Before you start a site you need to choose a suitable web host for your business. In this lesson, we’re going to explain what a web host is and how to choose one for your business.
What is a Web Host?
The web host is where your physical website will be hosted. Note that your web host and domain registrar may be at different places. When this happens, you simply point the domain (using the DNS) to your web host. This means that when users visit your domain they’ll see your site. For beginners, it’s probably easier to have your domain and website hosted at the same place.
If you can’t be bothered to read the rest of this article then we recommend purchasing your domain and hosting at Godaddy.com. Godaddy is the biggest hosting company in the world and offers very cheap prices (£2.99/month for hosting), excellent customer support and fast hosting.
Choosing a Hosting Service – Shared Hosting vs. VPS
When choosing a web host, you basically have 3 main options:
- Shared Hosting
- VPS (Virtual Private Server or Dedicated Hosting)
- Reseller Plan
If you’re just started a business or blog then you should go for a shared hosting plan. This is the normal and most affordable package that most people use. Don’t worry about having upgrade your hosting plan or go for “Silver” or “Gold” packages unless you have a huge site with 2,000+ visitors per day and your website speed has massively slowed down. Remember, you can always upgrade your hosting if it’s too slow or doesn’t meet your requirements.
Shared Hosting vs. VPS
Shared hosting is the cheapest and most popular option for businesses and individual bloggers. Shared hosting technically means that you’re sharing your CPU and RAM space with other sites operating on the same server. Think of it as sharing a storefront in a building with other stores.
In contrast, a VPS (Virtual Private Server) gives you your own dedicated server space. You don’t have to share it with anyone. The only real advantages of a VPS are that you have added security and you can configure your own system settings (e.g. MySQL and PHP) to meet your requirement. For most people, this is completely irrelevant.
The downside to a VPS is that they’re usually far more expensive (£20-£40 per month in comparison to £5/month for shared hosting) and you need a system administrator to set up everything for you. You also don’t receive any hosting support for a VPS since you have to control everything yourself. For example, you won’t receive automated backups or system restores unlike shared hosting.
A common misconception of a VPS is that your website will load faster than shared hosting. This is actually untrue. Shared hosting can be just as fast, if not faster than a VPS. This is because a VPS can still be sharing resources with other VPS’s on the same server. For example, you can have 20 Virtual Private Servers operating on the same server.
Finally, a reseller plan is great for web design agencies and webmasters who need to host multiple websites. A reseller plan allows you to create free hosting accounts for each your customers under your own master account.
What other Factors Should You Consider?
For most people, price is the most important factor when choosing hosting. Generally speaking most hosts will charge £3-£7 per month for regular shared hosting.
In fact, a lot of web and domain hosting companies charge very low rates in the first year to attract new customers, and then increase the rates the following year. This is because they know most people are too lazy to switch hosts; they’ll simply pay the higher renewal fees for the second year.
- Easy Site Building, cPanel and Quick Installation System
This is a really important step for beginners. Most big hosting names will provide automated installation scripts that allow you to install popular CMS’s such as WordPress or BBP Forums with one-click installation. This can save beginners a ton of time and effort.
Beginners will also find a cPanel useful since this allows you to edit website files without having to use an FTP client.
- Do you need a Business Email Address?
Most business owners require their own private email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Most hosts will include 2-5 free email addresses as part of your hosting but it’s important to check in case you need more.
- Customer Support
Customer support is incredibly important when choosing a web host. Think about it – if your website goes down unexpectedly or your files become corrupted then who do you go to? Ideally you want a web host with free-phone support who can quickly help solve any issues you have. Avoid hosts that don’t offer 24/7 support or take 2 days to reply to your email.
- Room to Grow and Scale
As your website grows you want to ensure that your host can accommodate higher bandwidth and server space. Fortunately, most hosting providers allow you to seamlessly upgrade your hosting in minutes without having to migrate your website files or database.
- Customer Reviews and Hosting Speed
Finally, the best option when researching hosts is to look at up to date customer reviews. Up to date reviews are important because some hosting providers might have had excellent reviews 3-5 years ago but because they failed to improve their server software their average hosting speed or customer support has gone downhill. This happens quite frequently with hosting companies. Users stick with a host for 2-3 years until the host becomes too slow and they have to change or upgrade to new hosting.