Choosing the right sort of hosting (and the right hosting company) for your premium WordPress themes can be a nightmare. I should know because I’ve been buying web hosting for the last twenty years using both good companies and bad. In this article I will try and guide you through the process by suggesting some of the things that you should consider. I will also try to point out some of the pitfalls that you must avoid.
There are many different flavors of hosting on offer. Windows servers or Linux/Unix. A dedicated server for your sites alone. A shared hosting plan where you could be sharing with up to 1,000 other web sites.
A dedicated server is just what it sounds like. You will rent a separate box, in a rack and it will run only your web sites. You should have no problem installing whatever PHP module you might need. The performance will usually be more than adequate. You run no risk of running out of resources because of some kid in the ‘next door’ web site who is running a simulation script. Or playing in a multi-user dungeon. This sounds like the ideal solution and in many ways – it is. The drawback of course is cost. A set up like this will cost several hundred dollars a month. You will probably end up having to administer it yourself. OK if you are an expert. Maybe not so good if you’re not. Usually, this approach is taken if you have an established, high traffic, money web site, and if that’s the case then you most likely don’t need any advice that I can give you here.
One variety of a dedicated server is what’s called a VPS or Virtual Private Server. This is a server which is running some sort of virtualisation software. This allows it to be segmented into ‘virtual’ machines, so each ‘virtual’ machine looks like its a separate physical server. The advantage with this over shared hosting is that the physical server resources can be allocated much more accurately. If another ‘virtual’ server in the box crashes, it won’t take yours down with it.
There are more than one million websites which are hosted on the WordPress CMS platform. Any general discussion of website hosting must take WP into account. As ThemesBro design and market Premium WordPress themes such as our newly updated premium hair salon theme or our childcare theme I will not apologise for concentrating on that aspect! That said, the very best hosting for WP will use a Linux based server. On a Linux platform you can benefit from Cron, in order to schedule tasks. This is impossible to provide on a Windows server. Windows hosts may find ways to give you a service like Cron, but in my personal experience you are best avoiding Windows hosting plans. Things that work naturally under Linux always seem to cause problems with Windows.
Backing up your web site is essential. I’ll say that again – backing up your web site is ESSENTIAL. You may have a backup plugin on your web site, but these things may fail. You may have set them up badly. They may store their backup copy on your server or in your web space. If this is so then the backup copies may be lost if the server fails. The answer is simple. For total peace of mind, you should choose an host that makes backups of your web site, for you, in the background. These backup copies should be stored off site (most do anyway) and are happy to restore the web site for you. A better, option is all of the above with a feature to allow you to restore an off-site backup yourself.
If you are planning on collecting personal data of any kind from your web visitors, then you should think about using SSL. SSL is the protocol that uses the https://yourdomain.com format and puts a padlock icon somewhere in your browser address bar or on the status bar. This is to show that the user is protected. SSL encrypts the data which is sent to and from your web site. This stops anyone using “packet sniffing” software to sample the data being transmitted to your web site.
You should check out how much your host will charge for an SSL certificate. Check how much they charge to install one that you have bought. Finally, check to see if they offer any shared SSL webspace, which can be a cheap way of getting some protection, even although it is not the best way of doing it.
Almost any websites that you build for clients will need to have at least one mailbox. Sometimes you can get away with using a forwarder to an existing client mailbox. If you are going to need to use your new host’s mailbox facility, you should check that they provide IMAP.
In my view, tech support, or more correctly the tech support staff, is the single most important factor in deciding on WordPress hosting for your web site. Before I even start thinking about a new host, I visit the web site and look for a chat link. Then, at some weird time of the day – try to start a chat and ask a few pre sales questions. Like “Where are your servers?” or “Do you provide auto backups?”. See if you get a response. If you do, then try again the next night and see what happens. Again, I speak from experience. On one night, which I will always remember, I had to find hosting in a hurry. I found a host, tried the chat trick and got a fast answer. I then paid up and most of my web sites were transferred across before the end of the night. That was one of the biggest mistakes of my life because that was the last time that I got any response from their ticketing system inside a week.
Choose a host that provides phone support. Make sure that it is both free and that they actually have someone at the end of the line. Some of the biggest hosts I’ve used give you a premium rate number to call and then have so few support staff that you end up at #23 in the queue, and paying for every minute.
I want to give you a warning now. There are some companies, not the big ones, but companies that look like big ones. In the world of the internet, it can be easy to hide the real identity of a company. A small company can be run by one man, if things are set up correctly. There may be nothing wrong with this. For most of the time. A good indication of this is if your support tickets are always answered by the same person. Is the chat line always manned by the same person? The only way that you can tell is by watching what goes on over a period of time, but by the time you find out, it may be too late. I fell foul of this problem back in 2011 on a Bank Holiday weekend when all my web sites went offline on Friday lunchtime – they didn’t come back online until Tuesday morning. It turned out that the company was run out of a garage by one guy who’d cleverly automated everything – it worked well for most of the time, but then … After spending cash buying a premium WordPress theme to front up your new web site that’s propping your business up, that’s the last thing you need.
Your web site, hopefully using one of our premium WordPress themes, will be judged by the company you keep. What this means is that if your family friendly website on down home baking recipes is hosted on the same server as a site peddling h*ar*dco*re por*no*gra*ph*y then your Google SERPs ranking will suffer (we think – as in all things Google, nobody really knows). So, how do you find out? You can’t ask your planned host. Well, you can, but they probably won’t tell you. Instead there is a better way. A good web site to try is …
In the wake of Google’s algorithm update – the so-called Google zoo – made up of Pandas, Penguins and tropical birds, you need to consider the geographic location of your host server in relation to the top level domain that you are using. So, if your website is running under a .com top level domain, Google expects it to be hosted in the US. Why, I’m not sure, because the .com was intended to be an international domain, with the .us domain allocated to the USA, but that’s a discussion that will have to wait for another blogging day.
The solution is simple, if you have a need to match your domains to a specific country – lets say you are based in the UK, but target a North American audience, then choose WordPress hosting that gives you a choice. Not all do, but a couple that do are TSO Host, based in the UK, and Arvixe which is based in the US. Both will give you a choice. TSO have servers in the south of England and in Chicago,IL, and Dallas, TX and Arvixe have servers on the West Coast and in The Netherlands (Holland) in Europe.
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