Making an app go live is exciting! Starting a new blog is exciting! And when we are ready to start such a venture, the first question always becomes, where do I host it? And that search leads to a host of questions like: who’s reliable, what’s cheap, what’s good, what’s easy, what’s quick? Fortunately many of us have already gone before you, and this is my recommendation.
What makes a good web host?
What makes a good host is fairly relative. I am going to assume someone who is in the range from not technically skilled to a small company with an app. For such a person or company I see these as the main criteria for a good host:
Relatively Cheap. You probably do not have significant income at this point, so being reasonably priced is very important. And of course reasonable for some is not for others. In this group of people I consider $20/month to be on the more expensive side and sub $10/month to be ideal.
Easy To Use. If you are an app developer then this may not be as important, but I have learned that easy is good if not just for the sake of saving time. If you are non-technical then this is crucial.
Reliability. It doesn’t matter what you want to host, we always want 100% uptime. If your site is down when people want to use it (and we can’t control when that is) then you can loose you audience.
Performance. People don’t like waiting. I don’t as a developer and you don’t as a customer. Making people wait with a slow site will drive them away.
Support. Because things will happen. A host should be responsive. They should be knowledgable. They should be friendly. Support can make or break a hosting provider.
I have been doing websites since the late ’90s. I have used a few different web hosts for technologies ranging from WordPress to Ruby On Rails to Django to static HTML to Microsoft .NET websites. My favorites have been BlueHost, Linode, Rackspace, and WebFaction.
All the mentioned hosts have their benefits. But WebFaction is the one that best meets meets all 5 of the listed criteria:
Relatively Cheap. Their plans go as low as $5.50/month going up to $9.50/month depending on the time length you commit to.
Easy To Use. No cPanel here. They have custom administration software that is the easiest I have ever seen. They have done a superb job here. You can get WordPress installed in a single click. And they also have single click installation for Rails, Django and others. I could geek out with how easy they have made it to do different things, but that is too long for here.
Reliability. I have only once had an issue with my site going down. I contacted support and they told me what was going on (issue with another user on the machine). Then they gave me several solutions to resolve it. In this case they moved my account to newer, faster hardware with better software in place to prevent this issue. They moved everything over for me, and it all just worked. Super easy.
Performance. Outside of that last issue, WebFaction has had great performance. I ran a side-by-side test against A-Small-Orange with WordPress, and WebFaction was twice as fast. That said I found Linode to be even faster than WebFaction, it was the fastest server I’ve ever been on, but it was at the expense of #1 and #2 above.
Support. I mentioned some of the amazing support in #3. They have never made me feel ignorant or like I was being a bother. They are professional and timely and knowledgable. I once went over my resource limit, and they didn’t shut down my site but sent me an email explaining the situation. Then they helped me assess how my site was causing the issue.
Will WebFaction be for everybody? Definitely not, but for most of us they are perfect. I hope to one day have so successful of a blog or app that I outgrow them. But they now offer dedicated hosting, so they will be able to my needs and yours to a huge scale and for a long time.