Change can be uncomfortable.
If you’ve been with a host for a really long time, the idea of moving away from them, losing that familiarity, not having them at your back anymore (whether they really were or not, or used to be but now not so much), can be scary. Maybe you feel an obligation to them. Or, you have a real obligation, like a 3-year contract. ‘Moving hosts’ is often a frighteningly intimidating prospect – just ask my clients.
A few weeks ago a new client signed up for my WordPress maintenance service, but I had to let her know I couldn’t help her because her host was running such a very old version of PHP on her site’s server that my software couldn’t work with it.
That’s more than just an inconvenience. Older versions of PHP are no longer updated for security or anything else; they pose a risk to everyone hosting on that server. Plus, they are waaaaay slower than modern PHP versions like PHP 7 (which is what WordPress recommends for their sites).
What are some indications that it might be time for a new host?
- Support is lousy, or it used to be great and now is on a downhill slide. This is what happened with my beloved HostGator when they sold to EIG years ago. You don’t have to put up with poor support, even with cheap shared hosting. There are still inexpensive, high-quality hosts still out there, though far fewer than there used to be.
- Your site experiences frequent downtime. This can be larger chunks of time or just a lot of little periods of unreachability that you might see if using an uptime monitor. Don’t put up with this.
- Your site is snail-like. If your site is still ridiculously slow after you’ve made some effort to optimize it for faster loading, the host is a likely contributor. Especially if they’re running software from 2012 on your server, as was the case with my recent client’s experience. And, especially if you’re using cheap shared hosting where they pack way too many sites on one server. There are only so many resources to go around.
- Your host ties you into a multi-year contract usually bundled with other services you don’t understand or need. Don’t do that – if you decide to move you usually cannot get a refund. Go month to month (my hosting does this) or at most a one year term.
- You’re migrating from a simple website to a CMS (content management system) like WordPress. Your cheap shared hosting will not cut it for a CMS, it will be so very slow. Go with a host that specializes in the CMS you’re getting, you can still get very reasonable pricing and they will be much better positioned to support you.
- You get flagged by your host for too much traffic. This is a good problem to have! You might consider going with a managed host (for something like WordPress) or even a VPS (virtual private server), which you can get for around $25-30/month.
- Your hosting needs change. If your long-time host can’t accommodate your new, more specific hosting requirements, that’s definitely a sign that it’s time to move. You’ll have little choice in this.
- You want to add SSL and secure your site and your host charges a lot to do this. This is pretty common and not necessarily a reason to move if this is the only issue with your host, but there are hosts out there that offer free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates.
So what happened with my client?
She really did not want to leave ____________ (insert name of popular big-box host) because she’d been with them for many years. She felt they were good because they were big and was afraid to move to a smaller (albeit much better-suited) competitor. But when she asked to be moved to a server with modern software and they tried to sell her a 5 year contract, she decided it was time to go. She is much happier with her new host, and it was a fairly pain-free move. It wasn’t as bad as she expected it to be. It rarely is.
What hosting do I recommend to my clients?
Here are three options based on budget: under $10/mo, $20-30/mo, and over $30/mo.
Cheap shared hosting – since all my clients use WordPress, a WordPress-focused host is required. SiteGround is my host of choice at this price point. Their WordPress plans are all well-constructed and include perks like a free CDN and free SSL certificates (super-easy to set up!), their support is responsive, and servers are optimized for WordPress performance and security. Disclosure: I’m an affiliate for SiteGround because I can recommend them whole-heartedly. If you care to use my affiliate link, click here, otherwise check out their WordPress hosting plans here.
VPS – I hosted with KnownHost for many years. Their managed VPS plans are affordable, starting at $25/mo for SSD packages, and they have some of the fastest and best support I’ve ever encountered. Learn more about why they might be your best choice for a VPS. You might need a VPS if you start getting a good amount of traffic, as it’s basically your own private server, and optimized for speed and security.
Managed WordPress hosting – assuming you’re using WordPress and have a larger, more complex site, like an ecommerce site, my host of choice is WP Engine. The best support I’ve ever had (even better than Knownhost) and you can’t faze their support techs with any kind of question. Fast servers, staging areas, CDN, 24/7 security, instant rollbacks. This is the cream of the crop for WordPress sites. Starts at $50/mo (with the CDN, or $29/mo without it but it’s useful for performance). Or you can get it for $25 (with the CDN) if you host through Red Kite as most of my clients do.
You don’t have to put up with a bad host. Moving is usually pretty straightforward, unless you have a monster of a site, and in that case most hosts will help you migrate. If you’d like more info on choosing a good host, or concerns about your existing host, just ask.