Choosing a hosting company that suits your needs can be a daunting task. Anyone who’s ever switched from one host to another knows that it can be a tedious process and it’s just plain annoying to do. So, choosing the right hosting company from the get go, one you will possibly stick with for years, is critical.
All hosting providers are not created equal, some are better than others, some have features better suited for your needs, and some even a better reputation than others. Depending on what you intend to do with your hosting account or server, there’s a lot of questions to ask yourself before you settle on one:
- How much traffic will you be getting?
- How much bandwidth and storage will you need?
- How many domains and/or sub-domains will you be hosting?
- Will you host only your own sites or your client’s sites as well?
- Ecommerce website? Do you need SSL?
- Will you be reselling hosting to your clients?
- Do you even need hosting? Would all-in-one solutions like SquareSpace, WordPress.com, Tumblr or Virb be enough for you?
- Does the host offer any type of discount if you purchase hosting for multiple months or a year?
- Do you need shell/ssh access?
- Do you need a domain? Some hosts offer a free domain name when you purchase a hosting plan.
- Do you need to be able to choose your OS? Linux or Windows?
- Do you know what runs the HTTP server? Nginx, Litespeed, Apache, Lighttpd?
- Does your website or project require you to deploy scripts like Ruby on Rails?
- How comfortable are you updating your server? Should you go with a fully managed or an unmanaged solution?
- Will you need to manage your hosting account on the go? Does the host offer a mobile app to manage your account?
- Are you comfortable installing a CMS like WordPress yourself? If not, does the hosting company provide one-click installation?
- Do they offer 24/7 support? Email, phone, support tickets, live chat?
- Where do you want your server to be located? Do you need a CDN?
- If you’re moving to a new host, will that new hosting provider help you move your files and databases over? Is there a fee?
- If you choose a small plan to start, will your hosting company let you upgrade to a bigger plan or server? What are the costs associated with this?
- Are there setup fees when you open a new account?
- Does the web host offer some guarantee when it comes to uptime? What’s their check interval?
You obviously don’t need to answer all of those questions. But try to answer as many as you can, it should help paint a clearer picture as to what you might need to look for in a provider. If you don’t know what Apache, Ruby or SSL is, chances are an unmanaged dedicated server is not for you and you should probably aim for a cloud hosting solution or a managed VPS. Don’t forget to get in touch with the hosting company you’re looking to signup with and ask any question you may have, and test their level of support and responsiveness.
There’s a million hosting companies out there, so selecting the one you will give your business to is no easy task. Thankfully we’ve selected some of the top ones that have a focus on designers, developers and creatives, and we have all this right here in a handy list. Check out the features of each provider and then make your choice. I hope this post helps you make the daunting task of finding a hosting company easier.
MediaTemple is loved by many designers and developers and for good reasons. They offer plans ranging from cloud hosting, to VPS and managed or unmanaged dedicated servers. I can speak from experience when I say that MediaTemple’s support is quick and friendly. Here’s a quick rundown of the packages they offer:
- Grid Hosting: $20/mo
- Dedicated Virtual: starts at $50/mo for the managed solution, and $30/mo if you go unmanaged.
- Dedicated Virtual Enterprise: $2000/mo and up
MediaTemple also offers a content delivery network service called ProCDN that starts at $20/mo, as well as some other great services like Move to MT, where they’ll move your site over to them for a small fee.
Eleven2 offers shared hosting plans starting at $44.55 per year, as well as reseller hosting, VPS plans and dedicated servers that are reasonably priced. They also offer their customers a great iPhone app for those of you who need to manage their account on the go.
WebFaction is definitely geared towards developers. You get full shell access and tons of tools pre-installed like Python, Ruby, Subversion and Git. Prices start at $9.50/mo, or $8.50/mo if you pay yearly.
Rackspace is more than just a cloud hosting provider. In fact I believe they offer the highest level of customization of all the hosting companies listed in this post. Cloud monitoring, load balancers, content delivery network, email hosting, managed colocation, and that’s just to name a few. Their support is unrivalled too.
They offer so many options via their website that finding a solution that suits your needs may not be such an easy task though – but get in touch with them and you’ll see why I praise their support so much.
WPEngine focusses on hosting WordPress-powered websites and they’re great at it. Their plans start at $29/mo. While they may not be the cheapest option around, if you’re using WordPress (the self-hosted version, of course) you cannot go wrong with WPEngine as they are 100% focussed and dedicated to WordPress. Their service even handles upgrading WordPress for you so you can go back to actually running your business rather than updating your installation.
KnownHost is not a cloud or shared hosting company. Their focus is on VPS and dedicated servers. But don’t let this fool you, you can actually get a VPS with KnownHost for about the same price as a well-featured shared hosting plan. Their VPS plans start at $25 per month and their dedicated servers at $179/mo. Oh, and if you do go with a VPS, you still get full root access.
HostNine is another provider that offers a broad range of plans and packages. Shared hosting plans start at $3.45/mo, VPS plans at $25/mo, and their dedicated packages start at $175 per month. Like a lot of other hosting companies they offer 1-click installation of popular apps like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and others.
Pixeno was founded by designers and that’s a good thing. Only designers can understand the needs of other designers and from what I’ve heard they “get it“. Their “personal plan” starts at £3.95/mo (around $5.35 USD per month). They also offer cloud servers that let you build your own plan – select the number of nodes you need, the amount of storage and how much RAM you need, and off you go!
WebHostingBuzz has some very inexpensive plans. Shared hosting plans start at $4.95/mo, VPS plans at $14.95/mo, and dedicated servers at $139/mo. When you signup with WebHostingBuzz you also get $100 worth of Google Adwords vouchers, which is always nice.
FlyWheel is another hosting provider that focusses on WordPress sites. Their control panel is elegant and their plans are well-featured as well. Basic packages start at $15/mo and include malware monitoring. They also have a CDN service that’s rather inexpensive, at $10 per month.
ThisWebHost has been a favorite of mine for a couple years now as far as shared hosting goes. I’ve hosted a lot of websites with them over the years (some with quite a lot of traffic) and their support staff is extremely responsive and friendly. Their shared hosting plans start at $3.95/mo and they also have semi-dedicated and dedicated plans that are very reasonably priced, too.
With Digital Ocean you can deploy an SSD cloud server in less than 55 seconds — no joke. They focus on cloud hosting plans starting at only $5 a month. One of the great features of Digital Ocean is that you can choose to be billed monthly or hourly, and you can easily scale things up or down with just a single clicks. Need more RAM? No problem.
Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
A CDN is a network or servers located around the world. The goal of a CDN is to serve content fast no matter where your end users may be located. Without a CDN, some of your content may be slower to load for users that are far away from your server. For example, if your server is located in New York City and a user in Australia tries to access your website it may load slower for them. A CDN is a great way to offload some of your static files and serve them faster to your users, no matter where they are in the world.
Some hosting providers offer a CDN service to their user, often at a reduced cost. Here are some great options:
- EdgeCast / ProCDN: $20/mo for MediaTemple customers
- Cloudflare: starts at $20/mo, free for MediaTemple customers
- MaxCDN: starts at $9/mo for 100GB of bandwidth
What About Dropbox?
Do you have a Dropbox account? Did you know you can actually run a small website off your Dropbox account? Some content management systems even integrate very easily with Dropbox to serve your files. You’re already paying for your Dropbox account, why not use it to serve some files or even host a file-based CMS?
Here are some great CMS solutions that make great use of Dropbox:
If you don’t require a CMS you can even host full static websites using Dropbox and Github. But of course a real hosting company will be much more reliable, secure and will offer a lot more benefits (support, SSL, email addresses, easy management, etc…), but at least you have options.
I hope you this post useful. Do you have personal recommendations for hosting companies? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!