Many bloggers have their sites hosted somewhere. Personally I find it very convenient having my blog hosted under Google's Blogger service. Since I am having issue with my provider and mentioned it on Twitter, several people asked if I found a good new host, if I would not mind sharing the details with them.
I assume that none of you know that I used to run a private webhosting service as a side gig for a decent number of years, and I think that some of the knowledge I have accumulated over the year could be of great use in choosing the right Webhost for your blog.
First let's dive into what kind of services a webhost will usually provide.
Shared hosting means that you are get a certain amount of space on a shared server (it could be a physical server, or a virtual machine somewhere) where you can do a number of things. these usually are (but are not limited to)
- Create web pages
- Install Software - usually web interfaces to software like Wordpress, Forum software (phpBB). Softaculous is one such example.
- Configure email accounts
- Look at Web statistics
- FTP accounts
- Create MySQL databases
- Create Sub-domains or add-on domains if your account allows those features
All of these options are accessible through a control panel which is web based. If you like to administer your environment through a shell command and the host allows it (it will usually be a jailed shell - which is limited) then you can.
- This is usually the cheapest option. Shared hosting goes for around anything from $2-$10 per month.
- You do not need to manage anything regarding the operating system - your provider will take care of this.
- The noisy neighbor - usually you are sharing the same server with a number of other people - sometimes an excessive amount of people it can go up into the hundreds… If one of them causes problems on the server then you all suffer.
- You are usually quite limited in your resources, how many databases you can create, email accounts, disk space etc. etc.
- Support is dependent solely on your provider, and more than often enough you know more about how things work than they do.
- Disk space is limited
- Resources you have to disposal are also limited including bandwidth, so if you have a popular site you will either have to go to a higher package or to the next level.
- You have no guaranteed resources in terms of CPU/RAM/Network.
This is very similar to the shared hosting, except you are placed in the "Junior Manager Role". Here you have the option to to create usually an almost unlimited number of accounts, host a large number of domains. This would be suitable if you are interested in hosting more than one domain and you are not interested in paying for a shared account for each and every domain.
- Same as the shared account.
- Prices go for anything from $5 a month to $60 per month depending on the provider and the resources you are using.
- You can sometimes outsource the end-user support to the hosting provider, if they provide that kind of service
- Your provider will support you regarding problems with the hosting software.
- Again the same as the shared account
- Here you usually have little / no limitations in the amount of resources you can create
- The limiting factors here are bandwidth and disk space.
- You have no guaranteed resources in terms of CPU/RAM/Network.
- You are limited to the software on the server, i.e. if you want a certain version of PHP or MySQL and the server does not have installed the you are stuck
A VPS is sort of a semi dedicated server, I would compare this in a very general way to a hypervisor with several VM's but not a Type-1 hypervisor.
- You have your own Operating system. All to your self, do what want with it - for better or for worse.
- You have the option to choose what flavor of OS you would like - Ubuntu,Debian, Centos, etc…
- You have your own IP - it is not shared.
- You have a guaranteed set of resources, RAM, disk space and bandwidth
- Your RAM resources have an option to expand to burstable level for short periods of time.
- Your resources are guaranteed and isolated from your neighbors.
- You have a Web interface that will allow you to restart your VPS (and OOB management interface)
- Shell access is standard.
- Changing plans is a no-brainer.
- Re-installation is simple.
- Your CPU resources are usually not guaranteed
- Neither are your disk or network resources.
- Unless you are using a managed (that means your provider is taking care of the VPS for you) then you are in charge of the VPS. Security, updates, software installation - the whole works.
- There is a limit to how much the hardware can handle - so if your provider oversells (i.e. oversubscription in the VMware world) then you will have problems.
- Prices are not cheap - and can run from $25 - $200 per month depending on the resources and you package.
If your site needs a dedicated server then you have either really very busy site - or your website utilizes scripts that are not working well, that your provider refuses to let you run on the current solutions (and yes I am speaking from experience)
- You are the sole ruler of your kingdom.
- Root access
- Full CPU/RAM/Disk resources
- Out of band management
- You can run multiple Operating Systems, perhaps even install ESXi on it if your provider supports it.
- Price - usually starts at over $100 per month and also requires a $50-$100 setup fee.
- Hardware changes are expensive,
- You are usually limited to 2 hard disks. (some configurations include SSD's
- Network ports are usually 100Mb/s.
- The same as a VPS unless it is managed
There are other options of course, new ones like cloud hosting, or Colocation, but I think for a blog these are overkill.
Now that we have gone over all the options, where do you actually find a good and reliable host? But first why do you need one? Well the answer to that is obvious. Your blog / brand is your face to the world. If your provider mucks up because they have not backup/DR plan and their server went down - then you are in trouble. If they are trying to make as much money and are overloading the servers, or have not been in business for more than a month then perhaps they are not such a good choice.
So how would you find a good and reliable host?
I would say the best place I know of would be the Webhostingtalk forums. This is an amazing resource for anything webhosting related. The forum is always busy and I would say is the best place to find information.
They have an offers forum for Shared Hosting, Reseller Hosting, VPS, Dedicated servers. The method I would advise for finding a reliable webhost is as follows, and I will take the VPS forum as an example.
Firstly you have the sticky posts - these are usually the bigger hosts who have a really good name and reputation in the forums, and they have probably paid to have the posts put up at the top of the list.
Underneath that you will see a great deal of posts with a lot of offers. How do you know which ones are reliable. Well first thing is to look for a post with a number of replies greater that 10
If a post has a number of replies it could either because it is a really cheap deal, or perhaps because it is a very good deal.
I look at the when the member joined, and how many posts he has and also what kind of member they are. This one looks like he has been here for a while, and reputable.
Looking at another post with no replies
The user has been around for a year or two but not active. Perhaps not a great idea.
So you found a good deal. Next thing you should do is search the forums to see what reviews others have posted regarding the company that you are looking at. I guarantee you, that if they do not provide decent service, or have not been honest - the thread will pop up in your search.
One last thing. Go the website of the provider, see if they have a support forum, go over the posts to see if people are happy with the service. Then open a support ticket, see how fast the response times are, check if they know what they are talking about. Checking these things before hand will save you a huge headache in the future..
To sum up this I would like to give you my recommendations of Webhosts from personal experience and some I currently use today.
Knownhost - By far the best company I have used over the years - they only deal in VPS servers and up. They are not cheap but the service they provide is fantastic!! Every support ticket I opened was responded within minutes, no matter what time of day it was. Again superb service, superb availability.
ResellerZoom - They deal in practically everything. Service was good, they have a very good budget plan, infrastructure is solid.
123Systems - They are budget provider, I have a VPS with them at the moment. Infrastructure is solid and support is very quick, but here you get what you pay for?
One last thing. Most bloggers use Wordpress as their platform for their blog, and I have seen several questions about who is a good Wordpress webhost.
I think that is the wrong question, because almost every single provider you can fins, especially those that use dedicated webhosting software like cPanel or DirectAdmin will offer you the option to install Wordpress and usually through a simple installation process.
So you can use almost any host you want, just go through the due diligence beforehand, otherwise you could regret it in the future.