Updated August 20, 2013.
Why should I pay for hosting? Are there free options?
Professionalism goes a long way when you have a website. You have (at most) 3 seconds to make an impression.
This rationale echoes the same ideas for why you should buy a domain instead of using a free one.
You have three major benefits from hosting your own website: It’s more professional, you own your data, and it’s scalable (if you want more speed, you’ll be able to buy it).
Yes, there are free options (wordpress.com, blogspot.com, etc.) and some people are able to make it work. However, for the most control and greatest number of options as your site grows, you’ll want to host it yourself.
Read more about why I suggest setting up your website this way.
How much does it cost?
There are literally thousands of hosting options. This is why things get tricky.
In short, I have two suggestions. I won’t spout theory, but I’d suggest there are only two real considerations when signing up for a host:
1) You are starting or moving a site and need something basic and affordable; or
2) Your site has grown and you need a host that supports it OR you want the hands off approach so you can focus on your craft and not your host.
So, I’ve given you the two best options I think fulfill the large majority of concerns.
Basic :: Bluehost
Bluehost is a great value host.
If you are just starting your site or don’t have major traffic spurts, this host will get you off the ground. I’ve recommended this site to a number of friends that have sites they want hosted, but don’t really expect to grow into online businesses or huge traffic sites. I’ve also recommended it to friends that want to start out as cheaply as possible, but have the flexibility to grow when the time comes.
Pros: Extremely affordable. Also gives you free domain registration for a single domain.
Cons: There will always be one issue with all value hosts – when you start getting traffic, your site will struggle to keep up. Although you can do some things to help your site speed, at some point you will have to upgrade to another host.
Conclusion: Again, if you don’t have much traffic or you’re just starting, bluehost helps you get the job done. However, as soon as your site starts to grow (let’s say 500-1000 hits a day), it’s time to move.
Plan details: $4.95 if you pay 36 months in advance, $5.95 if you pay 24 months in advance, $6.95 if you pay 12 months in advance. Has an “anytime money back guarantee,” which is really nice.
I’d recommend bluehost if staying within budget is your biggest concern. I’ve used it on some of my starter sites and moved them when they grew. It’s a great service for value.
It’s also much more preferable to a free host. When your site grows, you’ll be able to move your site to another host since your are self hosting, but you won’t need as much upfront expense. Moving is a bit difficult, but understandable if you need to start on the cheap.
More relevant Resources:
Top Tier :: WP Engine
What’s that mean? WP Engine has focused all of their efforts into running really great wordpress sites. Really, they’re quite phenomenal at it. Since I’d unswervingly recommend wordpress for any food blogger, this is a very nice option.
The catch? It’s $29/month.
Why should you pay for it? I understand it might be out of the price range of many potential bloggers. However, let me reassure you by suggesting this is the service we use here at Minimalist Baker.
So, I feel it might be easier to explain why we are using WP Engine. In short, by giving all the worries of site updates, optimal server configurations, and regular backups to another service, it gave us MUCH more time. That’s time we invest in creating value on the site and finding new ways to develop what we are doing.
We want to focus on food blogging, not running a server. And that’s why we chose WP Engine.
Pros: Extremely fast. You don’t worry about daily backups. Everything is automated and you have the peace of mind that security isn’t an issue. They have a support ticket system that responds quickly. Not only that, since they are a wordpress host, you can ask them more specific questions (i.e., “Why isn’t my wordpress site displaying correctly?”) as compared to just asking why your server isn’t working.
Another big issue: Scaling is a snap. When you’re site grows, WP Engine is ready.
Cons: Cost. You still have to submit service requests and wait for someone to reply. Even though they are usually much more efficient than you fixing the issue yourself, you still have to wait.
Plan details: 60 day money back guarantee and refund options for unused plans. $29/month. Also, prepay a year and get 2 months free, bringing your effective monthly cost down to $24.17.
What would I recommend?
I’ll be short about this.
The real question in choosing a host is this - what do I want to do with my website?
I think WP Engine provides a great service and has a lot to provide. However, I know it’s also hard to justify spending $29/month when you’re just starting your website. If you can afford this, you will definitely see a lot of benefit using a service like this (more time to focus on content, much faster website, ad revenue and higher conversion rates, etc.).
Otherwise, I’d fully recommend using bluehost.
(Note, it’s also usually best to choose your host first, and then domain registrar second. Bluehost and Dreamhost allow you to register directly on their site and will coordinate all the details to make sure your site shows up correctly. That can be a nice little benefit to using their services.)
Note: Although I still like dreamhost and have recommended them in the past, I’ve been watching the specs come out and there’s little difference between bluehost and dreamhost until you get into different services like WP Engine. So, if you need to go cheap, go bluehost.
Need help setting up your website host?
*WP Engine has their own set of guides
I’m setup, how do I start using wordpress?
Well, let’s make that new site sparkle.