The Hosting Minefield

A few words about my quest for the perfect hosting company. Hopefully you can avoid the same mistakes I made.

Back in the 90s

I’ve always been a bit of a geek and loved anything computers and technology. Back in the 90s I always had bits of computer lying around and dabbled a bit in web design. Although this was more html playing than actual web design – do you remember those annoying 90s website mechanics? Graphics chasing the mouse cursor and snow falling down the screen, all very cool to a young geek, but not very pleasing to the user.

Fast forward 15-20 years…..

…and here I am I recent years dabbling in web design once again. This time with a small customer base of local businesses, which allows me to combine a hobby with making a little bit of money.

Where do I start with Hosting?

Prior to wanting to be a little more professional I always used free hosting services – these services are great for playing around and of course the price is great, but they just don’t cut it when wanting to provide a stable, professional website.

I tried looking around at various options, of which there are so many! The main important factors to me of course were prices and performance – but it is hard to find a bad review about any hosting company. At the end of my search I was none the wiser. Everything seemed to be great

  • Unlimited hosting
  • 99.9% uptime guaranteed
  • Great price

These were phases that were very common – but looking back it seems that many of these statements are a little untrue.

Eventually I opted to go with Bluehost.com. This decision was mainly due to a recommendation from wordpress.com. I mean wow! If wordpress endorse them, they must be good – right? And the price of just a few dollars a month for shared hosting suited me as a starting point.

I was not overly impressed with the speed of my website or cpanel, but I just accepted that you get what you pay for and I wasn’t paying a lot.

As I began to host more and more websites I quickly outgrew Bluehosts lowest package (basic) and progressed up through the packages to “plus”, then “business pro” and eventually found myself on a VPS package ($30 per month).

I loved managing my own VPS sever and creating and maintaining websites. With it still being a hobby I often created short term websites for various events, such as weddings, parties and charity events. And I had a nice little collection of domain names.

One thing that did frustrate me a bit was speed. I found the CPanel very slow to navigate and also I wasn’t too impressed with server response time. But I just put this down to the fact that I was not paying hundreds of pounds a month for the hosting and just accepted that this was the way.

Eventually I thought it was time to have a tidy up and move hosting company…

The Initial Move

There were a few factors that contributed to me changing hosing provider:

  1. Bluehost is in America and I am in the UK. It really would make sense to move to a company based in my own country.
  2. A UK provider will invoice in GBP. It wasn’t much but I did have to pay an exchange rate fee each month as I was paying in $.
  3. Housekeeping – a move would prompt me to tidy up all those obsolete SQL databased and redundant subdomains that I had created in the learning process.

Once again I was faced with the question “who to go with?” and similarly to before I was inundated with amazing reviews. Remember the acronym “KISS” I thought (“Keep It Simple Stupid”), so I went with the domain registrar that I had been using for a couple of years – 123-reg.co.uk.

My New UK Hosting

I started on a low package and I wasn’t overly impressed with the speed but as I was on the lowest package I thought things would improve as I went up the scale – in hindsight I should have left it there! But they do advertise as “superior performance”, “99.99% uptime guarantee”, “Superfast web hosting” (Hang on… I’ve encountered these promises before!)

Over the coming weeks I migrated each of my sites one by one. Increasing the package as I went to suit the heavier load. Speed never improved though and to top it all I was receiving “website down” notifications from pindom.com almost daily. These were relatively short outages, but they were there nonetheless. And this is with a 99.9% uptime guarantee!

123-Reg had to go… Off I go on another search for hosting, but where to start?

Finally Some Honest Advice

I sent a little tweet – something along the lines of

“How do I find a decent, honest review of #hosting companies? Any recommendations?”

Well a number of emails, and calls followed with people offering their services, but these weren’t recommendations, these were promises from companies – I wasn’t falling for that again, I wanted a solid recommendation.

Then I got a follow from Review Signal and this was a God-send!

The first tweet that caught my eye was a link to TechCrunch – this was exactly what I had been searching for and off I went to ReviewSignal.com to investigate.

Eventually I set my sights on Site Ground as they seemed to tick all of the boxes:

  • Price
  • Speed
  • Performance
  • Uptime
  • Security
  • And much more…

I tested Site Ground for 1 month and was amazed! This was exactly what I had been looking for!

My Love for Site Ground

Site Ground have far surpassed my expectations in speed, performance and ease of use and bundled in with all of this are some great additional features:

  • Free CloudFlare CND – a simple way to supercharge your website.
  • SuperCacher – This is SiteGrounds own wordpress caching plugin, and it is so simple to activate and use.
  • Simple email authentication – at the click of a button you can add SPF records to all of your DNS zones to help prevent spam.
  • One click Google MX entry – A simple click and you can set your MX records to Google’s MX records, this is brilliant if, like me, you use Google Apps for Work to manage your emails.
  • Automated Let’s Encrypt – I love this so much, FREE SSL for everyone! SiteGround have been with Let’s Encrypt from the start and offer a simple one click to install SSL certificates on your domain – WOW!
  • Great affiliate program – you can make money by referring new customers to SiteGround. And to be honest I’d recommend them for free, so this is great!

 

Well there you have it. It was a long journey but eventually I found the perfect host and I hope that this helps you in your quest to find a suitable host.

Web Hosting

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