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How To

How To Pick Your Webhost

How to pick a webhost comes down to understanding yourself, what you need, and how you work.

This is not a real conversation, except it totally is.

User: I want hosting.
Me: What kind of site do you want to host?
User: A WordPress site!
Me: What kind of content do you plan on writing?
User: Oh you know, blog stuff.
Me: Okay… A food blog, a photo blog, a tech blog…?
User: ​Why are you asking me all this!?!?!

I’ve had so many conversations like this, I’m of the opinion that recommending hosting is a mugs game that simply cannot be ‘won’ so I generally don’t play.

Then why am I presuming I can tell you how to pick a webhost? Because I’m telling you how to pick a webhost, not who the best webhost is.

Preface Preface

Someone will hate every single webhost on the planet. I use Liquidweb and DreamHost. People hate both of those. There’s the bevy of EIG companies whom people will detest and lambast and accuse of shady actions to be listed somewhere. There are the millions of small companies. There are good and bad companies, and there are reasons to use them. Whenever someone asks what host to use, I remind them that someone will hate their choice. That’s okay, just don’t take it personally and I recommend you ignore people who simply jump on bandwagons to tell you “X SUCKS!” They’re not being helpful.

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Needs vs Wants Needs vs Wants

I repeat this a lot in myriad situations. Your needs are what your website needs, which should be obvious. If you’re running WordPress you need a webserver than runs a modern version of PHP and a MySQL (or MariaDB) database. That’s it. But that isn’t all of what you need for a website, and to understand your needs you need to be very clear about your own abilities, your capabilities, and the time you’re willing to commit to your project. Running a website is very time consuming and stressful. You can’t just set it and forget it.

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Who Are You? Who Are You?

We should all know who we are, what our skills are, and what we enjoy doing. I’m like playing with servers and code. My wife prefers practical experimentation (she makes cheese and mead). My father is a mathematician. We’re all writers of a sort, but of the three of us I’m the one who runs the website and puts of articles on the regular. This is not because the others can’t, but because they know who they are. My father sends me his articles to post, my wife posts her own, and I both write my own for me but for my company, and I maintain the servers (and email). If you’re not me, and don’t have a me, you need a me. That may be your host, and it may not.

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How Do You Communicate Best? How Do You Communicate Best?

Do you get anxiety with phone calls? Look for a company with live chat and email support. Do you hate live chat? Are you dyslexic? Look for phone support. You know how you like to communicate with strangers, so pick a host that has what you need. I personally prefer ticket based systems, unless my server is actually on fire. That hasn’t happened much.

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How Do You Add People? How Do You Add People?

Let’s say you decide to hire someone to work on your website. Do they need access to the server? Do they need access to your billing? How do you do that without giving them your passwords? Find out how the host handles this. Can you simply add a technical contact or will there be more complicated steps?

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What Is Your Site About? What Is Your Site About?

Why does this matter? Well, think of it this way. “I want to make a community site where people from my city can come and post news, events, crimes, etc.” Did you just think about BuddyPress? You will likely need a bigger server than Shared. “I want a photoblog!” Okay you will need to seriously look at diskspace, which means SSDs may be a little tricky for you since most limit space. Check if the host allows easy upgrades. “I’m going to run a multisite network for my school!” You need a private server. Knowing what your site is about will help you predict upcoming hurdles.

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Do You Know Any Metrics? Do You Know Any Metrics?

Most people, especially people with a brand new site, are going to say “No!” here and that’s okay. But if you do know things like how much traffic you get or how often you post or how much disk space you use, talk to the host about it. Pre-sales questions like “What’s the best hosting plan for a site that gets 2000 visits a day, and then 12k on one day a week?” are the bread and butter of a host. If they can’t answer it, move on.

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Does The Host Make You Feel Good? Does The Host Make You Feel Good?

If you get a bad feeling from the host at any step along the way, you feel like they’re dismissive or maybe not a good fit, walk away. Look, you need to be comfortable with your host, and if the advertising practices of a host upset you, don’t use them. It’s that simple. Even if they’re the best for your needs, if they make you uncomfortable, you will be miserable. And remember, for every single host there will be people who hate them. That’s okay too. If it works for you, and you feel good about doing business with them, then that is really all that matters.