No BS: How To Choose The Right Web Hosting For Your Online Business

Know the inside scoop about web hosting and how to shop smart for it. This is the zero BS guide which won’t repeat the typical stuff, but just give it to you straight.

So, let's cut to the chase here...

If you're here, you know you need web hosting (or you're thinking of switching). You've likely seen a ton of people talk about how to choose it. And, you're probably a bit jaded about it because most people seem to just write this stuff in order to make affiliate commissions for referring you to hosting.

We both know how this stuff works. πŸ™‚

So, here's what we're going to do here...

I want to give you the no-bullshit guide on how to choose solid web hosting that is suitable to grow a blog-based business on.

I will make 2 promises to you:

  1. 1
    I will not blow smoke by complicating it. Honestly, web hosts are a dime a dozen and we don't need to act like they're radically different.
  2. 2
    This is not going to be some big affiliate link drop. Yes, I will make a recommendation to you. I'll back it up. But, I don't do it just for commissions. I think that'll be clear as we proceed.

OK, let's get rollin'...

What You Need In A Web Host (The Straight Scoop)

So, let's keep this simple.

You need a web hosting account that will start small and scale with you. The reason is because you want to keep your startup costs small in the beginning.

It needs to work well with WordPress.

They need to do backups for you. You shouldn't need some stupid plugin for that.

They need to provide solid support, not outsource to some overseas support staff who just parrots off their templated answers at you and treats you like an ignorant nuisance.

It'd be convenient if they did things like provide easy staging sites. Essentially, this means you can click a button and clone your whole site over to a private area so you can test things, break things and not affect the live site. This isn't a requirement, but it sure is nice to have.

You need the hosting environment to be secure so you're not getting hacked.

Those are the main requirements here. There's really not much need to get into the weeds with things like disk space, or bandwidth quotas, or the number of email accounts. Most of the time, they give you way more than you'll need.

The Different Types of Hosting (And Which You Need)

This post isn't going to get geeky. This isn't about being a glossary. However, this is useful to know...

There are, shall we say, different levels of hosting. Roughly, they are:

  • Shared Hosting. This is the most common and means that your website is one of hundreds using the same server.
  • Virtual Private Servers (VPS). This uses a virtual machine to mimic having your own dedicated server. Basically, it is a software layer that is totally self-contained and has a pre-defined portion of the server resources dedicated to it. It usually provides more power and more security for your site.
  • Dedicated Server. Essentially, it is a whole server and it's your's to do with what you want and configure as you please (within what the host allows, of course).

Think of shared hosting like living in a communal situation with a bunch of different people all sharing the same resources. All using the same kitchen, the same bathroom, etc.

A VPS is like having an apartment. You're sharing the building with others, however within your apartment, you make the rules.

And dedicated server? You own the building.

In almost all cases, you will begin with shared hosting. It is the most economical and works just fine for startups, blogs, etc. You should consider a VPS if you will be running an ecommerce store, need a more secure environment, or expect higher amounts of traffic. And, when the time comes that your business is just crankin' and sees a ton of traffic, you can spring for a dedicated.

How To Shop For Hosting (Without Getting Screwed)

Truth is, it is the wild wild west if you're out there looking for solid hosting. There are 2 main reasons for this:

  • It is hard to trust recommendations because there's such a HUGE economy around affiliate commissions. So, people are saying things just for the money in a lot of cases.
  • Reviews are all over the board because, truth is, no company is perfect. With any company, you're going to hear good reviews... and bad ones. There are always people not happy with something. 

So, it can be confusing if you're expecting a cut-and-dry answer.

Generally, I would not recommend looking at web hosting review sites, or articles which rank the "best" hosting. In almost all cases, those articles are written for the commissions and every link is an affiliate link. They are literally incentivized not to say something bad.

I would find the people you trust and ask for their experience. Expect them to back it up and tell you WHY they recommend a certain option.

Be Aware Of The Resellers And Conglomerates

Hosting is big business, so there's a couple things to be aware of here so that you're a smart consumer.

A lot of the names in hosting out there are, essentially, middlemen or subsidiaries.

First off, there are a lot of small time companies who offer web hosting, but in reality they are just a reseller for another company. Sometimes you'll see web service companies (like designers, SEO, etc.) offer web hosting. But, they don't own the server in some cases. They're just managing your site on a common server that they themselves pay for with a larger company.

This isn't necessarily bad. You just need to look at the real value of what you're getting. If they are providing real service over and above the hosting, then it can be worth it. For instance, if a web developer is hosting your site, there's nothing wrong with that as long as they are providing actual service to manage your site. If they're not, then all they're doing is charging you a premium over their own bill and hooking you in so that it is hard to get out of it.

Next up... the conglomerate.

This is where you have a whole bunch of what appears to be different web hosting companies, but in reality they are all owned by the same umbrella.

One of the super big ones is Endurance International Group, or EIG. EIG owns and operates over 60 companies.

EIG Companies

  • AccountSupport
  • A Small Orange
  • ApolloHosting
  • Apthost
  • Arvixe
  • Berry Information Systems L.L.C.
  • BigRock
  • BizLand
  • BlueDomino
  • Bluehost
  • Directi
  • Dollar2Host
  • DomainHost
  • Dot5Hosting
  • Dotster
  • easyCGI
  • eHost
  • EntryHost
  • Escalate Internet
  • FastDomain
  • FatCow
  • FreeYellow
  • Glob@t
  • Homestead
  • HostCentric
  • HostClear
  • HostGator
  • Hostnine
  • HostMonster
  • Host with Me Now
  • HyperMart
  • IMOutdoors
  • Intuit Websites
  • iPage
  • IPOWER/iPowerWeb
  • IX Web Hosting
  • JustHost
  • LogicBoxes
  • MojoMarketplace
  • MyDomain
  • MyResellerHome
  • NetFirms
  • Networks Web Hosting
  • Nexx
  • PowWeb
  • PureHost
  • ResellerClub
  • Saba-Pro
  • SEO Hosting
  • Sitelio
  • Sitebuilder
  • Southeast Web
  • Spry
  • StartLogic
  • SuperGreen Hosting
  • Typepad
  • USANetHosting
  • VirtualAvenue
  • VPSLink
  • WebHost4Life
  • Website Builder
  • Webstrike Solutions
  • Webzai
  • Xeran
  • YourWebHosting
  • Now, being an EIG company doesn't make it bad. There are some differences in some of these companies despite being commonly owned. However, I have observed (through others and, in one case, myself) a drop in quality when EIG takes over a company. EIG is very much a bulk operation and I personally think it is run accordingly.

    In my case, I had an experience with Bluehost. Bluehost is a good company and has long been popular among bloggers. It was acquired by EIG in 2011. I had an experience where I had a site get hacked on their environment and the support I got it from was actually pretty pitiful. It was clear to me that I was dealing with a guy who didn't really understand tech stuff very well and was giving me templated answers. You can read the whole story below...

    EIG is such a numbers game that it means they can afford to offer compelling commission rates to people who recommend them. This, in turn, means that a lot of bloggers recommend them. I think a lot of "blogging gurus" recommend Bluehost primarily because of the commissions. 

    In other words, while Bluehost is OK hosting, they aren't the best. However, many gurus will continue to recommend them because the commissions are good.

    Who Hosts This Very Site?

    People wonder. So, I'll tell you. πŸ™‚ But, to be clear, I am not going to recommend necessarily that you use the same company I do. And I'll tell you why.

    This site is hosted with WPEngine.

    WPEngine is WordPress-specific hosting. In my case, this is mostly great. The tradeoff is that if you're running something that isn't sitting on top of WordPress, then you can't use it at WPEngine.

    To be clear, I really like WPEngine. Sure, you see a few people out there who say it isn't very good and they had problems with it. But, my experience has been quite good.

    I LOVE the convenience of the convenient backups. Not like I have to take their word for it, but I can actually SEE all the backups in my account and easily revert to any one with the click of a button.

    I also LOVE LOVE the one-click staging site. If I want to tweak anything, I can do  it in private and I don't have to go through the geeky BS necessary to create my own staging site manually.

    I also find the hosting to be snappy. I've never had a security problem.

    And their support is stellar. I've used them many times, usually via their Live Chat support. And they know what they're doing. They're personal. They know WordPress very well.

    Hosting with WPEngine is like having an IT guy on hand just to make sure my site runs smoothly.

    So, all that said, why isn't it my top recommendation?

    Mainly... price.

    I know that most of my students are in the startup phase. They're bootstrapping. And, WPEngine is more expensive than regular shared hosting. So, I want to recommend something which is more suitable for my audience.

    The Host That I Personally Recommend (And Why)

    I believe that it is important that a hosting recommendation is backed up by a strong why. And that why must be bigger than the affiliate commission.

    The host that I personally recommend is Siteground.

    Yes, that's an affiliate link. But, to be clear, I took a big hit in my commissions when I began recommending Siteground. Bluehost paid more, but I couldn't honestly recommend them after my hacking experience with them.

    Here's why I personally recommend Siteground:

    • They are an independent company and not part of a conglomerate.
    • Their support is great and in-house, not some outsourced call center.
    • Their starting prices are very friendly for startups, yet Siteground can scale with you as your business grows.
    • They have a very FAST, optimized server environment.
    • If you want WordPress hosting with staging sites and all that, they've got it.

    I also personally use Siteground as well. While most of Blog Marketing Academy isn't on Siteground, I have some software components of the business which are hosted there. As I said previously, WPEngine only works with WordPress. So, anything I need to run which isn't on WordPress... is on Siteground. I personally think that a person should only recommend hosting they actually use and have experience with.

    Oh, and if you are switching to Siteground from another host, Siteground's support will actually move your site for you for free. You don't even have to do it yourself (unless you really want to).

    So, what I recommend for almost all of my new students and readers is...

    Start with their entry-level "Startup" Plan. It starts at $3.95/month and you can lock that rate in for either 12, 24 or 36 months by pre-paying upfront. After that, it runs $11.95/month. This is a bit more expensive than some other companies, but honestly, it is totally worth it. Plus, if you build your business on the account, it is absolute child's play to be profitable with such a small hosting bill.

    If you need more than one site, bump up to the "GrowBig" plan. $5.95/mo intro rate, then $19.95/month.

    One other option to consider, though...

    If you want essentially the same options that WPEngine provides (including WordPress support, staging, backups, etc.), Siteground offers that for a very compelling price. In fact, it's the same.

    Their "GrowBig" plan for WordPress hosting is almost exactly what I have with WPEngine, but more affordable. Starts at just $5.95/month then moves to $19.95 after your intro term. Such a fantastic deal.

    To be honest, if I were still on the market for hosting, I would go with Siteground rather than WPEngine.

    Lastly, you can buy your domain via Siteground, too. However, I wouldn't do it. Buy your domain through something like Namecheap. Siteground does charge more money for the domain and I think it is unnecessary.

    Final Words On Choosing Hosting

    I've used a lot of different hosting companies. I've been in this business for a long time (20+ years). I take the solutions I recommend seriously. And I hope it is clear I don't recommend anything just for commissions.

    I hope this guide didn't bore you with the same old things everybody else says. My goal here was just to give you the straight scoop.

    Truth is, in most cases, almost any web host out there will work out fine for you. Most sites are fairly non-demanding and anybody can host you. But, I think it is important to understand the underbelly of web hosting. To know that there are a lot of incentives for people to "review" companies favorably and it can skew what you read out there.

    The companies I use are after a lot of trial of others. I've used VPS... I've used dedicated. I've used it all. In this article, I've told you who I use now - and why.

    Siteground is the company I feel totally comfortable recommending to my students.

    And it's important to me that I can stand behind such a thing, because otherwise my students wouldn't trust my advice.

    And trust me, if anything ever changed on this, I'll be the first to tell you.

    About David Risley
    David Risley is the founder of the Blog Marketing Academy, a 20-year veteran blogger and online entrepreneur. His focus? Building a reliable, recurring business around his "lifestyle" and the lives of his students. He has this weird obsession with traveling in his motorhome around the country with his wife and 2 kids. David also likes to talk about himself in the third person. In bios like this one. Read his full story.