Beginners Overview of Web Hosting
If you are new to the whole online game just the thought of buying web hosting can be intimidating. Use this quick overview to relieve your fears and increase your confidence so that you can easily register with a hosting company with a clear head.
What Does Web Hosting Mean?
Any website is just a large collection of files made up of data, images, html documents, videos and more. All of these files must ‘live’ somewhere and need to find a “host’. Enter the website hosting company.
What is a Domain?
A domain is simply the address of your website. Just as your home address is a street number and name. Your website URL is made up of letters and numbers followed by a dot extension. With com, org, and net being the most popular choices. More about this later, don’t buy yet!
Types of Web Hosting
Now this is where things can get a little confusing. When it comes to the actual hosting of your site you have lots of different hosting choices. There are four main choices which are:
- Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A hosting solution can be compared to a storage place for your website. It will come with different storage levels, server speeds, reliability and technical aspects.
The Shared Server is where you are sharing space and resources with lots of other websites. All of these resources are not shared equally and sites can easily go over their limits and cause all of the sites on the server to go down.
A Virtual Private Server is one that is divided equally and shared by fewer websites. All resources are allocated in equal portions to each account. It is still possible to exceed your limits if you experience sudden spikes in traffic.
A Dedicated Server is where you are effectively renting out the entire server for your own sites. This type of plan is more expensive and offers you greater control over your website. Normally recommended for high traffic and large businesses.
Cloud hosting offers the ability to handle those traffic surges on your website. This type of hosting involves lots of servers, called a cloud, to work together to host multiple websites. As resources are needed a new cloud is added to handle the volume. This additional cloud is then released when the surge or spike is over.
The next time you look at hosting plans you will now understand what the different packages mean for you. The most common type for those hosting their first site is the Shared type of hosting plan.
Best Practices for Selecting a Web Host
Use the following best practice tips for selecting the right web host the first time out. Believe us, there is nothing worse than having to move your sites to new servers with a new company! Take the time to compare plans before making any final decision.
- Don’t let the price be your determining factor. Remember the saying “you get what you pay for”.
- Consider your bandwidth and disk space requirements.
- Allow space for growth.
- Decide what type of scripts and software you will be using and see if the host accommodates these.
- Do you need Cron jobs to run?
- What PHP requirements, if any, do you need?
- If you are planning on running sale events, then allow for traffic spikes and surges.
- What type of graphics or images will you be uploading? Large file sizes can slow down your site.
- Will you be emailing from your site? A third party solution is often a better approach.
- How many domains do you plan on installing?
- Will you be hosting videos?
- Are you running an ecommerce site?
- Do you require a shopping cart?
- Will you need to install and run a customer help desk or center?
- Do you want to have a forum on your site?
- Are you running any type of directory?
- Are you happy sharing resources on a server? You may want to consider a semi private or dedicated server of your own, however these do cost more.
- Does the company offer more than one method for contacting their support desk?
- Does the company offer free scheduled backups or other features that make them stand apart from other hosts?
- Does the company keep their servers up to date? Out of date servers can cause your sites to load slowly, or experience down time.
Overall you want to have a hosting plan that is affordable, easy to use, caters to your requirements and has great customer service. Any company can publish great reviews. Take the time to ask questions from your friends and business associates. See which hosting plans they are using and why. Ask them if they are happy with their choice or not.
Ensure that the plan you choose is more than ample to accommodate all of your present requirements. Most hosting companies have upgrade plans available if you do run out of bandwidth or disk space. Upgrading is a much better option than moving to a new host completely.
Deciding On Your Web Hosting Needs
While you may be tempted to use the same web hosting plan as your business associate, you want to look at what your needs are first. Each business will have specific needs and requirements when it comes to web hosting. You want to identify what your needs are first, then look for a suitable web hosting plan.
You are not going to go out and buy a two-seater sports car if you have young children? The same applies to your website. You want to ensure that your hosting plan is capable of running your website and any programs easily.
Web hosting plans and packages come in all sizes and shapes. Which doesn’t simplify the process at all. You don’t want to pay for features and services that you will never use. But, you also don’t want to run out of space in your first month either.
Questions to ask yourself include:
- Future growth plans for your site?
- Are you selling digital goods?
- Will your customers be downloading files and data from your site, free or paid?
- What type of shopping cart will you be using?
- Will you be hosting a ton of graphics?
- How much content, articles, reports, page etc. are you planning on creating?
- How many email addresses will you require?
- Do you want to send out emails via your website or have this done by a third party solution?
- Will you be running special offers and sales?
Then on top of your answers for these questions you need to consider traffic. If you are planning on running a lot of promotions you need to have lots of bandwidth. Otherwise a sudden surge can knock your site off line.
Another area to consider is your page time loads. If you are running a large site with barely enough bandwidth your page time loads could be painfully slow. This can result in visitors leaving your site before your pages have loaded.
While your content is responsible for page time loads, these times can be affected by the type of servers and resources that your web host is offering. If a certain hosting plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Your site will pay for it at some time with slow load times or lots of time being offline.
When it comes to web hosting you may want to select a plan that easily accommodates all of your needs. This allows for future growth and the ability to handle increased traffic at certain times of the month.
In Part 2 we’ll look at just how to review Web Hosting Companies and the types of packages you’ll find.