A lot of businesses know they need a website to stand out from the competition and to gain relevance in search engine queries coming from potential customers. In 2019, 92% of business owners agreed that the most important piece of their digital marketing strategy was their website. Did you also know that where your website is hosted online is a very important decision as well?
The website hosting company stores the files and database for your website on their servers and provides the reliable and speedy technology necessary to make the site work properly. Website hosting can be as hands-on or as hands-off as you want it to be, with services ranging from managed DNS, SSL certificates, email/webmail, speed optimization, security checkups, and 24/7 support all being potential options for your business web presence. Some businesses choose to also buy and manage their domain name through their web hosting company, although this is not necessary for hosting a site online.
Typically, there are three main classes of web hosting services that you can buy. While plans may be referred to by other terms, they usually fall into one of these three classes: shared, virtual private server (VPS), and dedicated.
Shared Website Hosting
This is where the majority of small business websites lie, especially if you have a smaller, non-e-commerce website. In this tier of hosting, plans are typically very cheap and also tend to be severely resource-constrained. You’re paying for a container that lives on a server that is split into potentially a hundred or more other containers like yours.
While you think you may be getting a huge value for your dollar, many cost-cutting shared hosting plans may be limited in ways that you won’t immediately see.
Typically, access is limited to admin panels like cPanel to perform operations and is not true server-level access. In rare cases, when command line access is granted, it may be gated to a small list of allowed commands and only inside your user folder.
VPS (Virtual Private Server)
A VPS allows companies to have the flexibility of utilizing semi-dedicated resources for their site. Whereas a shared hosting plan may let you rent a container among a hundred or more containers, a VPS will allow you to rent a container among 20 or 30 containers. This means far less competition for server resources, so your website will see a speed and performance gain. At this level, plans may or may not be sold as managed. We’d only recommend a VPS if you have an experienced server administrator or will be relying on a fully managed solution.
This is mainly due to the fact that security has become a bigger concern. Whereas before you only had to worry about the security of a website, you now have to worry about the security of an entire virtual server as well. While you are still renting a portion of an actual physical server, the container appears to you and the outside world as if it is an actual physical server – which means all of the security headaches and complexities of running an actual machine connected to the internet.
These plans are best suited for large websites, complex websites, or websites that overall require a little bit more availability than a shared hosting plan will require. E-commerce sites are an even split recommendation between shared and VPS typically, depending on the size of the store. VPS plans usually have extra benefits, like being able to be scaled up or down as needed because they are virtual, which makes them stand apart from the other two options.
Consider a dedicated hosting plan if you want to leverage the computing power of a server dedicated 100% to your website without having to pay the costs to buy one outright and run it at a data center. This gives you the most performance for your website or websites, but comes at the steepest cost.
Just because support is offered around the clock doesn’t mean it is quality support.
It’s also important to remember the extra cost of having to have an experienced server administrator or fully-managed solution ready to keep the server updated, optimized, and secure. This level of web hosting typically far exceeds the needs of most small businesses, but always remains a choice for sites that outgrow other options.
Buy what you need, not what you don’t, and as a corollary, don’t chase price. Just like with everything else, just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean it’s worth it. While you think you may be getting a huge value for your dollar, many cost-cutting shared hosting plans may be limited in ways that you won’t immediately see. These plans may tout “unlimited sub-domain creation” or “unlimited WordPress site creation” but once you start hitting the super small resource limits on your account, which can happen after just one or two plugin-heavy WordPress sites, your host will come looking to make you upgrade.
Be wary of website builder tools that companies offer – while these seem appealing at first, it is important to realize that these can be used to lock you into a particular service. Often, sites created by these tools can’t be moved away to a new host or will require expensive hourly work to fully move across.
While services like 24/7 support sound necessary, and are nice for peace of mind, just think how often you might be up at 2 a.m. needing assistance. Probably not very often. Just because support is offered around the clock doesn’t mean it is quality support: these agents may touch hundreds of websites in a shift, and there’s no guarantee you will get the same person working on your site every time. There are limited opportunities to build a relationship over time. All professional hosting companies should be monitoring their infrastructure around the clock regardless of whether or not “support” is available.
As you can see, there is much more to web hosting than what you can see on the surface. Branding, search engine optimization, support, performance and scalability, security, user experience, domain name system, and domain regulation and ownership are all aspects that should be included in a web hosting package.
Vervology believes in giving our clients a personalized experience when it comes to web hosting. We believe in allowing you to do what you love — run your business — while we handle the backend and stick around for maintenance updates.