computers there will be delays when hundreds of requests come into a server at any one time. If you take this problem to the extreme and bombard a server with thousands or even millions of requests then the server slows to a crawl and eventually can even crash. This is known as a DDoS attack (Distributed Denial of Service attack) and is one of the ways hackers can take down a website if it is not protected sufficiently.
The more websites on a server making lots of money for the hosting company the better, however this can really affect the speed of your website.
The more websites on a server the longer the queue could potentially be that your visitors have to wait in to be served your website. This includes search engine “spiders” who are coming to look at and index your website. If you have a slow website, or one that takes ages for the spider to navigate then that will factor into where your website ranks in the search results.
Simply put a slow website can hurt your ranking, reducing the numbers of visitors to the site and reducing how effective your web marketing is. All of this happens and you may not even be aware of it, because it is hidden and the effects can’t be immediately seen.
You are spending 99p a month on hosting on your free website, it is slow at busy times and sometimes has a 500 server error. Your competitor is spending £20+ a month for a bespoke hosting solution that is scalable and grows with them and is fast 24 hours a day and has 100% uptime. Which one is likely to rank higher?
2) Storage – When it comes to cheap website hosting you can quickly find that your hosting allocation runs out. The initial sticker price is low but gives you very little “space” to grow your website. Initially you are not worried, but 11 months in after a few months blogging you find your capacity has filled. Not a problem, you speak to your hosts and you find that to expand the size of your website on their system is going to be £XX a month. Again, seems reasonable and you pay the extra a month and continue without thinking about your decision ever again.
But hang on…
You are probably still on the same server, they just lift your account space limit. You are now paying a lot more for exactly the same cheap hosting just to get more file space. Quality hosting packages may also only do the the same if you run out of space but because you are starting with a more robust, quality product it is worth the extra. Whereas you may now be paying the same as a premium supplier for cheap-as-chips hosting.
This is another way “stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap” hosting companies recoup their costs on running servers, the initial ticket price is just too good to pass up, so you buy in and then the price to make any changes, get support, increase your bandwidth or disk space all becomes relatively more expensive than the quality hosting packages.
Host your website on really top quality hardware, everything becomes harder when your server is struggling to cope with the load.
3) Security – we’ve seen how a cheap hosting package slows a site down but it can also provide hackers the ideal environment to play havoc with your web presence.
The more websites on a server the more security “attack vectors” are possible. If you sell hosting to hundreds of businesses all seeking to spend as little as possible you can guarantee that there will be differing levels of maintenance and management. With WordPress it may be cheap to “buy” but maintaining it requires regular, ongoing and continuous updates to ensure it remains secure and stable. The underlying code the servers run can change, and this too can cause security issues for WordPress. Add to that security issues with themes, plugins and additional coding and you can end up with a very insecure website if you do not maintain it.
There are now hundreds or thousands of websites on the server, many are older, maybe not as well maintained as they should be, or even abandoned. This gives hackers a toehold, a way in or “attack vector” to compromise the website, maybe even the server itself. Even if you run our website well it can be affected because of the neighbourhood it inhabits.
If you are not prepared to spend money on quality hosting expect to have security problems. Who you hang around with matters online as well as offline!
Your website host has to keep everything patched, up to date and running securely and whilst they may have many systems in place a lot of it has to be automated and the support staff have little excess time to be 100% thorough in their servicing. We cannot speak to the practices of other specific hosting companies but the time and effort to manage our servers takes a team of 7 people working around the clock to give the level of support required for truly gold standard hosting.
We do not compromise, and if a website is looking like it is corrupted, hacked or otherwise compromised we can isolate that website and suspend operations, fix it and get it back up and running. This recently happened when a customer installed a compromised plugin. Within 5 minutes of spotting the issues (server started to send spam emails) we suspended the site, cleaned the issue, ran a full diagnostic on the server and had the site back up and running within 7 minutes. This was all at 11:30pm on a Sunday evening.
If your website is compromised you HAVE to move fast, if you don’t you risk having your server blacklisted and then this affects emails delivery, website indexing and can even result in your entire website being kicked out of the Google search rankings. All because someone else was not secure and thorough with the maintenance and running of their website.
4) Reliability – the reliability of your website is the result of everything previously discussed working in concert. Reliability can be checked and monitored using a service called UptimeRobot.com which measures your website “up time” or how available the server is when the website is requested.
Compare these two screen shots of our Uptime Robot hosting monitoring. With Uptime Robot we can track website we host and manage as well as websites we manage but do not hosts.
These websites are hosted elsewhere and NOT by Mister Metric hosting.
We cannot reveal the customer and the sample is from the past 30 days, let’s run down the hosting platforms top to bottom.
- 99.47% uptime Wix built and hosted website
- 56.86% uptime Go Daddy website hosting
- 98.82% uptime Wix built and hosted website
- 82.81% uptime WP Engine hosted website
- 99.98% uptime Krystal hosted website
These sites are not hosted by us and although we manage some aspect of them we are not directly responsible for uptime but you can see that whilst not ALL the problem sites we have are REALLY cheap hosting all the problem sites we have are hosted elsewhere. Compare this to a sample of sites we do host.
These websites are being hosted by Mister Metric hosting
This is a random sample of websites we host, and the time frame is from the past 30 days.
Downtime is usually unexpected and it can happen to even the best hosted websites but out of the dozens of websites we manage we never see major downtime from our hosting.
We’d therefore urge you to use Uptime Roboto, the free package pings your server every five minutes throughout the day and sees how it responds. This can highlight issues with your hosting, from slow at busy times to severe outages that you may not be aware about in the middle of the night.
Uptime might not seem like a problem, you and your customers may not experience any problems but if the Google spider comes to review your site and it is not there don’t expect a good ranking in search results.
Reliability means your website is there, up and working and delivered to your end user within 3 seconds (or better) all day, every day.
Managing a website is more than just hosting it
Running a website is not just about getting your website up online as cheap as possible it is also the maintenance, security protection, content distribution and other factors that ensure you have a robust and secure website that can be found and is not suffering poor rankings due to technical problems.
If you want to know what poor reliability and then added to that poor customer service looks like watch my short 4 min video to Heart Internet when their servers went offline taking down over 80 customer websites. Heart Internet then dithered about for almost 5 days trying to get the sites back up, no info, no updates and we had no access to the sites or backup data and although (once we got a reply) we were assured the data was safe we couldn’t get to it and no one could help us.
Yeah, bad day in the office…
That’s what low cost, cheap hosting can do to you, we learned our lesson and we now have a much more robust, reliable and pro-active tech partner and a more robust backup and disaster recovery plan all produced by years of experience and understanding that problems can (and do) often happen. Most of this “experience” were lessons learned the hard way, but thankfully we have never lost any customer data.
WordPress Website Hosting Checklist
Cheap hosting is rarely the best investment to future proof your businesses online marketing and can lead to poor performance and less than desirable results. Here’s a checklist for choosing the right WordPress hosting for your business
01) Does your host provide one to one phone support?
This is perhaps the most expensive part of any hosting, so cheap hosting really struggles to cope with this level of support.
02) Can you install WordPress, set up your database and launch your website?
When you open your new hosting account and you need to move your website and set up your hosting then you should know that website hosts rarely move the website and emails across to their server. You may have to factor in the expense of a developer to move the site and a server tech to set up the security, emails and other settings.
03) Does your host offer you scalable hosting service?
Your hosting may be perfect now, but what about 12 months time? What happens if your website gets popular, do you have the bandwidth per month to cope?
04) Does your host backup your website regularly?
Your website doesn’t need backing up more than once a month if it rarely changes the content. But if you have a full-on eCommerce website which gets sales daily you need to back up AT LEAST once a day. How often does your current host back up your website and do you have access to the backup?
05) Does your host have the most up to date security?
Security has to be implemented throughout your hosting package from your website, to the server and the network it uses. Ask your hosts about their security and how often they update and maintain their server security.
06) Does your host update your server software?
When a server software needs updating some hosts install the newer software to run in parallel with the old software and unless you specifically tell your website to use the newer software then it will sit on the older software. Your hosts should be able to tell you how they manage upgrades and how often they do it.
07) Is there a contract for minimum hosting period and do you know what it is?
12 month hosting contracts are very common, as are monthly renewing contracts, which tend to be a little more expensive. Beware anyone tying in your domain name purchase with the contract as you may find it very difficult to leave and check who owns the domain name too! Domain names are not usually a problem if you are moving your current website to a new hosts but do check there are no penalty clauses if you want to leave early.
08) How easy is it to move your data?
For whatever reason you decide to leave, can you access your files immediately? Do you have total access to your website, your emails and all files on your server? If not walk away, you have to access all your data otherwise you may find it hard to leave without flagging to the hosts you intended to leave. We have seen cases where unscrupulous hosts lock website owners out or charge “admin” fees to access the raw data.
09) Do you have SSH or FTP access?
SSH or FTP allows you to connect to your server folders and files directly from your desktop machine and upload and add files. This makes life easier when doing bulk updates or moving larger files. We’d suggest that FTP was a “must have” if you intend to spend time developing your website.
10) Can you access the server control panel?
You should be able to get access to the cPanel, Plesk Interface or server control panel with your hosting account. Its not unreasonable to ask for this access as standard but some cheap hosts either charge you more to access your server control panel or simply won’t allow you to access it.
11) What bandwidth (volume of traffic) per month do you need now and in the future?
Expect your bandwidth to increase year on year by between 20% to 100% depending on how popular your website is and how much marketing you do.
12) Does your host offer an uptime guarantee?
If so what is it? it should be 99%+ that’s what we offer
13) Can you get an SSL certificate to make your hosting more secure?
Self signed SSL certificates can be added for free, 3rd party authenticated certificates cost money and depending on what type you need can cost over £300 per year.
14) Do you know what the next tier or hosting package costs?
Ask your hosts what their next tier of hosting costs and budget for it in 18 months time. Your website is likely to increase the use of space and bandwidth over time and it is best to be prepared for it.
15) How many websites will share your server?
Unless you buy a dedicated server for just your website then you will have to share hosting but it is the “contention ratio” or how many other websites will share the resources of the server that you should know about. We look at server demand and never load it more than 80%, so it is hard to put an exact figure on how many websites but you can ask a potential hosts what their max server loading will be and they should be able to give you and answer as we did above.
16) How many email accounts will your package allow you to have?
Some small accounts only allow you to have one or two, which then means you have to have a huge hosting allocation just to get the right number of email addresses. Make sure that your emails and hosting are both right for your business.
17) Does your hosting company move your website to their servers?
As we mentioned, few hosting companies will move your website for you. We do, we always have and we always will because it is the ONLY way to make sure the sites get set up right every time and don’t cause problems for the other websites sharing the server.
18) Who will update and manage my technical issues?
Hosts host and that’s it. Same for Mister Metric, if you pay for hosting we will host your website and make sure it sits on a secure and reliable server. However it will be your responsibility to manage the website and ensure it is updated and working. If your website goes down and the server is OK, and is doing everything correctly but there is a problem wit your website code (usually happens during a WordPress update) then you are responsible for fixing your website. We have a chargeable service but unless you pay for website support then you will only get hosting. We offer both hosting support and website management and support of course.
19) Who is monitoring my uptime and security?
Don’t expect any whistles and bells from cheap hosting, and that includes the basic metrics to measure how reliable your hosting is. You should monitor this by an independent third party, which is why we use Uptime Robot. We do monitor our hosting through internal tools and ensure it is updated and working correctly but having a third party measure the service is verification of what we claim.
20) How quickly will your hosts respond to support requests?
We respond same day, in fact within minutes of a support form submission usually. You can also pick up the phone and call us, cheap hosting can’t offer that level of support. Yes you do pay for it but the cost of cheap hosting only become apparent when you have a big problem and then it is going to cost a lot more to fix, usually at emergency rates.
Conclusion about cheap hosting
Hosting is definitely a service that can make or break your online marketing, and getting it right first time will prevent heartache and hassle in future. Your choice of hosting company will be affected by your budget, your technical skill level and the type of support you need. Make sure you are realistic about your needs now and in future. Even if you are technically competent do you really have time to monitor and manage a web server 24/7?
Your choice of hosting should not be solely based on cost, because if you buy cheap you may end up regretting it every day. If you know what you are doing moving hosts can be painless, but if that host has managed to exclude you and you do not have a backup then moving can be the most stressful time right at a point when you are most stressed about your website not being available.
If you are not able to afford circa £20 a month on hosting then maybe reconsider where your budget is being allocated, WordPress is free but development, running and hosting of the WordPress platform is not and you have to ensure you have the right resources in place to ensure positive outcomes for your business or project.
If you have any questions about WordPress hosting feel free to ask us. or check out our hosting packages here
All packages can be found here
Business Class Basic Hosting – £180 +vat per year
Business Class Plus Hosting – £270 +vat per year
Business Class Gold Hosting – £550 +vat per year
Any questions call us, there’s no obligation to buy – 01420 398080