If you use a WordPress theme like Flothemes, you require a Hosting solution. Selecting Hosting is therefore a must. The problem occurs when we do not know what Host to choose and why. Today we hope to share our findings and tips on selecting a reliable hosting provider, so that you get the best value investment for your business, rather than resorting to a FB poll post to find out which hosting provider others use. As these ultimately lead to the cheapest option, not the optimal choice for investment.
What to look for when deciding which Hosting to use:
There are some obvious factors you should look for with some hidden add ons within 4 areas:
1. Performance – Being able to Optimize your site for speed is important, and is only beneficial if your hosting is fast to start with. Too many users spend countless hours to improve their site speed only to find out that they cannot do more because of weak hosting. You should make sure that your website is loading fast, especially on mobile devices, as Google uses site speed as a ranking factor for organic search results. Slow websites = bad UX and lower chances to rank in Google search. Look at the results and metrics provided in our comparison (more on that below), so you could identify the best performing providers easier.
2. Server location – When selecting a hosting provider make sure to choose the one with the closest server options to you and your users’ geographical location. This will have a huge impact on the loading speed of your website for your site visitors. An example could be that you are based in Paris, France and the nearest server is in Amsterdam, Holland. As you will have an image heavy website, make sure that your hosting provider has CDN (content delivery network) included in your chosen package, which helps visitors from around the world load your site even faster as images are loaded from their nearest server location.
3. Price – While it is easy to do a cost comparison, Hosting should not be chosen based on price as it is in fact an investment. Consider Hosting as a HardDrive. Would you pay the same for an older SATA hard drive (disk drive) or pay more for a SSD drive? This is no different than the speed on your SD or CF camera memory cards. For 90% of photo driven websites and blogs the following hosting features should be a must:
- 1 click install feature for WordPress (makes installing WordPress much easier)
- Available web space (you need storage space for your image media over time) on average 20GB is enough.
- SSD drives (faster site loading)
- Backup and Restore options
- Security options (preventing malware or hacks is a major point)
- SSL certificate (https instead of http which is important for Google and your visitors)
- CDN (content delivery network for faster image loading time)
- Site Migration Options (a benefit if you plan to move from one host to another)
4. Customer support – One thing to note regarding customer service is that sales and technical support are typically different departments and have different response times. For example at Flothemes we have live chat sales as we can reply pretty quickly, however our technical support response times vary based on the volume of tickets and also the duration to resolve the problems clients face. Some issues can be solved within a few minutes and many times issues can take hours to resolve which most clients are not aware of. We suggest that you do the following to test your hosting finalists:
- Test their live chat or Facebook message response times, check if they cover your time zone and what is their availability. See how fast they reply and what means of support they provide: email, chat, ticketing system, etc.
- If you ask for a recommendation online, ask what others experienced when dealing with the technical support. If you read negative feedback inquire to know if it was bad customer service or user error.
- Is the hosting provider a public or private company? What is their history. While it is lucrative to jump onto the main brand names, we have found that slightly smaller independent, private companies have better offerings and faster support within the time frames that they offer – which may not be 24/7.
How does Hosting potentially affect your business?
There are typically 3 aspects to a successful website
- Loading Speed to any page (not just the 3 second rule for your homepage)
- User experience with a clear navigation on your site (have you through how you want users to engage with your website?)
- Content and Visual Identity Engagement (how does your work and your design make a visitor feel)
Other than the above, the rest comes down to lead and traffic generation to your site to provide increased inquiries and engagement with you and your brand.
On a more productive level, bad hosting typically leads to more time spent on fixing things. With every update of your website things break… while it may seem that this is always the theme or plugin issue, in fact most times it is your hosting not supporting new options. Many hosts actually do not allow you to make important updates unless you request them each time.
Some General Important Stats to note:
- Speed – According to a recent study from Google, 53% of mobile site users leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. In other words, if the visitor cannot see the navigation and initial visual, they’re gone. While the goal is that potential clients stay longer than 3 seconds on your site, the concept of first impressions count does apply.
- Sales – Consider your website an employee just for a second. If your website works for you, have you provided your salesperson the right tools to sell you? If you have slow hosting, chances are you may have a slow and buggy website, especially if you are not maintaining the website regularly and testing it. This ultimately leads to lost inquiries which is the only purpose of closure engagement on your website. An observation we have made is – if you are receiving inquiries from social media platforms and not your website, chances are you have site usability issues. Or your hosting provider is slow, which makes contacting you via your website much harder, though your website is a better qualifier for your leads… or should be. We have all read complaints when websites are down or things do not work – that it could have cost you thousands in leads and sales. The simple fact is, that is the truth. Google offers a tool that allows you to calculate the impact of site speed on your business: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-gb/feature/testmysite
- Security – Prevention vs Reaction. It is always best to stop a disaster than to react when it has happened. A secure website provides more trust and a positive user experience. Many hosting providers offer free SSL certificates to make sure that your website is secure. Also, they offer backup & restore options along with anti SPAM solutions. Win win for everyone.
- SEO – AKA being found by visitors in Google search. Both site speed and site security are now important ranking factors in Google search. Hosting is the core for both of these requirements. Just one more reason to invest wisely.
A Benchmark Test between Different Providers
With everything stated above, if you have realized that you have a bad hosting provider – do not worry, it is a worthwhile investment to make a switch. We have created a test experiment between several hosting providers using the same settings and no sugar coating. This is typically the same setup for many users who do not give any attention to their site speed or performance.
Disclaimer: These results represent only a reference. Site speed results depend on multiple factors and hosting configurations which we have not optimized.
We have tested 5 hosting providers: Hostgator, Media Temple, SiteGround, Kinsta and Cloudways and kept the following the same throughout:
- All results are based on our Fiji 2 demo page. We used placeholders instead of real images.
- We’ve tested the same web page on a fresh WordPress install
- We didn’t use any 3rd party speed optimization plugins or CDN
- All hosting servers that we have tested are located in USA or Canada
- In GTmetrix, the results are based on test servers located in Dallas, USA or Vancouver, Canada.
- Have a look at these 2 things to better interpret data:
- first request completion time
- fully loaded time
You can read reviews for diverse hosting providers shared by real users here.
We’ve seen customers struggling with unreliable hosting providers that have affected their potential business growth.
We, as a Website Theme provider rely on the Best Hosting Partners. We have hand picked some of the most reliable hosting providers over time on the market and listed them here.
One Provider currently does stand out. SiteGround has been our most reliable partner for over 3 years with thousands of our users relying on them for Hosting. Their GrowBig package is ideal for creatives, starting at $5.95/month which is incredible value for the first year. They have proven to be reliable with amazing uptime, WordPress compatibility, Hosting Speed and Fast and Friendly Customer Service. We do not discredit many other providers in our recommended list, however we have not had the length of relationship with other partners to compare to that of SiteGround. Though we are affiliates for SiteGround, we do not recommend them for financial gains. For us, it is more important that our clients have an optimized and reliable hosting provider that in fact benefits us much more. For more details on SiteGround, read our review.
Great news: we’ve just released several cloud hosting packages meant to provide you a hassle free experience.
We’ll take care of the technical stuff like backups, security, theme/plugin & WordPress updates, while you can focus on running and expanding your photography business. Our hosting solutions offer lighting fast servers, SSL certificates, content transfer and cloud storage starting from 10GB.
Who do you use? We are open to listen about other amazing experiences and providers. Share any feedback or questions that you have inside our Facebook Community group.