With so many web hosts to choose from and so much terminology to understand, choosing a hosting plan can seem a daunting task. When you begin doing research into what solution may be best for you and your business, it can become easy to feel like you’re reading another language. But with such an important element of your business as your website, it’s something you don’t want to just put off. That’s why we wrote this guide to help small business owners understand the different options for web hosting.
What is website hosting?
Web hosting is an internet service that lets individuals or organizations make their websites and homepages accessible to the public through the “world wide web”. Those who run these services are called web hosts. They are usually companies that offer a space on a server that is owned or leased for specific use by clients. Web hosts also provide internet connectivity in the form of a data center so that clients can access this center and all of their information in a safe and secure environment. This may sound like enough, but web hosting is also much more.
Sometimes, it really can seem like there’s an insurmountable slew of web jargon out there, but even the most basic understanding of the concepts detailed below can give your business the edge it needs to help it become and remain competitive.
In this guide, we’ll give you, the small business owner, an overview of what to look for in a web host and what features matter so you can make an informed decision about where to host your website.
What makes a good web host?
Before we jump into the plethora of features that you should consider when selecting a website hosting service, it’s important to understand the significance of choosing a quality service for your business. Having a website hosting service provides several benefits:
Your customers are often your top priority in your company. Without their buy-in, you don’t have a business. Therefore, you want to be sure that their experience on your website is a positive and easy one. A web hosting service can help provide this reliability of speed, quality, accuracy and safety for both you and your valuable customers.
You don’t need to understand everything there is to know about website coding and all related areas of tech-speak. Having a web hosting service can help translate and communicate to you the things you want to know. There are services specially designed for beginners so you don’t need to be overwhelmed with all the technical details in the midst of running and succeeding in your business.
Have you ever visited a website and have been unimpressed by the layout and design. Have you ever been frustrated by the inability to complete some task on a website due to technical issues on the site? With a website hosting service, you can ensure your site is working properly, which provides you with a professional image. Professional websites appear more trustworthy and customers are often more impressed with the company based on the website design and layout. Continue your professional image to the internet with a quality website service.
What types of hosting options exist?
Not all types of hosting were created equal. Some web hosts specialize in smaller websites, adding hundreds or thousands of sites to a single server. Some specialize in larger versions. Most small businesses should look for a hybrid approach. You should find a host that can provide dedicated server resources without the cost of dedicated server hardware.
- Shared: A hosting method through which multiple websites share a single server. Each website is partitioned into its own space. It’s an affordable option for beginners, yet is one that is hampered by usage restrictions.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS): A hosting method through which one host computer is partitioned into multiple virtual machines, each machine acting as a private computer for a website. This is a good, midgrade option for companies that would like a dedicated server but can’t yet afford one.
- Dedicated Web Hosting: A hosting method where users purchase access to an entire server that is shared with no one else. This is the most flexible of hosting options with the least limitations.
Hosting features to consider
In determining which type of hosting account will best fit you and your organization, there are some important features and aspects you’ll want to know as you select your hosting service. While some of these features may be more applicable or important to your organization in comparison to others, it is still important to research and analyze which of these features are a good suit for you and your company’s growth.
- User Interface in the Management Console – A web host’s user interface is the software through which users can manage the content of their website. In essence, all web hosts’ user interface has the same function: to simplify the management of your website. Not all interfaces are created equally, however; or, rather, you really have to try a few to find the one you like. You’ll find many web hosts package their hosting with a popular hosting management platform such as cPanel, Virtuozzo or Plesk.
- Bandwidth and Disk Space – Bandwidth is the amount of content, usually per month, that users can download from a website. Disk space is the amount of storage space a website’s owner rents from their host. Both of these attributes are very important to consider when starting a website. However, most hosts are willing to offer unlimited bandwidth and disk space for a reasonable price. In most cases, this ‘unlimited’ amount is actually overkill. All but the most popular of websites need as much bandwidth and disk space as they’re renting.
- Page Speed Loading – Page Speed Loading is an essential component of any online business, regardless of your product or service. When potential clients visit your site for the first time, they can be immediately turned off if they’re met with a slow loading website. They call this “User Experience” in the web hosting world. As a business owner providing a positive experience should be one of your top priorities. Page Loading Speed also plays a role in the SEO rankings and e-Commerce of your website. Your page will rank higher if it loads faster, and transactions will take place more seamlessly.
- Server Compatibility – When you’re searching for a new web host, you’ll undoubtedly encounter a somewhat intimidating section on compatibility in each host’s sales pitch. The first thing to keep in mind when considering this facet of web development is that more compatibility is better. At first, you may not know what things like PHP5 or MySQL are. But, as you learn that PHP5 is a highly useful, general-purpose scripting language made specifically for web development and that MySQL is an equally useful, open-source database management system, you’ll soon also find that there are many other languages and tools to learn and use. You’ll realize that compatibility is a good thing. If you’re new to understanding compatibility, a good place to start is WordPress. WordPress is a very popular development tool that combines PHP5 and MySQL into one easy-to-use interface.
- Knowledge & Technical Requirements – Speaking of those other languages and tools, there are other technical aspects to consider when choosing a new web host. If you are a more technically savvy web developer, you might want to look into whether a potential host is compatible with a certain UI you like to use or even if they offer one. Fans of cPanel should also make sure that it will work. And for those gurus who’ll need to enable root access to an SSH server…well, you probably already know which hosts make this easy and which do not.
- Support Options – While it may seem redundant to address the importance of good customer support to a fledgling, online entrepreneur, it is worth mentioning so that it’s not forgotten between everything else. Web hosts advertise “Outstanding 24/7/365 Customer Support” but this isn’t always true. Some hosts have good support, some do not. What is important is finding a host that provides consistent support in the method that you prefer, whether via phone, email or chat.
- Backup and Recovery – Along with customer support, the savvy web developer must also consider things like backup and recovery and the all too common hidden fee. Creating a website can be a ton of work, and backing it up is always a good idea. Before signing up with a host, it’s important to consider whether they’ll be backing up your content or if you’ll need to do this on your own. Aspects like this are often found in a web host’s fine print, alongside the ever-asterisked hidden fee. A web host’s front page marketing material can often be deceiving, so do your research.
- Infrastructure Upgrades – When thinking about something as ‘virtual’ as the internet, it’s easy to forget that there is actual hardware behind each system making it run. That being said, it is essential to remember that the web host you choose is only as powerful as its infrastructure can allow. To find a host with solid and evolving infrastructure, research the host’s history. A history of consistent infrastructure upgrading can usually be extrapolated into the future. Taking into account the web host’s own popularity and growth can also be an effective way to increase your own, by ensuring that you’ll be running on the most up-to-date hardware.
- Host Uptime – One of the most important, and often taken for granted, aspects of a good web host is website uptime. To conduct successful e-Commerce, a website must be available for customers to view and use. At this point, most web hosts offer something like a “99.9% Uptime Guarantee,” but it is still important to find a host whose guarantee is legitimate.
- Website Security – Those who start an online business have two sides of security to consider when choosing a new web host, their customers’ and their own. People who buy things online need to know that their transaction is secure. Web hosts know this and often charge extra to provide your website with a ‘Security Certificate.’ Unfortunately, this extra fee is often just the cost of doing business. Making sure that your web host is a legitimate organization that can be trusted with your information is also an important part of web host selection. For most big-name web hosts, this shouldn’t be a problem; but, if you’re trying to save money by using some obscure host, you might run into some problems.
- Multiple Domains – When you start an online business, your domain – mybusiness.com, for example – will for all intents and purposes be your name. Many basic hosting packages will only allow for a single domain on one account, and it is important to consider whether you’ll need more than one. The answer to this question will depend on your business model. A lot of hosts will try to persuade you to buy multiple top-level domains – for example, mybusiness.com, mybusiness.net, mybusiness.biz – to increase your online presence. This is not a terrible idea, but it may not be a profitable one especially if you’re just starting out.
- Subdomains – Also worth considering is the aspect of subdomain limitation. A subdomain is a page of your website – for example, about.mybusiness.com. Some hosts will limit your subdomain quantity while some will not. The type of host you will need depends on the amount of web space you require. It’s good to have room to grow, but it’s unwise to pay for space you don’t need.
- FTP / SSH Developer access – FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, is a standard web development method for transferring files from one location to another. It plays an important role whether you are developing your website on your own or you are outsourcing some of the workload to another developer. SSH, or Secure Shell Protocol, also allows devices to communicate with one another over a network. Having the ability to seamlessly transfer files between accounts, computers or online archives might not seem like a big deal when you’re just starting out on your laptop. But, as your business grows, you’ll find that having a host with good FTP and SSH capabilities makes life a whole lot easier.
- Email accounts – Whether your online business is a one-man show or you’ll be starting right out of the gate with 23 employees, you’re going to want the ability to create unlimited email accounts. Having no limit will allow you to remain organized and will facilitate growth. Having to worry about how many inboxes you can have should be the least of your worries, and any host who does not offer unlimited email in even its most basic package is simply not worth your time.
- Dedicated IP Address – A dedicated IP address is also known as a fixed or static IP because it is only used by one user instead of a group. When an IP address is shared by more than one, this is called a shared IP address. A shared IP address can come with drawbacks such as a lack of security for your personal files. With a dedicated IP address, you won’t have to worry about this. When using a dedicated IP address, you get a few benefits including less downtime on the server, remote access, a professional website and search engine visibility. Your dedicated IP address also makes you e-commerce ready, which means that if all of your products are sold online, you have already taken one major step toward setting up your store.
- SSL Certificates – SSL Certificates are important for keeping track of multiple documents. They are small data files that are designed to digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s information. If an SSL Certificate is used on a web server, it triggers the padlock and HTTPS procedure to allow secure connections from the web server to the browser. The main use of an SSL is to secure credit card information and online transactions, logins, data transfers and more.
- Premium DNS – DNS refers to the important link that makes sure your website won’t crash unexpectedly while people are trying to access it. Premium DNS is the latest DNS form that keeps your website secure, online and running smoothly. When using Premium DNS, you can manage limitless DNS records, monitor your web-based control panel and even access templates that apply common configurations.
- One-Click Installer – One-click installs are programs and applications that can be installed in web panels. Programs can take a long time o install which can really slow you down when working. With a one-click installer, you can add programs like WordPress, Moodle, MediaWiki and more in no time at all. Some web hosting services offer their own panels and one-click installers as well as a library of apps and programs to choose from.
- cPanel – cPanel is a web hosting control panel that is designed to simplify the task of hosting a website. cPanel accomplishes this by providing a graphical crossing point and automation tools that can be used to organize your website’s data in designated areas. cPanel has a 3-tier structure that gives administrators, resells and end-user website owners the ability to control the different aspects of a website and server administration through a regular web browser.
- Free Ad Credits – Advertising credits (Ad credits) are how you promote your website. Ad credits can be obtained from sites like Google, Yahoo and even Facebook. Free ad credits can be found on sites like Vexxhost and Go Daddy where customer discounts, offers and other great deals are available.
Shared Hosting FAQ
Unlike a Virtual Private Server or Dedicated Web Hosting, Shared Hosting involves more than one client per server. This method comes with both benefits and drawbacks.
- What is shared hosting? In addition to blogs and domains, shared hosting is another element in website hosting that is worth considering when making decisions.Shared hosting is a great option for those who want great web hosting services for half the cost. In today’s digital world, business owners know that an online presence is essential to business success. While some web hosts offer their web hosting services to one client at a time, others are willing to share their resources with multiple clients at a time. Shared hosting presents additional benefits that are important to consider when selecting a website hosting service.
- Is shared hosting good? – When you use shared hosting, you don’t have to worry about whether or not your data and business info are safe. Shared hosting services are completely secure and can be good for some businesses. Shared hosting is similar to an apartment complex. There are multiple tenants sharing the building and its resources—in this case the server and its tools—but overall the rooms and lives of the tenants are kept separate and safe from one another. Shared hosting is a great option for those who cannot afford the whole price of a dedicated hosting service. You still receive most of the same benefits, tools, resources and more, but with less hassle and less money.
- Is shared hosting reliable? While shared hosting can be a perfect option for some business owners, there are some downsides to watch out for. Shared hosting is not scalable, meaning it does not have the ability to process or handle a growing amount of work in a skillful manner. That is why some businesses find that they outgrow shared hosting services and need to move on to dedicated hosts or other options. Shared hosts are also not for high traffic. If your popularity is growing more and more each day, your shared host may not be able to handle the growing number of clients that visit your page. The site may end up loading slower than desired or crashing altogether. This can be problematic and can even lose you some clients in the long run.
- Does shared hosting make sense for a small business? The bottom line is that shared hosting is a great service option for some businesses. Small businesses or hobby websites will probably benefit the most from this option because of the lower cost and easy to navigate tools and resources. Larger businesses may find shared hosting services too restrictive for their needs. It is up to you to decide if shared hosting will aid your business’ needs over time.
Domain Name Registration
Another feature of website hosting includes finding and promoting a domain name for your site.
A domain name is the way clients find you when searching on the internet. It is the identification string that defines the level of administrative control, authority and autonomy that you have online.
When building up a business, it’s important to establish a domain name. Here are some easy steps to obtain a domain name and start growing your business:
Some hosts include a free domain name with purchase
Domain names are what your future clients will search for when looking for your particular company or services on the web. A domain is mainly the identification thread that outlines a level of administrative authority, control, and independence on the internet. Free domain names can be secured on sites like PR Checker and Go Daddy that are easy to remember and promote.
How do I see if my domain is available?
A domain name can be available from many online registars. You can only purchase available domain names, so what your name ends up being is determined by what is open. There are many of these registrars, so it is a good idea to shop around and do your research before settling on one. Some of the most common online registrars are Network Solutions, Go Daddy and Register. You can check these out to see if they have any suitable domain names that match your company.
How much does a domain name cost?
The cost of a domain name falls between a wide range of prices. These prices can be as low as $0.50 a month or as high as $50.00 a month. It all depends on where you purchase the name from. This is why it’s important to research online registrars to find best prices and the best name for your company’s needs. A good range to begin with is a price of $8-$10 per year for a ‘.com’ domain name. You can find such prices on Go Daddy or any of the many other domain name registrars.
How long do I own a domain name?
You own your domain name as long as you renew it. Whatever price you’re paying is what keeps the domain name in your possession. Once you decide to discontinue payments, you are giving up your domain name. In other words, you own the domain name as long as you pay for it, so it’s up to you.
Does a domain include hosting?
Domain names can include hosting at times. If you buy a domain name from a web hosting service, you automatically have access to hosting. When you buy a domain name from a registrar, then you also have to purchase web hosting services. It all depends upon where you purchase your domain name from.
The value of a domain
Obtaining a domain name is a simple process that requires focus and research. Shopping around, asking questions and testing things out is the best way to find the right domain name for you. This is the best way to establish your online presence and gain a following of customers that can really build up the success rate of your business. Start today to find a fitting domain name for your website. Remember, purchasing a name can be tricky—you’ll have to choose from what is available, but with a little digging you could find gold.
Website Building Options
Another feature and element of website hosting in addition to blogs and domain names include website building options. Website builders are helpful little tools that help you—you guessed it—build your website. Specifically, web builders allow websites to be constructed without manual code editing which can be very time-consuming. Web builders tools can be provided by web hosting companies or acquired through certain software.
When building a website, you’ll want to create a page that is unique, attractive, eye-catching and easy to navigate. Visitors don’t want to be confused or frustrated because they can’t find what they’re looking for. Your information needs to be readily available, transactions should be easily executed, and if need arises, you’re visitors should be able to find your contact information in seconds. The best options for building a website that does all of these things and more include website builder software, e-commerce features and DIY designs.
Website Builder Software
Website builder software takes out the guesswork of creating your unique website. You can download or purchase software online and use these unique features on either your Mac or PC computer. Prices usually range between $4.99 and $9.99 a month for the most basic packages, but for more advanced features, prices may vary. Some of the best website builder software includes:
WordPress: This software is the best for building blogs.
Dreamweaver: This website builder is great for those familiar with Adobe products and some web design.
Intuit Website Creator: This service comes with a lot of templates for those who are new to the web and web design.
Joomla: For those who want a low-maintenance site that can be up and running quickly with your most relevant content, Joomla is for you.
Your website could be strictly used for selling products or services offered by your business. E-commerce sites can be divided into four different categories: Open Source, All-In-One, WordPress Plugin and Third Party Checkout. Most e-commerce sites include drag and drop tools that make online shopping a breeze. These sites also have shopping cart features so that when it comes to checkout, payment and other transactions are quick and easy.
DIY Design with Website Templates
If you’re more of a hands-on person, the DIY design is the option for you. Website templates allow you to take a website “skeleton” and create your own unique page from customizable themes and designs that you can tweak and change to your liking. Sites like Tumblr allow you to create pages and blogs and choose from customizable themes to showcase your content. Also check out sites like GoDaddy, WIX and Web.com for DIY design packages that include everything you need to get your website up and running in no time.
Building you own website can be incredibly fun and rewarding. Whether you’re building an e-commerce website, a blog or an informative website, you have a few options to choose from when making your page. Website builder software is great for creating customizable pages, e-commerce sites are perfect for those looking to sell products and DIY design sites are the best option for those who love customizable themes and templates.
Choosing the Right Fit For You
Web hosting is an innovative way to advertise your services and products. Blogs, social media, websites, and much more are all avenues through which web hosting can promote your company. When using web hosting services, you have access to all of these features and more. From panels and ad credits to blogs and site builders, web hosting provides your company with more services than you could ever dream of. This is certainly one process that is guaranteed to reach not just the local public, but the entire world.
Through this guide, you’ve learned the important features and aspects of website hosting services to look out for when selecting which service will increase your business. While there may not be one perfect solution for your business, certain services may be better suited to your needs than others. Do your research, pick your service and start growing your business today!