The problem with WordPress hosting (or hosting in general) may be there are just too many options to chose from. Sometimes I wish there were just two to three web hosting companies, not 500 million. OK, there probably aren’t 500 million web hosts out there. But there are MANY and as with any service, there are great hosts and lousy hosts.
First let’s look at types of hosting.
Free Hosting: While free is always appealing, please avoid free hosting. It’s almost always supported by ads – ads that you have little to no control over. You can get good shared hosting for less than $7 per month. You don’t need free hosting.
Shared Hosting: This is just what it sounds like. You share server space with other users. I don’t know the stats, but it’s a safe assumption that the vast majority of real estate blogs are on shared hosting. It’s cheap (free to $20/month) and the hosting company takes care of the heavy lifting on the server side. Things like setup, required scripting languages, applications, control panels, etc.
Dedicated Hosting: This is where you have a single server dedicated to you. Since the costs are incurred by you alone, dedicated hosting is significantly more expensive than shared hosting. It can run several hundred dollars a month (or more). Dedicated hosting provides the most control, but also requires you to install everything yourself and you are responsible for security and maintenance. “Managed Dedicated Hosting” is available where the host will take care of setup, security, installations and maintenance. Expect to pay high dollars for this level of service.
Virtual Private (or Dedicated) Server (VPS/VDS): This is sort of a combination of shared and dedicated hosting (and as such the pricing falls between the two). In a nutshell you get a segment of a server for your site (hosting techno-geeks don’t go throwing down on me for over-simplifying things here.)
Cloud Based Hosting: This is “decentralized” hosting. Sites are split across multiple servers in multiple locations. Since your site isn’t sitting on one hard drive somewhere, cloud hosting tends to provide better uptime. When one piece of hardware goes do the site can be shifted to other hardware. This can also help with traffic spikes as the traffic load is “balanced” across multiple platforms. Ditto for page loading speed. It is also possible to use cloud hosting on an “as needed” basis – where you pay for only the bandwidth you use. Prices for cloud based hosting vary depending on the services you have.
Managed Hosting: Somewhat new on the scene, managed hosting can be shared, dedicated, virtual or cloud based. With managed hosting, a provider manages everything for you – all the way down to installing and updating WordPress and plugins. Users are typically granted limited access to the server itself – enough to run their applications, but not enough to break the server. The blog you’re reading right now is running on managed hosting. Costs vary wildly, but dedicated WordPress managed hosting is quite affordable – and removes a lot of the headaches involved with maintaining a WordPress site.
There are other types of hosting such as Grid / Node, clustered and co-location. It gets technical fast. For the purposes of hosting a WordPress real estate blog, the types mentioned above cover the vast majority of what’s needed.
Where to Host?
As previously mentioned, there are hundreds of hosting companies are out there. Add in hosting resellers, and that number swiftly climbs into the tens of thousands. So how do you pick a web host?
Do your research. You can read reviews of hosting providers all across the web. One caveat – you WILL run across negative reviews of ANY host. Trust me, someone out there hates their host and isn’t afraid to say so. But if you find a host where the positive reviews far outweigh the negative, you may have yourself a winner.
Hosting companies that I’ve heard good things about from people I trust include DreamHost, BlueHost, and Hostgator. This blog is running on Page.ly managed hosting , and I LOVE it. I’m not afraid to upgrade WordPress and plugins, but that doesn’t stop me from liking the fact that Page.ly does it all for me. If you’re looking to install WordPress and keep it updated with the least amount of hassle, Page.ly is a fantastic solution. If you are looking for managed hosting that includes building a semi-custom WordPress site, look into Virtual Results. They’ll build and host a site and include a home search, Altos Research statistics and more. Finally, if you are looking for a fully custom real estate blog based on WordPress, take a peak at HaMedia. They do very good work.
My primary blog, Phoenix Real Estate Guy, is hosted with Rackspace Cloud hosting. This is probably more hosting horsepower than most people need, but uptime is stellar and support is second to none.
I have used GoDaddy hosting in the past and can not recommend it. I was plagued with downtime as my traffic levels increased, and support, while there 24/7 almost always blamed WordPress on issues I had – it was NEVER their fault. Funny though, as soon as I switched off of GoDaddy those “WordPress issues” disappeared. To be completely fair to GoDaddy though, that was several years ago and their hosting products have changed significantly since then. But the buzz on the interwebs isn’t all that great for GoDaddy hosting. I’ve also hosted at MediaTemple and liked them until they ran into issues with uptime. I still host some minor sites there and uptime seems much better.
You can switch hosts if you find the one you select isn’t up to par, but trust me, switching hosts is a royal pain in the ass, especially if your site has a lot of content. It’s doable though, and necessary sometimes. I’m sure there are people out there that will switch a site over to a new host for a fee, and that would be worth exploring. Some hosts claim they will do this, though I have no direct experience with that.
One of the best ways to get info about a potential host is to ask your friends, or ask people whose sites you like that seem to preform well (with regard to page load speeds) who they host with.
Research, pick one and go with it. Just keep this in mind – the greatest host in the known universe won’t be of any help if you don’t generate the content, provide the goods, and get those goods noticed through appropriate calls to action.
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