Having been doing web design for over 12 years, I’ve worked with a lot of different UK web hosts (hosting providers) from the slow and disappointing to the downright terrible. In fact, it is only very recently that I have found a UK web host suitable for WordPress based websites that I would actually consider excellent and would wholeheartedly recommend to others. For years I have just made do with a web host that I considered good but not great. Sure, they had pretty good customer service, were fairly reliable, but what tends to let most hosts down (and this host was no exception), is the speed of their servers. When it comes to servers, the technology and how loaded up they are, are 2 major determining factors with regards to speed and by that I mean website loading times. Unless you have a large budget for web hosting, which most of my clients being small businesses, don’t have, they are usually limited to a fairly standard hosting package which is known as shared hosting. Shared hosting means the servers are shared with, in some cases, hundreds of other websites and if even one of those websites is demanding on the servers resources, perhaps it has lots of heavy scripts or self hosted videos, then it can cause all of the other websites to run slower too. This can potentially have a dramatic impact on the speed and response time of your website. If a hosting provider’s server is overloaded with too many websites then your website will indeed run at a very slow pace. Not only does this have a huge impact on the usability of a website (no one wants to be waiting around for a website to load) but it can also be a terrible thing in the eyes of a search engine. If a website takes forever to load you can guess what’s going to happen to your ranking on Google. Sometimes, simply moving the website to a quicker host, using newer technology on less crowded servers can turn the slowest of websites into a lightning fast user friendly website. I have seen this happen before. On one such occasion I was constantly contacting the host to ask them if they can do anything to speed up my client’s website, their answers were always the same, “use such and such plugin, or try this or that”. Nothing made a difference. When I finally decided to move away from that particular host, guess what happened, the website was fast and I mean lightning fast. No longer did I have to wait over six seconds for the home page to load, it was there almost instantly. It was all going so well until the website was hacked into. Yes, server security is another issue and a web host that manages this properly is a must! So the search for the perfect UK web host continued.
Other than the servers, there are several factors that come into play when it comes to website loading times.
1. What type of technology the website is using.
If it is a basic HTML website with very little code, then most web hosts will be fine, there are even free hosts that I sometimes recommend such as Free Infinity. However, if you have something more ‘code heavy’ such as a WordPress website, you are going to need a good host that can deliver great speeds, excellent security and with ample data storage.
2. Image file size
If a website has a load of large uncompressed images (or even one for that matter), this can have a huge impact on website load times regardless of which host you use. Similarly, a poorly coded website can slow things up too, but certainly not to the same extent as non optimised images.
3. The server location
If like me, you have a business that is based and does trade in the UK, then you will want to select a web host that has its servers located somewhere in the UK. And this, surprisingly not only impacts the speed of your website but it also has an impact on the search engine optimisation (SEO) of your website. Yes, Google could rank your website lower if your website files are stored in a country that is not the same geographical location of your business. Think about it, if someone Googles ‘Graphic Designer Somerset’ and Google knows that my site files are stored in America, it may think that my website is less relevant than a competitor who’s website files are stored in the UK.
Whilst it is fairly easy to find a UK web host by doing a quick Google search, it is on the other hand very difficult to gauge just how reliable and fast they are. Sure, you can read a bunch of reviews, but unfortunately reviews are very easy to fake and can easily fool somebody into purchasing an inferior product. This has certainly happened to me on more than one occasion. I once purchased web hosting from a UK web host that had an incredible amount of positive reviews. Big mistake. The website went down a lot and I mean tens of times throughout the day. In fact, I used a free service from Pingdom to track when the website was going down. I would receive an email from Pingdom every time my website went down. My inbox was full of notifications of downtime. The web host had turned out to be useless, in fact one of the negative reviews that I later read had complained about the same thing.
Whilst it would be easy for me to name and shame all of the lousy web hosting companies that I have tried, I think it would be better that I simply tell you which one in particular I have had success with and what to look out for when selecting a host for yourself.
What to look out for when selecting a fast UK web host for WordPress.
Something which I consider of particularly high importance is fantastic customer service. In fact, one thing that i have started doing before I use a new service is to test them out. I don’t necessarily mean using a free trial, which many services offer, I actually mean test out their customer service. I usually send them a couple of questions over email, which allows me to see how quickly they respond, how helpful their responses are and how friendly they come across. If I have to wait over 24 hours for a one word answer, then I probably know they’re not the host for me. If however, I get a friendly detailed response in a short space of time then that’s got to be a good thing.
Once you have found a UK web host that seem friendly and helpful, why not take them up on their offer of a free trial (if they offer one). They may even migrate your website to their servers for you for free too (if you have an existing website elsewhere). If you do this, make sure you have a backup of your website somewhere safe or keep it on your old host’s server until you know whether or not to remain with the new host after the trial period. Usually after the trial period you’ll know whether they are worth sticking with. Does your website load quickly, is the uptime excellent? Do they offer free daily (or even hourly) backups and website restore should something go wrong? Do they take server security seriously? If you have answered yes to all of these questions, it sounds like you’ve found a winner.
You are probably wondering which UK web host I am recommending, after all, it took me twelve years to find them. First, let me tell you how I found them and what drew me to them in the first place. WordPress.org doesn’t recommend web hosts lightly, they have to have worked hard for it by delivering a top quality service for years on end. To get a recommendation from WordPress is a huge honour for any hosting company but it would seem most of the companies being recommended are mainly based in America and don’t often have UK servers. But there is a UK web host that is recommended and they are fast, offer free backups and restores and have fantastic customer service. The company is called SiteGround. Not only are they recommended by WordPress, but many influential WordPress bloggers and plugin developers are also singing their praise.
SiteGround (founded in 2004) is one of the largest independent hosting providers in the world, hosting over 2 million websites and with a team of over 400 employees. Their UK servers are based in London, but they also have servers in other countries too including Chicago in USA, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and also Singapore. Of course, if you are from the UK, then you will want to make sure you visit their UK website, to pay in GBP and to get the correct server location (London). Whilst not actually a UK based web host, SiteGround, whose headquarters are in Sofia in Bulgaria have gained recognition as one of the best options for hosting UK WordPress websites.
If like me, you use the WordPress platform, then you will want to select WordPress hosting from the ‘Hosting’ dropdown menu. The WordPress hosting is all completely managed by SiteGround, so you don’t need to worry about server configuration and so on. The servers have already been optimised for WordPress, which is one of the reasons why this UK web host performs so well. SiteGround also manage the security of the website at server and application level.
If you choose WordPress hosting, there are 3 packages to choose from (info correct at time of writing May 2019):
Number of websites hosted: 1
Amount of web space: 10gb
Monthly visitor: 10,000
Price: £2.95 per month excluding VAT
Number of websites hosted: Unlimited
Amount of web space: 20gb
Monthly visitor: 25,000
Price: £4.95 per month excluding VAT
Number of websites hosted: Unlimited
Amount of web space: 30gb
Monthly visitor: 100,000
Price: £4.95 per month excluding VAT
All SiteGround packages include free backups, free SSL, Free CDN, Free WordPress Install, WordPress Autoupdates, 24/7 WordPress support to name but a few. The 2 more expensive packages come with a wealth of premium features such as 1 click Staging and the most expensive package comes with Geeky WordPress features such as more server power.
Whist these prices are special prices for new customers held until the duration in which you have paid for expires. So for example, if you pay for 3 years up front, you will get those prices for 3 years. When the initial paid for duration is over the prices will be switched to £8.95 per month, £14.95 per month and £24.95 per month respectively (prices exclude VAT). Just like a mobile phone contract or an insurance renewal, in my experience they will drop these standard prices if you say you’ve found a better price else where. Often they drop it by a large amount.
The StartUp package is more than enough for the average WordPress site, but if you require hosting for more than one website or you need more features then the GrowBig option would be the better plan for you.
So, all in all SiteGround have been very impressive to say the least. I now recommend them to all of my clients which is something I’ve always had a hard time to do before I found this hosting company. If you would like to check out their website click the button below:
Visit the SiteGround website here
Please note, this blog post uses an affiliate link. This means, at no extra cost to you, I receive a small share of the profits should you make a purchase via my link. I am recommending their services as a UK web host as a genuine recommendation as I have been very pleased with the hosting service they provide. Thanks for reading, Lewis.