When it comes to building a blog, you have two basic options – you can either enrol to a hosted solution or install a self-service solution that will allow you to manage the blog on your own. The former is generally easier, but the latter is relatively more powerful. With hosted blogging CMS (Content Management Systems), you just enter the website URL, finish the registration process, and then enter your payment details (in some cases). These are hosted services, meaning that you don’t have to worry about setting up the addresses, managing the internet server, or any of those things. You are given your website details, certain online tools for editing the blog, and you are ready to go. Self-service CMS (such as WordPress) require a little more work. The first step involves getting a web hosting account that will support your blogging software’s specifications.
You can get this from your current Internet Service Provider, or find another one that will meet these requirements. For newbies, it is always advisable to start with a good shared hosting account. Most shared hosting accounts are cheap, relatively easy to maintain, and compatible with most new sites. Here are a few guidelines on how to choose a reliable web hosting company for your blog.
- Server Reliability
Before you click that “buy” button, ensure that the web host operates 24/7 on a powerful server and stable network connections. The recommended uptime score is at least 99.5 percent – do not accept anything below 99 percent. This information can be obtained from several websites online, or you can just track your web host using server monitor tools.
- Server Upgrading Options
A reliable shared hosting account should be able to support a properly optimized WordPress blog with 30,000 to 40,000 unique visitors on a monthly basis. As long as your concurrent database connections do not exceed 20, you should be fine with a shared host. On the other hand, if you are expecting a significant growth on your blog in the next couple of years, choose a web host with enough room for expanding. In this case, growth refers to upgrading to a dedicated or virtual server for more disk storage, memory capacity, processing power, better security features.
- Multiple Add-on Domains
Domains are very affordable, and most people with web hosting accounts tend to own at least 5 domains. To accommodate these domains, you need extra hosting space. As such, it is important to go for a web hosting account that supports adding multiple domains. Today, most budget shared hosting companies have an allowance of at least twenty five domains in a single account.
- Hosting Signup and Renewal Cost
Once you start shopping for a web hosting account, you’ll find that some companies have very cheap sign-up prices – but tend to charge too much on renewals. To avoid any nasty surprises, be sure to check the company’s TOS to determine whether their renewal prices are reasonable enough before signing up.
- Refund Policy
Does the hosting company offer a full refund in case you decide to cancel your subscription? Do they charge a cancellation fee or what is their general refund policy? While you may not be planning to delete your account with the hosting company in the near future, it is important to know whether they offer customer refunds in case anything goes wrong. Avoid companies that charge unreasonably high cancellation charges when users cancel their accounts during the trial period, and go for those that offer anytime money back guarantees instead.
- Basic Hosting Features
A good web hosting company should offer basic features such as SSI, .htaccess, Auto Script Installer, and Cron Jobs. Cron is handy for day-to-day operations, SSI (Server Side Include) for easier maintenance, .htaccess for page redirects/security/etc purposes, and Auto Script Installer for easy web apps installations and updates. Do not sign up with any hosting provider that does not offer these features, unless you want a specialty web host such as Pressidium or WP Engine. Disc space and data transfers are not particularly important, as virtually all shared hosting companies offer “unlimited” storage and data transfers these days.
- e-Commerce Features
This will depend on whether you want to transform your blog into an e-commerce website, or need to process any business transactions on your site. In this case, you will need to find a web hosting provider with an acceptable number of e-commerce features. Some of the most essential features you will need include one-click shopping cart software installation, dedicated IP, and SSL certification.
- An Easy-to-use Hosting Control Panel
Lastly, you will need a functional and user-friendly hosting control panel. An adequate control panel will help you manage your blog or website without relying too much on the tech support stuff. Some of the most recommended shared web hosts available include BlueHost, FatCow, A2 Hosting, JustHost, InMotion, iPage, GreenGeeks, SiteGround, PowWeb, and Media Temple and Awoofhost if you are in Nigeria.