Choosing website hosting is often a complicated process. It is important to understand the basics though, particularly if you are new to setting up websites, or you want to make sure your business has the right strategy. It is important because most website owners don't know they have a problem until it is too late.
One common scenario is when a business gets publicity, such as making an appearance on television. Such publicity often results in a spike in website traffic which all too often causes the website to crash as the server exceeds its capacity.
Another typical example is where a business starts to grow. This growth in revenue and customer numbers is often accompanied by a reduction in performance of the company's website, as the server struggles with the increasing traffic volumes. In the worst cases, this can slow or halt the growth of the business.
What Are Your Options?
When you begin to look at website hosting you will find it is like an onion, with layer upon layer of complexity. Hosting providers have differing options, making comparisons difficult. It is an industry jam-packed with jargon, and few people (if any) will give you any meaningful guarantees. Here is an example - 99.9 percent uptime. This is often quoted by hosting companies, and it sounds impressive. However, it means your website could potentially be offline for 43 minutes a month. For many businesses, that is 42 to 43 minutes too long.
While website hosting is complex, there are some basics you should know. In general you have three options when looking at standard website hosting:
They rank in that order in terms of price, with shared being the cheapest and dedicated being the most expensive. Here is a summary of each option.
With shared hosting your website is installed on a server alongside many other websites - often hundreds of others. The resources of the server are shared among all these sites. This includes things like processor and memory capacity. As a result hosting companies usually place restrictions on how much of those resources your website can use. For example, disk space will be more limited than other hosting options, as will bandwidth.
The other downside is that, theoretically, any website on the server could bring down the whole server. In reality these issues are often fixed quickly by hosting providers, but not always. In other words, your website could be going normally and then be knocked offline for several hours because another website that is nothing to do with yours gets hit with a DDOS attack.
The main benefit of shared website hosting is cost - it is easily the cheapest option available, so it is very popular. For many websites, the resources available on the server are more than sufficient for the website traffic they get, and choosing a reputable hosting provider limits potential downtime on the server.
VPS hosting is the middle option in terms of cost, management required, and server resources. It is a virtual solution, so your website is still located on a physical server with other websites. However, it has its own sectioned off environment, with its own allocation of guaranteed resources.
This means the downsides of shared hosting are mitigated. Specifically, you have more resources available, and there is less chance of them being impacted by another website on the server.
With dedicated hosting you get a server of your own. As your website is the only one on the server, you benefit from the server's full resources - processor, memory, disk space, etc. Also, no other website can impact on the server's performance and, by extension, your website's performance.
The two main downsides are cost and complexity. Dedicated servers are the most expensive option, and they usually require extensive set up, which you will have to pay extra for.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to each of the main website hosting options. That means there are no right or wrong answers. In fact, the right hosting for you now may not be right for you in the future. Whichever you choose, though, understanding the available options is essential.
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