The world of website hosting can be overwhelming, particularly for those who may not be technologically-inclined. There’s a lot of jargon that can be confusing and concepts that are strange to visualize. On top of all that, there's terminology that's specific to different companies. Still, if you have a website, this is all something that you should be at least remotely familiar with and have the facts about before you purchase.
That’s the purpose of today’s post: we’ll talk about what a web host is, as well as some common misconceptions about hosting in general. We'll bust myths so that you walk away with a good starting point to have a conversation about website hosting.
What is Website Hosting?
Website hosting is a a service (often sold in a package) that gives you all the resources needed for putting your website online and making it available to the public.
One good way to understand it is to think of your web host like a landlord that also delivers your utilities. You rent space and the use of their platform on a recurring basis, and then you're free to do with this space what you'd like to. Server space, bandwidth, file storage, DNS, database connections: these are examples of resources your web hosting company can provide. This list isn't exhaustive, and many hosting companies offer customized or specialized services as well.
In general, there are three main categories of website hosting available to site owners that are common across many webhosting companies. In order of expense and complexity these are: shared hosting, virtual private servers, and dedicated hosting. All serve different purposes depending on the needs of the business.
Some companies may offer a separate category for customers who intend to resell (or sublease, going back to our landlord example from earlier) or semi-dedicated or hybrid plans that combine elements of the categories listed above.
Myth #1: All Website Hosting Providers Offer The Same Services
While there may be a handful of common categories of hosting, the fact of the matter is that hosting providers offer vast arrays of different options, plans, add-ons, and capabilities depending on who their customer base is. For instance, some are better suited for small businesses. Others may have the bandwidth that is most appropriate for a large-scale enterprise.
Services at web hosting companies are typically delivered in one of two types: managed and un-managed, depending on who will be responsible for the upkeep of your site or any servers you may require.
Costs can start to change in a big way depending on which option is picked, so make sure you understand the scope of support that will be offered or not offered before signing any contracts.
Ask your prospective web hosting company about all of the options they offer, what they recommend, and what types of customers they typically serve. While this will be helpful, it's still a sales process, so be sure to get multiple conversations going, and have an idea of what you think your needs will be in terms of space, bandwidth, and the website functionality. This will help give you a more informed picture of what you’ll require from a hosting provider.
Myth #2: Having a Third Party Host is Expensive
While hosting packages can be pricey depending on the provider and the typical client they work with, this isn’t necessarily the case across the board. Again, this all goes back to knowing your business’s needs and objectively researching any recommendations given to you by web hosting companies.
On the other hand, deciding where your website will live is not a decision to be taken lightly, let alone based solely on price. The safety and functionality of your site should be a top priority. Deciding on a provider because they offer the cheapest package may not actually give you the most value, and many may include hidden fees and up-charges. They could actually end up being more expensive in the long run.
Always remember to stay focused on what you need. For instance, while a company may offer 24/7 support, you may not often find yourself needing help in the middle of the night. Not to mention, large companies that can offer 24/7 services may not allow you to build a personal relationship with the company over time. With these organizations, your website is just another number, and it may not be given the quality care it deserves.
It's always harder to have to migrate later than to pick the right fit from the start.
Myth #3: Any Server Will Work
Not all hosting platforms are able to accommodate the needs of your unique website. And on the flip side, you may not need all of the functionalities that some web hosting platforms offer. Depending on the resources of your plan and the provider, limitations may be placed on your website that you don't immediately see on the surface (some shared hosting plans limit the number of subdomains or email addresses you can have at certain pricing levels, for example).
Don’t be afraid to ask questions as part of your due diligence process to fully understand what a particular provider is offering. Be wary of anything “unlimited”; you want to get as specific as possible to avoid complications or large charges in the future.
Myth #4: Server Speed and Site Speed Aren’t Related
Contrary to popular belief, server speed does not translate directly to website speed. While it's true that a server that doesn't have the necessary resources to support your site (and the others it may be housing) it will have a dramatic effect on the speed of your website.
It's also true that a website with unnecessary plugins, themes, add-ons and effects will be slow no matter what. And the speed of your website can have a major impact on how your audience perceives your brand.
In a study by Imperva, 62% of online shoppers will wait about five seconds or less for a website to load. Another 27% will only wait three seconds.
If you know that your website will be content-heavy (photos, videos, etc.), be sure to discuss this with your potential hosting providers to ensure they’re able to accommodate you. Even if your site isn’t currently very large, make them aware that there’s potential for growth so that you can avoid problems later on.
Choosing the right website hosting provider for your needs takes time and an understanding of what your expectations are. While the technical nuts and bolts of website hosting are important, there's plenty of other elements of a successful web presence to keep in mind as well: branding, SEO, proper domain name selection, digital advertising, social media, and more.
As your local, digital partner, Vervology is here to help as you navigate the world of website hosting. We can meet your needs as a small business in order to give you the best-suited plan for your organization. Interested in getting more information? Reach out to us to schedule your free consultation.