If you’re reading this right now, we probably don’t have to tell you that your computer is your lifeline. And with so many workplaces—and even our friends’ and families’ homes—off-limits due to the coronavirus pandemic, that’s probably truer than ever.
Social distancing routines and, in some states, restrictions on gatherings and workplace closures, have made us even more dependent on technology for everything from lucre to love.
For those of us who rely on the internet to earn a living (and honestly, who doesn’t in some way?) keeping your connection is tantamount to financial survival.
Do you own a restaurant that’s now limited to serving takeout?
Chances are, a hefty portion of your orders come in through your website.
Are you a multi-channel retailer who’s been forced to shutter your brick-and-mortar doors?
Online sales are now your lifeblood. Perhaps you’re a musician whose regular gigs have been canceled. Now you’re earning a living live-streaming. For anyone who operates a website, doing business with the best web hosting service on the market is more important now than ever before.
What is Web Hosting?
In a nutshell, web hosting services make the connection between your website and the rest of the digital world. Sales, marketing, customer service, finance, HR—nearly every business function you can name—depends on information gathered from websites.
Arguably, from an IT perspective, only your choice of an internet service provider is as important as the web host you choose. And that brings us to an important distinction and second point.
In most cases, your web host will not be the same as company your internet service provider (ISP). But as a practical matter, a high-performing website depends on both.
Choosing the Right Web Host for Your Business
There are several different types of web hosting arrangements. The arrangement best suited to your business will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your budget, the complexity of your website, and your organization’s internal IT expertise.
Starting Small with Shared Hosting
A shared hosting arrangement is often the choice of small businesses and sole proprietorships. As the name would imply, under a shared hosting arrangement, your business shares bandwidth on a single server with other companies. It’s rather like having a roommate.
The benefits and drawbacks are similar. Yes, your roommate helps you pay the bills and allows you to live more inexpensively. But when your roommate has a party, you deal with the noise. Similarly, if your server roommates have trouble with their sites, your site may also be affected. Your website’s speed may be reduced when the companies that share your space have an uptick in traffic.
Scaling Up Your Server as Your Business Grows
The next step up from shared hosting is Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting. Whereas shared hosting is like having a roommate, VPS hosting is more akin to having your own apartment in a multi-family home. You still share a building (server) with other companies but there are virtual walls that insulate you from their activity.
You get more privacy and less noise. You also get more flexibility with VPS hosting. Say, for example, that you want to upgrade your website to accommodate online sales. You can purchase more bandwidth as your business grows larger and more sophisticated. Scaling up is easier under a VPS hosting arrangement.
More Safety in the Cloud
Cloud hosting gives you access to more server space than VPS hosting. But more importantly, cloud hosting uses that space to create redundancy and greater safety for your online operations. Under a cloud hosting arrangement, multiple copies of your website are housed on a group of separate but interconnected servers.
Should one server in your cloud network fail, the others automatically step in to keep your site up and running with barely a hiccup. For online retailers, even a few minutes of downtime can amount to a significant dip in sales. So the extra cost of cloud hosting may well be warranted for your business because it comes with more protection.
The Ultimate Servers for Privacy
Imagine have a growing family—more employees doing more things, more locations, and a more sophisticated IT infrastructure. If you’re living in the apartment-like environment of VPS hosting, things might get a little cramped.
Maybe it’s time to consider moving into a private home, or dedicated hosting. Under a dedicated hosting arrangement, the equipment that powers your website resides on your own premises. Dedicated hosting gives you your own IP address, which can help your site qualify for the SSL certificate that reassures customers that your site offers a secure connection.
Having a unique IP address also tends to improve your SEO. Dedicated hosting comes in two flavors: the managed and the un-managed kinds. Many businesses don’t have the internal muscle to maintain their own dedicated servers and opt for managed service. Managed dedicated hosting costs more, of course. Using our private house analogy again, it’s like hiring a contractor to mow your lawn and clean your gutters.
Picking the Best of the Best
Deciding which hosting model fits your needs and your budget is the first step towards engaging the best web hosting for your business. But how do you choose among the many individual providers vying for your business?
The first task you’ll want to undertake is to verify each company’s speed and uptime statistics for the type of service you select. Most hosting services will provide this information in their marketing materials but you’d be well-served to do your own research before signing a service level agreement (SLA) with any company.
When comparing IT service providers, study the SLA each one offers. That’s where the nuts and bolts of host performance, including speed and uptime, are laid out and guaranteed. Be sure the providers you’re considering agree to refund your service fee for any month during which they don’t meet their promised performance metrics.
The burden of keeping your site, your data, and your customers’ data safe falls to your web host. Carefully examine the practices web hosts employ to secure your site and their own servers. Unless you choose dedicated hosting, you’re relying on your web host’s SSL certificates, for example. The same holds true for firewalls and malware protection. You may want to educate yourself on common internet security features to be sure the web hosts you’re considering check all the important boxes.
What Else Can a Web Host Do for Me?
Lots of small businesses are starting from scratch. If yours is one of them, you might want to consider a host that offers website building software. Sure, you can purchase software and do it yourself or hire a separate website designer to build your site. It depends on your technical chops and how much time you have on your hands.
Reducing the number of vendor relationships you maintain is generally a good business strategy. There may also be some percentage in using the tried-and-true website building tool your web host recommends. It might integrate more seamlessly with your host’s services.
Budgeting for Web Hosting
There are a lot of variables in the cost of web hosting. The hosting arrangement you choose and the amount of bandwidth you use will influence what you pay for service, of course. But you can start by comparing the pricing structures of competitive firms.
- Does the firm charge a start-up fee?
- Do they require you to sign a long-term contract or allow you to pay monthly?
- When your service contract ends, will you be required to pay a renewal fee?
An old-fashioned spreadsheet can be invaluable when comparing web hosting services. And you don’t need to know anything about the internet to use one. You can also rely on Sados to advise you on choosing the most secure web hosting arrangement and provider.