If you’re starting a new business venture or blog, you need a web hosting service to move things online. Which service you choose affects the speed of your site, security, management and more. Evaluate the needs of your business to make the right choice to help your business thrive.
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What is web hosting?
Once you create a comprehensive website with stunning pictures and interesting content, a web host gives your website valuable real estate on the Internet.
You can choose from a variety of web hosts based on your budget and needs — purchase shared space from a web host on a physical or virtual server, or have an entire server to yourself. The cheapest web hosting plans are easy to use but limit the amount of storage, bandwidth and security. More expensive hosting services offer more flexibility, but may require you to hire a dedicated specialist to manage your server.
The type of web host you choose depends on your business, your plans and the future of your site.
How to choose the best web hosting service
There are many factors to consider when choosing the kind of web hosting service you need for your business.
- Decide the kind of website you want. Whether it’s an online store, blog or web agency, your website will have a variety of needs, including:
- Storage. Some less expensive platforms offer up to 100GB of storage, while paying more could get you unlimited storage.
- Bandwidth. Decide how quickly you want to transfer your data from a website to a computer and how many users you expect to visit your page. This affects the user experience and can range from 1GB to 100GB.
- Content Management System (CMS). Consider if your website needs to be compatible with certain CMS like WordPress or Joomla.
- Apps. Some web hosting platforms let you add custom apps — some don’t.
- Security. Decide if you need SLL encryption to protect sensitive data, SSH for logging in or malware to protect from cyber attacks.
- Configurations and settings. Will you need full control with the ability to change settings as needed, or would you prefer an easy to use, preconfigured system?
- Consider how your website will grow and change. Are you creating a blog that will eventually sell merchandise? Are you a web designer who wants to host websites for your clients down the line? Find a host that can meet the needs of your growing site.
- Technical knowledge and experience. If you’ve never used a web hosting service before, think about using a basic plan or hiring a specialist to run your site.
5 types of web hosting
While cost is certainly an important factor in choosing the web host that’s right for you, consider other important features like security, performance, flexibility and your level of technical knowledge.
As the cheapest method of web hosting, shared hosting is an appealing option for small businesses and low-traffic blogs. Shared hosts can help you launch your website quickly by choosing from a variety of plans.
With shared hosting, your website is given space on a server that’s shared by other websites. It’s like staying at a hostel — you technically have your own space and everything you need, but your experience can be impacted by neighbors who use up all the hot water, play loud music or let in uninvited guests.
With shared web hosting, you have no control over other users, and your websites performance and security could be impacted by the activity of neighboring sites. Another site on your server with lots of traffic could slow down your website, and a security breach or hack of a neighboring site could affect the privacy of your business.
- Least expensive
- Easy to manage, no technical knowledge necessary
- Many plans available, from basic options to premium packages
- Increased security risk
- Websites can be negatively affected by other sites on a shared server
- Can’t install custom apps
Virtual private servers, or VPS hosts, are like a hotel for your website. VPS hosts give your site a private room or virtual server within a shared system. Because you have your own private space, you won’t have to worry as much about noisy or unruly neighbors.
By taking a server and splitting it into individual isolated parts, VPS hosts give you more control, security and flexibility than shared hosting, without the much higher costs associated with dedicated hosting. This allows you access to more resources, including increased CPU capacity, storage, full root access and the ability to have custom apps.
- Allocated CPU, RAM and storage on your virtual server
- Root access to server
- Ability to run custom apps
- Add security with a unique IP address
- Some technical experience is needed to maintain the server
- More expensive than shared hosting
- Less security than dedicated hosting
Dedicated hosting is like owning a vacation house. You get more privacy, control and can customize your site — but you’ll shell out a lot more money and spend significantly more time on maintenance.
Where VPS hosting and shared hosting give you shared resources within a physical server, dedicated hosting gives you the whole server at a much higher cost.
Dedicated hosting may be ideal for large businesses and e-commerce websites in need of high-performing servers. A high level of technical experience is needed to run a dedicated hosting server — a specialist or team needs to perform regular file and data backups in case of a failure of the physical server.
- Your own dedicated server
- Highest level of privacy and security
- Maximum reliability and stability
- Most expensive
- Requires a specialist to manage the server
- Necessary regular backups
Cloud hosting is one of the newest forms of web hosting. And like Airbnb has done to the travel industry, it’s starting to reshape the web hosting market and impact the future of the Internet.
Cloud hosting uses a chain of physical machines acting as a single virtual server. Like VPS hosting and dedicated hosting, cloud hosting gives you allocated space and resources on this shared network of servers.
Unlike shared and dedicated hosting, cloud hosting doesn’t rely on a physical server. This means in the event of a crash of one of the machines on the server, all data will be transferred to another machine.
- Less expensive than dedicated hosting
- Low risk of data loss
- Flexibility to scale up or down as your website grows and changes
- Some technical experience is required to maintain your server
- More expensive than shared hosting and VPS hosting
- Some risk of security and privacy breaches
Reseller hosting is used by web agencies, web designers and anyone who wants to host their own clients. It’s kind of like getting a timeshare and renting it out to other travelers.
To use reseller hosting, you or your business purchases server space and resources from a web host and then sells pieces of the server as hosting plans to your clients or customers. This allows you to keep the hosting services under your own business name.
- Allows you to sell web hosting plans under your business name or brand
- Earn more revenue from your business
- No server maintenance cost
- Only really useful for web agencies, web developers and web designers
- It’s difficult to change web hosts once your clients have established hosting plans
- If something goes wrong with the server, your clients are affected. Rely on your reseller host to fix the problem
What to consider when choosing a web host
Before you compare web hosting platforms, find out the amount of storage they offer, if they charge for a web domain name and how much you’ll pay. Other points to consider:
- Compatible content management systems
Without programming skills, you might consider a content management system (CMS) like w or Joomla. Some hosting services have exclusive agreements with certain CMS providers, while others offer a variety of platforms. Check whether your web host is compatible with the CMS you’re planning to use.
- Service and customer support
Look for a web host with 24/7 customer service. If your website goes down in the middle of the night, you won’t want to waste precious time for waiting for support.
Check for a web host that provides backup and restoration services often. Some web hosts provide these services for free, others charge a fee.
- Data transfer limits
How much data you transfer each month and how many visitors you expect on your site will dictate how much data you need. Check the limits of the web hosts you’re considering before making your final decision.
- Domain add-ons
Cheap web hosting plans only offer the ability to host a single domain. If you plan on hosting more than one website, you’ll need to look at higher level hosting services that allow domains to be added.
- Email. Figure out how many email addresses you need and how often you plan to send messages — most providers offer some form of email service for a fee.
4 common mistakes to avoid
- Missing the fine print. Find out exactly what your plan includes before you sign up. Don’t pay for unnecessary features or go without resources your site needs.
- Choosing the cheapest plan. Your website won’t be successful if your web host is unreliable. Make sure you get a plan that includes everything your business needs.
- Underestimating the importance of speed and uptime. A slow or broken website costs money when it loses revenue. Even if you can’t see it, every problem could cost you money.
- Overestimating your skills. If you don’t have the technical experience to maintain a server, hire a specialist or choose a plan that includes the management your website needs. Generally, shared hosting plans are easy to set up and require little to no maintenance.
Choosing the right web hosting service can be crucial to the success of your blog or business. With no shortage of providers, options and features, compare all of your options and know the needs of your business before committing to a host.