The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Web Hosting
As an entrepreneur, it often feels like you wear more hats than Bartholomew Cubbins. Even those of us who eventually grow our businesses started out going it largely alone, handling everything from our books to content strategy, marketing, social media, and even web design. Of course, all of those things need a home — so you’ll have to look for that hat labeled “webmaster.” Or do you? Yes, your website needs somewhere to reside. But making the wrong choice can lead to spending too much money in the beginning, while trying to cut corners can throttle your traffic and anger your customers when you’re trying to grow. You don’t need a degree in computer science, just a few minutes’ worth of reading, some patience, and a clear-eyed view of your business’s web presence.
What Is Web Hosting, Anyway?
Your URL (say, www.ephost.com) is simply an address so people can find your website, similar to having a house number on your mailbox. If you think of your website as your home on the web, it becomes clear that all the things you’ve used to furnish it — your copy, photos, brochures, product descriptions, and the thousands of lines of code that tie it all together — need a place to “live.” That place is usually a server, a far more powerful and spacious version of the desktop or laptop computer you use daily. However, like any other home, servers come in multiple configurations, so how do you choose the best web hosting services for your business?
Types of Web Hosting
Broadly speaking, there are three types of web hosting. Since we’ve been talking about housing up to this point, let’s expand the metaphor a little further.
You can think of shared hosting somewhat like a college dorm. Your site is sharing server space, bandwidth, and other resources with multiple other businesses’ websites. This has its advantages; after all, you’re sharing not only the space but also the expenses with your server-mates. This not only spreads costs evenly, but also results in everyone paying less than they would if they were to go it alone.
However, much like sharing the facilities in a dorm, it has its drawbacks. Just like a late-night party thrown by bad neighbors can keep you up at night, shared hosting can have its issues with bad neighbors as well. To keep one site or another from taking up too many resources and causing its neighbors to perform poorly, your allocation of drive space, bandwidth, and allowed traffic is likely to be lower.
So let’s say you’ve graduated from the dorms and it’s time to move on. VPS hosting is the next step up for many businesses. A VPS, or Virtual Private Server, can be looked at much the same as a condominium complex. As with shared hosting, multiple businesses are using the same resources, saving money. The difference is in how a VPS is set up; because they’re intended to handle larger sites and higher traffic, and the server is likely to handle far fewer sites to ensure better resource allocation and uptime. An added bonus: because it’s set up as a series of virtual machines, a VPS plan scales easily (especially with cloud-based hosting services), and tends to offer better security than shared hosting.
However, like shared hosting, VPS hosting does have some downsides. To begin with, unlike shared hosting (which tends to run on a “set it and forget it” model where many key functions are automated), VPS requires a more hands-on approach, which in turn requires more knowledge of the inner workings of hosting. It’s also more expensive, but this need not be a burden, as we’ll see in subsequent sections.
This sounds like what it is. Your server is yours, and yours alone. You’re no longer sharing space with other businesses. You’re sitting on substantial cyber real estate, and a degree of possible customization that other options simply do not offer. In contrast to the other options listed here, that customization can go as far as the hardware in use, the operating system on which the server runs, the amount of memory, and much more.
The downsides here are similar to those encountered with VPS hosting, but ramped up significantly. The cost involved, especially during initial setup, is much higher; the maintenance, in turn, is also much more complex. You’ll also need to plan ahead, since unlike the other options mentioned, the only redundancies and security measures in place here are the ones you’ve chosen and maintained yourself.
Choosing the Right Web Hosting
Which web hosting is right for you? For most businesses, dedicated hosting is the equivalent of opening a jar of pickles with a sledgehammer. It’s simply too much, unless you’re running applications that place high server-side demands, you have exceptionally high traffic, or your business requires a much higher degree of secrecy and information security than most. Shared hosting, on the other hand, is excellent for businesses in their very early stages. It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and doesn’t ask too much by way of knowledge or maintenance; however, it also costs more to scale up, to a point where businesses that experience rapid growth or are working within a growth-oriented framework are better off looking at other options.
That option, of course, comes with VPS hosting. Its ability to scale, the option of managed hosting services that take care of key security and maintenance tasks, and the “just-right” nature of the choices offered, make it an ideal option for most businesses. While it’s more expensive, most EP Host customers find that by the time they need a VPS host, they’re generally making more than enough money to cover the expense — and have scaled the business to a point where the use case justifies itself. For more help getting a handle on your web hosting needs — up to and including managed hosting services — get in touch with us today. You, and your Southern California business, will feel at home here.