If you’re new to web development or building your own DIY website, you might have heard the word ‘hosting’ but not really know what it means. Hosting is where your website is actually stored on the internet. Much like a storage unit for actual stuff, you’ll need to pay your hosting company to continue to have access to your website (and for it to stay online). Many hosting companies offer monthly contracts, as well as annual ones, or even triennial contracts. You have lots of website hosting options, and you can choose whatever hosting company works best for you.
I use and recommend SiteGround, and I have been using them for almost a decade at this point, without problem. It’s easy for non-techies to navigate, but it’s also easy to add someone as a collaborator and give them access to your account (don’t share passwords!!) if you need help later on.
I’ve had a lot of problems with BlueHost and GoDaddy in the past (and my clients have had many issues as well). Their sites will go down or suddenly have error messages on them. And of course, customer service will be no help at all, if you can even get in contact with them.
You’ll see a lot of people recommending those two online because they both (especially BlueHost) pay huge affiliate fees. I’m an affiliate for SiteGround, but that’s the only one I recommend, and it’s because I use them and have been using them for years. And I’ve never had a problem when contacting SiteGround’s customer service. They answer quickly and provide friendly and helpful support, no matter what the issue. I’ve even used SiteGround’s customer service just to ask questions for my web development clients and they are always helpful!
Green Geeks and WPEngine are also good options. Green Geeks is cheaper/ more bare bones, but they have good support. WPEngine is more expensive and flashy, but in a way that’s not always a good thing, especially for beginners. I don’t actively recommend these two, but if you have one of them, I wouldn’t say you should worry about switching.
Things to ask about when evaluating your website hosting options:
In most cases, you’ll get your domain from your hosting company. However, you can get them from separate places if you wish. If you do get them from the same company, it’s just a lot easier to connect and maintain.
Many companies will give you a free domain when you sign up for hosting. Often, you have to make sure you request this right at sign up, though. If you forget, or you already signed up for hosting, you can try contacting them. I know of at least one instance when SiteGround did provide a free domain for a client even though they didn’t know they had to register it when they signed up.
You do have to check and make sure that the domain you want is available first. If it’s not available with the .com ending, you can always try alternates. My teaching blog has a .blog ending and it works just great!
If you already have a domain, most hosting companies will also let you transfer your domain to them. This service is often free, but not always. Also, be aware that if you purchased your domain in the past 60 days, you may not be able to tranfer it until that waiting period is over. (This is for internet reasons that I don’t fully know about, but it’s pretty standard.)
Free SSL Certificate:
This one sounds complicated, but it’s not, I promise! An SSL certificate is what makes your site secure. If you have one, you’ll have a little lock at the top next to your domain name. If you don’t, Chrome, Safari, and other browsers might show a warning, saying that your site is unsafe to visit. We definitely don’t want that!!
You usually get an SSL certificate from your hosting, and it should be free. If you use SiteGround, it’s free and very easy to install. I know from my clients’ experiences that the same process is not simple on Go Daddy, and they have often had to spend a significant amount of time on hold with customer service and/ or pay extra fees to have the SSL certificate added on their sites. Do yourself a favor and make sure to check first!
Installs WordPress Easily:
Most hosting companies will provide this, because WordPress is so common. You don’t necessarily need WordPress-specific hosting, though. Some companies will market their hosting as WordPress-specific so that you think you need the more expensive plan, but most likely, that’s unnecessary. You can choose that if you’d like, but usually just basic hosting is fine to get started. For SiteGround, I recommend getting started with just the cheapest one – the StartUp plan.
Many hosting companies will use an app like ‘Softaculous’ (worst app name ever!!) or have their own app for installing WordPress. It’s often just a few clicks to set that all up. You should have an email and username/ password ready to go for the installation. Often, they will also ask you if you want to install free plugins or choose a theme during installation. You can do those if you’d like, but don’t stress about it. You can always add or delete those plugins and themes later on. You’re not missing anything if you don’t add them at installation. Check out this article on recommended WordPress plugins for explanations and suggestions on what you might want to include.
Has Access to a cPanel:
A cPanel is just another way to manage your website, through your hosting. You probably won’t need it unless you have a developer or if things go sideways, but it’s good to have if possible. A cPanel is where you find all of your files and installations, and where you can manage them. If your site gets hacked, then it’s helpful to have access to this so you can find and delete the malware and restore your content. It’s also helpful if there’s an issue on your website and you can’t get into your WordPress admin dashboard. But again, it’s not an absolute necessity. Plus, if things get to where you might need this, you’ll likely have customer support or a web developer helping you anyway.
Once you choose a hosting company, you’ll need to do a few more steps to get your website up and running. Check out this article with all the steps you need for building your own DIY website.