Choosing the best hosting provider for your website can often seem a complex and at times, confusing process. If you’re tech savvy, great. If not, how do you know which provider or server to go for when there are so many options? What’s the difference between dedicated, shared and hybrid servers and what are the pros and cons of each type?
Here, we provide a brief guide to servers and some tips to help you choose the right hosting company.
What are your hosting needs?
Before deciding which web-host is right for you, ask yourself a few basic questions. Do you want something simple or do you need special software for an enhanced customer experience? How much web traffic do you expect and do you expect it to grow significantly over the next twelve months? Seek expert advice if you are at all unsure. The point is to have a clear picture of what you need.
Other factors to consider
Before deciding, try and establish how reliable different hosting providers are. You definitely want a web-host who provides 24/7 stable network connections and is operating on a reliable and powerful server. Check out forums, read hosting reviews online and ask around to get as much information as possible. You can also check uptime scores for web-hosts yourself by using server monitor tools.
Price is likely to be another important consideration, especially for a start-up or small business. Again, you need to shop around and make sure you are comparing like with like, the cost of two shared hosting servers rather than the cost of a shared server with a dedicated server (see below). Sign-up prices can be very attractive but what about the renewal costs once the initial period expires? Are there any cancellation charges if you decide to move to another hosting company?
One or more domain names?
Domain names tend to be fairly cheap but if you’re planning to have more than one, make sure you choose a hosting provider that allows you to add multiple domains. Most will accommodate extra domains, but you shouldn’t simply assume this is the case.
Do you need eCommerce features?
If you’re running an eCommerce website, it goes without saying that you should choose a web host which offers the right kind of features and support, such as one-click shopping cart software. Also, how user-friendly is the control panel and does it have all the functions you need?
Support and back-up
Sites do occasionally crash for various reasons so you need to know what sort of support you can expect from your hosting provider. Do they carry out regular backups? Can you restore your own backup files or do you have to wait for their technical staff to do it? Does the web host provide telephone support, web-chat or email support? The more questions you can prepare in advance, the easier it will be to reach a decision on which web host to choose.
A dedicated server is the most powerful server option for small businesses. Similar to desktop computers but with higher grade hardware, dedicated servers are capable of supporting websites with large volumes of traffic. The most powerful servers are used to support busy eCommerce sites and applications with thousands of concurrent users. They will have huge databases and can easily support the web, application and database hosting requirements of a small business. Typically, dedicated servers are leased on a monthly basis and for a fixed term.
With shared hosting, a single server is shared by multiple users. Individual users are allocated a shared amount of bandwidth and users can operate different sites on the same account. This is a much cheaper option than a dedicated server and can be a great choice for anyone on a tight budget, or if you plan to keep your site fairly small. The downside is that since the server is hosting thousands of sites it can sometimes perform poorly, although most web hosts will try to mitigate this effect.
As the name suggests, this offers the best of both worlds: the power, performance and security of a dedicated server and the flexibility and lower cost of a shared web platform. Typically, this option appeals to eCommerce sites and/or web applications that have outgrown their present hosting provider and are willing to pay a bit more for enhanced performance.