In today’s market, a business of any size needs a website. Often, it is cheaper to outsource the hosting of that website to a third party rather than trying to do it in house. However, when determining the best hosting solution, price should not be the main factor because businesses have different needs which require different hosting solutions. The best option for you depends on the functionality that your site requires both now and in the future. Here is some information that will help you determine which solution is best for your organization, as well as things to keep in mind as your site evolves.
Before selecting a web hosting package, you must first identify what you need your website to do. The purpose of any website is to incentivize the reader to take some course of action. What course of action do you want them to take? What message do you wish to send? How are you going to send that message? The answers to these questions determine the amount of bandwidth you need, the website availability you require, and the peripheral services you must include (such as video hosting services). Once you know these things, you can then make an educated decision on what web hosting package to purchase.
Types of Web Hosting
Free Hosting has its limits. It is free because the host makes money in some other way—usually by filling your site with exterior advertisements or pushing you to buy more services. You are unlikely to look very legitimate to your customers under a free plan. Additionally, free plans seldom provide enough resources to handle more than a few visitors at a time. Personal blogs often utilize this if they have a small audience and publish occasionally.
Shared Hosting is the most common and cost-effective means to get your website up and running. Shared hosting plans can cost less than $10 per month for enough space and bandwidth to put up a modest eCommerce or informational site. In a shared plan, your site shares space with other websites on the same server. Because of the number of connections to the web each server has, your site can still be accessed by many users simultaneously even though other users are accessing other sites on the same server. Many small eCommerce sites and blogs utilize shared hosting because its affordable and easy to manage.
Dedicated Hosting enables customers to utilize an entire server without competing for resources. Most web hosts will give you an option between managed and unmanaged dedicated hosting. In unmanaged hosting, you are granted root access to the server and are expected to maintain it yourself. This gives you more control over the server but requires more in-house expertise. In managed hosting, the host retains similar control over the server that they would have under shared hosting. While you will pay more for managed hosting, you will enjoy the benefits of not having to worry about standard server maintenance. Dedicated hosting—whether managed or not—is best when your site experiences a lot of traffic. Large eCommerce sites, high-volume informational sites, or small data streaming sites will all require a dedicated servers for optimal performance.
Cloud Hosting provides many of the same benefits and resources of dedicated hosting without a single point of failure since your site is not relying upon one server. This method is similar to diversifying your stock portfolio. If one of the servers has a problem, your site is still operative. This feature is known as failover or cloud hosting redundancy. Cloud hosting protects you and keeps your costs low ($50 per month, for example). Cloud hosting relies on virtual server technology that can access the resources of multiple servers. Each virtual server is designed to meet the needs of your website. Because of this, cloud hosting gives you more resources and flexibility than are possible with shared hosting. Large eCommerce sites, high-volume informational sites, and data streaming sites are all possible with cloud hosting. In fact, cloud hosted sites are often preferred over dedicated hosting because of the flexibility and fail over capabilities.
The term co-location in web hosting refers to a fully managed datacenter where businesses that own their own hardware can store it. Co-located servers are completely unmanaged by the web host. All the web host provides is security, alternate power sources, and climate control. All other server maintenance is carried out by the company that owns the co-located servers.
Features of Hosting Services
Many web hosts price individual features independently of the type of web hosting the client chooses. For example, they may have one price for “standard content” (text and some images) and a higher price for streaming content (files, videos, and other media). This is because of the bandwidth required to handle the demand. Sites that offer media streaming tend to be more popular and attract more users, and naturally it takes a lot more bandwidth per user to stream media than simply text and images.
Let us go over the various features you may want in your website and discuss how each will affect your experience with your web host.
eCommerce hosting is the typical hosting type most businesses choose because they usually want to sell products on their website. eCommerce sites are actually not much more demanding on servers than traditional informational sites. eCommerce sites require shopping carts and merchant accounts, which do not require much additional bandwidth but do require extra setup between the client and financial institutions. Any extra charge from the web host would come for additional security at the client’s request.
Email hosting provides you with your own email domain and links it with your website. A good email host will provide spam and virus protection against incoming servers. Different types of email hosting exist—the basic type, POP3, will download messages to Outlook, Thunderbird, or other email clients. More advanced services like IMAP or Microsoft Exchange will keep copies of emails on the server, and they will sync email folders between multiple computers (or mobile devices) and the server. Private email domains driven by Gmail are also available.
Blog hosting is actually called “web log” hosting. A true blog (or web log) will support authoring, editing, and syndication of posts. It will also include features for moderation and image management. This enables you to publish posts and let others comment on them, put up images, block users who trash your blog with nasty comments, and let users link your blog to their RSS feeds (such as Google Reader). These are features that differentiate a personal blog from a more professional “web log.” Generally, a good web host will provide these features at no additional cost.
Image hosting refers to sites where users can upload and download photos. In a simple example, a professional photographer uploads photos to the site for a given number of days, and clients can purchase and download photos from the site. In a more complex example, a social networking site allows many people to upload and download images at will. These services require much more bandwidth than the typical informational or eCommerce site.
Video and music hosting requires a lot of space and bandwidth (and if you plan on becoming a world-renowned site like YouTube or Napster, you will need an enormous amount of it). Large amounts of video or music streaming will probably mean large costs as well, especially when your site allows people to both upload and download media. If you want a simple “by family, for family” website to post home videos, you may be able to get by on a shared hosting plan with its space and bandwidth limits. If your target audience is any bigger than that, however, you’ll need cloud or dedicated hosting to get the availability you want.
Finding the Right Host
Once you know what features you need for your website and have determined what type of web hosting you want, it is time to find the right company to provide that hosting. A good web hosting company will:
- Guarantee that their servers are up 99% of the time
- Guard servers against physical access by any intruders
- Not add advertisements to your site or sell your information to third parties
- Provide support and consult with you about your needs at no extra cost
Once you have chosen the right web host and hosting plan for your site, you can focus on your business and simply let your website work for you.