Web Hosting 101: A beginner’s guide to hosting your WordPress website.

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Why WordPress? 

Last week I wrote about why I’ll always choose WordPress over Squarespace.  One of the biggest reasons I see people choose Squarespace is because of their confusion over the many hosting options available.

Like all things, anything is easy once you know how, so I want to tackle a few of the questions around hosting to blast away that cloud of confusion, give some digestible definitions for the crazy terminology, and bust any myths about insane, over the top pricing plans.

What is web hosting?

Think of web hosting as the house for your website. Your host’s server stores all the pieces that make up your website and provides access to them.

What are the basic features of web hosting?

Storage – hosts offer different packages and how much storage you get for your website will increase with each package.  If you’re going to have a content heavy site, opt for a host providing lots of storage.

Bandwidth – this is the amount of data that can travel from one point to another in a given time (usually a second).  High bandwidth is important if you have lots of video content for your visitors to watch, especially if you are embedding the videos to your site.  The same applies for image heavy sites.  It is also dependent on the amount of traffic you expect your site to receive.

Up-time – this is the amount of time a server has stayed up and running.  It’s usually listed as a percentage, like ’99.9% uptime!’ and it’s a good measure of how good a web hosting provider is at keeping their systems up and running.

Domains/subdomain – a good host will charge you one monthly fee for as many domains/subdomains as you want.  Imagine what a headache it would be (not to mention a strain on your budget) if you had to purchase a new hosting package for each domain you owned.

Backups – when choosing a host look for one that offers a simple and effective backup system so that you can easily backup and restore your site if needed.

Tech support – good tech support is essential when it comes to choosing a host – you want to know there will be someone at the end of the phone/email to answer if you ever have a problem.

What types of web hosting are there?

Shared Server – a shared server means your website will be placed on a server with other people’s websites.  This is what most entry level websites use.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) – a VPS divides a server into virtual servers, where each website is hosted on their own dedicated space, but still sharing the overall space with other website owners, a bit like renting a room in a shared house.

Cloud Server – a team of servers work together to host a group of websites, which allows multiple computers to work together to handle high levels of traffic or peaks in traffic for any of the sites on the server.

Dedicated Server – like renting an entire house for yourself, a dedicated server offers the maximum control over the web server your website is stored on – you exclusively rent an entire server and your website(s) is the only website stored on the server.

How do I choose the right web host?

Remember: the hosting plan you choose will depend on your traffic and what you do with your site.  A photographer’s needs, who might have a large image gallery and shop will be very different from a life coach’s needs, who might just have a few simple pages and a blog.

Many hosting reviews you see online are paid for, so it can be really tough to know if you’re making the right choice.

Let’s take a quick glance at 5 webhosts that pop up the most in Google searches for an impartial comparison:

Siteground – starting at $3.95 a month for shared hosting with 1 free domain (but you can only host one site at this price).  10GB of space, and allows up to 10,000 visits per month.  Excellent customer support and a very quick built in WordPress installer.

Dreamhost – starting at $9.95 a month for shared hosting with unlimited websites, storage space and bandwidth, plus a one click WordPress install and very good customer service.

InMotion – starting at $3.99 a month to host 2 domains, InMotion offers unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage.  WordPress comes pre-installed and fantastic customer support available 24/7.

WPEngine – a bit more on the expensive side a $29 a month for the personal plan, allowing 1 website but offering 10GB of storage space and 25,000 visits per month.  WordPress gets installed for you as part of the signup process and WP Engine offer good customer service.

A2Hosting – A2 boast a lot of features for WordPress hosting.  Starting at $3.92 a month with code FLEET51 for 1 website, with unlimited storage, 24/7 support and a hassle free money back guarantee.

What’s a domain name?

If web hosting is your website’s house, then your domain name would be your street address.  For Hurricane Jane Creative, hurricanejanecreative.co.uk is the domain name (and http://www.hurricanejanecreative.co.uk is the URL).

Where can I register a domain name?

There are many domain name registrars available, offering domains at various prices.  A good host will also offer domain name registration – and this will streamline the process of getting your website set up as you won’t have to mess around with pointing your name servers to your hosting.

What’s an IP address?

An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique identifying string of numbers, like 217.17.61.177, given to every individual computer, server, and network on the Internet.  IP’s serve two purposes: identifying a host or network interface, and location addressing.

What’s a sub domain?

Subdomains are an extension of your domain name that you can forward to alternative URLs or point to IP addresses within your web hosting. An example sub domain for Hurricane Jane Creative would be blog.hurricanejanecreative.co.uk – this would be instead of hurricanejanecreative.co.uk/blog, and the sub domain could have an entirely different site on it.  99% of people shouldn’t need to bother with a sub domain at all.

What is domain privacy and do I need it?

Domain privacy is a service offered by domain name registrars that removes your personal details from a public database (WHOIS).  Without domain privacy, anyone can carry out a WHOIS look up on your domain and find all the details you provided at registration including your name, address and contact details.

What is SSL?

SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is that little padlock you see in the top of your web browser, just to the left of the URL.  It is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser.  The link ensures that all data passed between the web server and the browser remain private and secure – meaning if you intend on having any kind of payment processing on your site you should consider SSL.  Some web hosts offer this in their package, others will require you to purchase it separately.

 

If you’re about to make your own website, or update an existing one, check out my free eCourse, Plan Your Own website – all the ingredients you need to plan a kick-ass website in under an hour!

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