Setting up an online business may be a piece of cake for professionals, but if you are starting out for the first time, this can be an extremely daunting and confusing task. There are many key decisions that need to be made and one such important decision involves signing up for a web hosting provider.
A web host stores your website files in powerful web servers that is connected to a network so that anyone looking for information about your product or service instantly receives information from it on their PCs.
Finding a good web host is extremely important, because if you end up with a poor service, your website will end up with server issues resulting in loads of downtime losing you both customers and revenue. There are plenty of top service providers in today’s market but a review of their services can be very confusing. There are some who swear by one best web hosting provider, while there are ten others warning you to stay away from it.
Plus there is always an element of bias in a web hosting review on account of the affiliate commission involved. So if you are in the business of picking up a web hosting provider, you need to do a lot of research and weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a decision.
UPDATE : I have now moved my web hosting services to SiteGround. See why I made this change and why SiteGround rocks!
So how do you get started with your research? First of all examine your hosting needs.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What sort of website are you planning to create? an eCommerce store, a blog, a membership site?
- How much money are you willing to spend on a web host? Are you ready to commit to an annual plan?
- What sort of software will your business need? Will you be needing eCommerce solutions, WordPress, or other special software?
- How big a traffic flow do you expect to have in the first year?
The answer to the above questions will help you choose if you need a shared hosting, a VPS hosting, or a Dedicated hosting package. If you are a blogger, professional or small business owner, you can start off with Shared Hosting. Once your traffic volumes start to rise or you need certain special features for your website you can upgrade to the more expensive VPS or Dedicated Hosting services.
I have been blogging for nearly 10 years now and I’ve been through my share of ups and downs with various small business web hosting over the years – JustHost, TMD Hosting, Hostgator, InMotion Hosting and BlueHost. In my experience thus far, I have found two web hosts to be completely satisfying and highly reliable.
I’m going to be talking about one of them today – BlueHost. This website is currently on the Plus Shared Hosting Plan on BlueHost and I have a handful of other projects as well under it.
In my experience with BlueHost thus far, I consider it to be one of the best candidates to consider when you’re just starting out with your first website, for a number of reasons:
Comes with Top Recommendation
One of the first things that puts BlueHost on top of the list of Must-Have-Web Hosts is that it comes with a strong recommendation from the developers of the WordPress.org – that’s kinda hard to beat!
Easy WordPress Installation
If you plan to run your website on WordPress, BlueHost makes your job of installing it easy as apple pie. The best web hosting provider has teamed up with MOJO Marketplace to offer One-click Installs. All you do is select your platform and hit the Start button. You then select your domain name, add an email address, username and password for the new WordPress installation (if you need to change it) and click Install.
WordPress will be installed even before you can grab a cup of coffee from the pantry. There is a bit of noise in the marketplace, don’t worry about it. Run through our quick tutorial to get the job done in five!
Easy Website Management
An intuitive and user friendly control panel is extremely important if you need to make changes to your website, such as managing your email accounts or domains, doing a backup, uploading a favicon, and so on. Thankfully, BlueHost runs the industry standard cPanel making it just as easy to manage your web files and accounts yourself, without needing to rely on anyone including tech support.
It doesn’t take you too long to get familiar with the cPanel, (there are tons of tutorials if you need to get things done) or you could grab our free installation services if you need help getting started. BlueHost also throws in a 45-minute training session on how to use the powerful tools in your account, but at $99.99 I’d say its a complete waste of your money, so don’t bother with that.
Access to the Best Third Party Tools
BlueHost also offers plenty of third party tools you may need for your business such as drag and drop website builders like Weebly, mobile website creator goMobi, backup tool Site Backup Pro, domain security tool SiteLock, Google Apps for Work, shopping-cart software Magneto and of course the Mojo Marketplace where you can buy the best premium themes and plugins for your website setup.
Also, if you have email marketing plans, you can make use of BlueHost’s partnership with Constant Contact to grab yourself a plan that matches your needs.
Most of these add ons or additional services come at a price. When you are signing up for a plan, be sure to check off items you don’t need. You don’t want to accidentally end up buying an add-on you don’t need right away and then run to tech support for a refund. All these third party tools are available any time you want to, so you can buy them later if needed.
If you are a businessperson or entrepreneur, I also encourage you to pick up the free Android/iOS app called Business on Tapp (from the company behind BlueHost) that connects you to like minded business entrepreneurs and startups who can share thoughts and ideas on a whole range of topics from advertising, marketing, blogs, content, social media, to ecommerce, design, and SEO. You can connect with other business owners, ask business questions, take short business courses, learn from short business videos and get daily business tips right on your smartphone.
The next factor you need to watch out for is your server uptime. Although we never spend too much time thinking about uptime/downtime, this can become a really stressful issue when you sign up for a host that is frequently migrating its servers or has too many clients on a shared host.
What this means is that should you get a spike in traffic, your website will shut down and display an error message “Server not Found”. You will then need to run to tech support and ask them to get your website up. The prompt reply will be that “the website will be up once the traffic is normalized” or that you “upgrade to a higher plan”. This situation will cost you traffic, leads and sales and leave you angry and helpless.
In my experience, BlueHost has always maintained the highest standards when it comes to server uptime at about 99.9%. I have had a few downtimes but the times were negligible and not worth worrying over. Overall, when it came down to server uptimes, I’ve had one less problem to worry about with BlueHost!
Fast Page Loads
Another big factor that you need to look for in a web host is how quickly they are able to serve your pages. Slow load times can quickly take your visitors off your site and cause revenue loss. If you website is slow, it is most likely the result of huge traffic spikes, absence of a caching mechanism, poor site optimization, or issues with DNS and is very rarely the result of server issues.
All BlueHost servers are constantly monitored to ensure that they are performing at optimal speeds. If there are issues you can always upgrade. In our use of BlueHost we had absolutely no worries about load times even at 230K traffic a month. BlueHost also offers one-click CloudFlare integration for optimization and fast content delivery.
Pricing to Suit Your Budget
One of the biggest factors that play a role in deciding on a web host is cost. With BlueHost, you have an advantage as well as a disadvantage, depending on how to see it. Let’s start with the disadvantage. BlueHost does NOT offer month on month pricing options. You’ll usually have to make an upfront payment for a year or more. This of course is good news if you’re in for the long haul, and it gets better if you select more than 2 years as you get additional discounts. On the other hand, if you wanted a pay by month basis, you lose out!
How I Saved $1340 Moving to BlueHost
Moving to BlueHost turned out to me very cost efficient for me. I had paid $1420 for 3 years on a VPS package, while it cost just $200 for a 3 year Plus package on Bluehost. I also had a CDN package with MaxCDN, (which I no longer have) and which cost me a further $120 for that time period. In all, a cool $1340 saving with no quality compromise!
If you are struggling with high hosting expenses, consider one of the BlueHost shared Hosting Plans outlined below!
If you are starting with just one website, the basic Starter package should be enough for you.
If you plan on running more than one website, the Plus package should fit your needs.
Finally if you want to manage a small and medium business, you can take advantage of the Business Pro package.
No Compromises on Security
In recent times WordPress sites have become the favorite target for hackers and bots. Sneaking into the backend of a website and shutting it down or getting it to redirect to spammy and porn sites have become a pastime for hackers. One of my websites (on another host) took a hit and let me tell you – you don’t want to be caught in one of these messy situations. It turned out to be one of the worst experiences I had with tech support, there was no solution in sight after endless hours of discussions and finally, I had to pull out of it!
Thankfully BlueHost provides plenty of useful security features to ensure that you have a way out should anything untoward happen. They include:
- SpamExperts Premium Spam and Virus Protection ($2.99) filters spam and viruses BEFORE they arrive to your BlueHost server.
- Spam Assassin (free) let’s you whitelist or blacklist specific email addresses or domains.
- Spam Hammer temporarily rejects any email from a sender it does not recognize.
- SSH or Secure Shell connections offer a completely secure way to transfer files, login, administer remote servers, and access FTP.
- Built-in CloudFlare controls in the BlueHost cPanel allows for quick and easy protection from bots and hackers so if you are worried about Denial of Service attacks or loss of bandwidth and server resources, you can do a one-click install of CloudFlare to stay protected.
- SiteLock Pro a domain protection service is also available at a special BlueHost price of $23.88 per domain, per year.
Regular Site Backups
Sometimes, it may simply be a server crash that puts paid to all your hard work. Which is why your web hosting provider should offer a good backup solution. BlueHost does an automatic backup of your entire account, (daily, weekly, or monthly) and the ease of use of the Control Panel means you can make a backup yourself if you need to.
Restoring backups is also hassle free with just a one-click process. That apart, BlueHost also offers the services of Site Backup Pro to allow you to backup and restore just the files you need (if you are constrained for space) for $1.99 a month.
Customer support is another one of those crucial areas to watch out for when deciding on a web host. All web masters eventually run into some kind of trouble one time or another and an indifferent customer support team is one of the quickest reasons for wanting to move out. BlueHost offers 24/7 telephone support, online Web chat, a ticket-based system, and a knowledge base for getting self help.
Although that last line reads very well, it ain’t so peachy when it comes down to it. Sure BlueHost runs runs trouble free 99.9% of the time, and they have a great self help knowledge base to sort out minor issues, but I’ve never been impressed with BlueHost’s chat wait times.
Nobody likes to be kept waiting and sometimes 5 minutes can seem like hours, especially when your website is down and you are on tenterhooks to get a resolution. However, I have to admit that part of my bias against BlueHost customer wait times is that I’ve had world class support from another one of my favorite web hosts, InMotion Hosting, who are super prompt when it comes to their customer relationship.
Past that, I found the BlueHost executives to be knowledgeable and prompt in their responses and they have always resolved all my queries quite satisfactorily.
BlueHost has many good things going for it! Cheap pricing, plenty of great features, add-ons available at the tap of a button and at a price, ease of use and good but not great customer support. If you plan on just getting started with your web business, BlueHost is a great place to start! It is packed with everything a website owner needs and is solid and dependable. And should your business grow and expand, you can easily upgrade to a higher plan of your choice.
BlueHost is a solid recommendation from WordPress.org and it is our choice of web hosting provider as well.