There are few things more lucrative and resistant to economic downturns than running a website of your own. To do that, you need a web hosting company and a good one at that.
Web hosts take care of everything for you — they provide physical storage for all the files your website needs to run properly, configure the setup so that your site is protected against hackers, and ensure your site can handle spikes in traffic.
This article will explain everything you need to know about web hosting services and what they entail.
Here Is Everything You Need to Know
You’ll need to know a couple of things:
- What you are buying
- Types of web hosting services
- Features to look for in web hosting.
First, we’ll discuss what you can expect to get for your money.
What Exactly Are You Buying?
Here’s what you get when you pay for web hosting.
Servers are special, high-end computers whose sole purpose is to store websites and web applications. They are specially built and optimized for the very purpose of handling website traffic and user requests.
All those servers require an enormous amount of space and protection against various hazards. Datacenters physically store all the servers while simultaneously providing safety measures against fire or unauthorized access of the servers.
When you pay for web hosting, you’re also paying for proprietary software that you need to manage your server.
Such a piece of software is called a control panel, and the most commonly used one is cPanel. It’s a web hosting accounting management program that you need to buy a license for before you can use it.
One of the best things about paying for web hosting is that you can rely on a team of experts to solve complex issues that servers often run into.
There are many ways in which you can find an answer to the problem. You can check out articles in the knowledge base, or talk to support over the phone. Of course, you can always email the support team if you prefer.
Most web hosts allow you to submit a ticket with the issue you’re having, and then they get back to you. Finally, you can find various guides on a broad range of issues on your web host’s site. You can use such a guide to troubleshoot the problems yourself.
Technical difficulties are inevitable, so make sure you hire a web host that promises 24/7 support. Reading hosting reviews can help you determine how efficient a company’s support team is and what their pricing plans are.
Types of Web Hosting Services
Now that you know what you’re paying for, it’s time to look into various types of web hosting services.
The kind of service your website will require depends on factors such as how much traffic you expect. It’s crucial to know the types of services in order to avoid overpaying for hosting, or worse, having insufficient resources.
As the name suggests, shared hosting is a type of service where all of the server’s resources are shared between multiple smaller accounts.
Those accounts share the server’s resources, bandwidth, and storage. That means that a traffic spike on one of the websites might affect the performance of another site on the same server.
It’s not ideal, but it’s just what a new website needs. Especially if that website doesn’t expect to see a great deal of traffic in the first couple of months.
Virtual private servers, or VPS, run several virtual instances on the same hardware, hence the name.
Unlike shared hosting, VPS grants a strict portion of the parent server’s hardware resources to a handful of websites. However, it’s still not as impressive as a dedicated server in terms of performance.
A shared hosting plan will suffice at first, but when your website’s traffic exceeds a certain number of daily visits, it’s a good idea to upgrade to VPS.
Unlike shared servers, dedicated hosting does not allow for more than one website per server. You rent all the resources, bandwidth, and storage for the purposes of your website.
It’s the perfect option for large corporations that need constant speed, uptime, and bandwidth just for themselves. After all, you can’t run a multimillion-dollar business with a bunch of other accounts causing bottlenecks.
Cloud hosting is different from other types of services because it provides multiple servers for a single website. Each service your website requires usually resides on a different server.
Cloud servers are far more resilient than others. In case one of the servers fail for whatever reason, your website’s data will survive on another. It’s also very easy to allocate more resources to your website when you need to.
Features to Look for in Web Hosting
Different websites need different features, but all of them need as much speed and bandwidth as they can get.
Specialized types of websites will require additional features. For example, adult-only websites will require adult hosting. A web host that offers such a feature won’t take down your website due to its content. The same goes for gambling and other kinds of sites that may be considered inappropriate or illegal in certain countries.
In general, the most sought-after features include memory, bandwidth, storage, scalability, and frequent backups. Support is also high up that list, but we already covered it.
Just like a regular computer, a server needs plenty of RAM as well. That’s because websites use RAM to handle all the traffic, especially during peak hours.
If the load becomes too much, your visitors will begin to see the “500 internal server error.”
You’ll notice that the web hosts either offer a set amount of RAM, e.g. 1 GB of RAM, or a percentage of the total amount of RAM available to the server. Most blogs and small businesses can do just fine with 1 GB of memory.
If a company’s offering you a percentage of the total memory, you’ll need to know what that total is. You can most likely find this information in the company’s knowledge base, or ask the host directly.
Web hosts sometimes offer unlimited bandwidth, domains, or disk space. Don’t get tricked into paying for that kind of “unlimited” service.
Some web hosts know it’s almost impossible for sites on shared servers to use up all of the available resources. So they advertise it as unlimited, but in reality, it’s the furthest thing from.
Don’t buy into such marketing tricks. Instead, ask the web host about their policies regarding CPU usage and how they handle spikes in traffic.
The same goes for storage. There is a natural, physical restriction to storage space, so of course, it’s not going to be unlimited, even if the companies advertise it that way.
However, you probably won’t need more than 10 GB for a small business or a personal blog. If that’s what you plan on running, a small shared server will suffice, unless you intend to upload a lot of video and music files.
When thinking about your new online business, you should also look towards its future. How much do you expect it to expand? And will the host be able to handle the expansion of your website?
We’re, of course, talking about scalability — the web host’s capacity to match your growing website. Sooner or later you’ll want to upgrade from a shared hosting plan to a VPS one. Ask your hosting provider if it’s possible to do that, and without creating a break in the service.
Never sign on a web host that doesn’t perform full regular backups.
Serious hiccups do happen. The site could crash, the server could fail, or hackers could attack your website. It doesn’t matter how much damage has been done if there’s a way to restore what was lost.
It’s also a smart idea to check if you can perform a backup manually using software such as cPanel or Cron Job.
Your choice in this matter can and will affect the future of your website. Don’t just go for the first web host that you find. Do your research and ask the hosting company any questions you might have. It will pay off in the end.
If the web host doesn’t have any of the features you require, move on to the next one. Don’t settle for anything less than what your business needs, and you’re setting it up for success.