Without a solid foundation, you'll have trouble creating anything of value.
Answer this question FAST:
Did you choose your web hosting provider because the features they offered met your goals?
More likely than not, you chose your host because it was the cheapest deal you could find… or it was a link in an article you found when you googled “best cheap web host”... or some similar story.
I’m guessing I’m right, and that’s a huge problem. Think about it: is buying the cheapest option, or the first option you see, generally the best cost-to-benefit ratio?
Look, I’ve done the same thing in the past. I used Hostgator for years because I found a good coupon for it. I then used Bluehost because a few bloggers I liked linked to it.
So what’s my point? What’s wrong with that?
I never shopped around objectively for the service that best met my needs.
When I started planning out the launch of Income Engineered, I knew I wanted a web host that would be a strong foundation for my business. After all, your host is the backbone of your entire site. The speed, reliability, and security of my site were imperative to me.
So I spent time researching every provider I could get my hands on to determine what option had the best combination of features for my needs.
Today, I’m going to walk you through exactly how I evaluated web hosting services and determined which one was ideal for my business.
Let’s jump in.
The first step in the process was defining my goals for a web host. This was pretty quick:
Let’s knock them out one by one.
When you click a link, how long do you expect it to take to load?
After clicking, how long are you willing to wait for content to load before you get annoyed and go somewhere else?
For most of us, the answer is that we expect the link to load nearly instantly. If it doesn’t, we tend only to wait a few seconds at best.
That’s all the time you have to satisfy a visitor. A few seconds.
It doesn’t matter how beautiful your website is.
It doesn’t matter how amazing your content is.
If your site doesn’t load pages quickly, nobody will stick around long enough to figure out how amazing you are.
If you click a link to a website and the website is down, how often do you note down that link and try again later?
Yeah, the only thing worse than a slow website is one that people can’t even get to.
Once your site starts bringing in income, every minute of downtime translates into money you’re losing. As an online entrepreneur, one of the most frustrating situations to deal with is having your website go down.
Think of your website as the building that houses your digital business. Maybe you run a convenient store or a small advertising agency. You get up at 6:00 AM, go about your morning routine, commute to the office and… it’s gone, burned down overnight.
This scenario is essentially equivalent to, for an online business, waking up to your website being down for whatever reason.
Ok, so maybe it’s not as bad as a fire that destroys everything… MOST of the time you should be able to get it back via a backup, but it could take some time. Maybe it’s more equivalent to a wasp infestation, and you need to close up shop for a week to bug bomb the place?
Regardless, you get the point. When your website can’t be reached that means nobody can read your content, join your email list, or buy your products.
No website = no money.
So make sure the host you choose has a good reputation for reliability and the data to back it up. You want customer service you can trust to resolve the issue quickly, and make frequent backups, so you suffer minimal losses.
Who else dreads calling their cable company or internet provider?
Long, complicated nests of automated phone menus… annoying hold music…
You finally get a real person on the end of the line, and they transfer you to someone else, perhaps some sort of account specialist…
...more annoying hold music…
We’ve all been there.
Frankly, it’s the 21st century, and I’ve had enough. Quick, efficient, useful, customer-friendly customer service is a huge priority for me with any product or service I consider using.
The bottom line is this: I’m far too busy to waste 45 minutes on hold for an outsourced service rep that isn’t competent enough to answer my question anyway. And you should be too.
Take a good look at the customer service capabilities and reputation of any host you consider, and avoid unnecessary frustration down the road.
After researching which web hosts met my three primary goals (speed, reliability, and customer service), it was time to flip the script and worry about the other side of the equation.
So I made a quick list of potential deal-breakers:
From what I’ve seen, pricing for shared plans is pretty competitive across major hosting companies. There may be a bit of fluctuation depending on current deals and incentives.
Most of the base shared plans will cost you less than $5 per month. As I mentioned earlier, I strongly discourage making your hosting decision on price alone.
On the other hand, considering there are a lot of competitive options to chose from, I certainly wouldn’t pay a premium either.
In the end, the important thing to do when considering the price is to make sure that what you are paying for the features you need for your website is in a reasonable ballpark of what you’d pay at a competitor.
Beyond that, I think a lot of the other hosting features we are considering trump a few bucks here and there.
Scalability is simply the ability for a service to grow alongside your business.
I wanted to develop a long-term relationship with a web host, so it was important to me that the providers I looked into had options that were ideal for the start of my site, but could also support me years later if my needs were exponentially higher.
I didn’t want to be in a situation where I got familiar and comfortable with my host, and then exceeded their effective capacity six months down the road,forcing me to shop around again and go through the hassle of moving everything to a new host… along with learning everything again too… ugh, no thanks!
I also considered scalability perks like how easy it would be to change my plan on the fly from one of the lower-tier shared hosting plans to something more advanced, like a cloud hosted or dedicated server down the line if I needed more juice.
The more seamless and easy the experience was on my end, the better.
At Income Engineered, I don’t just want to help you make the best decisions for your business. I want to help you do it as efficiently and effortlessly as possible.
Look, we are all busy. For most of you just starting out, you likely have a full-time job in addition to running your site. You may also have a family and other hobbies and activities.
I want to help you minimize the time and effort required to build and manage your website so that you can maximize your time and effort on what matters… putting out great content and converting that into a healthy income.
That’s my goal too, so an overly-complex web host that’s difficult to set up or configure was a huge deal-breaker for me.
Here are the two best ways I’ve found to research complexity before buying:
Read user reviews and look for complaints involving the user interface, customer service, CPanel, or other aspects of the service. Generally, the better the user reviews are, the easier and more hassle-free the service will be.
Go to the company’s website and see how easy it is to navigate the site and find information. In general, the “public” face trying to sell to you is going to be simpler than the “private” side that you use as a customer after paying. If I see a jumbled, confusing, or poorly designed sales site, it’s a major red flag for me.
At the end of the day, the web host should be a piece of cake. I want to get my site up and running and not have to worry about it too often. If something does come up, I want to be able to find the information I need quickly and move on.
The last step of my evaluation process was to think outside of the box. Now that I knew which hosts met my goals while avoiding my deal-breakers, what were the adverse conditions I should be considering?
Here’s what I came up with:
We touched on uptime when we talked about reliability, but what is my web host doing to keep me safe? Site downtime means money downtime, and that's something we want to minimize.
But if I have the misfortune of getting hacked, my server crashes, or some other calamity occurs, what is my web host doing to minimize my pain?
Remember when we talked about your website being equivalent to the building that houses your business? If you had a brick and mortar store or office, you’d be interested in having strong locks, secure windows, an alarm system, security cameras… maybe even a security guard or two.
Why should your online business be any different?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of malicious, dishonest people in the world that want a quick way to make a buck at your expense. Don’t let them.
Your website is or could be your livelihood. Treat it as such. Make sure that the security features of your web host are up-to-par.
We talked about the importance of host speed. However, one variable that we didn't directly consider is server location.
Why does that matter?
Let's say, for example; I have a blazing fast server in New York. That's perfect for people in the northeast USA, but someone in California is going to see noticeably slower load speeds.
You can test this out yourself to see what I mean by using a site like:
Run a speed test, then change your server to something further away. See how the speed goes up a bit?
Location can play a big part in site speed, which we determined was one of the most important aspects of user experience when we talked about goals a little bit ago. What’s the point of a fast server if the server isn’t located to serve your audience optimally?
The last curveball I considered was brand identity.
What do I mean by that?
I knew that I was building a website geared towards helping entrepreneurs and online businesses learn effective, efficient strategies for developing and improving their online presence.
As part of that mission, I knew that I would want to have a reliable web hosting company that I knew and trusted to recommend to my followers that needed a great host.
It was imperative to me that the host I selected... not only to host my own site but also to recommend to my readers... was a company that shared my values and that I could stand behind.
As you shop for a web host, you’ll come across a pretty wide range of perceived quality. Landing on some home pages, I could tell right away that the company wasn’t someone I wanted to do business with.
Horrible web design? Why would I trust them with my business?
Spammy advertisements and cheap sales tricks? I want to form a professional relationship with a company I can trust to support me, not save a buck with a promo code.
If you shop around a bit, you’ll quickly see what I mean. Don’t start a potentially long-term business relationship with a provider you aren’t confident in.
Up to this point, we’ve gone through 9 factors that I feel are important when evaluating your web host:
These are the specific things that I considered when shopping for a new host when I built Income Engineered.
So… where did I land?
Incomeengineered.com, as well as other sites I've built, like politicsengineered.com, are all hosted by SiteGround. After a LOT of research and evaluation, I felt that they best met all of my criteria. Specifically, I was most impressed with their technology and brand identity… all while being blown away by their fantastic customer service.
Disclaimer: I've set up an affiliate relationship with SiteGround. This means that if you purchase an account through my links, I'll get a commission. I only set this up after I chose them for my web host in order to help fund this post and other content like it. I always recommend tools and services that I use and believe in, and would never promote something just for the commission. Don't purchase anything you don't think will help your site, but if you do decide to go with SiteGround, I'd really appreciate the support!
Before you go off and make a decision for yourself, let’s go through the nine factors we’ve been discussing and figure out how SiteGround stacked up.
I found my way to SiteGround’s technology page and was immediately excited that they use Solid State Drives (SSDs) for ALL of their hosting options.
I remember a few years ago when I upgraded my desktop’s hard drive to an SSD, and it was like a revelation… best PC upgrade I’ve done to this day. They had my attention.
Continuing, it was pretty clear to me that they pride themselves in using modern technology to make their hosting as fast as possible.
I finished up my speed research by googling for some independent site speed tests. Across the half dozen tests that I investigated, SiteGround consistently performed well, usually towards the top of the pack.
Speed looks good.
SiteGround claims that their uptime is over 99.99%
From what I could tell from my research, they seem to back that up pretty well. According to SiteGround’s site, they have had 99.999% uptime this month (June 2017) and 99.996% uptime this year.
Reliability technology includes Linux containers (LXC) which have good flexibility to handle traffic spikes, advanced in-house server monitoring, an in-house backup system the minimizes restore times, and secure account isolation so that accounts do not affect each other.
Personally, I have had no reliability issues thus far. I will update this section of the article in the future if I encounter any reliability issues down the road.
SiteGround is well known for having an amazing support team.
Apparently, they over-staff their available support to ensure that any wait time is minuscule. For busy people trying to run an online business… often in off hours after their day job… this is huge.
I’ve used their live chat feature several times for random questions. Each time, I clicked the live chat button and had a support person talking with me in less than 30 seconds. Their communication was friendly and professional, and they offered a lot of advice and knowledge.
To date, in the three instances that I’ve used the support feature, my problem has been resolved in under five minutes each time, either by explaining something to me, linking me to a useful tutorial, or fixing the issue on their end for me. Very impressive.
One cool feature about their support staff is that they show you the personal profile of whoever you’re being helped by. Fire up a live chat, and you’ll see the person’s picture, technical background, years of experience, areas of expertise, and even interests. Very cool.
Another useful feature I found was their library of step-by-step tutorials (I counted 83!) and webinars. This is a great resource to help get you up and running in an area you’re less experienced with. They don’t just cover basic web host setup either… I browsed everything from web design tools to eCommerce solutions.
I’ve had my fair share of miserable support experiences in other aspects of my life (cable providers may take the cake), and it was crucial to me to have a support system that I could rely upon quickly, at any time.
SiteGround’s price is competitive with other hosting companies I considered. In fact, the entry level “StartUp” plan is only $3.95 per month at the time I’m writing this article.
At under 4 dollars a month, the cost of hosting should be practically negligible, even for brand new businesses. Just think, $4 is less than your average fast food lunch. If you can’t invest a few dollars a month into your business, you probably aren’t taking it seriously enough.
Personally, I grabbed the “GrowBig” plan at $7.95 a month because I wanted to host multiple domains. I intend to upgrade to the “GoGeek” plan soon, specifically for the one-click WordPress staging and higher machine resources.
If you’re just starting out with a new blog, or a web page for your business, and you don’t think you’ll need additional domains right away, just grab the “StartUp” plan and get rolling. You can always upgrade later.
In the end, with prices under $4 a month available, the cost wasn’t a deal-breaker in my evaluation.
Digging into SiteGround’s options, they passed this test with flying colors.
For starters, they have three shared hosting items (the three packages I mentioned in the price section).
Shared hosting means that you are buying space on a server that houses your website, and other websites. It's ideal for people starting out because the fact that you are sharing space with other people drives the cost way down.
Next, they have a cloud hosting option, which also has three tiers for various performance capabilities. I wanted to get a bit more info on the difference between shared and cloud from a technology standpoint, so I fired up the support chat and asked.
The chat was quick and easy, a chat window popped up with all of my agent’s information, and I got a response within 30 seconds of clicking the button. Here is what they said about cloud hosting:
“The Cloud will be your own virtual server with all resources dedicated to your needs, it's based on a technology called Linux Containers which is the fastest and most stable environment for virtualization out there.”
Very cool. He also let me know that if I were on a shared plan like GoGeek, they would be monitoring my site’s performance 24/7 and inform me when I needed to upgrade to a cloud service. He said the process was quick and easy. I was excited to hear that I wouldn’t need to worry about deciding when it was time to upgrade.
If cloud hosting isn’t enough for your business (congrats on that!) SiteGround also has a dedicated server option. In this case, you have your very own machine to host your site, with several options available for server performance.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with scalability options. I am confident that my site will be able to grow here for a long time, and it’s great to know that my web host is keeping an eye on things for me and letting me know when it’s time to upgrade my site’s horsepower.
Honestly, from a complexity standpoint, it doesn’t get much better than this. SiteGround’s site is well designed, easy to navigate, and full of useful information. This doesn’t change once you fork over your credit card and get to the customer side of the site to manage your account.
On top of that, their top-notch customer service and an extensive library of tutorials make figuring things out about as painless as possible.
When I signed up for SiteGround, all I had to do was click the plan I wanted, choose my free domain, fill out standard information for the account creation and payment process, and use the 1-click WordPress install from the Cpanel. That’s it.
It doesn’t get much easier than that.
So what’s SiteGround doing to keep my websites safe?
I discovered that SiteGround has a Firewall system and, at the time of this writing, has written over 800 WAF rules to fix vulnerabilities in the last 12 months.
This tells me they are actively closing any holes quickly, and doing the best they can to prevent an incident from happening in the first place.
What about if a hack, crash, or some other unfortunate event does happen?
SiteGround's platform uses top LXC technology for automated monitoring and daily backups.
Daily backups are great because that means that if a catastrophe occurs and I need to roll back my site, I should only lose a day's worth of work at the worst.
SiteGround's U.S. servers are in Chicago, which is a relatively centralized location for the United States.
While the northern Midwest may see the best speeds, the east and west coast should both be pretty solid which is a good compromise and should give competitive speeds to all of my American and Canadian readers.
SiteGround also has servers in London, Amsterdam, and Singapore, so keep that in mind if you’re from Europe or Asia.
Brand Identity was critical to me because I wasn’t just shopping for the best option for myself… I was also shopping for the option that I would be confident and proud to recommend to you, my readers.
First of all, I like the design and style of SiteGround's website. They have an excellent taste for web design. I knew that when I linked my readers to their site, they'd sense and appreciate the modern, professional look and feel.
I'm also a technology guy. Seeing SiteGround's commitment to top-notch technological solutions really jumped out at me, and I knew it would impress my readers as well.
Finally, I was extremely impressed with SiteGround's robust, efficient, and helpful support system. I'm all about finding the right answer in a productive manner, and the near-instant replies to chat and phone support do exactly that.
All in all, I thought that SiteGround shared many of my values and goals, and I knew I could recommend it confidently to my readers.
So there you have it, folks, that's exactly how I evaluated SiteGround and came to the conclusion that they would be the web host I built my business on.
I evaluated many other hosts in a similar manner, and while a few came close, none offered the complete overall package that I felt SiteGround presented.
As one of your guides through your online entrepreneurial journey, I highly recommend SiteGround if you are looking for a new web host.
If you have any questions that I didn't cover, I strongly urge you to go to SiteGround's support page and fire up a live chat with one of their representatives. It was helpful for me.
If you found this post useful and you plan to sign up for an account with SiteGround, I'd appreciate it if you used my affiliate link.
By using that link, I get a small commission at no added cost to you. It's a way for me to fund the research and development of additional resources to serve you and your business.
As a rule, I only recommend services that I currently use or have used in the past.
I recommend a lot of tools and services on this site that I get no affiliate commission for (even though I could if I recommended a competitor instead) only because I believe they are the best option for you.
As far as web host affiliates go, I could have made similar commissions from recommending any number of other hosts with similar affiliate programs, so that wasn’t a factor in my evaluation.
At the end of the day, my #1 goal is to give you the best solutions for your business that I can.
It's completely free and will have you up-and-running in no time. I’ll teach you not only how to set up SiteGround quickly, but also how to:
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