Choosing a Webhost

Obviously you won’t get very far as a blogger if you don’t have a webhost. Without a host, you don’t have a website. If you’re reading this, I assume you’re looking for a good place to host your web site, without having to pay more than you have to for it.

This is not a list of hosts, but a guide to help you find the right one for your site. Aside from naming your website, choosing a web host is one on the most important decisions to make when starting a website.

Whether you are a newbie creating your first website, or an experienced blogger who outgrew another host, this guide is for you.

Key Points

The most important things to consider when choosing a host are

  • Reliability/Reputation – You want as little downtime as possible for your website, and you want quality hosting for your money. Everyone claims they have “99.9% uptime,” whether they do or not, so ignore this statistic. You want, if possible, a host that doesn’t oversell, though for a starting website you may not need to worry about this until the site grows. Pay attention to what others say about certain hosts, as reputation is important.
  • Price – You may get what you pay for, but try to get as much as you can for what you pay.
  • Bandwidth – Unless you plan on storing huge video files on your web space, storage won’t be too big of an issue. What really matters is “bandwidth”, or more accurately “transfer volume”, which is the amount of data that can be transferred between your server and other computers in a month. You will need as much transfer volume as you can get (but don’t fall for overselling!).
  • PHP – Make sure your host offers PHP. PHP is a scripting (programming) language that is essential for modern websites. PHP has many uses, and is required to run many popular software packages, like blog software and photo galleries.
  • Databases – You will need at least one MySQL database. A database is used for storing data for later usage by PHP scripts, like WordPress, if you are starting a blog, or SMF if you plan on having a forum. Make sure you have at least one database.

The above points are the most important things to consider when choosing a host. Other things are worth considering, like the number of email accounts you get, but they’re nowhere near as important.

What Type of Hosting?

Shared? VPS?

If you’re just starting out, you probably want either shared hosting. This means you are renting a small chunk of a server, and the machine is shared with dozens of other websites. Shared hosting is fairly cheap, and will serve you well until your website’s popularity explodes, bringing you thousands of daily visitors.

VPS hosting is similar to shared hosting, though you’re sharing the server with only a couple others. If you have a popular website that’s outgrown shared hosting (or you’re developing a processing-intensive web app), you need a VPS. They cost significantly more than shared hosting, and they offer much more power.

Next-up the list are dedicated servers. If you’re reading this, I doubt this is what you’re looking for. “Dedicated server” means you are renting an entire computer for your website. It’s not cheap either costing at least $1000 per year.

Finding Hosts

Where do you find reputable web hosts?

  • Hosting directories, like the Web Hosting Talk directory.
  • Google searches – Search for hosts, hosting directories, and recommendations by other bloggers. Brainstorm plenty of search terms.
  • Other bloggers – See what everyone’s talking about. Find the hosts that get plenty of positive reviews, and keep an eye out for paid ads in sidebars. Note that you need to find as many reviews as you can. Some hosts, like DreamHost, are shamelessly plugged by bloggers for their cheap rates, seemingly large offerings (oversold heavily, of course), and of course their affiliate program (a commission for referring new customers). DreamHost, though you’ll find plenty of people “recommending” it, has a pretty bad track record, earning it the nickname “NightmareHost.” They oversell, they have major downtime, and they’ve twice accidentally billed people thousands of extra dollars.

Make a list of possibilities, noting their names, URLs, and anything else you want to remember. It’s time to dig-up some dirt.

Researching Hosts

Take your list of hosts, and pull-up your tools of the trade — and the Web Hosting Talk Forum.

Using Google, search for reviews of each of the web hosts. Search for “NameOfHost review,” and anything else that may pull-up important information. While it may be a good idea to search things like “NameOfHost sucks,” I wouldn’t necessarily trust the information found nearly as much. If someone wrote that, then they probably wouldn’t be very objective. Take note of anything that may help you decide.

Web Hosting Talk is the best location for finding hosting discussion. Use the search tool to find posts about the hosts you’re considering. Ask people what they think of the host. Web Hosting Talk is a large, helpful community, and is one of the most valuable tools for hosting research.

While you’re looking at peoples’ thoughts about webhosts, keep this in mind: Old reviews may not be accurate anymore. While someone may have penned a negative review two years ago, the host’s quality may have improved. Of course, the opposite is true as well.

Some Good Hosts to Get You Started

Here are a few well-thought-of hosts worth checking out:

  • 1and1 – 1and1’s shared hosting is cheap and, while they do oversell, I haven’t had any problems with it to date. As I write this, I’ve had little problems with downtime (only a few minutes over the year I’ve been with them), and they offer plenty for a starting website. I will probably have to move in the future, if WSC gets too big, but in the meantime 1and1 works great for me.
  • Media Temple – MT is one of the most esteemed hosts on the internet. They host giants like, and smaller blogs like They’re plans are a little pricey, but they have plenty to offer. Their base $20/month “Grid Service” plan splits the load of your website among several servers, in an effort to improve uptime and performance. Their more expensive Dedicated-Virtual (a.k.a. VPS) plans, and Nitro hosting, are beyond what most people will need. Their reliability and tech support are famous among bloggers everywhere, surviving the Digg Effect, and running lightning-fast. If you’ve outgrown your oversold shared hosting plan, give Media Temple a look. You can’t outgrow MT, as they can offer custom set-ups for those who need them.
  • A Small Orange – A Small Orange offers cheap shared hosting (and VPS hosting as well) with reliable service. While they’re plans may look small at first, keep in mind that they don’t oversell. Their cheapest plan (“Tiny” at $25/year) is on the small side, but they offer plenty of other plans, like their $5/month “Small” plan which is more along the lines of most beginner’s needs.

Grab a pen (or a blank document in your word processor) and get to work. Find the right host for your site.

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  • Troy

    Good post. Here are a couple other things to keep in mind:
    - Odd file limits, some hosts have file size limits that can be a real pain, so look out for that

    - Check the support forum, if there appears to be a lot of garbage (my account is disabled) then don’t go with them

    - Google the name of the host +dugg or +stumbled, to see how they react when you get a bunch of traffic. I’ve heard of more than one host who will block your site from these referrers even if you still have bandwidth.

  • Matt

    Good points, Troy.

    “Google the name of the host +dugg or +stumbled, to see how they react when you get a bunch of traffic. I’ve heard of more than one host who will block your site from these referrers even if you still have bandwidth.”
    You’re saying that they totally stop people from coming from Digg or StumbleUpon? As in, 24/7, not just if there’s heavy traffic coming in? WTH? They could compete with Dreamhost for “worst host on the planet.” Blocking visitors from social media sites can really limit a site, and I’d say it’s nearly as bad as accidentally charging $2500 extra to your account.

  • Brian Dusablon

    Nice post – I agree for the most part, having just gone through a major hosting decision myself.

  • Matt

    Brian, I read your post, but there is something I would like to point out. It’s true that Media Temple once did have issues with their Grid Service (when they first implemented it), but I believe they’ve largely cleaned-up the issues. That’s why I say in the article not to put too much stock in old reviews.

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  • Timothy Biggs

      We at Blue Gravity love to see sites get dugg and stumbled. I personally love to see our servers cranking out pages and not skipping a beat. Its what our servers were bult for after all.
      I cant think for a moment why a hosting company would block something like that. Oh wait… perhaps its because they offer unlimited packages that arent really unlimited? Only thing I can think of.

  • Used trucks

    how much space wud a 50 page html site require to start with ? was thinking to go for “A Small Orange” small hosting package … wat wud u suggest ?

  • Matt

    @Used trucks: Go ahead with A Small Orange if you want. A 50 page html site with a few images should fall well within the limits.