Hosting is the invisible infrastructure that makes a website work. It’s not the first thing we see, but it determines if we see anything at all.
Since launching iThemes Hosting, our WordPress hosting solution, we wanted to talk to some WordPress experts about the ins and outs of hosting.
“Shared hosting can be like living in a dorm, and ya’ll smell the neighbors sometimes.” -Kim White
We talked with Kim about hosting analogies, clients who cling to bad hosting, and juggling the cost of hosting.
What do you recommend when people ask you about hosting?
I can get pretty worked up about the “What host do you recommend?” question that gets asked at most every meetup.
My number one answer is not what people want to hear: “It depends.” Everyone has different needs and pain points. What I might recommend to one person I might never consider for another.
I try to put it into real-world words. I’ve been working on a “home buying” analogy, which works about 90% of the time when I talk to people.
Really it’s just my personal experience: When I bought a house it was great, but after living in it for a while I realized I didn’t like shoveling the corner lot. Also, not everybody likes the same things. Some like a condo association to take care of everything, while others like doing lawn work.
People need to evaluate their needs, and sometimes you don’t know what you need until you’ve used a host for a bit. And then it’s OK to move.
Shared hosting can be like living in a dorm, and ya’ll smell the neighbors sometimes.
Stuff like that. It’s not a fully formed theory.
Do you have a hosting horror story?
My horror stories are usually similar because they involve clients bringing hosting to a project and not being open to any change.
The worst was a client who gave us the hosting to work with after development was complete. For starters, it was a Windows machine, and when we finally got that changed to a Unix server, I spent over five hours on the phone with tech support just to get the bare bones of what we needed to run WordPress on their $10 per month service.
In the end, the client paid over $500 to make cheap hosting “work” with their site needs.
What’s the most important factor in choosing a hosting company?
The most important factors for choosing hosting depend quite often on the type of website it is. I don’t have any problem with most small hosting plans when I am building a “brochureware” type site. There is little interaction, and it’s mostly a place to have the client’s contact information. But once you start talking about any working parts, people filling out a form, viewing gallery images, calendars, etc., the hosting should be able to keep up with the activity.
The other thing is how techy you are. If you are taking care of a website, and you run your own business, say a jewelry store owner, do you really want to learn about security, backups, or updating WordPress? Think about the math on that: $10 hosting, $10 backup plan, $20 malware protections—and the time to make sure I’m taking care of things or $35 a month for managed hosting that takes care of the three above—and now you can take care of your business.
However, some people love doing the tech stuff so it’s not a loss for them to take on that responsibility.
How do you convince people of the importance of investing in hosting?
A few years ago a fellow developer said, “Would you pay only $5 a month for your phone? So why do you want to get cheap hosting?” Now more than ever the internet is where customers are going to interact with us. Investing in quality hosting that gives you peace of mind that it’s working when you’re not is worth the investment.