Choosing the right web hosting provider is a critical step to ensuring a successful online presence and Internet marketing strategy. Many business owners treat hosting as a commodity decision, believing anyone can do it. However, this is not true. Make the right choice and you should enjoy a quality service that will be an asset to your business. The wrong choice could cost you time and money.
As defined by Wikipedia, web hosting is “a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their own website accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server they own or lease for use by their clients as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center.” Put simply, if you have a website then you must also engage a hosting company to share it with the world.
Below are the most common types of hosting services available:
- Free web hosting: While this sounds appealing, these companies accommodate only basic websites and do not offer virus protection, customer support and other services most businesses need.
- Shared web hosting: The website is placed on the same server as many other sites, ranging from a few to hundreds or thousands. Typically, all domains share a common pool of server resources, such as RAM and the CPU. The features are extensive and suitable for most business websites.
- Dedicated web hosting: The business has its own server and gains full control over it; however, the user typically does not own the server. Websites with custom applications are hosted on dedicated servers.
- Hosted exchange servers: The business uses Microsoft Exchange to not only host its website, but interface with other devices and share files and calendars amongst all users. The exchange server syncs information in real-time and provides ample space available per user.
- Cloud hosting: A new type of hosting platform that allows customers powerful, scalable and reliable hosting based on clustered load-balanced servers and utility billing. Removes single-point failures and allows customers to pay for only what they use versus a set maximum.
No two websites are the same, which is why there is no universal hosting service. Below is a checklist to use when selecting a website host provider:
- Architecture: This refers to the software used to design the website platform, which will dictate, to some degree, the type of hosting service needed.
- Type of server: Basic websites can be hosted on a shared server, but websites with custom applications require a dedicated server.
- Disk space and bandwidth: The more complex the website (video, shopping cart, etc.), the more space you’ll need to keep the website operating at optimal speed.
- Data back-up: Ask the provider how often data is saved (hourly, daily and weekly are typical options) and where it is stored in case your system crashes and you need to retrieve it.
- Equipment: The host provider should have modern equipment to prevent server failure and back-up generators in case of disaster.
- Firewall and virus protection: This should be provided as part of the hosting agreement to protect the site from hackers and ensure a secure environment for customers.
- Reporting and statistics: The host company should provide detailed monthly statistics of website activity.
- Physical location: Ask the provider where the server is located, who owns the building, security measures in place, etc.