For most, the difference between web hosts is something unseen and unconsidered – a service provided by people and machinery tucked away in a basement and one which only becomes an issue if there’s a problem.
A head of department looking to trim a budget will consider any means of doing so, but the old adage “buy cheap, buy twice” is worth particular consideration when it comes to sourcing hosts for your website and email providers.
The world’s most creative and intuitive website may as well be a bricked up window to a company if it is unavailable, and the account advisors, sales team, dispatch and shipping are all supported by what you have in place to keep your site up and running.
Choosing the right web hosting package and the right company to supply it can be tricky for new and even established businesses. So what should anyone making that decision be looking out for?
Understanding the three main types of web hosting
Not all websites require the same level of performance from a web host because not all of them contain the same content, serve the same audience or create the same online traffic.
Before choosing a web host, you must determine your website needs, expected performance and traffic.
This is the most cost effective option, most commonly used by individuals and small business owners with few administrative responsibilities.
With a shared hosting package, the service provider serves pages for multiple web sites, each having its own internet domain name, from a single web server. The provider will be responsible for technical maintenance, support and installing updates.
While this is a perfectly adequate option for many individuals and small businesses, with shared resources come some level of shared experience. As an example, if another website sharing the server were to experience a major surge in web traffic this may act to slow down response times for your own website.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A VPS is a shared server, but without the drawbacks. The VPS is the middle-man solution, appealing to medium and fast growing small businesses with an essential online focus. Sites are allocated delineated slices of the resources shared with a limited number of other websites.
Unlike shared servers, one website will never be affected by the performance of another, and can draw on extra resources as a when required, offering agility, flexibility and scalability.
Dedicated servers are predominantly the solution of choice for larger, heavily web orientated businesses and consists of a single server holding one specific website.
It is not shared by anyone else so significant fluctuations in traffic can be easily dealt with and any specialist functionality the business requires can be handled as needed.
For obvious reasons, the exclusive option in the web hosting world is the most expensive. However, for businesses that have high web traffic delivering high turnover, demanding flexibility, access and cutting edge performance, it is always going to be the preferred option.
If reliability is one of the key factors to consider when deciding which server to go for, then security should go hand-in-hand.
The average web hosting company provides for hundreds, if not thousands of websites at the same time, all with different personality types. Some may be cautious and security conscious, others reckless and disorganised.
A good web host is there to ensure all security measures have been taken behind the scenes to ensure your customers are able to use your site safely and without disruption 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If your website holds personal details and payment information for customers, or intends to in the future, locking and bolting your doors both day and night should be your top priority. Stringent legal requirements are in place to guarantee customer security, so if your web host is cutting corners and isn’t secure it won’t be just your reputation at stake, but potentially your business.
The Hare or the tortoise?
After security comes speed. Despite the British being well known to form an orderly queue on the high street, when it comes to online, all bets are off. In a world where everyone is on the go, making them wait over 4 -5 seconds for your website to load and they’ll be jumping ship to your competitors without a second glance.
Make sure you’re with a reputable web host which provides a good connection and won’t squish you onto an overstuffed server where you’re battling for resources.
For businesses which experience high or consistently fluctuating levels of web traffic and operate feature-rich websites, it is imperative that the hosting package which has been chosen is able to deliver ample resources and flexibility to ensure there the customer experience is as good as it can possibly be.
Alison Curry-Taylor is operations director at Daily Internet.
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