Choosing a web host can feel a lot like buying a car. They all seem to do the same thing yet have a wide variety of prices, and at the end of the day, all you care about is paying as little as possible for the best option for your business. Today we are going to demystify the web hosting industry and help you navigate the process of choosing what type of hosting is right for you.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting at its core is putting files on a computer that someone else owns. However, that computer is built specifically to do two things, send and receive files over the internet. These computers are called “servers” because that’s what they do, “serve” files to a web browser like Firefox or Chrome. So when you pay to host your website with a company, you’re simply paying to use their “server” to “host” files for you.
What should you consider when choosing a web host?
The three important factors to consider when deciding where to host your website are as follows:
- Performance – how fast your web host responds and sends information back to a visitor’s web browser when they type in your domain name (i.e. https://vsg360.com)
- Support – how knowledgeable are the support staff as well as what methods of support do they offer i.e. phone, chat, or email
- Cost – what is included with your hosting and what are your options when scaling up or down resources
What’s important about performance in a web host?
The performance of a website’s host is crucial to its success. If a website loads slowly you’ll have visitors “bounce”. Which means they land on your website, then immediately click the back button, leaving your website. Google even considers this metric when determining how high your website will rank for specific search terms. The easiest way to know how much performance you’ll need to answer the following questions:
- On average how many visitors will your website have at the same time? Unsure? Try and estimate, do you think you’ll have hundreds or thousands?
- What type of website are you hosting? It might be a marketing website, an ecommerce store, or a completely custom technology like Facebook or Netflix.
Once you know the answer to those two questions, determining the level of performance you’ll need is easy. Performance is broken up into three levels:
- Shared Hosting – slowest but least expensive
- Virtual Private Server(VPS) Hosting – balanced between speed and price
- Dedicated Hosting – Fastest but most expensive
Shared hosting is what you mostly find online with hosts like GoDaddy, BlueHost, or SiteGround. They are designed to be an inexpensive way to launch a website for businesses that are just starting out. However, they come with strings attached. As the name implies, your website will be sharing its performance with other websites hosted on the same server. What that means is that if one website on the server gets a sudden increase in traffic, all websites hosted on the same server will slow down. It is for this reason that we do not recommend shared hosting for business websites. Even if your budget is small, hosting can offer an immense return on investment. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The last thing you want is for your website to be bogged down during your customer’s peak hours.
Virtual Private Server(VPS) Hosting
This is the “Goldilocks” of hosting. It’s the perfect balance of performance and cost and it’s what we recommend for most small business websites. It leverages the same affordability sharing a server but with dedicated performance resources just for your website and it’s visitors. That way your website only gets bogged down when it has hundreds of visitors at the same time.
Dedicated hosting is the best money can buy. As the name implies you are renting a server “dedicated” to your website. Even though this is the most expensive option, it’s still relatively affordable. If you have thousands of visitors at a time, this is what you’ll need.
Ideally you never need to contact support. However, it’s important to choose a host who offers the type of support that best suits you. Some services like Amazon Web Services(AWS) reduce prices by not offering any live support. If you don’t know much about web servers though, that’s not going to be a great option. Additionally, chat support can be a great middle-ground but if you prefer picking up a phone, you should choose a host with 24/7 phone support. Once you’ve found a host with the right support option that suits your needs, make sure to look up reviews online about how knowledgeable their staff is. Servers have technology on them and require regular maintenance to ensure it’s performance and security. So having staff that knows what they’re doing can be all the difference between your site being down a few minutes and a few days.
The first two metrics for gauging where to host your website will ultimately decide what your cost is going to be. However, that doesn’t mean all hosts offer the same level of features for the same price. Some hosts offer SSL certificates included with your hosting. If you’re not sure what an SSL certificate is, check out our post where we walk you through which kind is right for you. Another common feature offered is a Content Delivery Network (CDN) which helps load images and other files on your website faster. Some hosting providers, such as Kinsta, even include malware protection for your website and will remove it for free if it gets hacked. So make sure to compare plans and see who has the best offer for your type of hosting needs.
Picking a host can be a daunting venture. Once you know the level of performance and support you’ll need though, finding the right solution becomes significantly easier. Shared hosting can be a great option when first starting your business. However, you’ll see a significant performance boost by switching to a Virtual Private Server at a nominal cost increase. If you’re a high volume business, you’ll want to consider getting a Dedicated Server that’s going to support thousands of visitors at the same time.
Still not sure what type of host you need? Contact us and we can help you make the right choice for your business.