What exactly is Web Hosting? Why should a blogger choose to go the self-hosted route when there are so many free options available to them? What are the benefits to self-hosting? Which hosting provider should you choose? As a new blogger or as someone interested in blogging these thoughts have likely crossed your mind.
These thoughts have also probably left you feeling pretty overwhelmed.
I get it! I have been there. When I first began my own blogging journey I spent hours on the internet trying to find the answer to all of these questions. Even after hours of research, I was still left feeling like I had no idea what I was doing or where to begin.
***Note: This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Any purchase made through these links are at no extra cost to you. You can see my full disclosure policy here.
What I did know was that I wanted to go the self-hosted route. Why? Well, to be frank, because another blogger told me that is what I wanted to. That might sight sound a little silly to you, but at that point in my journey, it is exactly what I needed.
I knew that I wanted to monetize my blog. Every article I read told me that self-hosting was the best option for me if that was my goal. One day, as I was reading another post on how to start a blog, I bit the bullet and clicked the link to the hosting provider recommended.
I signed up for a year and I purchased more hosting than I needed to. As a new blogger, I found myself out $300 before I had published my first post.
It was because I had NO IDEA what I was doing. Even if I felt like I did in that moment.
The same article that had led me to my first hosting provider also happened to be one that was written by a blogger making over $10,000 a month. I was biting off more than I could chew. I purchased hosting based on the type of traffic I thought I was going to have. The way I saw it, it was go big or go home.
Hindsight is a really funny thing.
Looking back, I should have spent more time researching. A lot of time was spent reading articles on How to Start a Blog and taking that advice at face value. I didn’t look into WHY these bloggers recommended the web hosting they did and I honestly went with the name I saw floating around the most. I didn’t really understand what web hosting was, or the service that I was going to need for my business.
Thankfully experience brings knowledge to the table. After a year of figuring it out on my own, it’s time for me to share what I have learned.
A Bloggers Simple Guide to Web Hosting
What is Web Hosting?
To put it very simply – web hosting is where your website is stored (or lives as I like to say). Your computer/phone/tablet, etc is where you access the internet (aka a Browser) and a server is where all the information found on the internet is stored. When you purchase web hosting from a company you are purchasing (renting/leasing) out the server space where your website will live.
Why Should I Chose the Self-Hosted Route When So Many Free Options are Available?
I am sure you have seen WordPress.com (Hosted) and WordPress.org (Self-Hosted) floating around the internet. Many articles on How to Start a Blog will often refer to these two platforms. WordPress.com, along with platforms like WIX, Weebly, Blogger, and Squarespace are all Hosted platforms. When you use a Hosted platform you are signing up for an all-in-one type of service. Generally speaking, the host will own your website and take care of things like upgrades and website security. A hosted site is also incredibly easy to use/navigate especially as a beginner blogger. However, a hosted website is also is quite limited – especially when it comes to monetization opportunities.
A Hosted Website:
- limited themes and plugins
- may place unwanted ads on your site
- limits monetization potential
- can delete your website at any time without notice (if it violates terms of service or the business goes under)
- Lower Costs
- Easy to Use/Navigate
When you choose to Self-Host (purchase web hosting from a hosting provider or have a server of your own) and use a platform such as WordPress.org or Joomla you have more control over your website. However, it also means that you are 100% responsible for the cost of hosting and maintaining your blog. If you are not a technically sound person like myself, this can seem incredibly overwhelming and actually downright terrifying. However, there are hundreds of tutorials and how to guides on every aspect of running and maintaining your own self-hosted website.
A Self Hosted Website:
- unlimited themes/plugins
- modify and customize themes/look of your website
- unlimited monetization potential (through ads, sponsorships, that you get to choose)
- Greater Analytics and Tracking capabilities
- Control – over content, domain name, appearance, etc
- Greater Cost
- More responsibility
While both options have their pro’s and con’s, in terms of wanting to monetize your blog the self-hosted route gives you more control and opportunity to do so. If your goal is to make money with your blog then I strongly advise you to choose the Self-Hosted route.
Can I Transfer my Hosted Website to a Self Hosted Website Further Down the Line?
You might be thinking that because you are just starting out, a free and hosted website is the best option for you and that you can transfer to a self-hosted site later on. While this is very possible, it can also take work and cost you more money in the long run than if you had started out with a Self-Hosted Site. If you do decide to choose this route make sure you double and triple check the terms of service. With some hosts, transferring isn’t even an option and they may even claim ownership over your content.
**NOTE – if you know that you want to self-host but it isn’t in your budget right now and you don’t want the headache of transferring further down the line you can still work on your content. Just because you don’t have a blog/platform doesn’t mean you can’t be writing. Chasing Foxes made sure that they did the work of creating content before they launched. Take this opportunity to put yourself ahead of the game. Your audience will thank you.
What Type of Web Hosting Should I Choose?
Remember how I mentioned that I chose the first web hosting provider recommended to me? I also chose the first hosting option too! I knew that there was a variety of hosting packages available, but I had no idea that there was more than one hosting type.
As a new blogger, or a blogger with a moderate amount of traffic (I am talking not exceeding 100,000 visits per month) this will probably be the option you choose as it generally requires the least amount of investment up front or technical knowledge.
Shared hosting is when your website will be stored on the same server as others – thus lowering the cost. Some shared hosting providers will boast about unlimited space, bandwidth, storage, etc – but there is no such thing as truly unlimited. With shared hosting, you are doing just that – sharing. The performance of your website can be affected by other sites on the same server, and there will be instances where your hosting provider may not be able to handle sudden spikes in traffic.
VPS and Cloud Hosting
I am including VPS (Virtual Private Server) and Cloud Hosting in the same category because of how similar they are. I am sure to someone more technically inclined than I am they will see major differences between these two types but I am not that person.
VPS is still technically shared web hosting – but you are sharing with fewer users. The resources available are also split equally between each user, unlike shared hosting where 1 user could be using 50% of the resources available leaving the remaining 50% to be split by the rest. Cloud hosting has the same idea, except that there are a group of servers working together to host a number of users.
Both of these options will be more expensive than your regular shared hosting packages. However, they do allow you more room to grow with your business without needing to upgrade. When choosing your hosting provider it is always a good idea to see what options they have for you as your business expands.
This is when you have an entire server to yourself. It allows you more control over every aspect of your website but it also requires the most technical knowledge. A Dedicated Server is also the most expensive of your options. With a Dedicated Server, you don’t need to worry about other sites affecting your performance but you can run the risk of your hardware failing – which is never a good thing.
As I mentioned a number of times, I am not the most technical person and this is just my basic understanding of the types of hosting available. If you would like a more in-depth description I highly recommend heading over to Hosting Facts.
What Web Hosting Provider Should I Choose?
You already know that I signed up with the first hosting provider that was recommended to me. Am I with that same provider now?
No, I am not.
There are a number of different hosting providers available. All of which come with their own pros and cons. If you hang out in the blogging community long enough you are bound to hear the good and bad about every single one of them.
When choosing your hosting provider I would recommend reaching out to their service department right away. Ask them questions. Find out what services they provide and what options are available to you if and when you need to upgrade. What is there uptime? What customer support do they provide? Do they include any additional services in their hosting packages? Do they have an affiliate program (this is a good one if you are looking to monetize)?
Dreamhost, GoDaddy, SiteGround, HostGator, and Bluehost are just a few of the Hosting providers out there.
My personal preference when it comes to web hosting is SiteGround – HANDS DOWN.
Why You Should Choose SiteGround as your Web Hosting Provider
I began my blogging journey with Bluehost. I am sure that by now you have seen this name floating around. So many successful bloggers recommend these guys for just starting out. While I didn’t have many MAJOR issues while I was with them, there were certainly enough problems for me to want to switch providers once my contract was up.
Initially, I clicked a link advertising hosting at $2.95 a month. Once I was done reviewing the packages, I decided to go with the Plus option because it boasted to have unlimited bandwidth, storage, space, etc. Plus it allowed me unlimited email accounts. This package was advertised at $5.95 a month. The catch here was that I needed to sign up for a 3-year contract in order to receive that price.
As a new blogger, that was scary to me, so I opted to only sign up for a year.
After all the upgrades they sold me on after signing up – like an SSL certificate and domain privacy – it ended up costing me $29.99 a month. Which worked out to be over $350 for the year.
I still can’t believe that I forked over that cash when I was just starting out.
Halfway through my contract, I realized that I wasn’t using half of what I had paid for. I spoke with a Customer Service Representative to try and downgrade my package and needless to say it didn’t go so well. They wanted to charge me an additional $143 to downgrade and the prorated refund, if I had just canceled my contract, wasn’t enough for me to purchase hosting elsewhere.
But I will save the details of this experience for a later post.
At the end of my contract, with a terrible taste in my mouth, I made the decision to switch providers.
I am very fortunate to be a member of a number of incredible blogging groups on facebook. It was through the advice of many seasoned bloggers in these groups that I made the decision to switch to SiteGround.
So why should you choose SiteGround?
I have said this before and I will say it again – but their customer service is some of the best I have ever experienced across any category. Within minutes of signing up, I was on a live chat with an incredible representative who walked me through every step of transitioning to another hosting provider. They put in the support ticket needed to have my website migrated for free, and took care of every technical aspect.
Whenever I have needed assistance, my chat requests are responded to within minutes. Their representatives stay online with you until your issue is resolved or until you are happy with the solution offered. Support tickets are handled within hours. This has been a night and day difference from my previous host, where I would spend upwards of 20 minutes to a half hour to have a chat request answered.
Plus their customer support is truly 24/7. You will receive the same support regardless of what time or day it is.
Most companies will boast about uptime, security, and support and SiteGround are no different. Siteground loads faster than the industry average and can handle 3 times more traffic. Plus they have data centers on three continents. Check out this link for more specific information on what they have to offer.
Ability to Upgrade as Your Business Grows
Earlier I mentioned being able to upgrade your package once your business needs it. Siteground not only offers Shared Web-Hosting, but they have Cloud Hosting and Dedicated Servers available as well. Being able to grow your business knowing that your hosting provider can accommodate what you need as you need it can give any entrepreneur peace of mind.
When it comes to web hosting, every provider is going to have their benefits and their drawbacks and choosing whether to Self-Host or be Hosted depends on what your individual needs are. As a new blogger, or someone interested in blogging, it is important that you do the research needed in order to assess what is best for your business.
Before making any decision regarding your blogging journey I recommend taking the time to write down your goals. Once you understand what your goals are, making a decision on web hosting will seem less overwhelming.
Don’t forget to subscribe so that you never miss an update or comment below with why you want to start a blog! Stay tuned for my step by step guide on How to Start a Blog. In the meantime, you can head here to check out all my posts on blogging so far!