Hosting isn’t sexy, but it’s a necessary step in setting up your site.
As a web developer with over a decade of experience in building, maintaining, and administering websites, I’ve had plenty of experience dealing with various hosting providers. Here is some advice, along with my recommendation for the best hosting provider of 2021.
TL;DR – Go with Hostinger and thank me later. Here’s a coupon code: <coupon>
There’s just no way around it – Hosting is probably the least exciting part of web development, only slightly outranking database management. When it comes to building your website, your mind is likely to immediately envision the design aspects of the site. What’s it going to look like? What colors and images will you use? Is the font in line with the branding? What kind of interactions can we use to keep user engagement up and drive better conversion rates?
It’s only natural that we gravitate towards the more appealing steps of building a website, but much like building a house, you have to have a foundation to start on. Foundations are not “fun” in the conventional sense of the word. Foundations are a necessary and important first step, but you’re not likely to find anyone drooling over magazines filled with pictures of concrete slabs or pinning images of rebar to their Pinterest boards.
Hosting is the foundation of your website. Just as a strong foundation will support your house, having a solid host will lead to a better experience and reduced headaches as you(or your web developer) build your site out. Let’s take a look at some of the factors you may want to consider when shopping for a hosting provider.
Phone Support – A Huge Plus
If you’re shopping for hosting, the first thing to look for is if there is a phone number to call for support. If no phone number is available, they better be on the ball with their chat support.
Chats are usually a no-go. You will typically end up waiting in 10-15 minute intervals for someone in India allegedly named “Mark Jones” to reply to your support request. Maybe 10-15 minutes doesn’t sound horrible to you right off the bat, but even the best support agents cannot resolve your issue in the first two or three messages that you send, so all that time will quickly accumulate into hours lost waiting for help. Not to mention “Mark’s” attention is likely split between five or six other people that desperately need help and have logged on to the chat client. Mark has to juggle a number of issues and upset clients whose patience is waning, just like yours.
If your potential hosting provider doesn’t even offer chat, or the chat agent is a bot, or there is no one there to respond to your chat message at all, then it’s definitely time to switch. What are you gonna do? Send them an email? We’ll see you when your site gets fixed 3 months from now.
Take my professional and seasoned advice. Avoid hosts that don’t offer phone support.
Bonus points to the hosting provider if they offer phone support in your country. Most hosting providers use customer support centers based in India or the Philippines, but some phone support is better than no phone support.
Ease of Use
There’s nothing more off-putting than logging in to your control panel and seeing what looks like a Boeing 747 instrument cluster of options haphazardly spewed up on to the page like this:
Worse yet is when you are presented with so many options and it’s just assumed that you speak the parlance of these tech nerds. (I can call them tech nerds because I am one). Do you really want to be bothered by what DNS server you should use? What’s shared hosting? Do I need a dedicated IP? What type of SSL cert do I need and how do I install it? What is “Mojo Graphics & Logos”?
I’ve jumped around from hosting service to hosting service over the years. I’ve probably had more hosts than girlfriends – a fact that should surprise no one when you consider my career choice. I’ve used Domain.com, HostGator, A1 Hosting, GoDaddy, Dreamhost, DigitalOcean, and Bluehost. There may have been a few more in there not worth mentioning.
When it comes to ease of use, my best experience to date has been with a company called Hostinger. Set up is so streamlined and fast. You can get your site up and running in less than 5 minutes and with only a few easy, painless steps.
Currently Hostinger is bae(to coin a term that was popular six years ago). I’m not ready to settle down with this hosting service just yet but the relationship is off to a smooth start. The price is excellent – I paid less than $100 for 4 years of hosting! That’s an incredible deal, and to continue the metaphor, that’s a good way to get me to commit to a long term relationship. I do recommend Hostinger, especially for beginners and the non-tech savvy. The control panel is super clean and easy to navigate. They don’t bombard you with redundant controls and a hastily put together panel like other hosts, and setup was a breeze. That’s not to say there aren’t some issues…
The main drawback in my experience with Hostinger so far has been the support. The chat agent takes forever. Typically, as I’ve stated above, I would not bother with companies that don’t offer phone support. Fortunately for Hostinger I am able to find most of the answers that I need in their knowledge base (wiki), which is also a clean and easy read. There is a bit of a silver lining though as the chats are automatically saved with your previous agent, and it tells you if they are online, so at least you can go back and chat with the same person. This is a feature I’ve never seen with any other host. Still though, it took them 40 minutes to reply to my last chat which had me feeling like I’d been left on read.
Runner Up – Bluehost
Bluehost offers a customer support phone number, which is why it’s ranked #2 on my list. What’s even better is many of the customer support centers are based in the U.S. so odds are that you’re going to get a native english speaker(or a native spanish speaker si hablas español). That’s a huge deal if you need help. I had a friend who worked for Bluehost in the past, so maybe I’m a little biased, but they seem like a good company to me and they also seem to really care about their customers. Chat service is also available but I’ve never used it.
The major drawback here is the price. Bluehost clocks in at almost a dollar more per month than most other hosting services but that’s only for the most basic service. Well worth it to be able to pick up the phone and call for help though. Recommended for noobs.
Not Too Distant 3rd – GoDaddy
I view GoDaddy as the “Walmart” of hosting providers. Everyone has heard the name. It’s not the best but they often run deals that make them competitively priced. Setup is a bit easier to navigate now that they have rebranded, all things considered GoDaddy is pretty good. Speaking of being competitively priced, click here to start hosting your site for $1 a month (this is an affiliate link).
The reason they rank 3rd on the list is because they too offer a support phone number if you need it. My experience with their customer support has been largely positive. GoDaddy has established themselves as a household name for a reason. They wouldn’t have gotten this prominent if it weren’t for decent customer service and quality products. Something about the feel and design is a personal turn off for me, but that’s really the only complaint I have.
Hosts to Avoid
Domain.com – Absolutely horrid customer service. These guys have been cold, unresponsive, or outright rude to me every time I’ve interacted with them. 10/10 would NOT recommend – unless you’re a fan of migraines and feeling unimportant.
HostGator – Besides the overall sloppy feel, the customer service is lacking and the prices aint all that.
DreamHost – Hosting with these guys was anything but a dream. Well maybe it was a dream in the sense that a nightmare is technically also a type of dream. Maybe they call it DreamHost because someone is asleep at the wheel and dreaming of being a better hosting company? Let’s hope they wake up and get to work. Use DreamHost if you enjoy arguing with customer service over chat in India.
DigitalOcean – Seems like a cool concept in theory, and you used to be able to get a “droplet” for free for a while where you could host your site. Not sure if you still can but unless you’re a very technical user who likes messing around with server setup, the options and features made available from DigitalOcean are not for you.