Hosting for blogs is the foundation for your site and finding a reliable hosting company that minimizes the down time for your blog and optimizes performance is critical to your long term success. Fortunately the internet is full of hosting companies.
There are literally thousands of hosting companies to choose from all with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The problem is many of these companies are what most consider “fly by night” companies, meaning they aren’t long term. They’re here for a few months then gone. On the other end of the spectrum are companies that have made the cut and proven themselves to provide affordable and reliable service. These are the companies you want to work with. Sifting through all the various companies is daunting and you’ll need some guidance.
Why do you need hosting for blogs?
There is a bit of debate on the internet about whether or not blogs should be “self hosted” or be hosted on services such as blogger.com. I definitely have a perspective on this and you can read more about making this decision in my article on Blogger vs WordPress. For this article, I’ll assume you’ve decided to self host.
Hosting services are provided by hosting companies. These companies provide servers where you’re site will be maintained and housed. Servers are similar to your desktop or laptop computers but have more advanced hardware and software designed for reliability, performance, and the ability to handle lots of load (aka traffic). There are 3 basic types of hosting services:
- Shared hosting
- VPS Hosting
- Dedicated Hosting
Shared hosting places multiple websites or blogs on one server. Often hosting companies will place several hundred websites on one large server. The advantages of shared hosting are:
- Low cost – Plans can often be found for as little as $6/month
- Servers are fully managed by the hosting company – What this means is all you have to do is manage your website. Your hosting company will take care of the rest.
The disadvantages are:
- Performance – Since so many sites are on one server, performance is not always optimal and in some cases a poor performing site or a site that’s getting a boat load of traffic can significantly degrade the performance of your site.
- Flexibility – Given that many websites run on one server, hosting companies restrict the changes you can make to your specific hosting plan and website. This is done to minimize the risk to other websites.
This gets a bit complicated, but with VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting, there is one physical server, but many different logical servers running. It’s similar to shared hosting, but each website appears to have it’s own dedicated hardware. Using sophisticated software, hosting websites can be configured so that they are completely independent of each other, yet still share the same hardware. This means that if one site is getting too much traffic or has a critical error, your site isn’t impacted.
VPS is the most popular option for most websites and blogs. VPS hosting is more costly, but in my opinion the benefits fully justify the cost. VPS hosting is a great median between shared hosting and dedicated hosting.
Some of the advantages include:
- Better performance – While not to the level of dedicated servers, VPS servers offer outstanding performance for the money. Additionally, higher levels of performance can also be obtained by a small increase in your monthly fee.
- Better flexibility – Since VPS hosting offers more protection, hosting companies give you far more flexibility for configuring your website.
- The ability to reboot – Since your VPS website is independent of other websites on the same box, VPS provides the ability to reboot or restart your server. While you won’t need to do this often, it does come in very handy when your server is running unexpectedly slow or some recent software you’ve installed isn’t working correctly.
- Higher Cost – Generally VPS plans start at $30/month
- Some technical knowledge required – Most hosting companies don’t fully manage VPS servers. This means that you’ll have to manage some aspects of your server and thus you’ll need some knowledge of the operating system to be able to fully utilize the capabilities of your VPS server. In most cases the hosting companies will help you out here, they just won’t generally do the work for you.
Dedicated hosting is the elite in hosting options and thus also the most expensive. Dedicated hosting gives you your own physical server and generally full capability to do whatever you want with that server. Advantages with dedicated hosting include:
- Best performance – Since your server is only running your websites, performance is optimal. You aren’t sharing hardware with anyone else, the server is all yours.
- Most flexibility – Again, since the server is dedicated to you, what you do with the server is really up to you. There are very few restrictions on what hosting companies will allow you to do or run on your dedicated server.
- High cost – Dedicated server plans start around $150 and go upwards depending on the options and level of service you receive.
- Technical knowledge required – Most dedicated hosting plans don’t include management by the hosting company, at least by default. This can be added, but additionally increases the monthly cost of your hosting package. Even with fully managed dedicated servers, you’ll need a decent amount of technical knowledge.
- Overkill? – Depending on your needs, dedicated servers are often overkill for just a single blog or even 10 – 20 blogs. Dedicated hosting becomes critical if you blog receives a tremendous amount of traffic or if you are running a very large number of websites or blogs on your server.
What type of plan is right?
As usual, the answer is it depends. For new blogs, I recommend starting out with a shared plan. It will suffice just fine for the first year or two. At some point you’ll begin to notice reliability and service issues that will drive you to upgrade to a VPS plan. For many of you (including me), a dedicated server just won’t be necessary. This is especially true given the fast performance provided by most current VPS offerings.
In nutshell, start with the basics and upgrade as you have the money and need. Fortunately hosting companies make the upgrade process very easy and it many cases will handle it for you at no additional charge.
Hosting for blogs – Which hosting company to use?
There isn’t a right or wrong answer here and the answers you receive when asking this question will vary by who is answering. I host all of my sites (including this one) with A Small Orange. I’ve been incredibly happy with them. They aren’t the cheapest, but offer one thing that is worth the extra money: 24×7 support.
For many of you though, especially those just start out, the cost will be a little high. I didn’t start out with a hosting plan that expensive either. I started off with a starter plan and moved up once my traffic became high enough that I started seeing performance issues. If that’s the case and you prefer to start off with someone a little less costly, I’d recommend the following based on my personal experiences and feedback from my clients (shown in the order I recommend them):
Now that we’ve covered hosting for blogs and signed up for a hosting plan, we need to update your name servers so visitors accessing your domain name can see your blog.