The Good, Bad And Ugly of Hosting Providers

In the last post I wrote, I talked in some depth about what the difference between domain names and hosting is, probably of little interest to many, but it serves as a good place to point people when the question ever comes up. After running a few training courses the other week - a few people asked me about the differences between different types of hosting providers and what makes some better than others. So I thought here would be a great place to go into some detail about it.

This focuses almost entirely on Wordpress hosting, before I get shouted at for not considering other factors.

Hosting providers can generally be broken down as follows

The Good

Good hosting providers are few and far between - but there’s some of them out there. A good hosting provider is someone who:

  • Provides you with a decent admin panel for administering your sites

  • Doesn’t throw hundreds of sites onto a single, low powered server and let the user suffer the consequences

  • Can provide an up time guarantee so your site actually stays online.

The big player in the good hosting market is WPEngine. Followed pretty closely by Flywheel (who’ve now been bought up by WPEngine). What makes these guys great is their support, high performance servers and optimisation for Wordpress sites specifically.

The big downside to these guys though - the cost. To host a single site with WPEngine will cost you $30 per month, which is a little steep for your average website owner.

The Bad

Bad hosting providers are in abundance. They normally sell domain names and then top it up with hosting packages. While some of them will offer dedicated servers, there’s usually very little information out there on the actual spec of the server - which could mean it’s just a tiny little thing which is going to be no better than just sticking the website on a shared package.

You can get hosting from people like this for as little as 99p for a year, but with that comes hidden costs in the website going down for an hour every other week and slow load times which will knock points off your Google score, making it so that no one will ever find the site - and if they do chances are it’ll be down or so unresponsive that people will quickly leave.

The Ugly

Ugly hosting providers give you zero interface to view or manage your sites other than the fact there is a server, and you can turn it on or off. For the average user this is completely useless, however for a developer this is ideal as it opens up things like command line interfaces to manage the server, complete control over how many sites are on a server, how that server is setup to deal with requests - basically anything you need to do, is possible. Ugly hosting providers are also cheap, like mega cheap for what you get.

The big downside to an ugly hosting provider is that you are responsible for managing the site in its entirety, and if you don’t necessarily know how to do anything, you’ll quickly find more problems than you know how to shake a stick at.

However there is a middle ground. Recently there’s been an increase in server management tools available that allow you to leverage the low cost and control of ugly hosting providers, while also getting the reliability of a good platform.

Enter, SpinupWP

SpinupWP is a platform which allows you full control over your server, while also providing you with all of the tools you need to manage it properly, at a low cost. There are other platforms available, but SpinupWP is made by the team behind two of my favourite plugins - WP Offload Media and Migrate DB Pro.

While not entirely suitable for absolute beginners - with a little bit of practise and some additional reading it’s very quick and easy to get setup with your own server, optimised for running Wordpress sites, that is maintained for you at around a third of the price of somewhere like WPEngine.

It’s the platform I’m currently in the (very slow) process of moving all of our managed sites across to, and in addition to that, there’s some extra goodies that make our hosting pretty good actually.

CDN By Default

All of our sites use a Content Delivery Network as standard. The benefits of this? Well the server is no longer being used to process static files which takes some of the strain off it. This offloading of images, stylesheet and other static files means the server can free up some processing power for spend more time doing what it’s supposed to do (processing code).

Offloaded Mail Sending

Almost every single website will need to send emails at some point in time, forgotten password links; contact form submissions; order confirmations - all need to go via email. Normally people will let their server handle this, which can be ok but you’ll never know if your email was actually delivered or if it was just lost in the ether of the internet. By offloading all of your mail sending to a third party you are able to track whether or not the mails were sent, delivered and sometimes even opened. It also frees up some server processing power - as talked about here.

Engineer First Support

While a lot of platforms offer web chat support, this will normally get you talking to a bot, and if they can’t solve your question - you speak to a person trained on the basics, and if they can’t solve your question then you speak to an engineer who can solve the issue. This makes perfect sense for large companies with thousands of customers, however I have a limited number of clients - so when someone has an issue they get to speak to me - the engineer who set the whole thing up in the first place so knows exactly where to look to get to the bottom of the problem. This means you not only get a quicker resolution to your problem, but it also means you get to speak to me (and I’d like to think I’m quite a nice person to chat with).

Premium DNS

As I mentioned in my last post about domains and hosting - DNS is the facility that points your web browser at the server that holds all of the files which make up your website. By using a premium DNS provider you get certain benefits like faster page loading, a more consistent uptime guarantee and enhanced security for the website.

More Standard Things Too

These are things which I would expect any good host to provide you with, but it’s probably worth mentioning that all sites hosted with me come with these features as standard

  • Free SSL Certificates

  • Nightly Backups

  • Automatic Security Updates

  • Page Caching

  • Enhanced and Secure Error Logging

  • Free Staging version of the site

So if you’d like to have a chat with me about hosting a new website, or maybe moving your current website over to an alternative hosting provider - drop me a message to [email protected] and I’d be more than happy to have a chat with you and talk through some options.