You know you need a web host, but you feel overwhelmed by all of the choices available to you?
Are you wondering how in the heck one chooses a super fast host and at a good price?
Here’s the deal…
The web host you choose is one of the most important and early choices you must make to get online.
We want to help, so let us share our somewhat checkered past with web hosting companies. We hope that what we share in this article helps you make an informed choice for your web hosting needs.
Namecheap: Path of Least Resistance
Domain names are purchased from a domain registrar, which is an accredited company that allows you to buy and register domain names.
Early in our online career, it just made sense to buy our domain name and hosting from the same company, so we did from Namecheap.
We found Namecheap to be an excellent domain registrar with reasonable prices. The customer service was 24/7 live chat.
They were nice and helpful.
As for the hosting, we were new. We had no understanding about or expectation of site speed or even what a web host’s ultimate responsibility is to a website owner.
But at the end of the first year, we decided to leave Namecheap web hosting in search of a “better” web host.
And do you want to know why?!
Well, we were running a WordPress website. And all of this website stuff was foreign to us and we needed a lot of hand holding — we mean support — on all fronts.
And at the time, Namecheap’s hosting was a new offer for them and their WordPress support was just less than stellar. So we hit a wall. We needed more and they could not deliver at the time.
So after the first year, we decided to keep them as our domain registrar and move on to a “better” host.
Lesson: Choosing a web host needs to be a thoughtful decision. Don’t be lazy and take the easiest path.
InMotion Hosting: Were They “Better?!”
After doing much research, we decided that the “better” host for us was: InMotion Hosting.
They “claimed” to be WordPress experts.
They had not only 24/7 live chat, but also 24/7 phone support.
For a still relatively new owner of a WordPress website, 24/7 phone support was sweet music to our ears.
And at first, all was well. We were happy. And boy did we use that 24/7 phone support.
But can you guess what happened?!
Well, it came to an abrupt end when John, a InMotion Hosting customer service rep, rudely informed us that helping us with our WordPress questions was, well, not their concern.
It was his insulting tone.
We felt stupid and we were upset enough to call InMotion Hosting back and ask to speak with a supervisor. To the supervisor’s credit, he apologized for John’s poor customer service. And then, said, “There are always going to be customer service reps that aren’t quality.”
He’s right, of course. We understand that, but it did not make us feel confident or “better.”
So before the year was even up, we were searching for a “better” web host again.
Lesson: Customer service can make or break a web host.
SiteGround: But Aren’t They the “Best?!”
So after we left InMotion Hosting, we landed at SiteGround.
They offered web hosting at a very sweet deal of just $70 a year for the first year — actually, you could lock in this sweet deal if you could afford to pay for three years up front. Truth is, most beginner website owners don’t have a clue where they will be in three years, so that’s an unrealistic commitment.
We did have the good sense to ask about what the pricing would be after the first year. And we were told, “Not to worry. There are always coupon discounts.”
Plus, they had 24/7 ticket support, 24/7 live chat, and 24/7 hour phone support. All this potential hand holding was a dream.
Plus, everyone – everyone – loves SiteGround.
Plus, everyone online shared how super fast they were. Everyone.
Honestly, they seemed like a web host made in heaven.
The first year ended and our web hosting was up for renewal. This is when we got the sticker shock.
Coupon discounts?! That was a total lie. (To be fair, nine out of 10 web hosts give you a sweet first year deal.)
Our annual budget for web hosting went from $70 to $240. That’s a lot.
But we were still clueless (and lazy) about how one chooses a good web host.
Because we had absolutely no idea how you even begin to choose a new host after you’ve been with the “best.”
So we stuck around for another year, paying their inflated web hosting prices of $59.85 every three months. That’s $19.95 a month for their Grow Big hosting plan.
This all came to a screeching halt, when they jacked up the price to 89.85 every three months. Now we are up to $29.95 a month. Interestingly enough, their website says $24.95/month for the Grow Big plan, so why did charge us $29.95?
But here’s what added insult to injury…
SiteGround’s proprietary Client Area and Site Tools are provided to new customers, while many of their old customers like us were still stuck using cPanel, the standard web based control panel many web hosting companies use.
We ask you this…
How fair is it to jack up the price from an already over inflated $19.95 per month to a ridiculous $29.95?!
And how fair is it that this price gouge happens to old, loyal customers, who SiteGround still haven’t migrated to their new Client Area and Site Tools a year after it was first rolled out?
Our wallets could no longer handle the steal and our self-respect made us get busy looking for a new web host again.
SiteGround can’t be the only “great” web host, right?!
There are two things that SiteGround is known for: Speed and Customer Service.
On the subject of speed, here is what SiteGround promises: “Our hosting platform is built on Google Cloud and uses its ultra-fast network and SSD persistent storage.”
Sounds nice, right?!
And along with caching implementation on their servers, they also provide a proprietary caching plugin called SG Optimizer.
But we were not convinced that SG Optimizer provided any meaningful speed boost.
Plus, like most caching plugins, it is not an easy plugin to configure. And it’s implementation on our website was never a smooth experience. So we deactivated and deleted it.
In fact, we go so far as to say that a lot of SiteGround’s server caching optimization tools were disconnected from each other — at least for the average website owner.
We would accidentally discover yet another server-side caching option that required manually flipping a switch even after talking extensively with a customer service rep about website optimization.
We think that if you are a web host that prides itself on being super fast, shouldn’t your server speed optimization tools be cohesive and intuitive for the average website owner?!
Fair question, don’t you think?
And on the subject of customer service, here’s what SiteGround has to say: “Our Customer Care team is among the highest-rated support squads online, fast, multi-skilled and helpful.”
Here’s what our experience has been…
Of all the web hosts we had tried to date, SiteGround was the most proficient at providing support on WordPress itself.
And, honestly, they were really nice and usually super helpful. They would actually offer to complete many site changes on our behalf.
But towards the end, the accuracy of the support was sometimes suspect and, at $29.95 a month, that seems unforgivable.
We think you deserve consistent, accurate information from web hosting customer service reps, especially at SiteGround’s price point. Don’t you?!
Lesson: Don’t believe the hype. Dig a little deeper and test for yourself.
REFERENCE: SiteGround Failed TTFB Test
Testing a Web Host
Here are seven tips that will help you choose a quality web host:
Tip #1: Shared hosting is probably sufficient for most of you.
There are many types of website hosting. Shared hosting simply means that you are sharing a server computer with at least one or more other websites.
Tip #2: You want a web host that is committed to security. Yes, while there is much you can and should do from your end, website security begins with your web host.
Tip #3: You want a web host that delivers 99.9 to 100% uptime. Because a down website can reduce your bottom line.
Tip #4: You want a web host that allows you to edit or write to your .htaccess file, a critical configuration file. You just might need to do that someday.
Tip #5: You want a web host that provides 24/7 customer service. These days, with the right web host, ticket support and live chat are just as good as phone support.
Tip #6: Don’t automatically install caching plugins, even proprietary ones from your web host. As with all plugins, please do your homework. Test your site speed BEFORE and AFTER installing any plugin.
Tip #7: You want a web host with a stable Time to First Byte (TTFB) of less than 300ms. And if you can find a web host with a TTFB of 200ms or less, sweet.
TTFB is the time it takes a web host’s server to deliver the first byte of data for a requested page to a visitor’s browser. This is an important qualifier.
Knowing a web host’s TTFB is how you can verify if their speed claims are true. To check for TTFB, go to ByteCheck.
And run the web host’s homepage through ByteCheck six times. Then, you’ll know if you’ve got a winner or a dud.
There is likely no “perfect” host, but now you have information to help you choose web hosting more wisely.
Janine Helligar is a daughter, sister, friend, sewist, amateur writer, and WordPress enthusiast living in Georgia. She blogs at Stitching in Colour.