Last week I found myself in the unfortunate position of looking for a new host for my blog. Having put a lot of myself into this blog over the last year, it’s really important to me that I be confident that my blog is, well, to put it in simple terms, going to be accessible to people. I don’t ask too much from a host, but I’d like my website to be online and available to my readers, after all, that’s what I’m paying for! For 3 days I experienced long-term outages with intermittent bursts of uptime and no explanation. This was affecting all of the websites hosted by this host across Europe (and continued to affect them for almost a week later!)
3 days in a row is a little too much for me, but the final nail in the coffin was when they declared that it was fixed, an hour again it was down again and I contacted customer support asking if it was the same issue. I asked politely and far more patiently than I was feeling and was flabbergasted when I received a copy and paste response that told me there were outages and that they couldn’t help me and there was no estimated uptime. And then they closed the live chat. No waiting for my response, no asking if I had any other issues and most importantly, absolutely no apology (not even a copy and paste one!).
Well then. As an annoying window popped up asking me to rate my customer support service (I ticked angry red frowny face), I immediately started searching for a new host.
Why is it important to have a reliable website host?
1. Peace of mind – If you’ve put your soul into your blog and hit publish you know there’s an incredible amount of things to think about. With writing, editing, commenting, social media, promotions, all the jazz that now comes with Blogging, what you don’t want is one extra worry of “Is my blog even going to be online if I link it to someone?” You need to be able to trust your host and have that weight lifted.
2. Value – It’s a no-brainer really. You’re paying for a service and you want to receive what you pay for. It turns out my old host had no uptime guarantee and no compensation listed in it’s terms and conditions. Therefore, you paid, thank you, now we don’t really care because we’ve already got your money, goodbye.
3. Reliability – Your readers want to come back to your website and see it still exists. If they click on your Twitter links or read your Instagram bio and realize your website is simply missing, you look unreliable. Are they going to save that link and check back later if it’s up? Hell no they’re not. They’re going to move on and forget you. You’ve lost a reader or potentially a lucrative job if that was a PR agency or a brand checking you out.
4. Business – If you are running any reviews, sales, courses or sponsored work on your blog, brands expect the work they commission to be available. Your customers expect to be able to check their account and access their products. It’s not much to ask really. The timing for this downtime was awful for me. I had just published a review with a great brand that I love working with on Monday morning, sent them my links and promoted on Twitter. By Monday afternoon my site was down for 3 days (before I switched!). This means the brand loses faith in me to provide the content and it means they can’t promote it either. The last thing they want to do is retweet a broken link.
5. Domain Authority – If you’ve read my previous blogging tips you’ll know that I managed to get my DA from 1 to 30 in 6 months. This is done with backlinks and I’m not shy about saying I put a lot of work into achieving this milestone. One of the things that can reduce DA is broken links. Bloggers use automated plugins and websites to detect, and remove, broken links. If your website is flagging up as a broken link for 3 days some people are going to remove it. I have no way of knowing how many backlinks I’ve lost from 3 days of downtime until the next Moz update, but I am absolutely sure that some of my hard work has been undone and that is very frustrating. It could result in a large DA drop next month which will take me more time and effort to recover. 3 days of outage can result in being set back months in terms of DA if you lose a high value link because of it.
Who have I switched to?
I did my research and read reviews in much more depth now than when I started my blog. When I was just creating my blog, I didn’t realize how much stability would be important to me. I just assumed naively that if you pay for something, you receive that. I googled for web hosting and went for one that seemed cheap and had a special offer on the first years hosting. It was easy to set up WordPress on them and I liked their control panel – but that’s not enough. I’ve realized that reliability is actually the most important thing and customer service is pretty high on the list too. This time around, knowing how important it was to me and with this bad experience in mind, I researched.
In the end I chose Siteground as my new host – mainly because it was recommended to me by Aby from You Baby Me Mummy. Aby runs a Blogging support Facebook group and has recommended Siteground in this group several times. As a very experienced blogging guru, I trust her. But I did some independent review research and on the whole, found positive results. Additionally, I checked Sitegrounds stats through hostingfacts.com and found that they have an average uptime of 99.98% over the last 12 months. In 12 months they had 1 hour and 54 total minutes of downtime. Since I’m sitting on around 72 hours of issues right now with my old host, that sounds VERY good to me! They were rated 2nd in Overall hosting tables, but 1st for WordPress blogs so I was happy to go ahead.
How to Transfer a WordPress Website
Transferring your website is a terrifying prospect. I’ve put my heart and soul into this blog and I’m not a technical wizard. I was plagued with worry such as would my comments and images transfer? Would my layout look the same? Would my site be offline for ages whilst it was sorted? How do you even START to transfer a website?
But the simple fact remained – for the above 5 reasons, I couldn’t stay with a host that couldn’t offer me reliability, and then had terrible customer service to boot.
Siteground offers 1 full website transfer for you done by their experts. You have to provide the login panel and password for your old site (change it to something you don’t mind sharing if you use the same password on multiple sites for security!) and then one of their tech guys will log on and do the transfer for you. They promise it’ll be transferred within 24 hours, and the actual transfer process won’t result in any downtime at all – not a single minute!
Most new hosts will offer this service if you contact support, but do double check first whoever you go with. I liked the fact that Siteground made it easy for me by asking me if I wanted to transfer, telling me what data I needed to provide and opening a support ticket automatically.
What I will say is since you are passing on your password to a third party who you don’t know, make sure you back up all your data externally first and change your password to something you are happy sharing. It should not be one you use anywhere else!
I initiated the transfer at 8pm at night and I’ll be honest, I was a bit of a nervous wreck. At 8:38pm I received an email from my old host telling me my control panel was being accessed from Bulgaria. Don’t fret, I wasn’t being hacked – that’s how quickly one of their technicians was on the case. A few hours later, it was done, but there are still a few things you need to do yourself.
Changing the Name Servers
You will need to change the name servers yourself to point at the new host. If this already sounds too technical to you, don’t worry, it’s simple. A name server is an address that’s attached to your domain and it tells the world wide web where to go for your website. If your files change location, your name servers will need to change to that new location. You will do this with whoever you registered the domain with originally, which may or may not be who you are switching hosts from. Because you change the name servers after the files are all transferred and you’re happy with them, this results in zero downtime to your reader.
First, check that your website is working. The Siteground technician will give you the IP address to check your website on their server without it being a public switch.
How to use the hosts file to view your website before switching public name servers:
1. Search your computer for Notepad
2. Right click notepad and “Run as Administrator”
3. In Notepad, click open file.
4. Navigate to the directory C:/Windows/System32/drivers/etc
5. On the bottom right change “txt files” to “All files”
6. Open “Hosts”
7. Add the line that the Siteground technician gave you, which will be an IP address (numbers) followed by your URL.
Now open your browser and type in your domain. This host file has now told your PC to load it from a specific IP (Siteground hosting) rather than your name server (which is what everyone else sees). From here you can double check that everything has transferred and is loading properly. If it’s not, you can still edit it through the WordPress admin panel or through siteground hosting panel, or you can respond to the ticket and let them know there’s a problem. For me, everything was fine. I checked my homepage, my posts, my images, my links and my comments – all 100% fine.
You now have the option of removing the line from the hosts file which will revert your view of your website to the same as the general public. One thing to bear in mind is if you intend to write anything on your blog during this time, you may be editing on the old host if you remove the line. Therefore it’s best to keep the line in there for at least 48 hours. In the meantime you can check what the “live” version is on your phone, and making a small change such as just adding a few words to the sidebar or most recent post is a good way of knowing when the name servers have switched over and that everything has worked from the public side of things. After this, you can remove the line in your host file.
If you are happy with the changes, update your name servers. This process will be slightly different wherever your domain is registered, but should be easily accessible from your login panel with your registrar, it may be listed as “DNS” or “Name Servers”. You just copy and paste the two name servers from Siteground and replace the old ones. Anywhere from 2 to 24 hours or so (but sometimes up to 48 hours – I started getting comments on Siteground within 12 hours but it didn’t show up on my phone for 36 hours) your site will begin to show up on Siteground.
After you have done this, if your old host is still active in any way, remember to change your password again for security – as having an unencrypted password posted anywhere or your password known by third parties is a big security risk. Although your old company is no longer hosting your website, you might have sensitive data or your domain details stored there.
As an added bonus to bloggers, Siteground offers a referral system which can offer cash referrals or free hosting. If you click any of the links for Siteground in this post, you’re hitting up my referral link. This is of course optional, you can just google them and you’ll go there direct, but I’d appreciate it that if you sign up if you use my link. You can then pass your own on to your friends, promote it on social media and on your blog. According to Siteground, over 90% of their users hear about their service from someone else using the website and being happy with that they offer – just like I did. With prices from £2.75 per month it’s really not going to break the bank either.
Whilst having a referral system didn’t affect my choice to go with them, I do like the fact that a blogger I trust and who took their time to recommend the service gets something back when I sign up!
So if you’re experiencing unacceptable downtime or lame customer service from your host and want a simple and pain-free process I think it’s pretty clear that I’m recommending Siteground. I had a totally pain-free transfer process, excellent communication and it was all sorted out incredibly fast. I’ll be updating this article in time with how my hosting experience with them has gone over the year, but so far, I’m very happy with the service.