Ready to launch your own blog? Good for you! But before you start writing away, there are a few things that you need to take care of. Like choosing a domain and setting up your Web host, for starters… But before you can cross those off the list, you need to select a Web host – and before that, you need to understand your hosting needs. How, you ask?
Read on for the 12 must-have features a good Web host will provide with your service.
1. Know what you want
Before you even start evaluating various hosting providers, make sure that you know what you want – and need.
For example, what is your blog about? Is it to communicate with close family and friends? If so, you won’t need nearly as many features or as much bandwidth as you would if you were launching an e-commerce site, for example. Consider your purpose and then take into consideration things like your budget, tech knowledge, how much and what type of support you might need, whether you need tools to actually build your site or a user-friendly interface to update it.
The list is endless, but these are all things that define what you actually need, which you need to know in order to assess whether a Web host might be compatible.
2. Business history
Hosting organizations seem to constantly be launching and changing hands, and not all change is bad. However, hosting companies with longer histories tend to have fewer kinks and more proven successes (along with a proven infrastructure). Not to discount the new kids on the block, but the general rule of thumb here is the longer the history, the better for your service and peace of mind.
3. Uptime guarantees
This refers to the amount of time the provider promises they will have your site up and running. If it isn’t uptime, it’s downtime – which means your site isn’t available and you’re losing traffic and potential revenue. Anything less than guaranteed 99.9% uptime is simply unacceptable. No exceptions.
4. Customer service
All hosts will offer some level of post-sales customer service, but what that means comes with great variances.
For example, some providers might offer 24/7 support – but that support is email or online chat-only. For others, they might provide phone support – but with limited hours or with outsourced workers who do not necessarily have first-hand knowledge. Yet others offer Cadillac service with chat, email, and 24/7 phone support with all US-based staff. Like we said, there are great variances – know what you need and clarify exactly what the potential Web host offers.
5. Backup abilities
Backing up your site is a must – should there be a data loss or hacker intrusion, that backup file may be your only record of your site. Some Web hosts include backups with their hosting plans; make sure to find out whether your potential host includes this feature and also whether the backups are automated. Automated backups typically rely on Cron Jobs which provide an added level of reliability since the backups aren’t susceptible to human error.
For example here’s how you can back up your WordPress site using Cron. You can learn more on how to do this in your cPanel by following this tutorial.
#Set the 4 variables #Replace what is AFTER the = with the information from your wp-config.php fileDBNAME=DB_NAMEDBPASS=DB_PASSWORDDBUSER=DB_USER#Keep the " around your address EMAIL="you@your_email.com"mysqldump –opt -u $DBUSER -p$DBPASS $DBNAME > backup.sql gzip backup.sql DATE=`date +%Y%m%d` ; mv backup.sql.gz $DBNAME-backup-$DATE.sql.gz echo ‘Blog Name:Your mySQL Backup is attached’ | mutt -a $DBNAME-backup-$DATE.sql.gz $EMAIL -s "MySQL Backup" rm $DBNAME-backup-$DATE.sql.gz
6. One click installation
Installing non-native apps to a host can require a bit of tech prowess and experience, so one-click installations and maintenance are an idea solution for tech novices that make is so that anyone – regardless of experience or know-how – can run their own site. WordPress is a particularly popular app for blogs and sites and many providers do offer one-click installation for this app. Not all providers offer this feature, however, and there is variance between those that do on which apps they support the feature. Do some digging to learn the ins and outs.
7. Domain add-on capabilities
Some Web hosts allow you to run just one domain with your service while others allow unlimited domains. Find out how many add-on domains you are allowed; this might not be a huge issue if you only plan to run the one site, but if you plan to run multiple sites on the host, this is a very important feature to have.
8. Renewal prices
Often times, Web hosting companies offer significantly discounted pricing to first time subscribers. While that first-time rate is great, eventually your contract comes up for renewal – and the difference between first-time sign-up and renewal rates can be quite staggering (particularly if you weren’t prepared). This isn’t necessarily something that you can avoid in full, but you can work with a host who offers acceptable renewal pricing. Read through the Terms of Service before you sign – and if you still don’t find the answer, reach out to sales and try to get an answer in writing.
9. Refund policy
Many hosting organizations offer 30-day free trials (some even offer 45 or 90 day trials).
Truth be told, these free trials are not free of cost – you’ll pay the regular monthly fee – but they are free from risk, allowing you to cancel your service within the “trial” period and receive a refund. Know what is needed to cancel and whether there are any repercussions. Additionally, take the time to learn about cancellation penalties and requirements should you need to cancel your service after the trial period expires, but before your contract is up.
10. Ability to Host your own Email
You know how most companies send emails from firstname.lastname@example.org? They’re likely doing so because their Web host also hosts their email. Find out whether your potential host has this ability and whether it is included with your service (or has additional fees).
If it isn’t an option, it isn’t a huge ordeal – there are plenty of other ways to get that domain-specific email, such as through Google email apps. However, know what you’re getting into and make sure to explore your options and get the most out of your service.
11. Credible customer reviews
It’s true that you should look into general reviews on forums, Angie’s List, or other review sites, however, keep in mind that consumers are much more likely to comment on negative experiences than positive ones. To get a better picture, also read through third-party reviews from credible, reliable experts and websites. Web Hosting Talk and my site – Web Hosting Secret Revealed are two that I recommend, though there are plenty out there from which to choose.
12. Site load times
Your website’s speed and load times are critical to its success. Sure, your mom might wait the two minutes for the pictures of her adorable grand baby to load, but potential business clients are not as patient (or invested). Most visitors wait just a matter of seconds before abandoning your site and instead looking elsewhere, costing you lost traffic and potential revenue. Additionally, your load time affects your Google search ranking – and important factor to gaining site traffic.
Just one more tip before we end this article: It’s okay if you mess up.
Remember – You can always switch hosts if you are unhappy with the current one. Sure it’s best if you manage to choose the right host for your blog at first shot but it’s okay to make mistake (though it might costs you some money).