Finding the Best Hosting Companies: An Introduction

Hosting Server for RentIn this series of articles I go through hosting in great detail. My introduction gets a bit technical. If you’re not a tech-guy, I suggest you to skip to part 2. All you need to get in your head from here is that domains and hosting are two completely different things and what a web host basically does is lending you hard drive space, bandwidth and CPU usage from their computers. If you want to go into more details, keep on reading. It’s not that tough to understand!

Hosting companies offer very rewarding affiliate commissions. For this reason finding an honest review and relying on information found on the web to choose the best hosting companies can become a nightmare. I had a very hard time finding the right web host provider for this website. And here it is, in case you’re wondering. Since I too get a commission from them, you may not want to trust my recommendation. No offense taken. It means you’re smart enough to do this job! Had you just registered at the link above, thinking “I want to trust this dude. He looks cool! I am sure he wouldn’t lie to me!“…well that just means you’re dupable. But truth is I tested too many hosting companies and the one I am using for Money Earning Sites, is truly the best host for a new business. As far as delivering a fantastic experience to my visitors goes, they can’t be bet. They offer a one month free trial with no payment required upfront and you don’t even have to provide a credit card or Paypal account. I may or may not be the biggest liar on the face of the planet, who would sell his granny for two bucks, but you’ve got no reason not to try them out. You don’t need to trust me. You just need to see it with your own eyes. 😉 However, if you still want to go on your way in your quest for the best ever hosting company, you’ll need to be equipped with a little basic knowledge, to avoid falling into some trap set by big hosting review sites that only want your hard earned cash. Don’t trust anyone just because they’re a huge site or claim that they make a lot of money. Educate yourself, first! Let’s start with the basics…

Domain Names

In order to have a functional website you need to have both a hosting package and a domain name. The latter is a human friendly name which identifies a computer connected to the Internet. All domain names consist of a top level domain (TLD) such as .com, .net, .org, .it, .es and several middle level domains (MLDs), each separated by a period. An example is mail.moneyearningsites.net, where the top level domain is net and the middle level domains are mail and moneyearningsites. The middle level domains to the left of a TLD or MLD are said to be subordinate domains or sub domains to the TLD or MLD to their right. Thus, in the above example, mail is a sub domain of moneyearningsites and moneyearningsites is a subdomain of net. TLDs are controlled by one and only one agency in the whole world: ICANN which stands for “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers”. Companies like Namecheap or GoDaddy apply to act as registrars on behalf of ICANN and sell middle level domains to end users. Registrars also manage the Domain Name System (DNS) for domain names registered through them. This means that they associate an IP address to each domain*. An IP address is what identifies every computer that is connected to the Internet. When a computer is used to deliver content, such as a website, over the Internet, it is called a server. Hosting companies rent their servers (computers) to end users like you and me so that our sites can be safely stored and delivered over the Internet 24 hours a day.

Domain Name Example*This is a gross oversimplification of the actual process. More details are given below.

Can YOU Be Your Own Best Hosting Company?

You can be your own host. As explained above, by web hosting service we simply mean a computer that is set up to serve content to the Internet. You can pay a professional webhost to host your site on their servers or you can turn your own home PC to a server itself. All you need is a free application called XAMPP. I do suggest you to download this application, even if you don’t wish to become your won host. You can use it to store a copy of your website on your PC and work on developing your site offline. The following is not meant to be a tutorial and you are not expected to be able to set up your home computer as a host by reading the few paragraphs presented below. This is just to give a rough idea of how the Internet works.

Once you have XAMPP installed, you can start the application and basically you get the same functionality which you typically get from a web hosting company. Instead of uploading your website to your host however, you just move it to the XAMPP folder. If you know how to install a website through a shared hosting provider’s interface, you can easily install it on XAMPP too. That’s all you need to do to test your website on your PC. If you want to go live, there is still a lot to do!  You need at least two static IP addresses to set up a DNS (Domain Name System) or you can use a free service such as dynDNS.com to resolve your IPs. OK…OK…this is indeed starting to sound very complicated. Well, think of it as a three step process:

  • Step 1: Register a domain via your favorite registrar with ICANN.
  • Step 2: Store your website on a computer with IP a.b.c.d running XAMPP, which acts as a server.
  • Step 3: Use an application such as BIND to set up at least two servers which will act as an intermediary between your computer with IP a.b.c.d and your domain. Note that the three servers can be set on the same machine.

A DNS server is basically an “address book” which translates domains to IP addresses. Why do you need two? This is required so that if one of the servers goes down another one will be available. Once more, I will repeat that you can host your own site on your PC without the need to set up the DNS servers (step3) as you can use the ones provided for free by dynDNS. Once this setup is ready, here is what happens:

  1. A user types your domain in their browser.
  2. The browser queries your registrar to find its way to your DNS Server.
  3. The browser connects to the DNS server which tells him the IP address associated with the domain.
  4. The browser downloads your website for the user to enjoy.

You may ask, why the heck doesn’t the registrar just tell the IP itself. Well the process is a bit more complicated and involves a large network of DNS servers that cache the data retrieved from the registrar. I simplified step 2 by saying that the browser contacts the registrar. What it actually does is connecting with nearby DNS servers. If one server does not have the information required, it contacts another one and so on until finally the registrar can show the way to the correct DNS server for the browser. When this happens, all of the DNS servers, that the browser went through, will cache the information obtained from the registrar. This way next time another browser asks the same thing, they will be able to provide the information right away.

Have you ever changed hosting company? If you did chances are that you updated your DNS records with your registrar, but it took up to 24 hours or more to start viewing your site correctly from the new host.  That is because, when contacting DNS servers as outlined above, your browser may come across some that have outdated information pointing to the old IP address. So, until all the DNS servers update themselves with the new information, some users will keep retrieving the data from your old host. Computers TalkingSo did I try to make this sound more complicated than it really is to make you sign on the hosting plan I am pitching? I am afraid I didn’t. It is much complicated and also requires that you have your server running 24 hours a day. It involves extra stress and electricity bills to pay. Not to mention the time wasted and the security risks. Can you protect your server from hacking, malware and other attacks like the pros do? I strongly advice against hosting your own site. And, you will not find one expert on the Internet who will tell you it’s a good idea. Of course you would also need to be quite of a techie guy!

I did want to go through this to clear up two facts. I already mentioned them at the beginning of this article: domains and hosting are two completely different things and what a web host does, basically, is renting you web space, bandwidth and CPU usage on a computer they own. If you got that in your head, you’re on your way to hunting down and finding the best hosting companies out there!

Things Change So Fast

You may recall that in many of my previous articles I advocated the idea of registering keyword rich domain names. It’s becoming more and more apparent that Google has declared war to keyword rich domains, meaning both EMDs and PMDs. EMD stands for exact match domains such as, for instance, moneyearningsites.net which only contains my keywords – “money earning sites“. PMDs or partial match domains such as emoneyearningsites.net or moneyearningsitesblog.net contain the keywords plus additional prefixes or suffices. PMDs seem to have been degraded to spam after Google’s Panda 2.0 update and quite recently EMDs are apparently being affected too, although not to the extent of PMDs. This has had a very bad impact on this site, unfortunately. So unless you have a specific reason such as a very “reddish micro niche site”, I would suggest using your brand as your domain and getting a .com. You may wish to read this article differentiating micro from macro niche sites to see what I mean with “very reddish site“.

Keep Your Domain and Hosting COMPANIES Separate

As much as the free domains, that some hosting companies offer, may sound tempting, as Admiral Ackbar would say “It’s a Trap!!!“. Sure, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth but if the horse got trained to destroy your farm then it’s better to ask your lady to hand you the gun! This bonus which web hosting companies offer is nothing but a big trap. This applies to all hosts including the best ones which I recommend, to be clear. Your domain is your biggest asset. Don’t let the hosting companies use your domain to blackmail you.

A hosting company that’s the best today can become crap tomorrow. This has just happened to Hostgator! Even if you find the best and greatest provider ever, it doesn’t mean they will stay like that forever. Eventually, if your business is successful, your site will outgrow any shared web hosting and you will need to upgrade. The best shared hosting companies aren’t necessarily also the best for providing VPS, semi dedicated or dedicated servers. You may just want to switch to a different webhost!

If you register your domain with your hosting provider, it will be quite complicated for you to migrate to a new host because you will need to transfer your domain. And that’s just the very best option you might be given. At the very worst, you risk that an unscrupulous host refuses to give you control over it, so as to force you to renew or upgrade your plan with them. Once more, keep your domain name and hosting service separate. My advice is to register your domain through Namecheap and use Site5 for your hosting needs. I use both of these services personally and have no problem recommending them on my own website, since I am 100% sure that anyone who tries them out, will come back and thank me! After all, when a host let’s you try their services for a whole month without even asking you to take your credit card out of the wallet, they must have something valuable to offer.

If you’re still doubtful and want to learn more on hosting, particularly why the other services are so inferior to Site5, despite the fact that the big review sites heartily recommend them make sure to read my next article: Finding the Best Web Hosting Companies Part II: Understanding Shared Hosting.

3 thoughts on “Finding the Best Hosting Companies: An Introduction

  1. Arthur

    I’ve been with Hostgator for a few years now and the service has been great. Until you said I didn’t know they had changed hands…so have been looking and asking around.

    I use WordPress as my platform and have been looking into WP-Engine and SiteGround hosting. Both have been recommended…now you say Site5!

    You ever looked at WP-Engine or SiteGround?

    Just want to make the right decision rather than having to keep moving!

    Thanks,

    Andrew

  2. Hi Andrew,

    I am not sure if the Site5 Host Pro plan may be enough for your blog which gets quite a lot of traffic. SIte5 can’t be beat for new blogs. They deliver the same speed and uptime that a $200 server would. And I mean that literally. In my next two articles I will be publishing some tests which I did comparing sites hosted on expensive dedicated servers to my site hosted on site5. The speed is just about the same on average and so far the uptime has been 100%. However the shared hosting plans on site5 cannot handle high traffic blogs. The good thing is you can try them for free to see if they meet your needs. I am still taking my test drive with them and so far, they haven’t even asked me for my credit card or Paypal email.

    I have not tested SiteGround but I did test WP-Engine. In fact WP-Engine is among my list of recommended hosts (which btw still shows Hostgator and I will be updating it soon). It might work better for your site that has a high volume of traffic. The price is 3x what Site5 ask for their Hosting Pro plan and a bit higher than Site5’s unlimited VPS plan (which I haven’t tested but they say it’s even faster than Host Pro). Honestly I do not yet know what I will do when my blog outgrows the host pro plan (or “if” it gets that big, I should say). I don’t think WP-Engine is for me. They are a managed hosting service which means they will be messing with my files, themes and plugins. And while I am sure some people love to see all the optimizing and stuff done for them, I personally like to be always in control. So, I will likely get a Site5 VPS and then eventually a Liquid Web Dedicated Host. But things change so fast on the Internet, that by the time that happens I am sure that I will have changed my mind 80 times! :) So far, I am extremely pleased with my experience on SIte5.

    Arthur

    • Arthur

      Thanks for coming back to me and sharing even more advice.

      I’m going to give SiteGround a go as they are offering one years free hosting at the moment and I’ve heard good things about them.

      Andrew

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