Choosing a web hosting platform is probably one of the most important business decisions you will make. Your website is the centerpiece of your marketing – and you should treat it as such.
The web hosting space is one wrought with thousands of vendors and many types of hosting plans. It can be quite confusing and difficult to evaluate for those without technical expertise in the field. In this article we’ll go over the most important factors when choosing a web hosting service, the different categories of web hosting, and why we recommend managed hosting to all of our clients.
Note that you may see the term “Cloud Hosting” thrown around a lot. When it comes to selling web hosting this is primarily a marketing term. All the “cloud” refers to is a server somewhere out there on the internet (i.e. not on your premises). In this way all web hosting could be referred to as “cloud” hosting.
Categories of Web Hosting Compared
Here are a the major categories that most web hosting plans will fall under.
- Shared hosting
- Virtual Private Server (VPS)
- Dedicated Server
- Managed Hosting
Shared Hosting is historically the most abundant and cheapest form of web hosting. Your website shares a server with other clients, all sharing the same resources. You can find shared hosting plans for as low as 2-3 USD per month. While this price may seem pretty tempting, shared hosting is not suitable for a business website for several reasons:
- Performance/Speed – because resources are shared between numerous different websites, if one of the other sites gets a big spike of traffic, the speed of your website may suffer, as these finite resources are being hogged by the other website.
- Downtime – with resources shared among dozens (and maybe even hundreds) of other websites, the server is more likely to be overloaded and experience outages.
- Security – the more websites are hosted on a server, the more potential points of attack for malware. Many of the other sites may not have kept up to date with the latest security updates for software like WordPress or Drupal. If one site is attacked, all sites hosted on that server are also compromised. Your site could become a relay for malware or other malicious activity.
- Reputation – if other sites on the shared server are carrying out malicious and/or illegal activities, or hosting explicit material, the IP address of the server may end up on a content filter or blacklist. Your website visitors could be presented with a warning that your site is unsafe or has questionable content, or be blocked from visiting your site altogether. It could take a while for you to get these warnings removed and for your site to be fully accessible again. This can mean potentially irreparable damage to your online reputation.
A dedicated server is just as it sounds – you are renting a actual hardware server housed in a data center. Dedicated severs can be specifically tailored to your needs with the exact amount of disk, memory and other resources to run all of your applications.
While you are renting the hardware, the software is generally up to you. You will have to license, install and configure all the software on the server, as well as perform security updates and other maintenance tasks. Unless you have a contract with a external support provider or employ a server administrator, the burden of managing the server may be too much to handle. Neglecting the updating and maintenance can leave your web server vulnerable to attack.
Advantages of Dedicated Servers
- Dedicated resources, which are only used by your site.
- Completely customized hardware for your needs
Disadvantages of Dedicated Servers
Having a dedicated server is much like having a high performance race car – it runs fast, is tuned for performance, but requires a lot of maintenance.
Virtual Private Server
With a Virtual Private Server you get your own web server with dedicated resources. Though you do not have your own specific dedicated hardware, your “virtual” server functionally acts and behaves as if it were. You are allocated your own resources (disk, memory, networking, etc), just like a dedicated server.
VPS advantages over a dedicated sever:
- Easier to add resources to the server as needed, as this is all managed though software. Some providers can automatically scale up resources to correspond with spikes in traffic
- Easy to spin up, automated backups and even clone the server
Disadvantages of VPS
Having a VPS is much like having a dedicated server – you'll be fully responsible for the software, maintenance and security.
With a managed hosting service, you get all of the advantages of a VPS, plus dedicated support to manage the server, so you don’t have to worry about the techie stuff and security. This is really the best for most small and medium sized businesses, as you know a team of experts is handling all of these headaches for you.
Advantages of Managed Hosting:
- On many managed hosting plans, the server environment is optimized to run a specific application, such as WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc.
- Advanced caching and other mechanisms are employed to boost performance of your site. This means your site will run fast. Page speed is now one of the most important factors in Google search ranking, so this is hugely important.
- You get your own dedicated resources, which can be scaled up dynamically as your traffic grows.
- Proactive security measures and built-in defenses keep your site protected against attack.
- Automated updates for WordPress, Drupal, etc, so you’re protected when security updates are released.
- Many plans offer multiple environments for development, staging and live – so you can test out new features and designs on an identical environment before pushing them to your live website.
Recommended Managed Hosting Providers
The stats and pricing in this table are based on their starter or basic level plan. All of these providers offer free TLS/SSL certificates with their plans.
High Traffic Sites
|Storage||10GB||50GB||20GB||5GB per environment|
|Dev/staging environments||no||3 environments||Dev/test/live plus multidev git branch environments||3 environments|
|monthly price (USD)||$16.95||$35
(2 months free with annual subscription)
(promotional price of $35 until Aug 31, 2018)
*Affilliate links disclaimer: We have provided affiliate links for some of these providers. We do not base our opinions on anything other than our personal experience using these platforms and our professional opinion of their quality. We would recommend any of these providers heartily to our clients. If you find the information in this article useful, please consider using the affiliate link when purchasing.