First of all, what does a hosting provider do and which plan is good for you?
When you decide to get your own website, you will usually need to register a domain name – the name you see in the address bar on top of every website (e.g. mine is ‘wp-courses-ireland.com’) – and sign up for a hosting plan. That means you will rent a small space on their server, where they will store your website and make it accessible for all your readers. Hosting services vary, but for now let’s talk about beginners who want to have a small website for personal or business use. You will need to use an FTP programme (File Transfer Protocol) to be able to upload files to the server.
Small hosting plans are usually only a few euro a month, but before you sign up you should know what your application’s requirements are. As we are on this website let’s use WordPress as an example:
- it is strongly recommended to use a Linux hosting plan as opposed to a Windows hosting plan (and no, it’s got nothing to do with your computer or the operating system you’re using!)
- minimum requirements to run a WordPress site are PHP version 4.3
- and MySQL version 4.1.2
Is a cheap hosting provider good enough?
I know that some people say that the host is not important – just get the cheapest suitable package and a good backup. I don’t really agree with that – for me the most important points are reliability, communication and customer service. No web host can offer a 100% guarantee of no downtime – meaning your website is not available to your visitors and you might lose business – that happens to to the biggest sites in the world. However, you should research hosting companies and identify the ones where downtime is minimal and rectified swiftly – read online reviews and forums.
I’m using Blacknight Solutions for my site and must say I’m quite happy with them. A few weeks ago I was working on my site and suddenly had no more access. In their administration panel is a button labelled ‘Network Status’ which brings you straight to their blog and informs you of any server issue and updates. So at least I know what it’s about and that they’re working on it. And by the way, an hour later everything was back to normal again.
But that’s not all, it’s the same for technical support such as application and backup issues or billing queries – if you’re stuck you want a quick reply. I would recommend to check out Blacknight’s forum first, as lots of questions are answered there already. If not, you can contact them on Twitter, Facebook or just drop them an e-mail.
How important is the location of my hosting provider?
It’s one of many important SEO factors (Search Engine Optimising). Your visibility in search results is affected by many different factors and every little counts. Google and the like prefer your website when it’s hosted in your visitors’ country (that’s only important for domains with a generic TLD such as .com, please see comments for more information), so if your readers are Irish you should choose a local host, if your readers are Polish choose a Polish host regardless of your location here in Ireland. And by the way, Blacknight is located in Carlow.
Last but not least, I would check if the hosting plan comes with an e-mail solution and of course read the Terms & Conditions – you should know what you sign up to.
Just to make it clear, I don’t work with or for Blacknight, I’ve just researched the Irish market a bit, decided to go with Blacknight, like their service and now recommend them to my students when they’re looking for web hosting in Ireland. But there are plenty of other good hosts out there, so check around and find one that suits you. If you have any further questions regarding hosting or WordPress, please leave a comment underneath this article.