In the past twenty years, I’ve seen good web hosts and bad web hosts. At some point, even the best of web hosts can have problems. After all, they are computers (problem #1) being managed by humans (problem #2). The key difference between a good and a bad web host boils down to two main issues: ease of use and customer support.
Some interfaces may seem obvious to geeks, but the rest of us are fumbling around trying to understand the vocabulary and find the right button to click. In addition, if I do need help because a website is having issues or I can’t figure out how to do “X”, I want support to be available quickly. Maybe I have high standards, but I also want my support to be friendly, easy-to-understand, and extra helpful. Oh, and honest. Yes, I’ve had hosting company support staff actually lie to me. More than once, sadly.
It also disturbs me that the web industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. Think about it—those machines are running non-stop (hopefully), 24/7, and consume a lot of energy. Some web hosting companies try to offset their carbon emissions through using EnergyStar servers and renewable energy sources. Other web hosts choose to disregard their environmental impact. I recommend looking for the prospective host’s environmental policy to help you with your selection.
Hosted vs proprietary platform
Some websites can be easily built using proprietary platforms like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. This platforms create extremely user-friendly interfaces so you never have to deal with code or anything that looks remotely “techie”. Squarespace even provides a decent level of Search Engine Optimization and has good customer support. I admit I like the platform and understand why it’s so popular.
The main problem with proprietary platforms is ownership. You don’t actually own your website—the platform company owns it. If they decide to make changes, you can’t do anything about it. If they get sold, merge, or make executive decisions to change their offerings, you’re stuck. Worse yet, if they go out of business or you decide you want to use another host, your website is gone. Period. You can’t move your files to another web host because your website was built on their proprietary system.
Primarily for this reason, I recommend using a traditional web host. Even if you have to pay a little bit extra to a developer to get it set up, it may save you money and prevent headaches in the long run.