We get asked a lot of questions about web hosting. It seems like the part of the process that is most complicated because it’s not directly related to the design or development of the website. There are a few different paths to take when deciding on where to host your website. Let’s dive into some of the top questions we get about hosting and break down the answers.
Can I keep my domain name with a new website host?
Good question! Most of the time when you are creating a new website, the place you end up getting your domain name is the same place you use for hosting. SquareSpace, GoDaddy, Host Gator, etc. provide you with the option to get a website domain and launch your site all at once.
However, you can take it with you!
Your domain name is a separate from your hosting provider even if you got them together. As your business grows and your site demands more, moving to a new provider that allows you to manage the traffic you are getting is critical. And, when you decide to make that move, your domain name can move with you.
If you have a WordPress site, an easy way to get started is to buy your domain name from Name Cheap and purchasing a cheap GoDaddy WordPress hosting plan. That way, you can customize your site with WordPress while using your own domain name. Given WordPress’ status as the go-to source for content management by web users of all skill levels and talents, Reclaim is a sensible place to begin. Site hosts such as GoDaddy and BlueHost also offer platforms tailored to a WordPress site.
If my domain name is separate from my web host, what exactly is the domain name?
A brief explanation of how the internet works: A computer has its own IP address and they can pick between the vast network of wires that make up the Internet to find a specific site. The IP address is exactly that – an address. The numbers help your computer navigate correctly to a site, but the domain name is what you use to get it there.
All websites have a string of numbers that make up the IP address, but instead of typing “188.8.131.52,” just type “classiccity.com” in your browser’s search bar. That’s it, and it’s easy to remember, because you’re calling the Classic City website.
How does the web host work?
A website’s IP address actually points to the physical server (or computer) of your web host. Every site needs a host, and companies exist to provide website file storage and operational services. Based on your industry, specialty, or the purpose of your website, many hosting companies offer various plans at different price points, each including its own benefits and features.
By now, we understand the difference between a domain name and a web host. So…what makes a good hosting provider?
Deciding on a Web Host
When looking for a web host, consider factors such as site performance, security, and load time. Using managed hosting for your website, for example, means enhanced security at the server level as well as daily backups from your site. You don’t want to lose your digital identity.
Fortunately, this is easy enough with WordPress. Almost a third of websites run on WordPress, and there are managed hosting system tailored specifically to WordPress. While you get to focus on the upfront and public elements of running your site – such as operating your business, drawing in customers, and optimizing your site for search engine results – using managed hosting entails having all of the back-end parts of your site – such as storage and site operations – taken care of.
This means your site is supported, quick, and easy to use. It also means your site is secure.
The most cited reason for a site’s failure does not come from a security breach, but rather the domain’s owner failing to update all elements of the WordPress site. Managed hosting not only takes care of regular updates, but also warns the site owner of malicious plugins and themes and prevents harmful attacks.
To this end, it might not be an outside attack that causes you to lose content. Having a managed host not only protects your site from outside harassment, but also provides regular backups – often daily – for your website. Should something detrimental happen to your site, all it takes is one click to restore your site from the most recent archive.
Caching is no longer a manual process, either. Instead of installing an additional plugin, a managed host makes your site faster and easier for users through its own caching system. It takes advantage of reverse proxy that does not change even as you update your content or alter your theme.
Managed hosting means everything is automatic and in one place. Why make it complicated when it can be simple?
Get SSL Certified
Google cares about its users, and they want you to care about your customers. If your site does not already have an SSL certificate, Google will flag your site. Getting an SSL certificate is necessary for everyone, but is particularly important if your site is tied to e-commerce.
The two main contingents rely on your site setup. If your site takes any sort of data – such as password logins, search results, or contact forms – or if your site uses HTTP://, be sure to implement SSL.
If you don’t, visitors to your site will receive a warning that your site is not secure.
An SSL certificate – or secure sockets layer – ensures an encrypted link between a web server and browser. Without the certificate, that connection cannot be securely established. It provides the name of its holder, a serial number and expiration date, a copy of the certificate holder’s public key, and a digital signature of the authority who issued the certificate.
Users’ valuable and sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers are protected under SSL. Information is still passed between a computer and a server, but only the server can read it.
SSL also protects you from criminal activity.
With cyber crime on the rise, protecting your site means protecting your visitors’ information. Because an SSL certificate protects data in transit, not data stored in a server, it is designed to keep valuable information hidden. If your site processes payments, rather than redirecting visitors to PayPal, for example, you are required to be SSL certified.
For that reason, the SSL certificate builds trust with your site’s visitors. It is becoming second nature for most web users to look to the address bar and see “HTTPS” with a padlock – highlighted in green when making a financial transaction – to ensure their protection. As the web continues to become more dynamic, certain outlets also become more vulnerable. As a site owner, take steps to keep the worst from happening.
Staging Site vs. Live Site
A staging site is a copy of your live site that you can edit and then take it live when all your changes are complete.
Though it can get technical, using a managed hosting provider (such as WPEngine), you can set up a 1-click staging site to preview any changes you plan to make to your existing, sans actually making those changes in real time.
Be sure to avoid some plugins (such as those with automated posts) and be mindful of proper domain direction when copying 1-click staging from your existing website.
WordPress Staging Site How-to
Let’s focus in on WPEngine’s hosting platform for now. From your WordPress dashboard, simply click on the “WP Engine” logo on the side bar’s top-left corner, selecting the “Staging” tab, and click “Copy site from LIVE to STAGING.” After a bit, your site is copied to a staging environment.
Accessing your staging site’s server is exactly the same as accessing the server for your live site, just with a different name. Simply create a new SFTP account on your server and set the environment to “Staging.”
Feel free to make all the design and copy edits you want.
Once you ready to take your staging site live, all it takes is a few clicks on the WordPress dashboard. After logging in, return to the “WP Engine” logo on the top-left of the sidebar. Under the “Staging” tab, click the red button marked “Deploy site from STAGING to LIVE.” Select the degree to which you want your site overwritten via the dropdown menu, and your updated site is live.
Build your support system
Website hosting has its challenges. You and your team will run into issues regardless of skill level and experience…and that makes sense.
What separates the seasoned WordPress user from the novice is the support system they’ve established.
This is one area in which it’s really not okay to skimp on quality. Don’t be fooled by the cheap cost-effective services out there that offer email-only communication. That’s basically snail mail when you’re trying to run your business and your site is down. Look for support services that have technical specialists on live chat or are available by phone to help when things go wrong. Such a feature is a marker of an above-and-beyond level of support, and sites that offer that kind of contact are likely to also feature improved security, regular theme updates, performance optimization, and repair broken links.
When choosing a support system, be thorough. Ask in-depth questions about what features they offer beyond support, response time, and – of course – cost. A good way to decide on a WordPress support system is customer feedback.
That’s why part of our business is hosting sites. Classic City Consulting has a partner with built-in support, so that we don’t have to charge our customers small fees for every single technical issue. Having an integrated support service ensures a better experience not only for you and your business, but also for your customers.
Consider everyone when designing your experience.
Just like managed hosting, shared hosting comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. A part of the myriad of options you get for web hosting these days, shared hosting is exactly as it sounds: multiple sites sharing a single server. These other sites are unknown to you, and that’s okay because each customer is limited by their hosting plan.
To that end, shared hosting is the most cost-effective sort of hosting available, with plans ranging from $2.99-$9.99 a month (That $5.99 hosting you’ve heard so much about? It’s shared hosting.) Part of that plan also includes technical maintenance coverage as well as a cPanel for personalized site maintenance. However, using a shared hosting plan means your site isn’t quite as customizable as you might have liked, and there’s also the possibility of your site running slowly with increased traffic.
In short, shared hosting is ideal for those just getting started with WordPress. As your skill improves and your business grows, it might be a good idea to upgrade to managed or dedicated hosting, which is possible given that you aren’t locked into a standard plan.
Whatever route you choose to take with your hosting, you need to make sure that your site is with a stable and secure service. Your business requires a certain web presence, and the back-end of your site is the core of how it works. Be specific with your web hosting needs. There are options tailored to exactly what you need and what you can do. Remember, how your site functions is a reflection of your business, and it starts with what goes on behind the scenes.