You can’t just jump in feet first when it comes to creating your website. It pains me to say that, being a feet-first-jumper any time “creating” is involved, but it is true. There are steps that must be taken and pieces that must be in place before you begin building your web presence, primarily getting your hosting account in order.
Your website needs a place to live, y’all! Essentially, that’s all hosting is — a place for your “website” to call home. (Website is in quotes because it’s more about the files used to create your website, but that’s a technical rabbit hole even Alice doesn’t want to go down.)
Arranging your hosting service is a lot like renting an apartment, and there is just as much to consider. How much space will you need, and how much is available? What amenities are offered? What are you allowed to do once your name is on the lease? Is there a penalty for backing out early? What is the property management team like? When are they available, and how do you get in touch with them when needed? Let’s take it one question at a time.
How much storage space are you getting for your money? Depending on what you’re willing to spend, this can range anywhere from a few gigabytes of storage space to bytes upon terabytes. If you’re just launching your website, you probably won’t need much in the way of GBs, and the packages offered by most hosting companies will be more than enough.
Space also refers to bandwidth, or how much traffic your site can handle at a time. We all want our sites and blogs to be heavily trafficked, but if you don’t have adequate bandwidth, that heavy traffic flow is going to result in a lot of site crashes, downtime, and lost customers.
Every web host has the same general amenities to offer, just like apartment complexes offer the same basic perks. Email addresses and inboxes associated with your website; a certain level of customer service; again, bandwidth and storage space. And, just like anything else, the more you’re willing to pay, the more and better amenities available to you. For example, help building your website, or even someone to completely craft it for you. Extra security features, and other bells and whistles. It’s up to you to determine if those bells and whistles are deal-breakers, but, in many cases, they’re superfluous, and other solutions can be found.
Unlike renting an apartment, web hosts aren’t too picky about what you do with your website once you pay. Just take a look at all the “questionable material” available on the Internet if you don’t believe me. As long as you don’t violate the host’s Terms of Service, they are unlikely to penalize you for a few holes in the walls.
This is another area where hosting bests apartment rentals. And cell phone contracts, for that matter. They aren’t going to penalize you if you decide you want to end your relationship before the renewal date. But, just because they don’t penalize you doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with consequences.
Generally speaking, website hosting is set up for a term of one year. Most hosts require that you pay for the year upfront when you sign up, and each time you renew. (You’ll also often get a discount if you pay for the entire year, rather than month-by-month.) But, if you cancel your hosting service before the year is up, there is no guarantee you’ll get a refund on the remaining balance. Rather, the host will just leave your site up until it expires. It’s important to know your dates of renewal and whether or not your account is set to renew automatically. If you’re in a situation where you’re thinking of switching hosts, change from auto renew to manual. Your host will let you know when your account is about to expire and your site is about to go *poof*.
Or, more appropriately, customer service. If you’re not big on techy stuff, or you just like to have someone available to answer pesky questions, you need a host with reliable customer service. Preferably with a 24-hour live chat feature, since there’s no telling when inspiration and free time will strike. Plus, a chat feature means archived convos, which means you’ll know exactly what was said, by whom, when. And, a live chat often means you can get the down-low on a company’s customer service before you ever sign up or begin building your website. The second-best way to know about a company’s customer service? Duh. Ask other customers.
A host isn’t the only thing you need before you start building your website. But choosing the right one can be a decision that takes time. Do your research and ask around. My personal recommendation is SiteGround, for reasons discussed in other posts, but there are so many choices available. Don’t be sucked in by the one with the best advertising, or the one whose name you hear everywhere. If you need advice, find people who know what they’re talking about, and get on with building your website!