How to Create a Great Website, Part 1

Summary: Part 1 of 5 of a series explaining how businesses can build a great website. In this article, I'll talk about the importance of a good host provider, and why I use SiteGround for my business and clients.
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It can feel overwhelming to create a website, and with good reason. There is a lot happening “under the hood” of a well-tuned website. The fact that you can visit a site from any device using any browser and operating system while the site – for the most part – looks and functions the same requires a lot of components working together.
If you own or run a business, this series will help you understand what’s going on behind the scenes. There are 5 posts in this series, each one covering a basic topic. These articles aren’t reviews or comparisons. I’m going to lay out what I use in my business and with my clients. You’ve got a business to run, and while it’s necessary to make comparisons from time to time, there are other times when you need someone to point you in the right direction.

5 Steps to a Secure and Fast Website

Of course there are a lot more than 5 steps to building a website. While your business deserves a great website, you’re not in business to build great websites. This series will give you a starting point so you can either run your site yourself, or feel confident in looking for and selecting someone to do it for you.

What to look for in a web host

First off, a web host is a company that stores the files that are a website. They need to be on a server that can be accessed through the Internet so people can view your site. You could do this yourself, from your place of business, but it’s much easier to pay a company to host, secure, and manage those servers.

So what do you want in a web host? These are the top qualities I look for:

  • Uncrowded servers. It's easy for a host to overload their servers with sites. This maximizes their profits, but slows all websites on that server. It also creates more chance for security and performance problems for you.
  • Helpful technical support. Tech support needs to be available 24/7/365, and they need to be quick to jump in and resolve the problem.
  • Up to date service offerings. Services like Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and security certificates aren't optional anymore. They should be included in the price (with the option for more robust services as an upsell).
  • Competitive, easy to understand pricing. Don't include a bunch of hidden fees, and don't nickel and dime me to death.

I Choose SiteGround for Hosting

There are several companies that meet these standards, and a lot (I mean A LOT) that don’t.
Most web hosts – especially the ones you’ve heard of – are owned by Endurance International Group (EIG). I won’t go into details, but EIG is known for being frustrating to deal with. I’ve heard many stories of businesses starting with, say, Bluehost. At first things are fine, but over time the lack of support, constant upcharges, and slow site speed becomes too much. So they switch to another company, like Host Gator. But both are owned by EIG, so the experience remains the same.
If you take anything from this read, please avoid hosting with an EIG-owned company. Go Daddy is also popular, but they overload their servers, causing slow sites.
There are a handful of great web hosting companies like InMotion, WPEngine, and Flywheel. For the best bang for the buck, SiteGround is the best place for a small to medium sized business.

Why SiteGround

I’ve been using SiteGround for a little over 2 years. Like many hosts, they offer a great deal for the first year (starting at $3.95/month), and competitive pricing after that ($11.95/month and up). At that price, you get:

  • One website
  • SSL certificate that they install and renew for you
  • Unlimited e-mail accounts
  • Free CloudFlare CDN integrated into the cPanel (the management console)
  • Daily backups
  • Unmetered traffic
  • 30 day money back guarantee
  • 24/7 support

With the higher price tiers, you get additional features, like:

  • Unlimited sites and subdomains
  • Free site transfer (nice if you're moving from another host)
  • Free site restores
  • CloudFlare CDN integrated into the cPanel (the management console)
  • Daily backups
  • Faster servers and better caching (both make websites faster)
  • Staging area for website development
  • PCI complaint servers (for larger e-commerce sites)
Not everyone needs all of those services, but the fact they are included at the prices SiteGround charges makes for an amazing deal.

But these are the two biggest reasons I use and recommend SiteGround

Their support is incredible

I’ve worked in IT for 20 years, so I’m familiar with troubleshooting computer-related problems. The times where I’ve needed to contact their support have usually been advanced issues. They always recommend chat for support, and every time I’ve used it, the wait time has never been over a minute, and usually it’s less than 10 seconds. I’ve also used email before and their response time is under an hour (full disclosure, this has been on their “GrowBig” tier, which has priority support. The lower “StartUp” tier might have slower response times).
Any issue I’ve had has always been resolved for me at first contact. In many cases (probably most), they could have told me that they, “only provide hosting, talk to a developer to fix the issue.” But that’s never happened. They take ownership of the problem and fix it, and they do it quickly.
In a world where so many companies do customer support the wrong way, SiteGround does it right.

THEY MANAGE THE BACK END AND SPEED

Once I have a site configured they way I want, they manage updates and do a lot to optimize for speed (I still have to update plugins). It’s so nice to have a site that just works, is protected, and is fast. Especially for the price. I realize that most hosts do this, but SiteGround is more proactive than other hosts I’ve worked with.

Shared Hosting vs. Managed WordPress Hosting

If you’re not familiar with these phrases, here’s what they mean.
Shared hosting means one server hosts many websites. This helps keep the costs down, but if another site on that server has problems , it could cause problems for your site too. A provider can also opt to overload the server (cough GoDaddy cough). This increases their profit and slows your site. If you’re using a small site or not using WordPress, a shared host might be worth it.
Managed WordPress hosting means the servers are optimized to run WordPress. That means they won’t be overloaded, and updates are handled by the host’s engineers. It costs a little more, but is typically money well spent.
I’ve heard some people list SiteGround as shared hosting and others describe it as managed. I feel it’s a hybrid of the two. They manage everything on the server side, and they optimize their servers for WordPress. They also put multiple sites on a server, but they don’t overload the servers. Their pricing is usually less than a full-on managed host, so they really provide the best of both worlds.

Takeaways

1. Avoid GoDaddy (for hosting at least) and EIG-owned companies.
2. While there are plenty of great hosts out there, SiteGround is the overall best right now.
3. If you’re using WordPress, a managed WordPress host will provide better speed and security for your site, at a higher cost.
This isn’t an in-depth explanation, but it’s enough to get you going. What other questions do you have? Ask in the comments section, and I’ll answer you.
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