Not the website you're looking for? Click here for Webalicious
 

The Best Shared Web Hosting for Australian Businesses and Organisations

As a web developer, I tend to cringe when contacted by prospective clients who tell me that they have already arranged their web hosting. The selected web hosting company is rarely the best choice for various reasons.

Web Hosting Tip:
My number one tip when choosing a web hosting company is to ask your web service provider before purchasing a web hosting plan so he or she can recommend a plan that is suitable for your particular requirements. Choosing the wrong plan can be a costly exercise!

With Google now including performance as a ranking factor, it is more important than ever to make good decisions about your web hosting provider.

Shared Hosting

Shared web hosting is an affordable web hosting option where your website is securely hosted on the same server as a number of other websites and usually located in a secure data centre.

Shared hosting suits most businesses and organisations with plans typically offering 1GB, 5GB, 10GB or similar storage space and 250GB, 500GB, unlimited or similar monthly bandwidth.

Choosing a Web Hosting Plan

Your choice of web hosting plan and server location depends on a number of factors such as cost, value for money, the geographic location of your website visitors and the type of website.

The following plans are the ones I tend to recommend for Australian businesses and organisations with Joomla or similar websites. All of these service providers offer good uptime (reliability), security, performance, technical support and value for money. They also keep their servers up to date so you can always select a supported version of PHP for example.

  Australian Customer Base International Customer Base

zuver logo

Zuver "Web Hosting" Plan @ $24 / year (Sydney or Melbourne)
Yes No1

ventraip logo au

VentraIP "Economy" @ $95.40 / year (Sydney or Melbourne)
Yes No1

siteground logo

SiteGround "Startup" @ $119.40 / year (Singapore)2
No1 Yes

siteground logo

SiteGround "GrowBig" @ $179.40 / year (Singapore)2
Yes Yes

1 Enabling a suitable content delivery network (CDN) such as CloudFlare or similar on these plans would likely overcome the lag due to distance although I don't tend to recommend adding this extra layer of complexity where good quality web hosting is sufficient.
2 This is an affiliate link. When this link is used to make a purchase, I receive a small commission that helps me to continue providing content like this.

Note that new Zuver, VentraIP and SiteGround customers usually qualify for discounted hosting for the first year so the initial invoice will likely be less than the stated prices.

In general, website owners with a local customer base are usually fine with Zuver or VentraIP in Sydney or Melbourne.

Website owners with an international customer base are better off hosting with SiteGround in Singapore. The SiteGround "GrowBig" account includes dynamic cache with the result that website visitors in Australia load pages as fast as if the website were hosted locally in Australia with Zuver or VentraIP or similar and website visitors in the rest of the world load web pages much faster than if the website were hosted in Australia. The SiteGround "Startup" plan does not have the dynamic cache option so website owners with an Australian customer base are usually better off with a local host such as Zuver or VentraIP or similar.

Other Recommended Web Hosting Companies

For up to date information on the best and worst local web hosting companies, see the latest posts in the Web Hosting Forum on the Whirlpool forums.

Although I don't have much experience with the following local companies, you will probably have a good experience with:

Web Hosting Companies to Avoid

The following web hosting companies are best avoided as these companies will have your web developer tearing his or her hair out!

  • Crazy Domains and associated brands including Aust Domains and Cheap Domains.
  • GoDaddy
  • iiNet. iiNet is an ISP, not a web hosting company. They do offer web hosting but this is not one of their strengths.
  • Melbourne IT and associated brands including WebCentral, Domainz, NetRegistry, Ziphosting, TPP Wholesale, UberGlobal, AussieHQ, Jumba, SmartyHost and Ilisys.

With frequent mergers and acquisitions, the Australian web hosting landscape changes constantly. For up to date information, see the Web Hosts Companies Structure wiki page on the Whirlpool website.

Web Hosting Tip:
You may think you can save $100 or more on annual web hosting fees by choosing a cheaper web hosting provider but savings are invariably consumed when technical issues arise and support staff are unresponsive and/or incompetent.

Website and Web Hosting Performance Check

The longer your website takes to load, the more likely visitors will browse elsewhere. Ideally, web pages should load in less than 4 seconds.

You can test your own website or competitors websites using GTMetrix, Pingdom or similar.

Create a free account on GTMetrix so you can choose which location to run the test from.

Another useful tool for comparing page load speeds around the world is the Sucuri Load Time Tester.

gtmetrix example
pingdom example
sucuri example
 

Move My Website to a Better Web Hosting Company

Moving a website to a new web host typically takes a couple of hours or around $176 inc. GST and includes:

  • backing up the current website
  • finding the most suitable web hosting company for your particular website within your budget
  • purchasing a new web hosting plan on your behalf
  • restoring the website to the new web host
  • updating the domain name to point to the new host
  • testing
  • optionally moving your domain name to the new service provider

Note that you will be moving to a better web hosting company and for most of my clients this is often a cheaper web hosting company so that the cost of the move is soon recovered.

Contact me to enquire about moving web hosts.

Time to Upgrade to a Responsive Template in preparation for "Mobilegeddon" on 21st April

MobilegeddonApparently more than 50% of web searches now originate on mobile devices and Google recently announced that mobile-friendliness will be a ranking signal from April 21st 2015.

A Google Engineer suggests this change will affect as many websites as the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates and industry experts have christened this latest algorithm update, "mobilegeddon".

Responsive Templates

The best way to ensure your Joomla website search ranking is preserved is to implement a responsive template if you don't already have one.

Responsive templates are available for Joomla 2.5 and there were even a few for Joomla 1.5 but Joomla 1.5 and Joomla 2.5 are already "end-of-life" and you should ideally migrate to Joomla 3.x which ships with Bootstrap and already includes some responsive templates.

robots.txt Changes

If you installed Joomla prior to version 3.3, you will likely need to amend your robots.txt file to ensure that Google can access CSS, JavaScript and other files in your template folder to confirm your website is mobile friendly.

Mobile Friendly Testing and Official Instructions from Google

Google has provided a test tool at http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ so you can check that your website is ticking all the relevant check boxes.

Google has also provided instructions on how best to make your website mobile friendly including specific instructions for Joomla, WordPress and other popular platforms.

More Information

For more information see:

http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2398591/-mobilegeddon-is-coming-on-april-21-are-you-ready
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244175
http://www.didit.com/mobilegeddon-tip-of-the-week-examine-your-robots-txt-file/
http://www.stemlegal.com/strategyblog/2015/mobilegeddon-the-countdown-is-on/

Joomla 2.5 "End of Life" Implications

Official support for Joomla 2.5 ended on December 31st, 2014.

joomla 2.5 end of life

Joomla 2.5 websites will, of course, still operate after this date but security vulnerability fixes may no longer be available and this could place your Joomla 2.5 website at risk.

Joomla 2.5 will also become increasingly more difficult to support as extension developers concentrate on newer versions of Joomla and stop releasing updates for older versions.

Advice for Existing Joomla 2.5 Users

To keep your website secure, existing Joomla 2.5 website owners should update to the final release, Joomla 2.5.28 if they haven't already and plan to migrate to Joomla 3.x as soon as possible.

Apart from official support, other advantages in moving to Joomla 3.x include new features such as tags, version control and improved security with more on the way.

Migrating from Joomla 2.5 to 3.x

Moving from Joomla 2.5 to 3.x is regarded as a "mini-migration" which involves the following:

  • check the hosting environment is suitable for Joomla 3.x (e.g. PHP 5.3 or later)
  • run backup
  • make a list of third party extensions and check that equivalents are available in Joomla 3.x
  • remove any extensions that are not Joomla 3.x compatible (including templates)
  • update from 2.5.x to 3.x
  • install Joomla 3.x versions of third party extensions (including templates)
  • test and verify that everything has migrated successfully

This process can take anything from an hour or two to a whole day or even longer depending on the complexity of the website and the availability of equivalent Joomla 3.x versions of extensions.

Migrating from Joomla 1.5 to 3.x

Joomla 1.5 website owners are in a similar position to Joomla 2.5 website owners in that Joomla 1.5 is also officially unsupported and potentially vulnerable if new security flaws are found and exploited by hackers.

Joomla 1.5 website owners can migrate directly from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 3.x using a migration tool such as "SP Upgrade" or similar which is a litle more complicated than the Joomla 2.5 to 3.x "mini-migration". One of the main benefits for Joomla 1.5 website owners moving to the latest version of Joomla is the availability of responsive (mobile friendly) templates that weren't widely available in Joomla 1.5.

Stewarts Bay Lodge New Website

Stewarts Bay Lodge

The latest website created by Webilicious® is for Stewarts Bay Lodge standard and deluxe self-contained accommodation including Gabriel's on the Bay Restaurant and Function Centre, Port Arthur's only waterside restaurant. Stewarts Bay Lodge is ideally placed for a holiday exploring Port Arthur and the rest of the attractions on the Tasman Peninsula such as the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park and Pennicott's Tasman Island Cruises. The 22 acre (9 hectare) property is in a stunning bush location fronting on to Stewarts Bay with access to the beach and within walking distance of the Port Arthur Historic Site.

Web Design

The website is built with Joomla 3.x and a customised RocketTheme template, "Osmosis". I chose Osmosis because I wanted a full width or "fluid" template. The styling has been updated quite extensively and the Stewarts Bay Lodge website looks quite different to the Osmosis demonstration page on the RocketTheme website.

Customisations include (for example):

  • simplification of backgrounds
  • the menu font size and spacing has been optimised for each responsive screen width
  • the main content background has been made transparent to help show off a background image at the bottom of the page
  • a full width slideshow on the home page with a shorter height version on the tablet version of the website and which is not displayed at all on the mobile version of the website
  • amended font styles and colours to match client's paper based marketing material

The website works well responsively with sets of images and information boxes scaling as the screen width varies. On the mobile version of the website, images and information boxes are set to stack vertically one on top of the other at full width.

Web Development

Apart from the standard extensions such as Akeeba Backup and Akeeba Admin Tools that I install on every website, I have installed "AllVideos" plug-in, "Event Gallery", "jPanel", "Noo Google Map" and "Slideshow CK"  which are all free or have free versions.

Event Gallery

This gallery from professional photographer Sven Blüge works well responsively and excels at displaying rows of mixed portrait and landscape images very well together. Social sharing buttons have been enabled so that any image can easily be shared to various social networks.

jPanel Sliding Module

The jPanel module has been selected to display promotions on the website. I feel this is a better option for promotions compared to an intrusive pop-up or similar as the tab is displayed out of the way when the page initially loads but is still obvious to website visitors who may be interested in the latest special offer. The module displays the contents of another module or (as in this case) the contents of a particular article. It is easy for website owners to update the article and to publish or unpublish the module via Module Manager.

Up until the end of November 2014, mention when booking that you saw the special on the website and you can have a free breakfast for 2 people if you book 2 or more nights!

Noo Google Map

Noo Google Map has been used as the location map on the contact page. It works well responsively, looks great and is easy to set up.

Slideshow CK

Used on many of the other websites I have built, Slideshow CK is a favourite because it works well responsively, is W3C compliant and uses lazy loading so that only the first image is loaded when the page loads initially.

Search Engine Optimisation

As usual, basic on-site SEO has been completed using standard Joomla search engine friendly URLs, unique page titles, meta description and meta keywords for each page.

Feel the Quality

Checking the score in the Nibbler test tool reveals a score of 8.7 which I am fairly pleased with.