5 Reliable WordPress Web Hosts

Below are my preferred web hosts for WordPress CMS sites.

Hosting for small to medium database-driven sites:

  1. SiteGround
    Quality, performance-optimized shared hosting plans for smaller WordPress sites starting at $14.99 – $39.99/month. Managed and Cloud hosting options available for larger clients. My all-time favorite web host. Provides 24×7 support via chat and phone. Modern server infrastructure running PHP 7.4 on HTTP/2 performance-optimized platform. Free open source Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates included with every plan. I’ve been managing client sites on SiteGround since 2015. Enough said.
  2. A2 Hosting
    Reasonably fast shared hosting plans starting at $10.99/month. VPS and Dedicated Hosting options available for larger clients.
  3. BlueHost
    Shared WordPress-approved web hosting plans starting at $9.99/month.

Hosting for larger CMS sites:

  1. WPEngine
    Superior WordPress-only managed hosting for larger, high traffic websites starting at $25/month.
  2. Pantheon
    Fast and reliable hosting for enterprise-level clients starting at $50/month.

5 Web Host Features to Look For

  1. Security
    Your web host is your first line of defense to protect a database-driven CMS, like WordPress. Look for features like brute force protection, IP blocking, open source (free) Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates, quarantine protocols, and servers running the most recent version of PHP.
  2. Performance
    Despite having a reputation as a commodity service – not all web hosts perform the same. Reputable hosts provide modern server architecture, caching, CDN options, HTTP/2 enabled servers, at least 256 Mb of PHP memory for WordPress, and the latest version of PHP. Avoid online web hosting ‘review’ sites, which are often just paid to hype high-paying hosting affiliates. Instead, look to data-driven web hosting comparisons like these by codeinwp and WP Site Care
  3. Support
    I prefer only hosts who provide support via chat, email and phone. 24×7. Without delays.
  4. Administration
    Larger-scale providers – like WPEngine, Pantheon and many others – develop proprietary hosting interfaces. While these platforms can provide robust tools, they are often overkill for smaller organizations. Instead, I typically recommend web hosts with a more standardized CPanel (Linux only) or Plesk (Linux and Windows)  because you’ll have a much better chance of finding someone familiar with those server control panels.
  5. Transparent Domain Registration
    If you insist on paying your annual domain registration and monthly hosting fees to the same company – confirm that your hosting and registration are not tied together. That way, you can choose to move your hosting in the future easily.

My hosting recommendations come from over 15 years of experience working with dozens of web hosting companies.

5 Things I’m Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Chunk, Drunk, Hunk, or Monk?

These should be the next 4 pandemic-inspired characters for Unmatched!

Board Games

Lockdown has increased my appetite for gaming. We’ve enjoyed a wide variety of both competitive and cooperative games. 5 of our favorites, particularly for 2 players, include:

  1. Clank!
  2. Onitama
  3. Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
  4. Unmatched
  5. Wingspan

My favorite sites for learning about games, besides Board Game Geek (, include Tom Vasel’s reviews on Dice Tower, Shut Up & Sit Down, and Rodney Smith’s Watch It Played YouTube Channel. But my all-time board game review remains BardicBroadcasts’ hilarious overview of the original Hero Quest:

Food

Cooking has been a great, healthy way to pass the time. Instead of scrolling thru online recipe sites with 1,500 key phrases, to limit my screen time I research recipes from my bookshelf. Cook’s Illustrated publications are by far my favorite.

For the first time, I also started exploring varieties of bourbon whiskeys. My favorite bourbons so far include: Bib & Tucker, Old Forester and Woodford Reserve.

Friends & Family

Slack, Steam and Zoom are no substitute for quality in-person gatherings. I’m grateful for a quality digital voice line that still lets me communicate with my tribe, whose diversity continues to expand my perspective during hyper-partisan times.

Music & Media

Last year, I replaced my traditional Sony receiver with a SONOS Amp. Paired with 2 Tannoy towers and 5 SONOS satellite speakers, I love the ability to control sound levels room by room. Pandora and Spotify have been wonderful for discovering plenty of new artists. Blues, country and soul have been the best genres to uplift my spirits.

Favorite new series to stream include: Lovecraft Country, Space Force, The Mandalorian, The Queen’s Gambit, and Watchmen.

Quiet

Solitude during lockdown has made me greatly appreciate silence, particularly in over-crowded Seattle. The peacefulness makes it much nicer to enjoy time in our yard and walking around our neighborhood.

Happy Thanksgiving!

5 Ways to Ask for Pro Bono Website Support

Are you a budget-strapped nonprofit organization? Has COVID-19 reduced your operating income? No matter. Nonprofits always need support for their causes.

Here are some tips to getting pro bono marketing services from website designers and developers – as well as other service providers.

  1. Connection
    Identify a service provider who has a strong affinity for you, your services, and/or your community. The stronger the connection, the more likely they are to help. For example, homelessness in our region is an important issue to me, so I try to provide pro bono services and consulting when I’m available.
  2. Goals
    Clearly define the volunteer role. This may include an overview of the situation, organizational challenges, scope of work, measurable goals, and realistic deadlines. Tasks should be flexible enough to allow the volunteer to shape the role to their specific skills and interests. Allow the volunteer to propose solutions to problems. As they say, you get what you pay for – so be prepared to change your plans.
  3. Respect
    Choose an appropriate time or season to ask for help. Be respectful of the service provider’s other projects and work deadlines. Send your request in writing. This gives the volunteer sufficient time to plan and prepare for your project. If you later choose to move in a different direction, or find someone else to work on the project – be sure to extend gratitude for the volunteer’s time.
  4. Authority
    Give the web volunteer the appropriate authority to complete the tasks. This may include login credentials to your domain registrar, domain web host, Google account, and other third-party tools related to your website. Do not micro-manage their duties. Allow the project goals to define success.
  5. Recognition
    Recognize and thank the volunteer for their contributions. This could be a shout-out in your newsletter or at an organizational event. I once met an experienced photographer who donated hundreds of hours to a small nonprofit who forgot to recognize her efforts during a high profile ceremony featuring her images. She no longer volunteers for the organization. You would be amazed what some volunteers will do for a simple t-shirt. Ask Carole Baskin.

 

5 Tips for Picking WordPress Plugins

How do you pick the perfect WordPress Plugin for your website?

There are over 55,000 Plugins in the official WordPress open source repository. And that does not include the tens of thousands of paid commercial Plugins available in the marketplace.

Here are 5 Tips to Pick a Plugin

  1. Open Source Software
    WordPress.org Plugins must adhere to a strict set of guidelines, including a GPL-compatible license. These guidelines include privacy, security and other requirements to help protect your site. And all WordPress.org Plugin code is vetted as part of this process.
  2. Active Installations
    Generally, the more installations have been downloaded and activated – the more likely the Plugin is reliable. More activations means more user testing across a wide variety of installations.
  3. Plugin Developer(s)
    A developer who has released multiple Plugins is another sign of confidence because that person likely has more WordPress experience. A team of Plugin contributors can also be a sign of well-tested code quality. For example, I generally trust most Plugins supported by Automattic, WordPress core contributors.
  4. Reviews
    A Plugin with a high volume of quality reviews is a testament to its effectiveness.
  5. Testing and Technical Discovery
    When evaluating Plugins, I often compare the file download size because performance is as important to me as rich features. By comparison, a similarly functioning Plugin with a significantly larger size can be an indication of code bloat and possible issues, including performance or security.