Web hosting simplified for small businessDec 31 by Kimberly Aris
It’s about time someone broke down the mysterious concept of web hosting. With options ranging from bargain prices, as low as $30/year, to costs of thousands, it really is a challenge for small business owners to decide how much they should invest in web hosting.
What you are about to read will shed some light on the terms, basic rules, and options that you can choose from. After reading you can decide which type of web hosting is fit for your business.
Commonly used terms in web hosting:
For a small business owner it’s hard to make a decision in a field that he isn’t familiar with at all. You will need to know the meaning of some terms that you are going to come across often. Getting to know the main details of web hosting can lead to a profitable investment.
Bandwidth controls how much traffic your website can support. You should aim to get high bandwidth in order for your server to work smoothly. Slow websites are rarely visited a second time.
Domain Name Server (DNS)
This allows you to get an IP address directly related to your domain name. The IP address is connected to your web server.
Protection is essential when using online tools. This software will stop any unauthorised actions from damaging your website.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
The process of uploading content (files) to your web server is made through FTP. This is commonly done using FileZilla (an FTP associate).
This is the identity marker of your server. Each server has a different IP. “IP” stands for Internet Protocol.
As with any activity, overwhelming a certain part of your website will lead to negative effects. Load balancing uses a network of servers to distribute data, making sure that your website is responsive at all times.
Operating System (O/S)
Web servers need an operating system in order to function. The most commonly used software is Windows.
This term is protection related. RAID will make extra backup of your data, on several disks. This measure is taken so you don’t lose information if one of the disks fails.
This is the behind the scenes of the website. It’s a combination of software and hardware components that help you run and maintain a website.
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
This is the “Terms and conditions” in the contract that you have with your web host. Make sure this contract includes services like technical support, maintenance and hardware related issues.
This database is your website’s accountant. It will include information regarding clients, products, your business, and so on. Each website has an SQL Database. The common ones are MySQL (Linux) or MsSQL (Windows).
It’s an acronym for Secure Socket Layer. This will protect the information of your clients, members of your website, and even the data that helps you run e-commerce websites. This address will start with “https”.
Clients tend to look for proof that their information will be safe when entered into your website. A certificate, from well known providers like Thawte or VeriSign, will earn you trust from potential clients.
This is the time that your website is working, and can be accessed. When your website doesn’t work properly it is called downtime.
This represents the storage capacity of your website. If your business requires a lot of pictures, files and content you will have to get a hard disk with a decent RPM (Revolutions/ Minute). Having a big amount of data will slow down your website. Investing in ways of making your website run faster is always profitable.
How to decide?
This is the primitive version of websites. It doesn’t require a database, and uses HTML, CSS and image files. It will work for you if you are on a shared hosting platform. It will get some attention, but not enough to make it profitable for your business.
Content Managed (WordPress / SilverStripe)
This type will require a bit more input from your side. You will need a bigger server, and depending on the size of your website, and how much your business depends on it, you can decide how much to invest in it. If you want to have top notch performance you can choose a Virtual Private Server (VPS). You won’t be part of a platform, and you can negotiate a Service Level Agreement (SLA).
If you choose this type you’ve already decided that your website is going to be a major part of your business. At this point it’s critical to get a VPS or a server meant just for this website. One of the most used software for ecommerce is Magento. This software will require a lot of resources, but will guarantee a great operating experience.
This is where planning ahead is a key action. Each application will need different server requirements depending on its features. You have to ask your chosen developer to give you a probability chart. Take into account fast traffic increase or a sudden raise in user numbers. Make sure that your server will be working at all times, taking in account these variables.
Servers and web hosting
These are some of the web servers that you can choose:
Shared / Cloud hosting
Your website will share a platform with hundreds or thousands more. The hosting will be done through several servers, working for all the websites.
- Low cost;
- Resizable (according to your business’s development);
- Guaranteed maintenance and support;
- Hardware replacement is not an issue;
- Easiest method to use.
- Certain limitations regarding web space;
- No configuration options;
- Lacks speed.
- Static websites;
- Content managed websites.
Cost Range: between $4/month and $100/month.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
This is the virtual form of a hardware + software server. You can run several VPS’s from a single server.
- High performance;
- Control over configuration options;
- Managed by you;
- Ability to pick your desired control panel;
- No web space restrictions;
- Ability to run several websites from one location.
- Higher costs;
- Security risks;
- Limited control over software.
- Average content managed websites;
- Ecommerce websites;
- Bespoke applications.
Price Range: between $80/month and $700/month.
- Includes the advantages of a VPS;
- Unlimited control over configuration;
- Fully customisable.
- Needs a big budget;
- Needs dedicated support and management;
- Extra back-up is critical.
- Large content managed websites;
- Large ecommerce websites (Magento);
- Bespoke applications.
Price Range: between $500/month and $1500+/month
Making the best choice
You have to make a personalised decision. The best choice will come as a decision of the person that knows all there is to know about your business. If that’s you, then congratulations! But take into account the opinion of your employees too.
After taking a good look at your needs as a business, set up a questionnaire for your potential hosting provider. Here are some questions that I recommend:
1. Will adequate support be available at all times?
Calling support to get put on hold until a qualified person can be reached is not an option. You need to make sure that you are working with professionals that will solve your issues as soon as possible.
2. What does the support level agreement offer?
Aim for the highest percentage of support availability. Ask for the best response times. When investing in web hosting you have the option of requiring the best in everything.
3. What are your backup methods?
Make sure your data stays safe and your website’s activity won’t suffer because of network or server failures.
4. Is hosting resizable and customisable along the way?
When your business has new means of becoming more profitable, your requirements for the website will increase as well. You need to discuss these options with your provider.
5. Do you provide SSL Certificates?
A good host will take upon himself every aspect regarding the website. This includes SSL Certificates as well.
6. Can I trust your hardware?
Reliable hardware is a must. Making a compromise in this part of the web hosting will certainly damage the rest of the process.
7. Will you be a long term partner?
Often moving from one provider to another will end up costing more than all the activity up to that point. A reliable host will have the financial means to stay in business.
8. What is your environmental stance?
Minimal environmental effects should be one of your objectives, and the same goes for your host.
9. Do you have a support portal that provides support and general information?
Any provider that you will want to work with will answer “Yes” to this question.
10. What time frames do you have for different types of hosting contracts?
Look for 30 days on Cloud Sharing, up to 1 year for VPS, and more than 1 year for dedicated servers.
What you’ve just read might seem like a lot of information to grasp, but this is the time that things are thoroughly explained and you can research each aspect before you get started. The age of information is working in your advantage.
Make an educated decision and adjust your budget to your exact needs. Always spend the extra amount in order to get top notch hosting. Don’t target the minimal effort. Thinking big will make your business grow faster!