Imagine you have built the house of your dreams. It looks amazing and your neighbours are all admiring how beautiful it is but, inside the property, you start to notice some major cracks in the walls.
After investigating, what if you find that you do not have a solid foundation?
Your website needs to be built on a solid foundation, and one of the key starting points for this is where your website is hosted.
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Recently, we moved our hosting to a company called SiteGround. In this post, we will take you through the essential things to consider when you are looking for new web hosting. So, read on to find out what you need to understand if you are considering moving to a new hosting provider.
If you are changing hosting provider, there is some terminology you need to be familiar with:
This is where your website is stored. When someone attempts to access your website, the request is sent to your hosting provider and it returns the files to the visitor.
If you have an unreliable hosting provider, your visitors will have a poor experience (or no experience at all if your site is not available!).
In an ideal scenario, your hosting provider is available 100% of the time, all year around. But that is never the case. Find the hosting provider with the best uptime. SiteGround’s current statistics are 99.999% uptime over the last month. Find out the uptime for the hosting provider you intend moving to.
With virtual hosting, one machine is shared amongst multiple hosting accounts. The server is configured so that each account acts as if it’s a separate machine, but they still share underlying resources.
A good hosting provider will ensure that you still get excellent performance using a virtual server. It is much cheaper than a dedicated server, so only consider a dedicated server for mission critical applications or if you have large traffic (hundreds of thousands of unique visitors each month).
A poor hosting provider will have too many virtual servers running on one server!
This usually refers to a virtual hosting environment where, if the server running your site falls over, it automatically moves to another server in the cloud. It’s worth the extra cost if it’s mission critical that your site never goes down at any stage.
With a dedicated server, you have one or more dedicated machines that are not shared. If you have a large site, or a mission critical service or information, go with a dedicated server.
Imagine you were pumping water down a pipe, there is only so much water you can push down that pipe. You can push more water through a bigger pipe. With a hosting provider, you might have limited or unlimited bandwidth.
Unlimited means you don’t have any restrictions. You only run out of bandwidth when all resources are used up by the hosting provider.
A CDN is a Content Distribution Network.
Imagine I’m in Ireland and I browse to a US site. My request travels to the US and back again before I get the website I want to see. If someone in the US accesses that site then it should be faster because they are closer.
What a CDN does is distribute the website content in various hosting centres around the world. Instead of me accessing the US website from the US, I access it from a hosting centre which is closer to me.
If the content on your webpages doesn’t change that often, it makes sense that you shouldn’t have to retrieve it from the server every time. When content is cached, it’s stored in memory and it saves going back to the disk to retrieve it.
Some hosting providers (e.g. WPEngine) have their own caching mechanisms to improve performance. Others will recommend caching plugins/modules that you install separately.
A staging environment is where you have a copy of your server and can test out changes before you apply them to your live server.
This is essential!
How many times have you installed a WordPress plugin and broken your server? If this hasn’t happened to you, it will!
With a staging environment, you make an exact copy of your live server, apply any changes, test them out and then deploy them to your live server when you know everything works correctly.
How to choose a web host
There are so many website hosting companies around that, whatever your requirements, you should be able to find something that meets your needs.
Think about your priorities for your website and work out which of the factors above are most important to you.
What we wanted
We were originally with WPEngine, which provided a good server environment but did not provide 24×7 support. We rang them on a couple of occasions outside of US office hours and they didn’t answer the phone. For a hosting provider, this was not acceptable to us.
What we looked for in our research was:
- Competitive price
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Good level of disk space
- Fast server
- Staging server
- Great reliability (very good uptime)
- 24-hour support
- Free migration (we didn’t want the hassle of moving over our server!).
Based on our traffic volumes, our hosting with WPEngine was expensive. It was about 10 times cheaper with SiteGround for a faster server and with full 24×7 support, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to move.
The Importance of Website Speed
Website speed is a very important factor.
Research shows that the slower your website is, the fewer conversions you will get.
The following research, from a company called Portent, took 16 eCommerce sites and compared their revenue based on speed. They found that, for every second decrease in page speed, there was an 8% increase in revenue.
Another interesting report on speed shows that Amazon increased their revenue by 1% with a speed reduction of 100 milliseconds.
To test the performance of your website, use this tool: Pingdom.
What you want is a speed of 5 seconds, but preferably much less than that.
How your site is coded, the platform it is based on and how much content you are loading on each page all have an effect on your website’s performance.
But your hosting provider is also a key consideration. If you don’t have a good foundation in place, cracks will begin to appear. Think about speed, reliability, customer support and user experience and select a hosting provider that specializes in exactly what you are looking for.
What is your experience with hosting providers? What is your experience with SiteGround? What have I missed in this article?