4 things newbies should ask a self hosting service, before signing up

Obviously there are a ton of questions you could ask. However, I wanted to include 4 very important ones that are rarely asked by newbies. Many newbies often go by the census. Meaning they go by what everyone else has told them. People will tell you things like, “it’s cheap”, it’s easy to use, and the most popular one,”i’ve never had a problem with it”. These are all good things to know.

However, neither of these things will help keep you safe. As I stated in my article, nothing is 100% safe. However, you should do everything you can to create a secure environment for both yourself and your visitors. When I self hosted a WordPress.org site during a class with Skillcrush, I used WP Engine. As they were recommended by Skillcrush. For me, they were a role model hosting service. In fact, working with them was part of my inspiration for this article.


Here are your top 4 questions:

Is Secure Socket Layer Certificate included in their package

If you are a newbie you are probably reading this like WTF is that! Here’s the thing, this feature is so important, that I will tell you not to sign up with any hosting company that makes you pay for it separately. As that means their priorities are completely out of order. Check out this article from Google where they talk about why they started to label any site that is not secure as unsafe. To skip right to the good parts of the Google article “HTTP” is not secure. “HTTPS” is.

If you are on an “HTTP” site someone can easily manipulate the data before it gets to you. Having an SSL Certificate encrypts the data, which makes it not so easy to manipulate. I say “not so easy” because again nothing is 100% safe. You just want to make sure you are not making things easy for hackers. As a user, I personally jump right off sites when I see “HTTP”. If you are a site that is selling something, I really don’t care if I can got to your site and get “HTTPS” on checkout. I’m not coming back if the rest of your site is “HTTP”. I want your entire site to say “HTTPS”.

Do they perform any security testing for new plugins or themes

Just because somebody created it and you’re allowed to install it, doesn’t mean it is safe! This should be a common thing for any Self Hosting Service that you utilize. Self Hosting allows for a lot of open source work to be done. When the term open source is used that means that anyone on the internet has access to it and can manipulate it whenever or however they want.

In simple terms that means any hacker can write code and put it in a plugin or a theme. Since you most likely have no way to confirm what is safe and what isn’t, you need to know someone is doing that for you.

How will they protect you if your site has been hacked

This is not just what’s written on the website. You should actually ask questions about this. Ensure that they can tell you about the steps they will take you through if you contact them and say you have been hacked. The conversation should start off with them telling you how they will verify you. This should include but is not limited to; how they verify you every time you sign into the portal, call in with a question, or how they verify you when using their online chat support.

So basically, you need to know if they are going to help you. Or if you are going to have to pay 30k to get your site back like this young lady. To which I sincerely appreciate her sharing her story. She shed light on so many things. Some things she mentioned about her hosting companies will shock and disturb you.

How great is their customer support

It’s nice that the site says 24/7 support, but you should know exactly what that entails. If you’re site is self hosted, that means you are always trying out a ton of new things. At least that’s why most people choose self hosting, as they want the flexibility to do whatever they want. You need to sign up with a self hosting company that doesn’t just say they have 24hr support, but actually does. As a newbie you need to know if you will be able to get someone on the phone when you call in. This should be in addition to the online chat support.

Please note that this article is not an advertisement for any particular service. This article is to get newbies to start thinking on their own feet. No matter what service you choose. Do your research. You can also check for local hosting companies in your city or state and possibly support a local small business if they are good.

Check out my article, “Here’s why WordPress.com is more restrictive than WordPress.org”

Here’s why WordPress.com has more restrictions than WordPress.org

People get so offended when they hear “WordPress” and “.com” in the same sentence. When you mention these two things together, you inherently become the dumbest person on earth (to them). If you think i’m being dramatic just go ahead and say WordPress.com in a crowded room. I dare ya!

Here’s the thing, both WordPress.com and WordPress.org are open source platforms. To keep things simple, open source means that anyone can contribute to building it. Even that hacker that probably wants to steal your data. The truth about the internet is that no one thing will keep you 100% safe.

As I type this, there is a hacker somewhere trying to find new ways to do awful things. However, you heighten the chances of being hacked when you don’t practice safe “interneting” (interneting, is not a real word, but it sounds nice).

Please take the time to read the WordPress.com plans page, the FAQ at the bottom is pretty helpful.

To make things easy, I copied and pasted 2 interesting FAQ’s below:

Can I install my own theme?

We don’t currently allow custom themes to be uploaded to WordPress.com. We do this to keep your site secure but all themes in our theme directory have been reviewed by our team and represent the highest quality. The business plan even supports unlimited premium theme access.

Can I upload my own plugins?

While uploading your own plugins is not available on WordPress.com, we include the most popular plugin functionality within our sites automatically. The premium and business plans even include their own set of plugins suites tailored just for them. Check out all included plugins.

AQ’s Corner site is currently being hosted by WordPress.com. I am taking advantage of the Business plan and I enjoy it. It works perfect for all of my needs. Whenever I need enhancements I can quickly enable them. I also have access to hundreds of different themes. When being hosted by WordPress.com doesn’t suit the needs of my business, i’ll transfer my account to a site that allows for self hosting.

However, i’ll be utilizing WP Engine or some other hosting service that is known for being secure, not just cheap. To be clear, we all want affordable, but if that is the main thing a web host is known for, you should find another one. WP Engine is known for their security, I learned about them while taking a WordPress Developer class with Skillcrush.

Even though WP Engine is a hosting service that allows you to control your own website, they also check plugins to ensure that they are safe. If you upload a plugin that is not allowed, it will not be enabled (I did that once). I contacted them and they advised that it was not an approved plugin. I definitely appreciated the extra layer of security while using WordPress.org.

Truth be told, I was going plugin crazy and just started installing stuff. Which will happen. Every time someone tells you about a plugin to make things easier you’ll opt for the plugin, rather than taking time to learn your theme. Or even taking the time to say, “is this plugin safe”. You need a web host that has your back. The customer service was outstanding as well.

Fun Fact: While researching for this article I learned about VIP WordPress.com. VIP WordPress.com is a web hosting service used by the elite of WordPress.com. Though the VIP service isn’t for the average person, as the plans are beyond expensive. One thing VIP WordPress.com has in common with WordPress.com, is that they are serious about security. So essentially there are clients willing to pay 10k per month, just to use WordPress.com rather than WordPress.org.

This is not a shot at WordPress.org because i’ve used it before. This is so beginners can understand that they shouldn’t overlook something just because another person said it was a dumb idea. It’s critical to do your own research.

VIP WordPress.com clients include New York Times, New York Post, Time, Dow Jones and more. So the next time someone tells you that going with WordPress.com is dumb, you can let them know you’re among the elite of the internet.

Check out my article on what to ask your self hosting service.