Finding a new hosting provider for your website can be very frustrating; online you find good and bad reviews, you never quite know what a hosting provider does for you, and maybe you lack the technical knowhow to assess if they offer enough service for a safe and speedy website. We help you to avoid spending hours on the internet trying to find out which is the best host, and share our experience with you.
By now, we have a decade of experience with various hosting providers, and we’ve spent days looking for a good company to work with (spoiler alert: we have found a reliable one!). Since we put in so much time, we know exactly what is important when you’re choosing a hosting company. Because we work with WordPress exclusively (it is the most user-friendly software to build websites with), this article will only concern the best hosting options for WordPress sites (although these are usually great for other platforms as well).
What is hosting?
Hosting is a space on the internet where your website lives. It’s like the plot your house stands on. A domain name is the address for your house, and makes sure people can find your front door. Both are necessary when you want to start your own website.
What do I need for website hosting?
If you want a reasonably comfortable hosting package for a simple website, you’ll need the following:
- 500 MB of space (or 1 GB if you want to display hundreds of PDF articles and large pictures).
- Unlimited data traffic (is standard everywhere these days).
- MySQL database.
- Email addresses and maybe webmail (but we advise you to send and receive email through your own mail client, or to get G-Suite).
- A WordPress installer (allows you to make a website with 1 click; this is also standard everywhere now).
- Automatic (daily) backups for files and databases (for a good night sleep).
- Support for the latest versions of PHP and MySQL.
- Free customer support with phone, email, ticketing system and/or live chat (preferably all of these options).
- DNS management (this is a pretty technical concept, and you won’t use it often, but if your hosting provider doesn’t give you full control over this, it might become very frustrating).
Choose accessible and friendly hosting
It doesn’t matter how good your hosting provider is; at some point you will need help or run into problems. We used to look for the ultimate problem-free hosting companies, but here’s the catch: they don’t exist.
That’s why one of the most important features of a hosting provider is their approachability. They need to be easy to reach, and ready and willing to help you with any problem, preferably using live chat, email, a ticketing system and phone. This should of course be free, and without having to wait a long time.
Having friendly and accessible staff turns out to be challenging for many hosting companies
To be friendly and accessible seems to be difficult for many hosting providers: we’ve used Bluehost for years (a large and cheap hosting company), but it frequently made us mad and frustrated when we had to wait and talk to a customer service employee who tried very hard to not help us for 30 minutes…
We also used to refer a lot of our clients to Strato.nl (a large hosting company in Europe), because they had good prices and packages for simple websites, but that company quickly became so big that it was very hard to reach them for support. And as it is mainly a German company, many of their web articles weren’t available in English, making it hard to find information. They have grown since we first hosted with them in 2013, but we don’t see any improvements in their customer service since.
What does it cost to host a website?
These days, it’s possible to host a website for 50 cents a month (versio.nl), but with hosting, too, the old adage is true: cheap is usually expensive in the end. Because good customer service, little downtime and convenient features don’t come cheap. From €10 a month you find good hosting packages for your website, whether it’s a laboratory website, a personal website with your resume or an international collaboration website. This type of hosting suits most standard websites.
Good hosting packages start at around €10 per month.
You also need a domain name, it will only set you back, on average, €5 to €12 per year (although some fancy extensions such as .science or .amsterdam can cost up to €30 a year ). This is not a major expense, and for the proper functioning of your website it doesn’t matter where you register your domain name (we usually register our domain names at Versio.nl https://www.versio.nl/?pa=59585zvcqe). But you might want to have all your website stuff in one place, so don’t pay too much attention to the cost of a domain name.
Managed WordPress website hosting
If you have a WordPress website, it’s convenient if your hosting provider knows about WordPress too, and provides expert customer support when your site isn’t working properly or if you’re getting strange errors.
Other great tools that hosts offer for WordPress sites include automatic updates, daily backups, security, caching and CDN (Content Delivery Network) for faster and safer websites. This is not standard with every cheap shared hosting provider, but it could save you a lot of time and effort setting up your website.
For WordPress, Managed Hosting is a fantastic solution. You pay a little more each month, but you don’t have to worry about everything going well, nor do you have to update your website yourself all the time to prevent it from getting hacked.
We’ve spent many a night solving technical issues with cheap hosting packages, while the support team of my current WordPress managed hosting package solves everything within a few minutes. Good WordPress hosting packages are available between €8 and €30 per month.
So, which hosting provider is the best?
It’s the obvious question: which hosting company is the best? We can’t give you a waterproof, airtight answer on that, simply because we haven’t tested them all, and we don’t know what your budget looks like. But we can tell you our story, and save you some time:
A few years ago we fell in love with SiteGround. We ran into them at a WordPress conference, where all the WordPress experts meet to talk about this beautiful open-source system. We were enthusiastic about this young company from the start. They have become pretty well-known in the WordPress scene since, and offer the best customer support in the hosting industry.
At Bluehost, talking to support drove us mad within seconds, but with SiteGround it’s almost a pleasure to talk to the support representatives! They offer help within 30 seconds, and their support employees are very helpful, knowledgeable and polite. We always reach a solution quickly, and they go out of their way to make sure you’re a happy customer.
Geeky technical stuff!
Another thing that SiteGround has that should make you very happy as a web developer, is a whole collection of technical gadgets. For example, after moving all of our websites (a few dozen of them, which they do for free by the way), they all became more than twice as fast. The websites also work well in general (they have great uptime), it’s all really easy to maintain. To comply with the new European Privacy Laws they even have an option to have your server located in Amsterdam (which is great if you’re Dutch, like us). They will do everything to make your website quicker and more secure. With the click of a button you have a FREE(!) SSL-certificate (the green lock with HTTPS), caching for a quick website, one-click WordPress installation, automatic updates, free email and, as mentioned, the most important feature: really good support.
SiteGround: according to us it’s the best hosting provider
Our advice for a good hosting provider that is skilled at what they do but not very expensive: Siteground. Starting at €7,95 per month you can have a fantastic package for a basic website. There are other hosting companies that are often mentioned which are good too, but they are either more expensive when it comes to Managed WordPress, or have fewer options than SiteGround.
Think of your website as an investment; the money you put into it will pay itself back!
Which is the best package?
If you have a personal website with 5-10 pages and you’re not using it to earn money, then the StartUp plan will do (€7,95 per month). If you have more visitors, or if you want a faster website and you make money with your website you’ll be better off with a larger package. With the packages GrowBig (€12,95 per month) and GoGeek (€23,95 per month) you have more options, always including caching for a super quick website and daily backups.
Do you want more?
Do you have larger site that makes you money or do you expect more visitors (at least 10K a month), and can you afford a little more? Then WP Engine is a great host. They are quick, have extra security measures so you don’t have to mess around with plugins, and host WordPress sites only. Unfortunately this does come with a heftier price tag; hosting at WP Engine starts at €29 a month, but if you can afford that it’s a real investment in your website. Check out the hosting options at WP Engine >
This blog is sourced from our own experience and an honest opinion. We host all our websites with SiteGround since 2015 and we offer this to our clients as well. Full disclosure: if you click the link to buy a website at SiteGround we get a small fee. But the goal of this blog is above all to help you make the right decision and save you tons of time looking for a good host!
Good luck with your new WordPress website! If you want someone to develop a great science website for you, contact us and we can discuss your project and think of ways we can help you.