While understanding HTML, JavaScript, and CSS languages is no longer necessary for creating websites, content management systems have become essential to building a truly unique and personalized website. Website builders such as Squarespace or Wix are simple and easy to use for beginners, but anyone who is looking to create a website that is flexible and customizable will want a content management system (CMS) to help them achieve the online experience and design their website deserves. If you need help choosing the right website builder and hosting platform that is best for your needs, read on.

Get Going!

Here’s my personal suggestion: For first time website builders, use Squarespace or Wix for the first year. After that, you may choose to migrate it over to a CMS (i.e., WordPress) to upgrade the look, feel, and features of your website. Alternatively, you may have found that hosting a website is not for you and decide to shut it down.

Why? Consider it as giving yourself a low-stakes trial run. The truth is that most people who build a website will feel the initial excitement of producing something cool, but usually will abandon it after a year. So, before you make the time investment to learn a website builder like WordPress and purchase a domain name, give yourself a year to make sure you are fully committed to your website.

Making Your Choice

Congrats, a year has passed and you’re still committed! Now what?

Choosing the right website builder and hosting platform is a matter of knowing what you need and the options that are out there. This where you may pause and think to yourself, is the $23/month I am paying for an all-in-one website builder and hosting platform like Squarespace going to take my site to the next level?

On the surface, that $23/month not only gives you the badly-needed customer service that everyone needs starting out, but it also provides website hosting. However, those training wheels that you once embraced may be holding you back; try asking yourself, does my website reflect the kind of business that I’m running, or are there custom or personalized features that my website visitors could benefit from?

Think Mac vs PC

Website builders like Squarespace and Wix are like using a Mac; they work, but the flexibility and customization may be missing at times. WordPress has a bazillion plugins and themes that may increase the traffic exponentially more than you would have with something like Squarespace. In other words, even though there’s a steeper learning curve, WordPress is the optimal choice if you are tech savvy and value flexibility and creative control in your website builder. (There are other popular CMS platforms out there like HubSpot and Drupal, but I don’t want to make your head explode – embrace something and go with it.)

Website Hosting: WordPress versus Azure

WordPress sounds ideal, but what is the best hosting platform for me?

The Nordstroms of WordPress hosting services is Siteground. Why?

  • It’s reasonably priced at $24/year for their promotional offering, and around $100/year thereafter.
  • It contains features necessary to backup, secure, and maintain a site.
  • Their customer service will assist to a certain degree with a non-functioning site (however, it definitely does not fix corrupt plugins, bugs in the website, or any web development).

The domain registrar can be done through NameCheap.com. This hosting platform has more competitive pricing ($12/year) than GoDaddy, but its customer service is mainly done through email.

What are some other site hosting options?

The quick summary to narrow the scope while you are choosing the right website builder and hosting platform is this: GoDaddy is not terrible, but you are simply paying a bit more of a premium for their services that do not perform as well as Siteground in supporting, protecting, and backing up.

ProTip! Stay away from Network Solutions – its ease of use and customer service fall short of other competitors.

What about Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is all about cloud computing; like AWS, they emphasize renting computing space by the hour and you pay at the end of the month for their services. It’s a less cumbersome experience than AWS, but nevertheless, a very nerdy journey for any DIYer. (Spinning up the WP website is not too complicated if you use the pre-created resource templates. Here’s a link if you want to see how to get started.)

Pricing on Azure

It’s important to know your budget when you are choosing the right website builder and hosting platform. The monthly pricing for Azure WordPress hosting starts at $0.20/hour. However, if you use the Azure web hosting plan, the annual subscription plan starts at $2.50/month. The exact pricing for hosting on Azure is not that straightforward, as it depends on many factors (you have to add up the cost of all of the services involved, and it is also usage based). So, the pricing will be different for each website depending on how you implement it.

To offer you a rough estimate, proper hosting of the static website with a custom domain and SSL enabled could cost you $2 – $8, while hosting a WordPress website will range from $9.54 – $50. We explored a static website hosting for one of our clients because we hoped we could select the free tier level service, but ultimately, we decided that NameCheap is a better option considering the limited use of content and functionality. So free tiers are usable, but not for front-facing websites.

Conclusion: Hosting on Azure is too pricey for 98% small or midsize businesses (SMBs). I doubt that there is any SMB that you will find hosting a WordPress website on Azure, as pricing is much higher than the WordPress hosting service on any of the competitors. There are instances when Azure WordPress hosting is worth the cost, but those are rare, especially for SMBs. If you’re still interested, follow this link for more details on Azure’s pricing.

Choosing the Right Website Builder & Hosting Platform Summary

Retaining a basic website builder and hosting platform for the first year and transitioning to CMS comes down to user discretion. Before you begin choosing the right website builder and hosting platform for yourself, consider your needs, goals and where you are in your business journey.

We hope that applying the foundational knowledge from this post will help you in finding your perfect platform for hosting. If you’d like to see Network Antic’s full instructions on getting your website started with Azure, you can click here for instructions on uploading your website content or here for creating your domain name. Don’t forget to contact us if you need assistance.

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