7 Things to Look For in a Blogging Host Service
When you’re looking for a quality blogging host service, there are some questions you should ask depending your level of expertise.
Over the course of the past 14 years, I’ve learned a bit about choosing the right blogging host service to present your site.
It began, as longtime readers will recall, on America Online’s AOL Journals service. From there, it moved to Blogger, and was hosted on its service.
The problem with those types of services — as I witnessed multiple times — was that a blog whose content received complaints from readers could be wiped in one fell swoop if those hosts felt something was questionable. I saw that on AOL: in one memorable example, a blogger’s entire graphics library was removed over a complaint about a single graphic. The editors did it in a manner they claimed could not be reversed.
That incident helped me make the decision to self-host.
So in March 2007, I moved Patrick’s Place to WordPress and decided to buy this domain.
I didn’t know what I was doing back then, but now at least I have a better idea. Still, one of the first things I look for now was one of the first things I looked for back then.
I recently was forced to change blog hosts because of an incident involving my last one. I made the switch to Fast Comet after reviewing these factors and comparing different companies.
Here’s a short list of qualities I look for to find the blogging host service I think is right for me:
1. 24/7 Tech Support
You’d think, in 2018, that any hosting service would automatically have 24/7 service. People don’t use the internet during banker’s hours, after all. Thanks to smartphones, people are online every hour of every day. That means they’re looking for content and that content has to be there.
If you are hosted by a service that doesn’t have around-the-clock technical support, you’re gambling your site’s stability. I found this out the hard way earlier this month.
The host I’d been perfectly happy with for a few years had been purchased by a bigger service. The old service had a very attentive, fast-responding tech support division. No matter when a crisis occurred, I could count on them to help me sort it out within minutes of my filing a ticket.
But that 24/7 service disappeared without anyone telling us. And one Saturday morning, the hosting service pulled down my site over bandwidth issues, a problem I’d never had with them before. Because it was Saturday morning, they didn’t respond to my urgent plea for help. They clearly expected me to just be satisfied with my site being down for an entire weekend.
Beyond that, unless you’re familiar with all of the “back-end” functions of a website — and I’m not — you’ll want tech support to be able to migrate databases and look for errors and check for malware. The list of problems seems long. If you’re not big on coding, you’ll want a qualified team that will help in a pinch.
Honestly, I was tempted to list price as item number one. I didn’t because I wouldn’t trust a free service if I couldn’t count on tech support 24/7.
But prices vary wildly among services. Hosts charge based on tiers of service and how exclusively your site will be housed on their hardware. Shared service costs less than virtual private networks, which cost less than dedicated servers. There are tiers above that, but the cost is so prohibitive I haven’t bothered to figure out what they are.
For shared service, you can usually find adequate hosting for about $10 per month. If you want something faster, you’re looking at $30-$40 per month. If you’re looking for service that feels like it’s all about you (and only you), well, those prices are far too steep for my budget.
But read the fine print: some “unlimted” services, like bandwidth, aren’t necessarily unlimited. Some services limit the number of monthly visits, something that shocks me. You must ensure you’re paying for what you need, but not being limited by what you buy.
It’s hard to know which sites are hosted on which hosting services. That makes finding speed info a challenge. Fortunatley, you can Google web hosting company reviews and get a good idea of speeds.
Obviously, you want your site to load within a couple of seconds if possible. The slower your site loads, the less patient your potential readers will be. Google may even penalize you if your site is slow.
This struck me as a no-brainer. It should be.
If the hosting companies facilities can’t stay online, your site, in turn, won’t be online, either.
But some hosting services have uptime below 95%. Yes, that means they’re down 5% or more of the time, which sounds like a small amount.
Over the past few years, this site has had an uptime of 99% or better. Occasionally, it does hit 100%. (I expect that to continue with my new server; so far, so good.)
Being down, say, 7% of the time isn’t necessarily the end of the world. Unless, of course, a new reader tries to access your site during one of those times. They may not be back.
And when you have services with better performance, it should rightly make you question what’s wrong with this picture.
5. Backup Services
Yes, it’s up to the individual blogger to backup his site. But if your host service offers automatic backups you can easily access from your CPanel, that makes the process of keeping your data safe that much easier.
My former host offered automatic backups, which was great. It was also convenient on my last day with them: even though you couldn’t access the front end of this site, I could access my CPanel and download the most-recent backup and sent it to the new hosting service.
6. Malware Monitoring & Removal
It behooves hosting companies to protect their servers from malware. These days, many have active malware monitoring for all sites they host. They can either offer, for free or for a fee, removal of malware if some actually gets to your server.
7. Refund Policy
This is a new problem that customers are having to deal with. More and more hosting companies are going to discounted pricing for people who agree to multi-year agreements.
But they’re then throwing a wrench into plans by offering refunds only within the first 30 to 45 days of service.
This means that if you want to get the best price, you have to agree to two or even three years of hosting. But, if you run into a problem six months down the road that makes you want to switch hosts, you may be out the two-and-a-half-years’ worth of hosting fees you will have already paid.
Know what your options are and watch very carefully for the refund period: if you think you might be in trouble, you can always cancel before that deadline and get your money back.
Those are the factors I look at the closest.