Choosing the right host for you

June 5, 2015

Years ago, we blogged about finding the right host for your website, but some things have changed since 2013! These things remain true:

  • Cornershop Creative doesn’t provide hosting; we leave that to hosting companies because hosting takes technical infrastructure and round-the-clock support availability we can’t provide.
  • There are a lot of hosting companies out there.
  • We strongly recommend (and darn near insist) that any host we work with offer ssh/shell access, git, and PHP 5.3.x or later.

The things that have changed? Well, Jimmy Kimmel hosted the Oscars this year, not NPH. And, on the website hosting front, our preferred hosts and the level to which we’re committed to working with hosts that support the technologies we use.

Our Favorite Hosts

We haven’t worked with every hosting company (far from it!), but of the ones we’ve worked with, one of our favorites is DreamHost. For reasonably low-traffic sites, DreamHost’s shared hosting has everything we look for and is affordable — so affordable, in fact, that they offer free shared hosting to registered 501(c)3 nonprofits! For more complicated and/or higher traffic WordPress sites, we’ve found their DreamPress offering to be well worth the extra expense.

If you’re operating on an even larger scale than that ($20/mo is a lot for some and laughably low for others!), we think Pantheon is great option for WordPress and Drupal hosting. Their architecture is sophisticated, performant, reliable, and reasonably affordable.

Our Un-Favorite Hosts

Many hosts, particularly at the lower end of the cost spectrum, fail to offer the kind of server access we need to do our job well.

Without things like shell access and git, it’s dramatically more cumbersome for us to move files around (like when launching a site, or copying it to our development server), monitor files for changes (to track down hacks), and do various other techno-wizardry.

When we can’t use the processes and tools we’re most familiar with, we have to use approaches that take us longer and increase the likelihood of human error.

Unfortunately, the list of hosts that fail to offer what we need is pretty long and includes some big names. But for your sake and ours, we’d prefer not to launch your new site on one of those hosts.

The Middle Ground

There are quite literally too many hosting companies to count.

While we’ve worked with quite a few, there are far more hosts we haven’t worked with than ones we have.

Sometimes it’s not obvious if a given host offers things and does things in a way that’s easy for us. If they do: Great! We’re happy to grow our “Favorite Hosts” list. But there’s a good chance they fall into a nebulous middle ground, where they offer or do most of what we look for, but might have some weird setup involved, run older versions of software, or have some other minor drawback. We’re perfectly willing to work with such “not-quite-perfect” hosts, though doing so might wind up adding a few hours here and there for some tasks.

Whether you go with our one of our favorites, or follow some other path, we encourage you to make sure you choose a host that offers:

  • ssh access
  • git
  • PHP 5.3.x or above (ideally 5.4.x+)
  • quality, round-the-clock tech support.

If you’d like assistance selecting a host or narrowing down the selection some more, let us know. We’re happy to help!


By Ben Byrne

Ben is our very own designer/developer unicorn. He’s been designing on the web professionally for over 17 years, but he’s also been a developer for almost as long, building up extensive experience with languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP, and putting them to good use implementing his designs on several CMS platforms, including WordPress and Drupal. In addition to his own work, Ben oversees the design and development the rest of our team does, ensuring it’s up to our high standards. He enjoys sharing his knowledge, and has presented to groups of varying sizes on topics like the difference between print and web design, web typography, WordPress widgets, and front-end performance.