I’ve been creating websites since 1997, when no matter how you tried, the website would look like crap. That’s no longer the case. The tools for creating websites are today simply amazing. Whether you use WordPress site and its myriad web building add-ons, a hosted monthly subscription site, or a standalone site builder like RapidWeaver or Dreamweaver, chances are you will look pretty decent whether you’re a designer or not. The templates and plugins for WordPress are nothing short of amazing.
More on that later. But first, the most important thing about your site: hosting.
Your website host is the first decision you need to make because hosts can offer really cheap prices, but offer varying degrees of functionality, storage space and support. I’ve used many different hosts over the years, including BlueHost, HostGator, Ionos, InMotion, SiteGround, Godaddy, and others…. some that no longer exist.
Some offer WordPress specific type hosting, usually best for someone who does not dare look under the hood. These will often make some decisions for you, and will offer a set number of templates and plugins that they feel will cause the least trouble on your site. I have had sites hosted on these types of plans (which can be a little cheaper) and things seemed fine but not being able to choose my own plugins or templates in order to maintain the support plan was too limiting for me, but perhaps not for you.
Almost all will offer shared and dedicated hosting options. They use a server, in some cases an SSD-based, in some cases just hard drive based, and your speed will be codependent on how many other sites share your server.
I had two cases where I recently had to switch site I was preparing or maintaining.
In the first case, I had created a site for a small theater that needed what would be– to start– a one page site with a picture carousel, some new articles, an “About Us” area, and a photo gallery. The site was hosted (the client had bought the service) on GoDaddy. It was extremely slow–so slow I couldn’t edit it or preview it, unless it was after midnight. I got permission to move the site to my host.
The second case was two of my own sites which had been hosted on 1and1, which became ionos.com when the two companies merged. I liked 1and1; their support was good and the offered a free SSL certificate for your sites. But after the merger, the certificates became a paid option on an annual basis, and for my small sites (including this one) that would have significantly increased my expenditure.
So once again, I had to look around. I immediately rejected hosts where I had bad experiences or sluggish performance before. Then I researched. I had a good experience with SiteGround; they just were a bit too expensive for me.
Finally, I discovered a2 Hosting, which touts that all of its sites are on SSD-based servers, which right away means a speed increase. (They have a Cyber Monday sale going on through the end of this week).
Here’s what I like about A2:
- Unlimited SSD Space & Transfer: SSD is obvious, and all site hosts have limits. I think this simply means you can buy as much space as you need. The SSD part is important if you are self-hosting videos. Most of the time it’s best to embed video from Vimeo or YouTube, but there are exceptions.
- Free & Easy Site Migration: This is a real bonus if, like me, you are moving sites to this new host. They will transfer your first site to a2 for free; subsequent sites, if on the same contract, will cost a nominal fee.
- Free Automatic Backups. Daily backups so you can never lose your site. On GoDaddy, I had to pay $150 to retrieve a site that went down.
- CPanel: This is your control panel and it lets you accomplish everything from setting up your initial wordpress installation to running malware checks, creating staging sites, and installing SSL certificates so Google will like your site.
- Speed Optimized WordPress
- 99.9% Uptime Commitment
- Staging. This really important and often not free. Staging allows you to creat, edit, or experiment on your site with a copy of that site, so if you blow it up, no harm or downtime is done to your original site. Once you have made your changes (especially layout, template or other major changes), you can make sure they’re working and then “push to live”. It can be a lifesaver.
- 24/7/365 Guru Crew Support. I can vouch for this. These folks have helped me with some real newbie type questions, to sophisticated malware attacks. In all cases, I’m back up and running.
- Free SSL Certificate. This did it for me. After being told by my prior host that I’d have to pay for SSL certificates, this made the monthly cost of the plan I chose a no brainer. You need an SSL certificate or Google Chrome and other browsers will warn the viewer that your site is dangerous. That’s a real traffic killer.
So that’s it in a nutshell if you want to self-host your WordPress site. I highly recommend a2 Hosting; that where the bulk of my site are hosted (including this one).
But what if you’re new to the website thing and want a really easy way to do a website that still knows how to do video, photo galleries, testimonials, and blog entries (to dazzle the potential customer with your knowledge)?
I have a solution for that, too, in the next blog entry!