Being a good host is more than being gracious and welcoming ... oh wait, this isn’t Heloise, I’m writing about web hosting.

Let me ask a question: Is there a difference between a $20 pair of frames and a $200 pair? Of course, though online the subtleties may be almost indistinguishable. It’s not until someone familar with those intricacies points them out that you can see why one should choose the better made, more expensive pair.

Web hosting is no different. Online, most every web host seems the same. They almost all claim a 99-percent-plus uptime guarantee ... free email ... unlimited storage, websites and bandwidth. Let’s dispel this myth. Yes, technically you have unlimited storage, websites and bandwidth in the same way American Express offers unlimited credit. There are caveats with both. Web hosts know most of us will only host one small site with limited files and traffic.

Like any business, web hosting companies are in business to make money. A low-end hosting product costs as little as $1.99 a month for new customers. To make money at that price, the company jams many thousands of websites onto each server; meaning the performance of your website is tied to the performance of thousands of others. While computers are fast, a server can only dish out so much information at once. So, if 100 people are asking for information at the same time from the same sever, 99 are going to have to wait their turn.

Server companies offer several web-hosting packages, their lowest price being similar to that above and higher priced packages offering better features as the monthly price escalates. What generally goes unsaid, is the more expensive a package is, the fewer websites hosted per server. We’ve learned these lessons the hard way, building scores of websites and seeing which hosts and which plans work best.

As an ECP, what should you look for in a good web host? For the sake of brevity, let’s say you’re hosting a standard informational website about your practice and not doing any e-commerce. For our clients, we demand a host with great customer service. We want to know that if there is an issue, the host company is there to help us rectify it. We therefore demand hosts with 24/7 phone service. We have no interest in submitting an email trouble ticket with no idea how long it will take until our issue is resolved.

Since we build primarily in WordPress (as are 25 percent of all sites), we look at hosts who specialize in WordPress. This is a relatively new area of hosting but we couldn’t be happier. Since Google is placing more emphasis on site speed, being on a server that works best with your particular platform is helpful for your search engine ranking.

There are a number of WordPress hosts we like and we continually explore the WordPress forums for new recommendations. The hosting companies we like best include BlueHost Performance Cloud, Hostgator and SiteGround GrowBig WordPress hosting. The renewal prices for these and most every other hosting plan is double the introductory price, so your best bang for the buck is to buy as many years as possible at the introductory rate.

One more thing to ask for with your hosting is an SSL certificate. Again, Google emphasizes security and gives bonus points to sites with an SSL (Secure Socket Layer). That is the little green lock that appears in the browser window on certain sites or the designation of https instead of http. Some webhosts give an SSL certificate with hosting for the first year, some do not. SSL certificates run upwards of $100 per year for a shared certificate from most hosts. There is a new free SSL certificate out there from Let’s Encrypt which we hope to explore that further in another article. 

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