You want to draw comics, and you want to share them to the internet. This article is about finding a web host for comics, but let’s start elsewhere. Some of you may want to make money using Adsense. Do you know someone who prefers sales commissions over hourly wages? Perhaps you’ve heard the argument that goes like this: commissions are better than hourly wages because with the latter you know the limits to your gains. If you make 10 dollars per hour for an 8-hour workday, you will make 80 dollars. It feels limiting when you think of it like that.
…So what does this have to do with posting comics to Reddit?
It has to do with Reddit because when you share a comic to /r/comics, /r/funny, or any of the other popular subreddits for our medium, your site might get a lot of traffic. That means you need to be prepared with the right amount of bandwidth. If you have a server than can only handle 100 simultaneous users, then your site will crash with a Reddit traffic spike (referred to lovingly in the Reddit community as the Reddit Hug of Death). If your site crashes, fewer people with convert into followers, and fewer people will click on your ads.
The lesson is: invest in a good server from the start.
For the less tech-savvy webcomic creators, let’s look at what a web host is.
All about web hosting and web host options for comic artists
First: What is web hosting?
Every website is hosted on a physical server somewhere in the world. Your Facebook page is on the Facebook servers, your Google search query is run on their servers, this website is hosted on a server in Chicago. If you want to have a website, you need a web host.
Free vs. paid web hosting
There are free web hosts for your comics. Tumblr won’t crash if you get a traffic spike. Nor will WordPress.com or Squarespace sites. These are all user-friendly platforms that allow you to create a quick website, and they afford access to local communities. A drawback is that you will have less technical maneuverability. Apart from these third-party options, there are also free dedicated comic hosting sites. For a roundup and more in-depth explanation of these free options, read Enzo’s post on where to host your webcomic.
There are also paid web host options for your comics. I’m talking about paying a monthly fee for a self-hosting service that gives you autonomy and access to the back-end of your site (i.e. to the server itself). It works like this:
- Find a host
- Pick a plan and pay
- Gain access to cpanel and respective file manager
- Install the free WordPress software (or whatever other software you want to use as a front-end development platform. I use WordPress)
- Access your site via the WordPress admin panel
- Create your comic website (perhaps referring to WordPress tutorial sites like WPBeginner)
There are a LOT of things to look out for when it comes to shopping for the best self-hosting web host deal. For one thing, there’s no such thing as “unlimited bandwidth.” When a user navigates around your site, every click loads a new page, new scripts, on-page images, etc. This loading uses what’s called bandwidth. Too many visitors on too heavy a website will crash the site. “Unlimited bandwidth” means that you will not be charged for bandwidth overuse; instead of using more bandwidth, web host plans that promise “unlimited bandwidth” simply take your site offline until the traffic spike dissipates. Some companies force your site onto heftier, more expensive servers when this happens too much.
There are great resources for learning more about web hosts. Check out this consumer guide on web hosting from Hongkiat. Also, don’t blindly trust online reviews of web hosts. Be extremely shrewd. I recommend using Webhosting Talk (be wary of bias there; but consensus of Webhosting Talk is a good sign).
I’m getting carried away.
The point is this: if you expect your comic site to receive heavy traffic from Reddit or other sources, you want to invest in a good server from day one.
What kind of web host plan is best for webcomics?
There are shared plans, WordPress plans, VPS plans, and dedicated plans. I’ll talk about each of these below:
Shared hosting plans: The most common web hosting plan is “shared”. They are also the cheapest. With a shared plan, you share a server with hundreds of other clients. Naturally, a single server’s bandwidth is partitioned equally among all client installations on that server. Ultra-cheap shared plans (anywhere from 2$ to 10$ per month) will never withstand a Reddit traffic spike for long. Upgraded shared plans are a little better (from around 10$ to $20 thereabouts). Some business-level plans in this category will be able to handle the traffic spike, but the site will slow down significantly.
WordPress plans: These hosting plans are a marketing gimmick as far as I’m concerned, but they might do it for you. You pay a premium ($20-$30) to get a single domain hosted as a WordPress site. The hosting company handles all the back-end WordPress stuff. Supposedly, this option will optimize your site to make it faster. I think it’s too expensive, and would opt to pay a bit more for the next option.
VPS plans: VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. Your site files are stored on a server with other VPS users’ files, but each VPS runs its own operating system software. You will have full access to the back-end to install whatever software you want. You can choose managed or unmanaged VPS hosting. If you are not a systems administrator (Linux-savvy), go with managed (30$ and up). A good VPS will rarely crash due to a Reddit traffic spike. VPS is must faster than shared hosting options. A slow comic website will scare users away.
Dedicated plan: A dedicated server is just that: a server unto yourself ($250 and up). A single webcomic artist site will not need a dedicated server (unless you’re the Oatmeal or XKCD). A dedicated server is useful for massive-traffic forum sites or e-commerce sites. Just a quick side note: The Oatmeal and XKCD comparison highlights a key factor: site weight. XKCD is minimalist. It has few lines of code, few scripts, and few images. The Oatmeal is much heavier: more images, and more scripts. So the cost of 100 xkcd.com visitors will be far lower than 100 theoatmeal.com visitors. If you want a faster site, shave as much weight as you can.
What I use for hosting my comics
I made a huge mistake when I started making webcomics: I did not have the right web host. I was using a cheap shared hosting company called Mochahost. To be honest, despite all the horrible reviews they get, they would be fine for a very low-traffic site. But even small traffic spikes would crash my comic site, even after I upgraded to the second cheapest option. Their servers are too slow for a comic website.
I waited far too long to upgrade. But when I did upgrade, I took a risk and skipped a lot of upgrade tiers. I went from $2 per month to $36. I now pay $36 per month for KnownHost – Managed VPS Hosting. As it turns out, it was a good risk to take. With Google Adsense, this site covers its own costs. Instead of crashing with a Reddit traffic spike, my Knownhost service withstands The Hug, and on days when a comic of mine reaches the front page of Reddit, ads can bring in over $100.
Choosing a web host for your comics is strategic
The takeaway is this: don’t wait too long to upgrade your web hosting plan. You can start small and scale up. For example, start on a shared plan, then move to a business-level shared plan, and then a VPS plan. Just make sure that the web host company you choose offers these tiers.
Be careful. Web host companies lure you in with dirt cheap shared hosting, but when they oblige you to upgrade, their VPS options can’t hold a candle to Knownhost’s. That’s because Knownhost only offers VPS hosting–they’re specialized. Remember that you can always transfer your site from one self-hosting web host company to another. This transfer is not possible from the free webcomic hosting sites, nor from third party sites like tumblr and Squarespace.
If you have the time to learn and the money to invest, invest directly in a scalable web host, or in a VPS option outright.
I have no reservations about promoting Knownhost. Their service is excellent. They promise a set amount of bandwidth usage per month, which is plenty to handle Reddit traffic spikes. I’ve done the research. Price per service, they are a top option.
Hosting your comics on a server that will crash under too much traffic is akin to working an hourly wage job. If you want to open up the earning potential of your comic website, investing in a sturdy web host is the risk you take in order to reel in big commissions, so to speak.
In the name of total transparency, I’ve decided to put some affiliate links into this post. The post is NOT meant to promote one service over another. All the resources included in this article will help you arrive to a decision on what to do. That being said, once I wrote the article, I thought, I wonder if Knownhost has an affiliate program. Turns out they do. Since I had already written this post, I just changed the links to affiliate links. I would never support a service I wouldn’t use myself. I use Knownhost’s SSD VPS servers (Solid State Drive), as opposed to HDD servers (Hard Disk Drive). SSD is faster and more stable, but with less storage. For Reddit spikes, the faster the better.
So that’s it. I leave you with a big banner that’ll take you to the very plan I bought. Take care!
*Affiliate links may appear on this page