What do you really need from your WordPress website hosting company?
Many people say “cheap hosting” in response to this question, but if you are in the market for web hosting, you need to think about what you really need from your hosting company. These are my top 10 questions to ask your WordPress web host before you sign up.
There are plenty of cheap web hosting companies out there, but in order to offer such low prices, they generally offer a no-frills service which can work out more expensive in the long run. If the company you are looking at offers cheap prices, ask them what they don’t offer that other hosts do. Obviously, cost needs to be a consideration, but what you are really looking for is value for money. So what other factors should you be considering?
If you have invested money in a website, you want it to be available to customers at all times. So the server (i.e. the place where your website sits) needs to be as reliable as possible. Cheap infrastructure, poorly maintained servers and poor disaster recovery procedures all lead to potential downtime. Ask your hosting company how reliable their servers are and what sort of downtime they experience. Whilst you’re at it, ask them if they monitor your website to ensure it’s available to visitors at all times. Ideally, if you contact them with a problem, they should already know about it.
There’s often a trade-off between performance and price. Be aware of this when considering cheap hosting. Customers will not wait ages for your site to load – they will go elsewhere. Ask your hosting company what they do to monitor the speed of your website, and whether they take any action if it slows down. Also, can they advise you on what to do to speed it up if needs be?
Should the worst happen and your website goes down, you need a hosting company that will get you back up and running as quickly as possible. You want them to fix the problem quickly, and to keep you informed if the problem lasts longer than expected. Ask your hosting company what their average response time is for support queries. Search for them in Google and see if they have a generally good reputation for service. My top tip here is to Google the company name followed by the word “nightmare” and see what comes up.
The best hosting companies put in a lot of effort to make sure that your website and server are kept up to date with the latest software, plugins and security patches. If your website is not updated in this way, it will be vulnerable to be hacked and will eventually stop working. Ask your web host what they do to keep your website and the server up to date. Do they update WordPress and plugins for you? Do they run regular security checks on your site?
Should anything happen to your website, you want a company that will be able to recover your website quickly. Check that your website host takes regular backups of your website (NB both the files and the database should be backed up). Whilst you’re at it, ask if they will restore it for free or whether they will charge you an additional fee.
Can you speak to a real person if you need to? Or can you only contact your hosting company via their website? That means you can’t contact them at all if their website is down. Ask them when they are available for support, and how they can be reached.
Can your hosting company help you with other things, or will they just say “it’s not our problem mate”? If your technical knowledge is limited, it would be helpful if your web host was at least able to point you in the right direction if you had a query about, say, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), or how to install a WordPress plugin, or how to update your website content.
Finding a web host can be a bit of a minefield, and there’s a lot of jargon involved in web hosting. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are entitled to know whether you are getting your own server space or whether it is shared with other websites. Too many other websites (or the wrong kind of websites), and your site’s performance and reputation could be affected. You are entitled to know how much server space you are allowed, what your bandwidth will be and whether the server has enough oomph to support your site. Ask whether you will have to pay extra for anything, like if the number of visitors to your site goes above a certain level, or for a MySQL database (you will need one of these if you have a WordPress website). It’s better to ask these questions upfront and if a hosting company does not answer them in a straightforward and patient way (and in a way you can understand), then look elsewhere.
If you are thinking of switching hosts, many hosting companies will help you with this. However, check first to make sure that they offer migration support. Perhaps a more revealing question is whether they will help you migrate to a different host if you are not happy with them or decide to go elsewhere.
The killer question
Finally, I suggest asking your hosting company “what makes you the best choice?” This will give them a chance to tell you what makes them different and sell themselves to you. Ultimately, if you feel that you are dealing with professional, ethical, straightforward people then you have a much better chance of being happy with your hosting company.
Outerbridge offers a range of fully managed hosting and website support packages for WordPress websites.