Articles by Nina Litovsky

Website hosting

I do not recommend hosting your website with the same web company that built it. A company that builds and hosts a website on their own proprietary platform generally charges higher rates than those charged by the big and popular hosting companies for a comparable plan. Besides, a web company that does their own hosting will essentially lock you into using their services. It will be much more difficult, if not outright impossible, to migrate a website and email away from such a company, if you ever decide to move on and to switch to another web designer.

Another disadvantage is that when you host your website with the same company that built it, you don’t have much choice with regards to technical improvements. For example, one dentist wrote on a forum that they were concerned about their website slow performance, and when they approached their web company which builds and hosts hundreds of other dental websites in addition to theirs, the dentist was told that “it’s system wide change and they can’t do it for just my office and they are not sure when they able to make any changes.” This is part of the reason why I usually recommend self-hosting.

Self-hosting a WordPress site

Self-hosting is when you subscribe to the hosting plan of your choosing and have a WordPress website developed there. WordPress is a platform for building websites that is open-source, which means, no single company owns it. It’s currently the best and most popular platform for small business websites, so you have many options when it comes to choosing a web designer and hosting provider that work with WordPress.

Self-hosting a WordPress site guarantees that a) you can pick the hosting that’s best for quality and speed and b) if you don’t like your hosting due to non-performance, you can very easily migrate your website to another, better hosting without losing your website.

Is it difficult?

It’s important to remember that self-hosting is NOT a daunting thing. You simply register the hosting plan in your name. Your web designer sets up and designs your website, and the hosting company takes care of all the technical maintenance. You don’t have to do anything – and you have the peace of mind knowing that you own your website. And, if you get a high-quality hosting plan, you will enjoy many benefits, including good speed.

The process

Therefore, the approach that will provide you with better flexibility and potential cost savings will be to develop your website in WordPress, to buy a managed WordPress hosting plan with one of the popular and well-established providers, and to retain your web designer for specific website work on as-needed basis, such as for performing occasional fixes and additions to your website.

Self-hosting your website on an open-source platform is a more cost-effective solution which guarantees full control and flexibility. With proper hosting, any security risks of owning an open-source website are reduced to a minimum, and should be remedied relatively painlessly in rare cases something happens.

What type of hosting is best

A managed WordPress hosting plan is better than a regular shared hosting plan because it’s designed specifically for WordPress. It will provide all the monthly technical maintenance you need for your WordPress website, including:

1. Automated backup & restore feature. It’s extremely important to back up your site regularly. An easy one-click restore function is equally important, because, should you need to restore your site to an earlier version, doing so manually will be tedious. It’s much easier to use a one-click feature.

2. Regular security scanning and malware detection.

3. Automated WordPress software upgrades. As with any software, you need to keep your WordPress updated to avoid potential security and performance issues. Managed WordPress hosting plan applies updates automatically.

4. Significant speed improvements.

5. Good technical support in case something happens, which should be rare if you are using a quality service.

6. Development perks such as staging sites, which allow you to make a copy of your site to test out new features.

7. Plugin blacklisting (see below).

Hosting plans

At the time of writing, I recommend the following hosting plans:

Siteground (cheap; plans start with $10/month regular price; provides at least some of the features above, but website speed is slower).

WP Engine (premium; $24 with their annual subscription; provides all of the features above and more; website speed is stellar).

A note about plugins

Plugins are often used to extend the functionality of a WordPress site, and usually they work well. However, some website owners have “there’s a plugin for that” mentality and blindly install plugins for every little thing. In many cases, plugins are not needed – a few lines of code can do the job much more efficiently. In other cases, plugins duplicate each other. Often, a site owner installs 2-3 plugins to do a job that can be done more efficiently with just one custom plugin built by a web developer.

Plugins are good tools when used in moderation. It’s important to remember that any plugin can be a source of vulnerability, so you should only install those plugins that are necessary and that are well-maintained. WordPress.org puts is a warning on a plugin’s download page if the plugin hasn’t been maintained by its developer in the past 2 years. Once installed on the site, plugins need to be promptly updated as soon as new updates are released.

Companies such as WP Engine blacklist plugins that are known to have security vulnerabilities. Such blacklisting provides a reliable safety net for webmasters. In addition, if you install a plugin and it breaks something on the site, you can very easily restore to a backup using the hosting provider’s backup & restore feature.