In today’s world, everything is done online. Having an online presence allows you to reach others in ways that were previously impossible, making the benefits of having one obvious. However, starting a website can be a confusing and daunting task.
Whether you build your own site or hire someone else to build it, a web host is needed in order to publish a website online. We have provided a myriad of facts about web hosting that can help you in your decision making process.
If you like, you can use the links below to take you to the corresponding subject.
- Web Hosting Options
- Choosing a Web Host Provider
- Extra Web Hosting Features
- Advanced Web Hosting Information
Web Hosting Options
A web host is a company that houses space on a server for you to store your website and the connection needed for others to access and utilize your website. A server can be a machine or computer software that acts like a giant highway interchange for computers across the world.
Your website contains text, files, images, videos, and more, and a web host can contain and manage all of that information. There are several options that most web hosting companies provide, and each has their own set of pros and cons that should be heavily considered before you choose one for your website.
What Web Hosts Do We Suggest?
The following providers are well-known companies in the hosting industry and offer great service at a great price. On a personal note, here’s where you can help us out – we work with these hosts and collect a small marketing fee when they get new sign ups from us. You get cheap hosting, and we get to keep things running here, providing free content and information to visitors like you.
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Shared hosting and dedicated hosting are the two most common types of web hosts available. Shared hosting is great for those who have minimal technical knowledge and are on a tighter budget because the web hosting company will manage the hardware, script language, and other software needed to keep your website running.
Your website will share a server with anywhere between a few to a thousand different websites, hence why it is called “shared hosting.” Since many other websites can be on the same server, your website may load a bit slower and be less secure than it would be through different web hosts. However, shared hosting is significantly cheaper than any of the other web hosting choices because the cost of the server is split between you and all of the other people who are leasing the same server.
This is a great option for individuals with simple blogs, or organizations who are just starting and do not yet have a great deal of traffic at one time to their website.
Dedicated hosting is a bit more expensive than shared hosting, and the added costs come with added perks. With dedicated hosting, your website is the only one on its server that you have leased from. This gives you more technical control by allowing you to run a wider variety of software on your website. Additionally, your website will have less downtime and be more secure because the server is not allocating its resources to accommodate traffic from any other sites.
This type of hosting is great for those who are technically savvy, or for websites that are expected to garner a lot of traffic. Some web host companies will let you upgrade from shared to dedicated hosting (or any of the others listed below) as your website grows. That way you will not have to completely start over with a new account just as your website starts to thrive.
Virtual private server hosting
Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is a hybrid between shared and dedicated hosting. Your website does share a server with other websites, but unlike shared hosting, that server does not have as many websites on it and is separated into virtual servers. Those virtually separated servers then each act as a dedicated hosting server, since the server’s resources will never be pulled away from your site to meet the traffic demands of another website.
VPS hosting is becoming more prevalent and is cheaper than dedicated hosting because your website shares the server with others who are also renting/leasing the same hardware.
Cloud hosting works in almost the opposite way of VPS hosting. VPS hosting takes one machine and creates several virtual servers while cloud hosting takes several machines and uses them to create one or more virtual servers shared across them.By having your website on a “cloud of servers,” you will experience less downtime. If one server should crash, your website can still function because of the other servers that it is connected with.
Cloud hosting is becoming more popular and is most common for larger websites (Google, Facebook, etc.), and it is gaining popularity among smaller organizations as well. By having your website on a “cloud of servers,” you will experience less downtime. If one server should crash, your website can still function because of the other servers that it is connected with.
Co-location (or colocation) web hosting
Co-location web hosting is the only option through a web hosting company where you own the server outright rather than leasing the equipment. In this plan, you will rent the physical space that the server is kept in at the web host’s location with other servers. You will be responsible for maintaining all aspects of your website, which includes everything from the hardware to any applications that you install on your website.
Much like owning a house, a co-location plan gives you ultimate control over the operations of your website. Some web hosts offer managed hosting options for colocation hosting. With managed hosting, the web hosting company maintains and manages the hardware, operating system, and any other applications that have been installed, but you still own the equipment.
While it is possible to host your own website from home, it is also extremely difficult for a multitude of reasons. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) typically do not offer as much bandwidth as you will need to be able to run both your website and access the internet for personal uses at decent speeds. If they can, you will most like be paying far more than you would through a web hosting company. This also requires your computer running 24/7. Should your computer power off, other users will no longer be able to access your website.
Choosing a Web Host Provider
Every web hosting company should outline the following information with each type of plan that they offer. These are essentially the “nuts and bolts” of any web hosting plan, along with an explanation of what each is and what to look for in an ideal plan.
- Data Storage (Disc Space) – It is not uncommon for web hosting companies to offer unlimited data storage. Be careful and read the fine print. More often than not unlimited data storage comes with hidden charges once you have exceeded “normal site usage.” If you have a simple blog with little to no videos or high-quality pictures on your site, you can most likely get away with just several gigabytes of storage. Even with media content on your website, most people do not need the unlimited data storage packages. It is better to go with a host that explicitly states their data storage plan, so as to not be surprised when the bill arrives.
- Bandwidth – Bandwidth is your network connection speed, not the data transfer speed. Think of traffic on a four-lane highway. When you have a high-bandwidth connection, multiple users can experience your website at the same time, just like the highway with all of the lanes open. A low-bandwidth connection can be the equivalent to construction during rush-hour if too many users are on your site at once.
Web hosts offer a variety of levels of bandwidth, and you can determine which level is most cost-effective for you based on the content on your site, traffic, and how users are expected to interact with your site (play videos, look at pictures, buy products, etc.).
- Up-Time – Obviously you want people to be able to access your website as much as possible, therefore having a web host with the least amount of downtime rates is ideal. Most web hosting companies will claim a 99.9% up-time rate. It is always best to, again, check the reviews and see what actual customers have experienced. Often a “scheduled downtime for maintenance” is not included in their overall downtime percentage simply because it is scheduled.
- Support – A stellar technical/customer support team is essential in a web hosting company. You can conduct your research by looking up their policies on their website, reading customer reviews, or contacting them directly to experience the customer service first hand. Reading customer reviews is a good way to get honest answers, and to see how the company will treat you when you need their help. Research reporting an issue with your website, do you have to email them or can you chat with or call them? What times are they available, and how quickly will they get back to you? Also, check to see if the company offers tutorial videos, a FAQ section, or a customer forum as additional resources to help you solve your technical issues independently.
- Multiple Domains and Websites – Most major web hosting companies allow you to create and build multiple domain names and actual websites under one account, since it has become a fairly common practice for both individuals and organizations to do so. Evaluate what kind of CPU requirements you will need, how much disc space you will want, and what your expected traffic will be like on all of your websites to determine which web hosting plan for multiple domains/websites will best meet your needs.
- Green hosting is also technically not a separate type of hosting. “Green” refers to the web hosts’ environmental practices. Luckily it has become common practice for major web hosting companies to strive to reduce their carbon footprint. This is accomplished by using energy-efficient servers, as well as the equipment needed to run the facility that the servers are kept in (ex: energy-efficient lights, heating, air conditioning, etc.). A green web hosting company will also typically give back in some form, either through planting trees, recycling, and/or utilizing wind-power. A truly green (not just claiming to be green) company will have certificates from reputable sources as proof. There should also be a minimal-to-no price difference between a green and a standard web hosting company.
Extra Web Hosting Features
Finding the right web host is similar to apartment hunting. The variety of web hosts are like the different kinds of apartments available, and the features offered by the web hosting companies are like an apartment building’s amenities. Not all web hosts are created equal, and it is important to make sure that you won’t end up paying for something you’ll never use, or realize you do not have something you thought you signed up for. The features listed below can help you assess your website, and help you determine which ones can go on your “must have” list.
- SSL Certification – SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certification creates an encryption on your website in order for yours and the user’s personal information to remain protected. There are different levels of SSL certifications, and there are certificates that are specific to organizations or individuals. Most major web hosting companies offer their own SSL certificates. There are also third party security companies that provide them, in the event that a web hosting company either does not have a strong enough SSL or does not offer them at all. SSL has a relatively new successor, TLS (Transport Layer Security), that offers more security, but may not be as widely available.
- Backups – It is important for both you and your web hosting company to be able to backup your website’s files and other data. Not all web hosts offer a data back up. Should you choose to go with a web host that does not offer any kind of data backup option, it is imperative that you have at least one backup option on your own.
- Email Features – While you may only need one or two professional email addresses initially, you may want to add on more as your business and website continues to grow. Not all web hosts give you the option to create more than one email address with your domain name. It is possible to get an email address with your website’s name through a third party application. Similar to having multiple domain names, it is easier to manage and conduct marketing if you can access everything all in one place.
- Advertising Credit – A web hosting company will sometimes offer Google AdWords and Bing/Yahoo! Ads credit as an incentive for signing a contract with them. Typically the companies will offer $25-$100 in advertising credit. This free advertising opportunity is a great way to boost traffic to your website.
- eCommerce (Shopping Cart) Software – If you have or are just starting your own retail business, it is important to make sure that your web hosting plan either comes with or can support the software necessary for your customers to be able to hold and purchase your products. Since this is not a feature that is standard across all web hosting plans, it is important to ask the company prior to signing up with them.
Advanced Web Hosting Information
Just because you may be a beginner, in regards to web hosting, that does not mean that you lack technical skills. This section is for those who have a bit more experience and more detail-oriented preferences than the average person.
- Control Panel – The control panel is where you manage your payments, emails, domains, loaded software like an eCommerce application, and other customizing features. This is the main way for you to interact with the web host, and is offered among all web hosting providers. We mention this because the control panel layout and functionality can vary greatly from company to company.
Advanced users may prefer a control panel that has the server information more readily available whereas a novice may want a traditionally more “user-friendly” layout. There are many different types of control panels, and not all of them support the same kinds of software or script language. Click on the picture to the right to see two examples of control panels.
- Script Language – PHP is the scripting language that most web hosting companies use on their servers to develop websites. Those with previous technical experience, may prefer to use one of the many other scripting languages available. If this is the case for you, keep in mind that web hosts do not support all scripting languages. Always double check that the web host provider can support any of the languages and software that you would like to use.
Online branding is imperative in our modern society, for both the individual and larger organizations. While having social media accounts are important, upgrading your status to the professional level means knowing the ins and outs of publishing and running a website. Be sure to check out the rest of our website to learn even more about what it takes to be successful online.