There are thousands of web hosting providers out there; perhaps you already use one of them. But do you really know what web hosting does, why you need it, what qualities you should look for in a hosting provider, and how important choosing the right provider is for your business?
In short, web hosting is what makes it possible for your business’ website to be online and available to everyone on the Internet. Choosing the right hosting provider is one of the most critical decisions you will make for your business’ website; after all, if your website is unavailable most of the time due to choosing a bad provider, potential customers will not find you online. If potential customers don’t find you online, they’ll probably stumble upon one of your competitors – not good at all!
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What web hosting does
Web hosting gives you space on a server (basically a computer) that you can use to store your website. Hosting ultimately provides your business’ website a place to live online.
There are several types of hosting available, each with different use cases that vary primarily based on the amount of traffic your website receives. We’ll cover the three basic types of hosting: shared web hosting, Virtual Private Servers, and dedicated hosting.
The first type of hosting is shared web hosting (usually referred to as “shared hosting”, “web hosting”, or just “hosting”). Shared web hosting is likely the most practical type of hosting for your business. With this type of hosting, a single server is usually shared between up to hundreds of websites, with each website receiving a small share of the server’s resources. Shared hosting can also be clustered, which basically means that a pool of servers are used to serve websites hosted on the cluster; clustered hosting helps to provide redundancy in such a way that a single server (or even multiple servers) failing shouldn’t cause any websites to go down. Most websites with a smaller volume of traffic run perfectly well on shared hosting and shared hosting is usually recommended as the hosting provider provides server maintenance and should take care of most of the technical aspects for you.
The next type of hosting is Virtual Private Servers (VPS). A VPS is essentially created by taking a server and splitting it up into several virtual pieces. VPS are provided with a guaranteed amount of resources from the server, and each VPS is separated from the rest on the server, so VPS somewhat create a “private bubble” for your business’ website. Businesses with a higher level of traffic might find a VPS appropriate for hosting their business’ website; however, VPS may also be appropriate if your website needs to run applications or scripts that require features that aren’t available on shared hosting (hosting providers usually won’t modify server environments for a single or small subset of customers). A reputable hosting provider will be able to alert you when it’s time to upgrade your website to a VPS, as well as provide some guidance on how to upgrade. Unless you know that you need a VPS, you’d probably be fine with using shared web hosting for your business’ website. I don’t recommend choosing a VPS unless you either have experience with running servers or you choose a provider that offers managed VPS (which means they will configure everything for you).
The final type of hosting that will be covered in this article is dedicated hosting (also called “dedicated servers”). Dedicated hosting provides your business with its own server; 100% of the server’s resources are dedicated to your business’ website. Websites generally don’t require dedicated hosting unless they are receiving a high volume of traffic; even then, a VPS may suffice if configured properly. Dedicated servers can be configured to serve websites in a clustered manner; in other words, you can configure multiple dedicated servers to hold the same website. Clustering dedicated servers allow you to ensure that your business’ website doesn’t go down if one server fails.
While several types of hosting exist, small businesses usually do not need anything more than shared web hosting. In some cases, a VPS may be necessary; however, I always recommend starting with shared hosting – your hosting provider should let you know when it’s time to upgrade to a VPS (and help you with the process).
Why you need web hosting
In simple terms, you need web hosting in order to be able to put your business’ website online for the world to see. Without some form of web hosting, your website wouldn’t be able to exist online.
Web hosting affords you a way to not only get your website online, but also to build your website. With tools such as website builder tools and WordPress, getting a website put together for your business has never been easier! With these tools, you should be able to put together a professional-looking website within a week or two; it might take a little bit of research and trial-and-error, but what doesn’t? If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of building your own website or don’t have the time to work on building your business’ website yourself, many web designers are available to take care of the design process for you.
Even though it might seem like a good idea to jump on the best hosting offer that you find, there are certain qualities that you should seek to ensure the livelihood of your business’ website.
What qualities you should look for in a web hosting provider
There are several qualities that you should look for when choosing a web hosting provider. You want to make sure that your business and your hosting provider will mesh well before giving them your business’ website to host.
First and foremost, you want to make sure that your web hosting provider’s support team is pretty responsive. You don’t want to have to wait 48+ hours for a technician to look at your website if it ever goes down, do you? You want to make sure that your hosting provider will help or provide you with guidance when you experience problems with your website, right? If the hosting provider you are researching has a phone number, give them a ring and ask them about their average response times. If not, open up a ticket or live chat with them and ask. When testing out support and checking response times and overall customer experience, I recommend choosing the “support department” prompts/options as this is the team you will deal with in the future. It’s okay if your hosting provider only accepts tickets/chats as long as they’re responsive and you’re okay with “typing to them” instead of being able to give them a call. I prefer to raise cases via ticket instead of phone; however, that’s just a personal preference of mine.
You also want to make sure that what you can expect from the hosting provider is laid out in plain English somewhere on their website. What type of uptime guarantee do they have, and what happens if they fail to meet that guarantee? Will they help you if your website is hacked? Do they keep backups of your website, or are you responsible for making backups yourself? What would the space and bandwidth limits be for your website? What is their Authorized Use Policy (AUP)? Is there a money back guarantee? All of these things should be laid out for you to review; some things such as the AUP might be lengthy and contain some legal jargon, but I highly recommend getting familiar with it as it will tell you what you can and cannot do with your hosting package, as well as what happens if your website fails to comply with the policy.
It’s also important to take a look at the technologies that the web hosting provider supports on their system, as well as the tools that they include. Do they make it easy to install WordPress? Is there a website builder tool included? I usually recommend using WordPress for business websites (and it’s what we use here at Unordered List) – WordPress gives you unmatched flexibility and is fairly easy to use once you get going. With WordPress themes like Divi, creating a professional business website can be a breeze; it’s definitely a lot easier to build your own website today than it was even five years ago.
Naturally, this isn’t a full list of every aspect that you should look at when choosing a hosting provider; there are many variables that come into play that change on a website-by-website basis. What is important, however, is that you feel like you can trust your hosting provider and that you get a feeling that your website will be in good hands. I always recommend talking to a hosting provider before putting your website in their hands for this reason.
It is extremely important to choose the right web hosting provider for your business
Choosing the wrong hosting provider for your business’ website can be a catastrophic decision; I firmly believe that you should do a good amount of research before choosing a hosting provider.
If the provider you choose has a lot of downtime, your business’ website might not rank well in the search engines, or potential customers might get frustrated that your website is down a lot and move on to a competitor’s website. I recommend choosing a provider with at least a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Please note that uptime guarantees doesn’t usually include scheduled maintenance; check with the hosting provider to see when they usually schedule maintenance. Most providers should complete scheduled maintenance later at night during low-traffic periods. Uptime guarantees might also be called Service Level Agreements (SLA); you should make sure to check the provider’s SLA terms to see what the web hosting provider promises and how they compensate you when they don’t hold up their end of the bargain.
If you choose a web hosting provider that isn’t very responsive, you will regret it when there’s an issue with your website. If you open a ticket, you should ideally get a helpful response within a few hours – definitely within 24 hours at the very most (24 hours is pushing it in my book). If your website is hacked (I recommend Sucuri’s Website Firewall to prevent websites from being hacked) and you need a backup restored, you likely can’t afford to wait several days for a restore.
Choosing a hosting provider just because they’re the cheapest or have the prettiest website can be a dire mistake that costs you more in the long run. Please do your research and choose a provider that you can trust with your website and who works well for you. After all, every business needs a website, so why not choose a hosting provider that will give your website the best experience possible?
If you’re in search of web hosting for your business’ website, I would start by taking a look at Bluehost. Bluehost has some really solid platforms and offers a pretty big array of hosting options for when you need to upgrade, including VPS and dedicated hosting. They also have support available around the clock. Their systems also support WordPress, which is what I recommend as the platform to use for building your business website.
Have you had good experiences with your web hosting provider? Have any horror stories? Let me know in the comments!
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