As small business owners and entrepreneurs we’ve all got a lot going on. Marketing, advertising, operations, managing people, making customers happy…it makes for long days. Bottom line, there’s a lot to think about even before we get on the topic of the internet and websites.
You probably spent a great deal of time having your website designed, choosing how it was going to look, how the navigation would work, what the calls-to-action were going to be, but you probably never thought too much about having that site hosted. In fact, you may not have considered the kind of hosting, reputation of the hosting company, performance, or security in your decision of where to have your website hosted.
Of all the decisions made around creating or redesigning a website, the subject of web hosting usually gets the least amount of attention, if it is considered at all. Many times small business owners and entrepreneurs Google search “hosting companies” and choose the cheapest service without any other thought.
What is hosting?
Website hosting is a service that you purchase from a hosting company to keep your website online so that traffic can come to your site. The host makes sure that your website for your restaurant or retail store or pest control service shows up when people type your URL address into their browser. Now while this may seem rudimentary, there are, in fact, multiple kinds of hosting services to consider. And yes, they can impact your website’s performance.
Considerations for web hosting include optimization of the servers for the type of website that you have (i.e. WordPress), security, backups, maintenance, and since Google added page load speed to their algorithm for site search (whether or not you are being found in the search engine results), it has become more important than ever to have a fast, dependable website.
The availability of your site isn’t just for web searchers, it’s also for the search engines. If your website has continual issues with downtime, it can be detrimental to your search engine positioning.
What kind of a website do you have?
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In reality, there are a lot of things you should be considering when you’re choosing a web host for your site. Before we take the deep dive into web hosting, let’s discuss the type of website you have. This will dictate what choices you have when it comes to hosting.
If you have a website built in Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly, you have a site that was designed in a platform with proprietary technology that does not allow their websites to be moved to other hosting environments. If you have a Wix website, you’re going to host that website with Wix. Period. Hosting with these three companies is included in your monthly service fee, but you have no control in topics related to security and performance.
If you have a website built in WordPress or another content management system that is open source, you have the freedom to choose where your website will be hosted and you can address issues related to page load speed or add additional security measures.
There are pros and cons to WordPress vs Wix vs Weebly, and honestly that’s a topic for a series of related articles, but on the subject of website hosting, you really only have options if you have a WordPress site or a site that is built on an open source platform.
This is a lot of information to digest, and you probably have questions. One of the major ones is likely something along the lines of:
How Do I Choose A Web Host?
There are many hosting companies out there vying for your business. It can be confusing and frustrating to pick one. Here are a few things to consider:
The first thing you’ll want to know about a prospective web host is what is their uptime? How much time each month are the websites they host offline, for some reason or another? Do their uptime stats stack up against the competition?
How long has your web hosting company been in business? Do they work with a lot of small companies or specialize in dealing with small businesses? Small businesses may not have a lot of technical knowledge and usually need more support. Does your potential web host specialize in WordPress? WordPress servers will be set up differently.
In the 21st century, you need a fast website. Period. Your pages should be loading in 2 seconds or less. If they don’t, you could be penalized by Google, not to mention the customers who will find another to deal with if yours takes too long. Check Pingdom and Google to monitor and test your page load times.
- Customer Service
What kind of customer service does your prospective web hosting company offer? Is it support tickets and email? Is it chat? Can you talk to a live human on the phone? Be honest with yourself about what kind of support you need and look for a company that meets that need.
We live in a ratings and reviews kind of society. Look at what other people are saying about the hosting company that you are thinking about dealing with. Check their website for customer testimonials and reviews. Check Google and other review sites in your area for their ratings.
Depending on the level of service you need, you should expect to pay $20 to $99 plus a month for quality web hosting. Hosting with more security and monitoring services can be $99 and up. Some hosting plans will also include updates to information on your site.
Now that we’ve covered a few of the different things to keep in mind when choosing a host, let’s go over the different kinds of web hosting services there are out there:
- Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is when your website is placed on a server with hundreds, possibly thousands of other websites. This situation can create a huge server load, which can slow down all the websites and limit all the resources. If one of those other websites on your server gets hacked, this can have a negative impact on the overall performance of any other site hosted on the same server. Yep. That means your site can be negatively impacted too.
Shared web hosting environments are the most common form of hosting. In many cases, businesses and individuals don’t know to ask for anything else. Shared hosting can definitely save you money on your monthly hosting bill with monthly charges of $9.99 a month or less, but at what cost to the speed and security of your website? Think carefully about putting your website in a shared hosting environment.
- VPS Hosting
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. This is a method of partitioning a physical server into multiple servers. In a VPS, your host partitions off a portion of that server just for your website. Even though there can be many other websites on the VPS server, you’ll have as much control as if you were on a dedicated server, all by yourself.
Usually, VPS environments don’t put as many websites on a server as in shared hosting situations. The majority of VPS hosting is in the cloud. Multiple servers work together, so a hardware failure of a single server won’t bring your website down. If a single server fails, another server in the cloud takes over the work. When your website is hosted on a VPS, if one of the other websites on your server has issues or gets hacked, it’s much less likely that this will effect your website.
VPS hosting is much safer and more reliable than shared server hosting. With hosting ranging from $20 to $160 a month, VPS is a smarter decision than shared hosting for those serious about their websites.
- Managed Hosting
Managed hosting is for businesses and individuals whose websites play an important role in their overall bottom line. After all the time and money you’ve spent developing your website and online presence, the last thing you want is a host that is only interested in volume, or worse yet, someone managing your website that is inexperienced in maintenance and upkeep.
Managed hosting is the no worry type of hosting. Providers of managed hosting take care of everything for you. From your website’s performance to security, from updates to backups. The really good ones will even suggest to you the right plug-ins to use and how to get the best performance out of your website.
Managed hosting can run from $19 to $99 a month, but if your business depends on your website and you don’t have an experienced employee in-house that can handle the maintenance and updates, this is a cost of doing business that you can’t live without.
- Managed WordPress Hosting
Managed WordPress hosting is really the optimal level of support for a company with a WordPress website. With managed WordPress hosting you can eliminate separate maintenance costs associated with updating WordPress, updating WordPress themes and plugins, backing up your files, optimizing your site, and monitoring site security. Read the fine print, but many of the niche WP hosts include these specialized services with their hosting packages.
WordPress has its own nuances, so dealing with a company that specializes in just WordPress hosting can really make your website lightening fast and ultra secure.
Managed WordPress web hosting can run from $19 to $200 plus dollars a month.
Many packaged will also include a block of time each month that can be used to update your website or improve the optimization but experience WordPress developers and designed. If you or your company has invested in a WordPress website and doesn’t have in-house people to perform all the regular maintenance, backups, and security checks, this is a smart investment that should be made a priority.
- Dedicated Hosting
With Dedicated hosting your company has a dedicated server. That’s a server that is for your website only. You’re not sharing your hardware with anyone else. You get to control every aspect of the server and how it runs.
95% of small businesses do not need a dedicated server. Once you have a hundred thousand plus unique visitors going through your site each month, you may want to consider it, but in the beginning or even in the middle, it would just be overkill.
Dedicated servers average $150 to $375 plus a month. Another consideration with dedicated servers is who is going to manage the setup, updates, and maintenance. Most hosting companies are only providing the server hardware. It will be up to you to configure it and optimize it for speed and delivery. Dedicated servers are more than most small to mid-sized businesses or individuals need in monthly hosting.
This is an IMMENSE amount of information to process. So be sure to take your time, and figure out what the best pick is for you and your business. If you have questions, contact a web hosting company and discuss your website with them.