Technically, if there’s at least one computer in your business that’s always up and connected, you could serve your website right from it. The computer at your business would, in other words, would be “hosting” your website.
This plan doesn’t work out well in practice, though, for a number of reasons: Internet service providers mostly prohibit website hosting, they tend to not have enough bandwidth or reliability to support busy websites, and security tends to be lax over servers that aren’t professionally managed. The idea, then, should be to get a web hosting service that does have the right kind of system in place. You put your website on a rented computer at a hosting service that is set up for these needs.
At any quality web hosting company, though, you’ll need to choose one product out of various ones offered for different needs. If the choices available seem unfamiliar, here is a basic rundown to get you started.
The least expensive hosting type, shared hosting is when you buy hosting, and the hosting company puts your site not on its own server computer but on one shared by the websites of thousands of other customers. Typically, websites inhabiting shared servers are allowed to take up a few gigabytes of hard disk space, and a reasonable amount of visitor download access (also known as bandwidth).
Since shared hosting doesn’t take up much of the web hosting company’s server resources, it tends to be sold as cheaply as $5 a month on plans that come advertised as “unlimited.” Such plans tend to be okay for businesses that don’t get many visitors. If they did, a shared server hosting plan would no longer be able to handle the load.
If you try to put thousands of image- and video-heavy pages on a website run on “unlimited” hosting, and if it turns out to be popular enough, you’ll usually violate a clause of some kind hidden in the terms of service, and you will be asked to get more expensive service or leave.
Shared hosting comes with the additional problem that it tends to be not very secure. If the specific server that your website inhabits holds poorly designed websites by other customers, any attacks that they attract could spread to your website, as well.
You have dedicated hosting when you sign up to take a whole physical server computer at the web hosting company to put your website on. Dedicated hosting solutions offer a great deal of power — you can install practically any kind of complex website (such as an enterprise management system), and your website will be able to handle practically any kind of bandwidth demand that a small businesses likely to need. The downside to dedicated hosting is that you will need a computer expert on board to manage the website, because it takes considerable expertise. Getting a dedicated server can cost a few hundreds each month.
Virtual private server
A virtual private server is a mix of dedicated hosting and shared hosting. While you do not get an actual physical server just for your website, you get most of the benefits of one — you get to install whatever custom applications or complex software your setup needs, and you get the space and bandwidth that your website requires. These servers are also more secure than shared hosting servers because they exist within a virtual shell that insulates them from any problems on other websites on the same servers that they are on.
Even if you do have a dedicated web hosting service, if your website is popular, you will eventually run out of bandwidth and other resources, and you will need to move to a bigger server. The problem is that with many companies, demand tends to come in short bursts; it tends to not be long term. A website may have a great deal of demand on Black Friday, for instance, but little traffic over the rest of the year. You might not even be able to predict how much demand you will have on the day, even if you’re happy to pay for a few expensive servers.
According to Source Data Products, hosting based on iSeries-class servers is the answer. Such a service would work on a cluster of servers, giving as much of the resources available to websites or as little as needed. Since demand tends to be dynamic, costs are dynamic, as well. When very little data, bandwidth or other resources are used, costs come down; they go up during busy periods when needs rise.
When you need high-level hosting but do not have the technical skills
With cloud-based hosting, virtual private server or dedicated hosting, the advantage is that you get full control over the resources offered to you at the web hosting company. Unfortunately, you need technical expertise to take advantage of such resources. This is where managed hosting comes in.
Small businesses that do not have the technical expertise needed for the deployment and management of complex websites can simply sign up for managed hosting, where the hosting company provides the expertise needed.
With options this complex, it can take some planning to decide what exactly you need. The more you read up about it, the more wisely you are likely to be able to choose.
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Ruby Spencer works in Ecommerce and has a good understanding of what you need to know when it comes to finding the right web hosting solution. She is a regular contributor for numerous B2B and marketing websites.