By April 27, 2015

Blog Hosting: The Ultimate Guide

Blog hosting is such a complicated topic.

So many choices.

How can you ever know what platform and host to use to host your blog?

Well, I've done it all, from free hosting to cheap paid hosting, to full service hosting and even running my own server.

In this post, I am going to break it down for you, and give you a few simple options, so you can make a choice and start blogging.

If you already have a blog and are thinking about switching or upgrading your blog hosting, you'll probably find this info useful as well. And if you already are setup and happy with your hosting decision, skip ahead to the section, Bonus: rocket-juice to get you started with a bang.

For the full lowdown, do check out my blogging course here.

Let's start with blog hosting technology

For me, the clear choice is WordPress.

This blog is WordPress. Pretty much all the other sites I run are WordPress.

As far as I am concerned, I'll continue using WordPress until I leave the internet permanently for my cabin in the woods.

But why WordPress?

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other great alternatives out there, but WordPress is ubiquitous.

But, wait, what does ubiquitous mean?

It means this: approximately 23% of all sites on the internet use WordPress.

That is a huge, staggering number.

But why is that important?

For quite a few reasons. The biggest one being support.

If you have a WordPress problem or need a customization, someone can handle it. In fact, many someone's can handle it.

Plus, just about everything you can think of already can be added to WordPress. We are talking over 34,000 plugins (the last time I counted.)

So, yes. There may be slicker blog hosting engines out there, but you are going to be very hard-pressed to find anything close to as well-supported and as widely used as WordPress.

So, that's why I choose WordPress—and I think you should to.

Now, does that mean you have to choose WordPress to get value out of the rest of this post?

No, you can choose whatever technology you want, and much of the same trade-offs will still apply.

But—like I said—I highly recommend going with WordPress, unless you have a really good reason to do otherwise.

Free blog hosting, just say “no”

Let's face it, if you are just starting out, you might not want to invest a lot of money and time in setting up your blog. You might want to just try out this blogging thing and see how it goes without a large investment.

I get you. I totally understand.

Now, you'll likely be tempted to go to a free hosting option, but don't.

I made the mistake of starting out with free hosting, and I regretted it later, for a few reasons:

  • I had little control over the look and feel of my blog
  • I had to pay for my own domain name and the ability to use it anyway (and believe me, you want your own domain name)
  • I couldn't advertise on my blog
  • I couldn't easily sell products on my blog
  • I couldn't customize my blog or install plugins
  • When I migrated over to paid hosting, it was a bit of a pain

I was dealing with a whole lot of crap to save like $3 a month at an inexpensive host.

Blog Hosting Choice 1: Inexpensive WordPress Hosting

Notice how I used the word inexpensive, instead of cheap?

We both know it's the same thing really, but the inexpensive hosting option is a really good option for bloggers just starting out.

If I were just starting out today and I wanted to save some money, I would definitely choose inexpensive hosting instead of free hosting.

Inexpensive hosting is not going to get you a super powerful server that can handle super-bowl traffic, but when you are first starting out, you are not going to need anything close to that.

For inexpensive hosting there are quite a few options out there, but I highly recommend Bluehost.

I've had great experiences with Bluehost, they have phenomenal support, but most importantly, they have a single click install to get you a full version of WordPress installed in just seconds.

I actually put together a video that shows you how to create a blog with Bluehost in less than 5 minutes from account creation to having your first post. Seriously, no joke—check it out below:

I also cover setting up a blog with Bluehost and how to get started writing in my free course on “Creating a Blog to Boost Your Career.If you haven't signed up for it yet, take a moment and do that now.

Choose this choice if:

  • You want something inexpensive (approximately $3 a month)
  • You want to be up and running in 5 minutes
  • You don't have a huge amount of traffic yet

Blog Hosting Choice 2: Premium WordPress Hosting

Perhaps you are willing to make a slightly bigger investment in your blog hosting and you are looking for a solution that will get you a blazing fast blog and will include support, scalability, security and some extra tools.

In that case, there are a few different blog hosting choices that offer an upgraded service—but for a higher fee.

Of these services, the one I  used to recommend was WP Engine, but honestly, Bluehost now offers premium hosting and dedicated hosting, so might as well stick with the tried and true.

Bluehost's optimized WordPress hosting starts at $19 a month. Which really isn't that expensive, but I do realize it's not in everyone's budgets.

If I were starting out today, I wouldn't think twice about paying the $19 a month to have my blog on Bluehost's optimized hosting. I feel like that money is totally well spent. Let me tell you why.

Bluehost is basically full-service. Meaning they handle all of the major concerns with starting a new blog and maintaining that blog for you.

I've had to do a lot of tweaking to get Simple Programmer to be pretty fast. I have quite a few plugins and customizations working under the hood to keep things churning smoothly, but Bluehost has their own architecture and high-end equipment to do all that for you.

And this isn't to be taken lightly. I've spent countless hours speeding up my blog, before I realized I could have just paid Bluehost $29 a month to get the same results—or better.

Security is another big issue they take care of for you. I've been on the wrong end of WordPress security problems, and they are no picnic, so Bluehosts's firewall and malware scanning can again save countless hours—and pain.

They also scale up nicely. So, it's pretty easy to grow with them. (Another pain point I experienced and didn't think about early on.)

But, of all of these services, I think the most important one is support. Since Bluehosts offers a premium WordPress blog hosting company, all of their support team is 100% dedicated to WordPress. That means they do know the answer to your WordPress questions. (Where were they when I was getting started.)

Their support also includes daily backups (so you don't need to use a plugin or pay for a backup service), automatic updates and actual chat support.

Like I said, they are more expensive than $3-$4 a month, so I can understand if your budget can't afford them. If you've already taken my blogging course and wonder why I don't immediately recommend them, that is why.

But, if you are willing to invest a little bit more when starting your blog, in my opinion, this is the best option BY FAR.

If these guys had been around when I first started Simple Programmer, I could have literally saved thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours.

I'm still tempted to switch to them now, and I've invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in my custom solution—which I'll talk about next.

Choose this choice if:

  • You don't mind making a little bit of a larger investment in your blog hosting ($19 / month)
  • You want headaches like scaling, support, speed and updates handled for you
  • You want a solution that will easily scale with you

Blog Hosting Choice 3: Virtual Private Server Hosting

Virtual private server blog hosting is basically a virtual machine in the cloud that you manage and install WordPress on yourself.

Now, before we get into it a bit more, I don't want to make this seem like a bad option.

Honestly, I think this option is great, but you have to know what you are getting into.

This is the option I'm using for blog hosting for this blog today.

I just want to make sure you are prepared if you choose this choice.

Again, there are a few options in this market, but the one I prefer and use is Digital Ocean.

Digital Ocean is probably the least expensive, they are very responsive and they have blazing fast SSDs for all their virtual machines.

If you go this road, what you'll basically do is set up an account with Digital Ocean and then you'll create what is called a Droplet, which is basically just a Linux server in the cloud.

Once you have your droplet created, you'll have root access to it, and it will be up to you to install WordPress, PHP, MySQL and everything else you need to get your site running and to configure your blog.

If you have development chops or familiarity with Linux, it's not all that difficult. In fact, I give you a step-by-step guide to do this in my How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer package, (that video tutorial will likely pay for itself in just the time you'll save getting this setup, by the way.)

But, be cautioned: there be dragons here.

Maintaining and running your own WordPress install on your own Linux server in the cloud is not for the faint of heart. Again, I don't want to scare you away, and Digital Ocean is seriously an awesome choice and awesome company, but this is just the nature of the beast.

Just know that you'll have to manage your own security updates to the operating system as well as WordPress, you'll have to install and maintain everything yourself, and you'll need to figure out your own plan for caching and scaling.

It's all doable. I'm doing it with this blog, but it's definitely a lot of work and has a bit of a learning curve.

With that said, you can actually get your own Linux machine in the cloud for as low as $5 a month. Yes, that is right.

In fact, I was running Simple Programmer on a Digital Ocean box for a long time on a $10 a month server. I'm now running this blog on a $160 a month server, but mostly because I just want to get as much speed as possible at this point and since this blog is my business, I can afford the investment.

If I haven't scared you off, here are some reasons why you might choose this choice:

  • You want to get the absolute biggest bang for your buck in terms of blog hosting costs versus raw performance
  • You don't mind administering and configuring a Linux server in the cloud—or you consider that fun
  • You feel confident you can handle security threats yourself and keep your box from getting hacked or becoming a spam relay (both things have happened to me)
  • You want to use a server for more than just hosting a blog (you are getting a Linux server in the cloud, so you can basically do whatever you want with it!)

Bonus: rocket-juice to get you started with a bang

So, I thought I'd finish up this post by recommending a few additional tips and things that might help you get started with your new blog much faster.

  • First of all, if you haven't signed up for my free course on creating a blog, do that now. I've had over 3,000 people sign up for the course so far, and hundreds of people have graduated and gone on to create successful blogs. You can see some of the graduates here.
  • If you are looking for an excellent, super fast theme for your blog, check out Thrive Themes. I'm using a theme and several of the plugins from Thrive Themes and wish I would have found them sooner. I more than tripled the speed of my blog just by switching to Thrive Themes. Plus, they have awesome designs and if you ever want to make a business out of your blog, well, I haven't found a better theme than what they offer—trust me.
  • Start an email list. Really, do it. I wish I would have started mine earlier. My main business is based on my email list now. I highly recommend Drip for creating your email list. You can create email courses which will grow your list, just like my blogging course (you signed up for that, right?.)

A few more things you might find useful:

Alright, that's about it!

I'm thinking about putting together an advanced blogging course for those of you who have already graduated from my blogging course or already have an established blog and want to figure out how to take it to the next level.

I hope you have found this guide useful.

I've tried to narrow your choices down to the top 3 options and the best vendors I know of for those options, but it's important that you do make a choice, otherwise nothing will ever happen.

If I were getting started today here is exactly what I would do:

  1. Sign up with BlueHost for my blog hosting
  2. Pick a Thrive Theme for my Theme
  3. Sign up with Drip to start growing an email list
  4. Go through my blogging course to get a jump-start

Final note: you'll notice there are affiliate links throughout this post. This means that if you sign up for one of these services, I do earn a commission. But, everything I recommend here in this post is something I have or currently do personally use and recommend. I never recommend any product or service that I don't love. It's just how I roll.

Also, don't forget to check out the blogging course here.


About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."