The Beginner Niche Marketer's Guide Vol. 2
What Hosting is Best for Newbies?
Hosting is a bigger deal than you can really imaging right now, so in this post I wanted to cover some issues I've run into, and how you can avoid them. I don't want to stress you out, but I do want to explain a few important qualities to look for in a host so you can make a good decision.
What is Hosting?
Basically, hosting is where all your files for the website are stored. The domain name that we discussed is just the address that tells other people's browser (Chrome, Firefox, IE) where to find these files. Some people buy a domain and host at the same company. Other people buy a domain from one place, but host at another place.
The process of setting everything up will be discussed in Vol. 3, about building your website.
Choosing a Host
There are many hosting companies out there, as well as different types of hosting each service offers. You'll probably want to start out on a very basic plan, then upgrade your plan as your website starts to get more traffic. There are advantages and disadvantages to this method.
- Cheap to start
- Allows you to “try” a host without a big commitment
- Can upgrade later easily
- Basic hosting is often very slow
- Support level will be poor
- Poorly configured websites or dumb webmasters can affect your site's uptime
- You'll run out of space relatively quickly if you are serious about your business
Common Hosting Tricks To Watch Out For
Mega Cheap Hosting
My first mistake was to go with the cheapest hosting I could find. It was through a company called Fatcow, I do not recommend them for a number of reasons, but one thing that really pissed me off was that their “cheap hosting” expires after a year. I paid only $3.95 per month for unlimited hosting for 12 months. After that, the price of hosting with them tripled.
This “balloon” payment system seriously pissed me off so I moved to Hostgator (keep reading for juicy details!)
If you have a long term vision for your business, saving $50 for one year of hosting isn't worth it. Amortized over 5 or 10 years, that $50 means nothing. I realize that right now you probably have a small budget, long term it doesn't make sense.
Another mistake I made was thinking that “unlimited” was actually “unlimited”. This is also a tricky way of getting people to sign up. I will tell you now that unlimited hosting does not mean that you will never need to upgrade. Apparently the “unlimited” part refers to the size of the files, not the number of files.
After I built 20 websites on my basic hosting plan with Hostgator, my websites started going down on a daily basis. I was running out of inodes, and needed to upgrade.
Running out of space was a common theme while I hosted at Hostgator, and was forced to upgrade 5-6 times over the course of two years.
You probably won't have to worry about space at this point if you just have one website. I had 50 websites, so was pretty extreme compared to the average user. Still, it's something to consider if you want to build multiple websites in different niches.
Issues You Should Care About Now
One thing you should definitely work into your plan are malware protection and other security features. The internets are not safe anymore, and hacking is real. It's happened to me once. Luckily, it wasn't a big deal and I had a backup to restore my site. But it does happen!
Some services offer active protection, others can ‘help out' after the fact. Some will not. I was lucky that Hostgator cleared my files for me, but I have a friend hosting with them now that says they are no longer doing this.
All hosts will protect you to some degree because any serious issues could affect other users if you are on shared hosting. Support for security issues is hit an miss though.
One huge issue I had was that my sites were getting “library hacked”. This is where a computer program tries to log into your website with every known combination of words to guess your password. This overloads your login page, and can take down your website.
Eventually I left Hostgator because they could not fix this problem for me. I spent over 2 years dealing with various troubles on their hosting platform, and left with a bad taste in my mouth.
Regular backups should be made as well. You can back things up yourself, but a host that backs up your data is always appreciated. Many will do this, but as I mentioned above, some cut you off at a certain point unless you upgrade.
Hostgator only automatically backs up your data to a certain point, then you are responsible for it. Geeze. I hate them so much.
Since you're just starting out, lots of this stuff will be confusing. How do you create an email address? How do you add a subdomain? Why are you getting 500 Server Unavailable Error? There are a million things that can come up. Friendly, fast, and helpful support is a must. Live support can be a real lifesaver.
While hosting with Hostgator, their Live Chat feature was inaccessible to me for over six months. Their phone lines were constantly busy. I waited for over 3 hours one time on hold while my website was down. I can feel my heart pumping with rage right now. OMG. I think they gave me PTSD.
Long Term Topics To Consider About Your Hosting
When you start out, you will likely use shared hosting. As a beginner, you'll be making small websites and they won't be making much (if any) money. For this reason, it's totally fine to start with shared hosting. Though this hosting is less reliable, it's cheaper, so will help you start out on a shoestring budget til you start brining in some money.
There's no real reason to upgrade to super-mega-fancy hosting at this point. If you continue with your niche marketing business and start making an income from these sites however, you will absolutely want to consider upgrading.
The first upgrade to consider is a virtual private server. As far as I understand, VPS is basically like a virtual version of renting your own server. It's like the next step up from shared, but not quite as advanced as owning your own server.
There are several levels of this, and you may pay more for more bandwidth or other features like WHM which can allow you to manage other people's websites on your VPS. Prices vary from $40 – $100/month depending on where you host.
Just another upgrade not worth looking at at this point. This is for more serious webmasters with multiple large websites, which they may or may not own. It'll section you off from all other sites, meaning that you won't be affected by someone else overloading the server with traffic, as well as other privacy advantages.
Tech Issues & Down Time
I don't want to bore you or scare you with tech and other details, but I will share a few experiences with you.
I hosted with Fatcow for about two years. It was miserable. My site was down for more than a few hours every 2 months or so, and sometimes every month. The live support staff rarely knew what the problem was, and always referred me to ticket support. Usually, but the time ticket support responded, the issue had resolved itself.
Downtime might not seem like a big deal, but when you are making several hundred dollars per day from your websites, a few hours during a high traffic period of the day could cost you $100 or $200 dollars. They can say sorry 100 times, but it won't get back my $100 dollars.
I then hosted at at Hostgator for a few years, and went through basically the same thing. Their live support started out great, to 30-45 minute wait times, to being non-accessible from my computer. Phone waits ranged from 10 minutes to 3 hours. It basically rendered their support team worthless to me because issues would resolve themselves in a couple hours, and by then I had lost significant income.
Where I Host Now
I host with three different places now. I highly recommend each place for a different reason, so see which one fits you.
KnownHost: This is where I host the bulk of my websites. I use VPS level 3, and run about 20 websites on my server. I have never experienced downtime. Their response time is usually less than 5 minutes, and their support team is extremely helpful/friendly. I find their WHM setup a bit confusing, but other than that I'm completely happy. It's $45/month for Level 3 but you could probably get away with Level 1 if you're just starting out.
WebSynthesis: These are the guys from Studiopress, the ones that make my favorite WordPress themes, run CopyBlogger, and Rainmaker. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE their hosting. It's mega fast, easy to navigate, and they have a stellar support team. It's optimized for WordPress, and comes with a free subscription to Securi, and awesome service for website security. The only downside is that it's pricey at $47/month for just one website or $97/month for up to four websites.
Free Hosting With Wealthy Affiliate
I just wanted to give you a few more details about the free hosting with Wealthy Affiliate. It may be hard to decide where you want to host your website right now, so consider these advantages and disadvantages to hosting with this company.
- It's free
- Newbie friendly
- Excellent malware protection and security
- Host 25 domains with no inode limitation
- Automatic backups
- WordPress optimized
- Enhanced security and malware protection included
- Website building and personal backup training included
- Online marketing and business training included
- Requires membership hosting perks ($47/month (paid monthly) or $29/month (paid yearly)
- No access to cPanel
- No upgrades to VPS or dedicated hosting
- No live support for hosting (Live support for training is available)
Update 2017: Free SSL
SSL is a security thing for your website, which is the HTTPS you see in the web address. Google is now weighing these types of sites more powerfully in search (slightly) because they are private and secure. Expect to pay between $9 and $70 for one year of SSL with most domain registrars. If you do your website through Wealthy Affiliate, it's FREE. That's a one of a kind deal. They also do free domain privacy, which is something different – it keeps your personal address protected and off databases. That costs between $3 and $10/year at most registrars, but is FREE at Wealthy Affiliate.
Watch the video to see how it's done.
Should I Host With Wealthy Affiliate Or Somewhere Else?
My personal recommendation for newbies is to go with Wealthy Affiliate if you plan to follow through with your business. With this company you not only get hosting included in the cost of your membership, you also get support with building your online business.
The thing about building a niche website is that you're going to need help sometimes. Yes, you can ask questions on blogs and social media, but the answers you get are often short and insufficient to truly help you out.
There's no other hosting company out there that will teach you how to run a business. They simply provide the storage space for your website files. They can't tell you why you aren't getting any traffic, or the reason your sales page isn't converting into money.
However, I realize not everyone wants that level of support!
If you just want hosting and do not want affiliate training, personal support, or other features offered inside Wealthy Affiliate, then my recommendation is KnownHost. I trust their service and can honestly recommend them.
Their cheapest package is $25/month though. The cheapest hosting you can get, that I've personally tried is Hostgator. If you really, really, need to start on a budget, then Hostgator's shared hosting plan is about $10/month and will be sufficient for the time being. Some people do have good experiences with them, so maybe I just had bad luck my my account.
For tips on setting up your website with WA or HG please refer to Vol. 3 of this niche marketing series.
In case you missed 'em
- Vol. 1 : How to Choose a Good Domain Name
- Vol. 2 : Best Hosting For Newbies
- Vol. 3 : How to Build a Website for Cheap
- Vol. 4 : Choosing a Profitable Niche
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