Article by Jerry Low
Geek dad, SEO data junkie, investor, and founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed. Jerry has been building Internet assets and making money online since 2004. He loves mindless doodling and trying new food.
Many bloggers wish to host their blog but do not know how to pick the right blog hosting. While things might look a little complicated from outside at first, choosing a suitable web hosting for your blog is pretty easy when you are informed.
For newbies, in most cases, a shared web hosting account is all you need. In my humble opinion, I wouldn’t suggest you to look into any VPS or dedicated hosting plan at this starting stage – as you most probably do not need that much of server resources for the next three to six months. After all, shared hosting deals nowadays are pretty comprehensive and are able to cope with the needs of most blogs or websites.
(Site story: I recently met a guy who wants a dedicated hosting account for his not-so-popular blog and no matter how hard I explained, he still think going cloud is the right thing to do. Hopefully he could read this post and save the money for better purpose.)
But wait, don’t just listen to me. Learn how to decide what is right for you and decide yourself!
A few common factors to look into are:
Most shared web hosting deals nowadays come with unlimited disk space but practically, you don’t need that much. 500MB of disk space should be good enough for those who are not piling high resolution images in their server (well hey, host it on Flickr!); 1GB storage should keep you on the safe side easily for at least the next few years. Assuming that you will be adding a few more extra domains into the account, I would say any shared hosting plan that comes more than 3 GB storage is good enough.
With the help of social networking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon and Facebook and Twitter, it is very possible for a brand new blog to hit 10,000 – 15,000 unique visits in a day, which in other words, huge demand for bandwidth. However, bandwidth shouldn’t be your main concern as most shared hosting providers offer unlimited bandwidth these days. Moreover when you are getting that kind of traffic volume, your server CPU load is more likely to be the bottleneck that will cause a temporary suspension on your shared hosting account but not bandwidth. So in short, it’s unnecessary to stress too much on bandwidth. But if you wish to learn more, my previous article shows How you can calculate your bandwidth needs?
Personally I do not go with any web host that is below 99.5% uptime. In fact, even a 0.5% server down time is a little hard to bear with when you do the maths: 0.005 x 365 days/year = 1.825 days. Can you accept your blog to be down for almost two days? Unlikely, I suppose. But then again, all servers will suffer certain downtime – Hardware failure, programming bugs, human’s errors, server maintenance…etc; there are unlimited ways to turn a web server down. And as shared hosting normally cost less than the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee, I’ll settle with 99.5% or more. ;)
The limitation on your account’s CPU usage is what makes unlimited hosting limited. Sadly however, most web host will not give specific, understandable value to their customers. The CPU usage is a grey area where most web hosting providers will not talk clearly about it in the TOS. Some will tell you can goes up to 5 – 10% CPU power but they never tell you how big is the CPU capacity – which makes the percentage number meaningless (5% of what, Pentium III 733 MHz? You’ll never know.) From my experience, certain hosting companies will allow maximum CPU usage up to 5-10% (which is excellent) but logically, I think 1 to 3%* is fine and fair to both users and the hosting providers be fine.
So just if it happens that you get a chance to ask about CPU load before picking up a web host, you know what to expect. And, on the other hand, be well aware that blogging platforms like WordPress are often heavy database users thus it is in fact part of your responsibility to keep the CPU usage low. If you are running a popular WordPress blog, installing a good cahce plugin (for example, WP Super Cache) is highly recommended.
* I did not make up the number 1 to 3% out of thin air. My guesstimation: Assuming 200 sites sharing the same server hence each get 1/200 CPU power; half of the registered sites will be in dormant mode so the max should be somewhere around 1/100 to 3/100 CPU power.
Dedicated and VPS hosting prices vary a lot but for shared hosting, standard monthly cost range from $3.50/mo to $10/mo. Remember, you shouldn’t be spending too much on the hosting at start, especially if you are just starting off.
I knew I said that you should start small and go with a shared hosting account. But if you are very confidence with the growth rate of your blog traffics, you should go with a a shared hosting provider that provides room to grow. By saying the word growth, I meant upgrading your hosting service – from shared hosting to VPS to dedicated server – more processing power, memory capacity, disk storage, as well as better security features.
For example, iPage and FatCow are two of my favorite shared hoting providers; but I wouldn’t recommend them to you if you are launching a blog that tends to get lots of attention on Reddit or Stumble Upon or Facebook or so on. These web hosts are great, however they only provide shared hosting and you’ll need to switch host (which will cause quite some hassles, especially if you are running a huge database with heavy web traffics!) if you wish to upgrade to dedicated server in the future.
One Click Installation Auto-installation software is vital these days, most hosting companies will provide at least one to their customers. For instance, iPage, Bluehost, eHost, HostMonster support Mojo Market Place in their shared hosting plans; while Hostgator, InMotion Hosting, WebHostFace, and A2 Hosting support Softaculous.
Reality: It is impossible to know how good or how bad is a web host from outside. Reading TOS and checking on the hosting features will only help filter a few obvious bad apples. To get the job done, you’ll need reliable hosting reviews and knowledge in how to counter some common hosting problems.
And since judging from outside will never work well, why not test the web host yourself from the inside? After all, this is why we have free trial period. Just keep track on the service quality for the first 30 (or 45) days and do not hesitate to ask for a refund if you find anything fishy (that’s how you leverage the trial period ! ;)).