Everything You Need to Know about Web Hosting
If you want to set up a company or a shop in your location, you'll need to rent a commercial space. So you find a suitable location, with prices and features to suit your needs and then you set up your business. Your landlord makes sure you have all your utilities such as power, lights, heating, and water, and perhaps even security.
On the Internet, it's much the same thing. When you want to set up your own website, you need a web hosting company. The web hosting company provides the computer servers on which the elements of your website (your articles, pictures, videos, etc.) are stored.
Web hosting also entails ensuring that the connection is running smoothly all the time. And perhaps the most important of all, the web hosting company has to make sure that you have the bandwidth needed so that your website visitors can view your web pages properly.
Types of Web Hosting
There are many kinds of specific web hosting options. Each of them has its own features, and your job is to find one that matches your circumstances and needs. There is even an option for free hosting, although the features offered in this case may not be compatible with commercial needs.
In general, the web hosting types suitable for blogging to commercial enterprises can be classified into 4 basic categories:
Shared Web Hosting
The hardware and software resources are shared with other websites, and you may have up to a hundred other companies sharing the same resources. All the companies may place their own website files into the same server and share space, and they also share in the bandwidth.
Usually, this type of web hosting is very cheap. It's also easy to use, and the installation options for popular programs are simple as well.
But your management options will be very limited. You won't be able to manage or install anything on the server as a root user, since you just share the resources with others.
The other main problem is that with so many users, there's always the possibility that one company on the server will exceed their fair share of bandwidth. That can significantly slow down the loading speed for the others.
If you have 10 websites sharing a single server in a shared web hosting plan, then the ideal scenario would be for each website using 10% of the server's resources. Unfortunately, that's not always how it works. If one of them uses up 55% of the bandwidth, then the other 9 websites will have to share the remaining 45%.
With private virtual hosting, this problem is solved. You're still in a shared server, but with virtualization you are guaranteed access to the 10% of the server's resources at any time. You also get access to the root server.
Of course, it becomes more expensive the larger the percentage of the resources you reserve for your own use. You'll also often be responsible for some of the software maintenance on the server.
This is usually the hosting type used by medium to large websites. With this option, you don't have to share the server with anyone else. The web hosting company owns and manages the computer server, but you get to lease the software and operating system.
With this type of hosting, you get to decide which configuration options to go with. The performance of the server is generally consistent, and if there are any problems it's much easier to diagnose and pinpoint the cause.
Of course, this hosting plan is much more expensive. In fact, in the long run it may even be more expensive than owning the servers yourself. Newbies will also have a much harder time managing a website, as the task will require a lot of technical knowhow.
Co-Location Web Hosting
With this type of hosting, you already have your own server and software. Your hosting company just needs to make sure that you have a dependable and super-fast Internet connection, and that your hardware has an uninterrupted supply of power (electricity).
This hosting type requires that you (or an employee) has a mastery of the technical knowledge required to run the website. This option can be very expensive, and the initial costs of the hardware and software may be substantial.
Some companies may offer cloud web hosting, in which many physical servers are used. Others may offer specialized web hosting types. For example, ecommerce web hosting makes sure that features such as a Shopping Cart and secure payment methods are offered.
How to Choose a Web Hosting Company: Factors to Consider
Check online by typing "web hosting company" on Google, and you will find hordes of companies vying for your patronage. It's not always easy to pinpoint the right web hosting provider for you, but you can narrow down your options by considering the following factors carefully:
It's a practical reality in business that you have a limited budget to work with. Thus, price considerations are often crucial. It's not that you should go with the cheapest option. Rather, you need to consider only the options you can actually afford. It's when two companies offer the same services that you should choose the more affordable option.
With price, you first need to consider the published cost of the web hosting plans. That includes the setup charges for domain name registration and VAT.
You then need to check the details of the agreement regarding extra bandwidth. You may be charged much higher bandwidth rates should you go over your allocated bandwidth.
In general, it's better for you to choose a web hosting company that clearly states the costs of their services. You should also have a good idea of how much it will cost you in revenue for every time your website is down or if your website is closed down due to excessive bandwidth use. A cheap but unreliable web hosting company may be good enough for a casual blog, but it is inadequate for a serious ecommerce business.
Usually, it's much better if the server is located in the same country as the website visitors you want to cater to. It has SEO benefits (your website will rank higher in Google), and website visitors will also see the web pages load much faster.
We often think that a website is available 24/7, but in reality there's no web hosting company in the world which can guarantee 100% uptime. However, for a serious company you should get a minimum of 99% uptime on average. As you gain more visitors and earn more revenue from your website, uptime becomes much more important.
When you only have a few hundred visitors a day on your website and you average one sale an hour, then you only lose that one sale when your website is down for an hour. But if you have tens or hundreds of thousands of visitors a day, an hour of downtime could spell disaster. You will lose dozens of sales, and your credibility as an online company suffers in the eyes of these hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Features and Resources
You need a company which offers adequate disk space for your website elements. You also need enough bandwidth for the number of users you anticipate for your company. CPU and RAM allocations must be sufficient, and the webhosting provider should offer programming languages and databases you're familiar with. The number of email accounts they are offering should also be sufficient.
The control panel, which enables you to manage your website, is also crucial. It should be easy for you to use. You can also check out other bonuses in their services, such as free advertising opportunities and domain registration. The security of the servers should also be topnotch, and the web hosting company should assist in backing up your data regularly.
If you're running a website that has specific needs, then the webhosting company should be able to see to those needs. For example, if you are enabling ecommerce on your website, then your web hosting company should ensure that you have SSL certification.
When your needs change and your website grows in size and customers, you also need to be able to upgrade your web hosting plans easily. You may start with a shared server, but when your company begins to grow then it should also be easy for you to change to a dedicated server.
For newbies with little technical knowledge, this factor is perhaps the most important. Even experts will need some tech support every now and then. What you need is a web hosting company that responds to your questions and requests promptly with the right answers.
Your best option here is when a company offers 24/7 customer support through several channels, such as email or phone calls. But don't take a web hosting company's word for the excellence of their customer support. You need to read reviews and comments from customers to see and confirm the quality of a company's customer support.
Your choice of web hosting is crucial for your website. Without the right features, your visitors may not have the best experience while they're on your website. You may also damage your credibility if your website is always down due to technical problems or security vulnerabilities. If your website is down frequently, the more likely it is that your visitors will think that your website is unreliable.
Look at what happened to Amazon, when they were down by just half an hour. The website lost more than $66,000 per minute!
Popular Web Hosting Companies
Even if you have a guide regarding the factors to consider, it may still be difficult to choose a web hosting company. To make the task simpler, let's take a closer look at three of the most popular and most highly regarded web hosting companies today.
This is another famous web hosting company, and it serves the needs of more than 2 million websites. It also offers 24/7 support, affordable hosting plans starting at $3.49 a month, a free domain name, 1-click installs, and more than $200 in free Google advertising and Facebook credits.
You can also check out unbiased reviews about Bluehost online, the reviews are very positive.
This web hosting company has been in existence since 2002, and it has gained an enviable reputation. It is very popular, with more than 400,000 customers spread around 200 different countries.
Since it was launched, it has earned numerous awards for the excellence of its services. It has always been among the top web hosting companies year after year.
Hostgator offers affordable hosting plans with generous disc space and bandwidth allocations, with an easy control panel and 1-click installs for scripts. Other benefits include 4,500 free website templates, a $100 Google AdWords offer, 24/7/365 customer support, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
You can read a number of good reviews online about Hostgator. Check out this head-to-head Bluehost vs HostGator comparison.
All GoDaddy's web hosting plans include a free domain and free email accounts, 1-click install for more than 200 free applications, a flexible and easy control panel, 24/7 security and customer support, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
There are other excellent alternatives, but these three are consistently considered as among the best in the web hosting industry.
So are you determined to take your business online? First, you will need a web hosting company and not just any provider, but one that is dependable, trustworthy and economical. Make sure you get all the features you require in a hosting plan that fits your budget.
With the right hosting plan and provider, setting up and running a website should be much easier for you.