Finding a good hosting solution for your website can be a tricky process and one filled with acronyms and technical terms. To fully understand all the jargon being bounded about requires you to have a computer science degree. In this article I wanted to cover the 3 types of hosting that I would suggest that you consider, what some of the hosting options mean and then discuss what to look for in a hosting company.
Note: this article is aimed at small business websites and not high traffic sites or more specialist hosting setups.
In general there are 3 hosting options for your website but I’ve added in a 4th which I think can often be a great option – read on to find out. The three standard options are:
Co-location and Cloud hosting: Co-location hosting is when you get an account on a server shared by lots of other websites. In this setup you share the server resources with all other websites on the server. There are usually several hundred sites on a server. So at peak times or when the server is under a high load this can impact your website. This is the cheapest form of hosting and very quick and easy to setup. Rough costs are (£0 – £200 pa).
Virtual Private Server (VPS): A VPS is when you get a share of a servers resources allocated to your website. So you don’t have the issue where the overall server load impacts on your website. You often have the ability to install any software that you want on the server. This is a great option and the one we generally recommend to clients. Rough costs are (£200 – £600 per year).
Dedicated: A dedicated server is when you have the whole server and its resources just for your website. This is ideal for when your website uptime and speed is critical to your business. Because you are using the whole server this is the most expensive of the 3 options but will provide the best results. Rough costs are (£600+ per year).
Web Agency Resellers: With hosting the expression “you get what you pay for” does hold true. If you’re on a tight budget (perhaps under £150 per year) then rather than co-location hosting I would suggest my 4th option which is to ask your web agency to see if they offer hosting. Your web agency will likely have a high-end VPS or even a dedicated server that they use just for their clients websites. They will have an ongoing relationship with a hosting company in order to resell the hosting. This means for co-location prices you can host on a much higher spec server.
What do all the hosting options mean?
Some hosting companies list A LOT of options on their pricing pages. Of course they are trying to provide information for all sorts of websites but there are a few things to look out for:
- Storage or Space: These days storage is cheap and hosts will offer way more than you’ll ever need. Unless you’re hosting lots of video, 2-5 Gb would be fine.
- RAM: In broad terms the more RAM you have for your account to use the more traffic your website will be able to support and your page speed will improve too. If you are hosting on a VPS or Dedicated server try to have at least 1 or 2 Gb of RAM.
- Bandwidth: Each time one of your webpages is viewed then the size of that page and all the images included is the bandwidth that is used. So if you have a 100Mb bandwidth limit then a 1Mb page can be downloaded 100 times. Like storage, bandwidth has become much cheaper these days and its rare you’ll be limited. If you’re getting a couple thousand vists per month to your website then its unlikely you’ll need some than 5Gb of Bandwidth.
What to look for in a hosting company?
Once you have compared a few different companies and their packages there are a few questions I always have in my mind. Getting the following right is the difference in finding a great hosting company to trust your website with:
- Size of the company… will you be just a number? Going with a BIG hosting company might seem like a robust solution but I’ve often found that support gets worse with bigger companies.
- Do you get a response to your support tickets in a timely manor and do they provide helpful advice?
- Are backups included in your package and are they setup and automated as standard? Make sure the backups are copied off-server to protect yourself in case of a disk failure.
- Make sure you get managed hosting, which means your server is kept upgraded and support will provide better support when you need it most.
With website hosting you get what you pay for. I would always recommend either a VPS or possibly piggypacking on your web agency’s hosting setup. But more importantly I would recommend a smaller hosting company with proven support and response times. Ask for a recommendation. Make sure you get a managed account and that your account is being backed up often and off the server in case of a disk drive failure!