We get asked all the time for recommendations on web hosting companies. The questions often come from frustrated business owners that ended up in GoDaddy’s marketing funnel or bedazzled by some half-baked hosting service. Switching web hosting companies can seem like a daunting task, but it’s not that hard. In fact, good hosting companies will transfer your websites for free if you sign up with them.
But do you need to change? Let’s look at the telltale signs and see what options are available to you as a website owner. If you’re looking for quick answers to typical questions about moving web hosts, skip to the FAQ at the end.
Why and How to Switch Web Hosting Providers
Web hosting is big business. Even if you use a free website provider like Weebly or Wix – not recommended if you have a real business but acceptable if you don’t mind languishing on page 8 of Google’s search results – you get a type of website hosting through their system.
But let’s say you have a serious business idea or you have an established local business running on hosting that you signed up for years ago. Do you know how much your hosting provider can affect your business? At the risk of sounding sensationalist, did you know that you could be losing money and clients because of your hosting provider?
These are not ‘scare tactics'. The fact is that building a house on shaky ground will not help the long-term goal of your home. Building a website on slow and inferior web hosting platforms will only make Google less interested in sending you traffic.
Even your advertising with Google Ads (ex-Adwords) can be affected by slow performing landing pages.
According to Google: Your ads may show less often (or not at all) if they point to websites that offer a poor user experience.
What Google is saying is that if your site is slow, expect to pay more for ads. Or worse, expect your ads not to show.
So how do you know if you need a web hosting upgrade?
Check the Speed of Your Website
Several tools can perform this task for free so I’d recommend getting some different opinions.
GTmetrix is a great free tool that lets you see what components of your website are slowing it down. Every website can be improved so start here to get an idea.
Next up is Google’s Pagespeed Tools.
The important thing to remember is that Google uses website speed as a ranking factor. How much this factor weighs in the Google’s perception of individual websites is unknown. But we know from testing and case studies, that speeding up a site can improve rankings. And higher rankings lead to more customers, which leads to more revenue.
Improved website speed = increased revenue. It’s a no-brainer.
What to Look for When Moving Web Host
#1 Customer Support
In Ireland, where Fat Frog Media's marketing agency was born, web hosting offers are not quite brimming with features and monthly costs can be expensive. Add to this the fact that customer support lines are often staffed between 9 and 5. Web servers don’t wait until the ‘normal’ workday to have problems. If your website goes down at 7 am, who are you going to call?
Choose a hosting provider company that offers web chat, phone, and email support 24 hours a day. If you have a real business, you need real support.
#2 Better Value
As server space and RAM gets cheaper, so does the cost of hosting. It's worth reevaluating your provider every year to see if there are better value options.
Don’t pick the cheapest hosting package but make sure you get the best value.
It’s easy to find web hosting solutions for as little as $1 a day. And some companies charge $40-50 a month for basic services. Have a clear idea of the website or websites you want to create and by a package that suits your needs.
A ballpark figure is $10-30 a month for good multi-site WordPress cloud hosting with free SSL layers and email.
#3 Free Website Transfer
If you already have a website, find a hosting service company that makes moving hosting packages easy. Will they transfer and set up your site for free or do they ask for a fee? Free transfers should be the norm. Companies want your business and you’re about to spend money on a year’s hosting so they should make it easy for you.
If they don’t offer at least one free website transfer, look elsewhere.
#4 Website Speed
There’s little point in moving hosts if you don't get good speed gains. Check out the full details of the hosting package and look for the number of server processors (more is better), RAM (higher is better), the allocated Bandwith, and the server location.
Look around the web for honest reviews and try to find out if people complain or love the speed of their websites on a particular hosting platform.
The physical location of the servers is important. There is some debate over whether the geographical location of a web server affects the SEO. It makes little sense to run your website on servers in the UK if your business is in New Zealand. Pick a datacenter that is reasonably close to your target location.
Target location = where your customers live or frequent. Not necessarily where your business is based.
Most websites get pounded with packets of data from cyber hackers every day. You might think your website is not worth too much trouble but for a hacker, automating the attacks is easy. Hackers scan millions of websites every day and try different ways of breaking into a vulnerable system. If you get targeted, make sure the hosting company you choose uses the best security available. To be extra sure, use a tool like WebArx Security.
#5 Ease of Use
From our work with clients all over the world, we’ve used plenty of different hosting companies. And one thing is for sure, the pushier and gimmick-laden the provider, the more difficult it is to manage your domain and hosting.
Most companies these days use the cPanel Control Panel software for managing hosting. It’s a relatively intuitive toolset that allows you to create domains and email accounts. Some companies use modified versions of Control Panels. Others use outdated versions of the platform. And more still offer obscure management platforms to their customers.
Don’t make your life difficult. Wasting time on the administrative tasks of owning an online business takes you away from the more important tasks, like making money. Companies that offer easy-to-use website admin panels are ones for the shortlist.
Stay away from sites that offer one-click this and one-click that. Read the online reviews and look for negative feedback about usability. Avoid companies that hide important features and tools behind advertising and buttons that force you to refuse a product you didn’t even want. The worst of all providers in this area is GoDaddy, and that leads me on to the next point.
#7 Spam, Upsells, And Annoying Offers
I’m not talking about spam and offers from external websites. I’m referring to the GoDaddy style upsell tactics and annoying email blasts used by similar providers. It’s hard to do anything in this hosting company’s Control Panel (where you administer your websites) without having products or services you don’t need or want forced upon you.
It's also difficult to bypass the spammy advertising for GoDaddy's products and easy to order something unwanted.
GoDaddy appears to have the biggest marketing department in the hosting space so it’s hard to get away from them. People associate “best web hosting” with the company for the same reason they associate “best cola” with Coke. The ads are so pervasive that we believe the service's hype because we hear about it so often.
Avoid companies that appear to pushy and try to upsell you at every step.
Which Hosting Provider?
Our recommendations for best web hosting service providers are:
SiteGround was our favourite for a long time and I still believe it offers the best customer service. However,
FastComet has taken over as our favourite for a couple of reasons.
- The price you pay in the first year is the price you'll pay in the second year. SiteGround’s hosting costs increase after year one.
- SiteGround’s help files and documentation are some of the worst on the Internet. It’s still amazing to us that for a company that has grown so fast it can't allocate resources to improving the documentation. FastComet does a much better job.
Both companies offer free SSL layers, free website transfers, a free domain name, and free 24/7 customer support.
If I transfer web hosting can I keep the same domain name?
Yes, but make sure you understand the difference between domain registrars and website hosts. Many hosting services also provide this service but many people register domain names through a domain registrar company like Namecheap or GoDaddy but host their websites on another platform.
If you registered your domain with Namecheap, for example, but you move your hosting from WPEngine to SiteGround, you must update the DNS records on Namecheap to point to SiteGround. It’s a simple job to do and shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. But you might have to wait 24 hours for the changes to propagate around the Internet. In our experience, it never takes this long.
Can I use the same company for web, domain and email hosting?
Yes, you can. Almost all good web hosting sites offer domain and email as one package. Many offer web registration too. Keeping everything in one place has the advantage of simplifying administration.
How easy is it to move a WordPress site to a new host?
If you use the hosting providers mentioned above and you’re a new customer, they will transfer all of your WordPress sites for free. That saves you a lot of hassle. These days, it’s not too difficult to perform WordPress migrations. It’s best to let the hosting support team take care of the move.
I don’t know who hosts my website and I don’t know where I registered the domain. What can I do?
Go to Who Is Hosting This to find out where the website lives and Whois Domain Tools to see where you bought your domain.
What type of hosting service do I need?
Shared WordPress Cloud Hosting services should be sufficient for most small businesses, blogs, and e-commerce stores. There's no need to go for blazing fast servers if you have a blog with a few thousand visits a month.
Use Google Analytics to find out how many visitors you get per month to your website? Check against the features of the service. FastComet's StartRight package is limited to 25,000 visits a month. This is plenty for small sites but if you plan to host a few websites then you might need a higher plan like ScaleRight. With ScaleRight you get up to 50,000 visits a month, 25GB storage, and a beefier server (3GB of RAM and a 4-core processor). You also get free SSL layers, a very important feature that every website in 2018 should have.
Most companies will let you upgrade the plan instantly so there's no need to buy too much capacity.