Web Site Hosts

I have found a wealth of information & recommendations here on Learning Management Systems; but I haven't found much information on personal websites (other than many brilliant examples of people who have created them using the various articulate programs.

So here are my questions:

1)     Who is the best FREE provider/service?

2)     Which site/service provides the best value for the money in a "paid for" service? And...

3)   What host/provider do you use and why?

9 Replies
Jerson  Campos

I like creating websites with wordpress. So I tend to look for what they offer in regards to wordpress capabilities. I would say about 90% of service providers can host a wordpress site at their most basic packages. Some you have to pay extra if you want a wordpress site. Most have a quick install option (press a button and it installs it for you).  The easiest time I've had is with godaddy. They are a little more expensive than most, but I've never really had a problem with them. I've tried iPage, but after the "introductory" rate was over, they were more expensive than godaddy.  If you go for a "free" website, your site will most like have a bunch of additional adds placed in it so beware.

Alexandros Anoyatis

Hi Owen,

As a general rule in this life, you get what you pay for. The same, more or less, applies to webhosts. Now, regarding your questions :

A) Hosting a site (however small or not so small) in a free webhost, is at the very least a very risky move - even riskier if there's no advertisements of any sort as a trade off. Consider this : why would a webhost provide me with free space. free bandwidth, and a mySQL instance if they don't make any money  from me; or don't they?

Since I have in the very distant past gone this route, even if it was only for testing purposes, I'd have to say this : there is absolutely no guarantee that your site will continue to be online for any reasonable amount of time (which TBH makes a lot of sense since you're getting something for free). Your "sort-of-SLA" with these webhosts is usually a contract that basically indemnifies them from any liabilities. While this is IMHO fair it also introduces 2 side-effects you should be staying away from :

1) They don't guarantee any uptime.

2) They don't offer "fanatical" support (they don't have to).

When I, Alex, CEO of Googlesoft Inc (I made that up) express an interest to hire you, I expect you to have a running website.

B) Theoretically, most shared server environments are in a position to claim they are VFM. However they also share many of the drawbacks of a free webhost (maybe sans the uptime guarantee). Realistically, most shared server webhosts suffer from pretty poor performance because you are essentially sharing non guaranteed resources with maybe another 50-100 (or more depending on configuration) accounts with varying amounts of traffic and scope (some of them are bound to be email harvesters / spammers etc).

If you are fortunate enough to be assigned to a server with few or no spammers, and low traffic accounts, then this environment may be the best VFM you're ever going to get. But it is a gamble nonetheless (and as is the case with gambling - the house always wins ).

C) I am personally using a shared hosting environment from a regional reseller (that's right - the physical location of the site server is in Germany) for all things regarding the website, but I also use a cloud service from Rackspace for all the serious, resource intensive stuff - like LMS environments, Storyline, Studio, and Captivate media files etc). The costs aren't that much higher compared to a shared server environment, but the administrative overhead can be a little daunting for the uninitiated,

I'm going to stop talking now...

Hope this helps,

Alex

P.S.: I hope i have done enough to convince you that A is a BAD idea...

Scott Kaye

I have used a number of free and budget hosting solutions. Right now for best bang for your buck I would go with namecheap. 

For hosting and domain registration I pay about 50 USD a year. Their site management tools are easy and intuitive. Through their tools I can put just about any kind of site up with a few clicks (wordpress, joomla, moodle, etc)

Vasily Ingogly

My recommendation for an inexpensive but quality shared host is Bluehost ... $4.95/month; this is the one I recommend to clients. I'd avoid free hosting ... you get what you pay for. There are plenty of other good affordable hosts; the one I steer my clients away from is Godaddy.

For my sites, I have a virtual server at WiredTree but a VPS is going to be more expensive and complicated to set up. I do my domain registration at Namecheap.  Note that most shared hosts like Bluehost include a domain registration with their hosting packages.

For trouble-free WordPress hosting, I suggest looking at WPEngine though you'll pay $29.00/month for it. They take care of backups, security, and performance for you.

If the person you're helping wants to do this in WordPress, I recommend the following WordPress plugins (many of these are not necessary if he/she goes with WPEngine):

  • BackupBuddy or XCloner for backups
  • Wordfence, Better WP Security, and TimThumb Vulnerability Scanner for security
  • WP Smush.it and Better WP Minify for optimization
  • Akismet or Defensio for spam blocking
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast for Search Engine Optimization

That's the basic core security/performance package I install on all my sites.

Ben Delaney Wyse

I have set up sites for a number of clients, large and small.  I work with 4 hosting providers, depending on the client's need.  The best overall choices, IMHO, for a small user is either Go Daddy or Hostgator.   As Vasily mentioned, you definitely get what you pay for.  Free hosting is only for someone who can't afford even $5 / month.  

If you are doing a small HTML static site, then it really doesn't matter too much where you host it.  But, even there, I recommend people take a look at WordPress.   If you decide to build in WordPress, this is where the hosting  provider really matters a lot.  And that is why I keep circling back to Go Daddy and Hostgator.  They make WordPress really easy for the average bear.  And they are very affordable too.  Besides the quality of the servers, no one can beat their customer support.  And if you get very deep into WordPress, you will undoubtedly need support at some point.  There are less expensive choices [but how much less than $3 - $5 / month do you want??] ; but the more technically incompetent you are, the more you will appreciate their high quality customer support. 

For larger sites, the options change a bit.  You can always find dedicated or VPS servers with GoDaddy, however, they tend to be a bit more expensive and their servers seem slow to me when you are in that realm.  But, they do host mega sites for some companies.  So, it may be that I just don't know much about tweaking out a server.    

I do know one thing.  All of my LMS sites are running on DotNetNuke (ASP.net).  For stability and security it is really hard to beat DNN. But, like WordPress, hosting really matters a lot for DNN.  You have to use a hosting provider who is really good at DNN hosting. There I use Peer1 for large LMS sites and 3Essentials for medium sites.   

All new sites I am currently working on are being built in WordPress or Magento - both PHP / MySQL platforms.   WordPress has come so far in the last couple of years as a content management system.  I truly look forward to the day when I can build secure large LMS sites in WordPress.   My regular (non LMS) clients are mostly looking to set up sites with some blog like features and serve up video, images, and audio.   WordPress is great for this.  It is great for SEO, it is great for building communities (BuddyPress), it is great for managing content, and it is great for assigning user rights to different authors, contributors and subscribers.  It is also fine for serving up Articulate / Storyline course modules now that there is a decent WordPress LMS plugin [LearnDash].  Of course you can always host web versions of any Articulate / Storyline module.  

Security is frequently mentioned as a concern with WordPress, but, this is only because people set up their sites and don't take the appropriate steps to lock it down. WP can be very secure if you do it right.  

So you can start off simple and you have unlimited options if you want to add more features later.

Hopefully this is helpful to someone.

Thanks

Vasily Ingogly

Ben D said:

Security is frequently mentioned as a concern with WordPress, but, this is only because people set up their sites and don't take the appropriate steps to lock it down. WP can be very secure if you do it right.

I agree 100%. There really three parts to the security issue for WordPress sites:

1. The security of the server you're hosting on- a shared server is compromised if any site on it is compromised, granting a hacker access to all accounts on the server; with a VPS (like WiredTree) you don't have the same vulnerability but it's a more expensive solution and more difficult to set up. An account at a high-end WordPress host like WPEngine does all the security stuff for you (as well as performance optimization), but it's also a more expensive solution.

2. The up-front things you should do when setting up WordPress - like removing the default admin account. This is what I use Better WP Security for, but I don't use it for ongoing security monitoring (be sure to use a robust password, too):

http://wordpress.org/plugins/better-wp-security/

3. The ongoing security monitoring of your site for malware and for attempts to hack into it - I use Wordfence for this, and I don't set up the monitoring options in Better WP Security (in general, it's not a good idea having two plugins doing the same thing).

http://wordpress.org/plugins/wordfence/

Install and setup these two plugins correctly, and your site will be about as secure as you can make it. Also, be sure to keep your WordPress install and your plugins up-to-date, since updates often include security fixes.

The other plugin I like to install on all sites is TimThumb Vulnerability Scanner ... there was a major security issue related to TimThumb detected in 2011, and quite a few themes and plugins use TimThumb. This plugin will scan for the vulnerability and make sure TimThumb is kept up to date.

I''ll also mention that backups are essential ... I use BackupBuddy which is a commercial plugin, but there are others like XCloner that create clones of your site that will make it a snap to restore from a backup if the worst happens. I set up the software to do a database backup at least weekly, and a full backup once a month.