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May 28 2021

What is Web Hosting and Maintenance?

Web hosting isn’t exactly the most inspiring aspect of WordPress web design, but it’s an important one for you to know a little about. Even the best websites can deliver a sub-par user experience if they aren’t housed on the right web host!

You don’t have to know everything about it, but having a basic understanding will help you make the right choice!

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting is a bit like renting an apartment. Once your website is ready to be born, it needs a place to live on the web, and it needs an address where folks can easily find it.

By paying for a web host, you’re renting space for your website on a server that’s online 24/7. That means it’s ready to serve up your website whenever someone asks for it.

How Do I Choose A Good Web Host?

There are a few big considerations when you’re deciding on web hosting:

Speed and Reliability. It may seem like a no-brainer, but the web host you choose should be fast and reliable! That means it should load your website quickly, and it should very rarely have downtime–even when a lot of people are visiting. Some low-cost web hosting plans will have tight limits on traffic, because they hope you’ll upgrade to a more expensive plan.

Customer Support. If your website does go down for some reason, your web host could be the reason. If your web host simply tries to sell you an upgrade every time something goes wrong, however, they may not have your best interests in mind.  When you contact their customer support team, do you get prompt responses? Do they offer you useful, easy-to-understand details? Do they actually resolve the problem?

Control Over Your Website. Some web hosting companies will insist you get all of your services through them, or they’ll make you pay additional fees for add-ons that are free elsewhere. Do they require you to buy your domain name through them? Do they require you to use their page builder, or pay for extra email addresses? If there are a lot of restrictions on what you can do, chances are there are hidden fees waiting in the wings.

Shopping Your Values. The tech industry has a history of being, well, pretty problematic. Web hosts are no exception, so you may want to keep an eye on what they’re putting out there (anybody remember GoDaddy’s cringe-y Super Bowl ad? CW: gross kissing audio) to see if they reflect values that you’re comfortable with.

Why Does Website Maintenance Matter?

Every website needs a bit of regular maintenance, such as software and plugin updates, to make sure it stays up-to-date and secure. Maintenance plans can vary wildly from one provider to the next, however, and your web host may or may not offer the right service at a reasonable cost. Before you dive in with the first option that seems easy, consider this:

Don’t get scared into overpaying. Unless something in your website gets seriously broken, it should not cost you $800/month just to keep your plugins updated. Some website companies will intimidate you with tech jargon to sell you an expensive package, but hold steady and make sure to do a little research before you commit.

…But don’t skip out, either. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s tempting to skip a maintenance plan altogether, especially if you’re a newer business on a tight budget. The trouble is, ignoring maintenance could easily lead to security vulnerabilities (leaving you open to hacking!) or cause issues with how your website looks and functions–especially if your website uses a lot of plugins.

Using WordPress? Look for managed hosting. If your website is built in WordPress, managed WordPress hosting is the way to go. It’ll cost a bit more per month than standard hosting, but the web host will also install software updates for you, so you’ll always be up-to-date.

Hopefully, you’re now more confident about finding the right home for your website, but if you’re still feeling nervous, you can always ask your web designer for recommendations. They may even have a hosting partner they can set you up with, like we do! That means one less thing for you to worry about, which I’ll wager sounds like a sweet deal to most any business owner.

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