Honestly, there are people who don’t know the intricacies of what a web host (website host, hosting company, web hosting, etc) does. That’s perfectly okay, which is why I wanted to write quickly about what it is, why you need it and more.
First, let’s get one thing clarified – what is website hosting?
This is storage space, like your local computer hard drive, where your website will be saved. It exists in a room somewhere in the world, depending on your web host company, and is saved on a really big computer. This storage space has directories and files, just like your home computer, it has hardware that someone maintains, and is backed up and protected in the same way as the computer you are sitting at. So without it, you can’t have a website!
Okay, how do I choose one – there are so many types of plans with different pricing?
This is the part where people get that glazed eye look, even myself. Every month there is a new company popping up, who gives you a super monthly rate to host your website.
Traditional “shared” hosting plans (flexible, run almost any website platform, more manual “hands on” management)
You get a block of space that you can do what you want with. Install an HTML website, WordPress, Drupal or any other content-management system that you want. You have access to all of your files and any databases* you might need to run your website. With plans like these, most support needs are manual – requiring you to maintain your site, make all updates and backups as needed. *think of a database as a file that keeps all data about your website in one place
WordPress Managed Hosting (wordpress platform only, great for individuals who want more “hands off” management of their hosting)
In the past few years companies have also been offering more specialized plans called “WordPress Managed Hosting”, which is catered to the WordPress platform. These hosting plans offer fast speeds and security and are optimized to only run WordPress, so they offer some of the best hosting features for small businesses. Plans often include automatic backups, security scans and the ability to clone and copy your website easily (when it comes time to make changes, without negatively affecting your live site). They do restrict some things that you might be able to do on a “traditional” hosting plan, like install certain plugins or have access to the website’s database. If you are thinking about this type of hosting plan, and are working with a designer/programming, ask for their input before signing up whenever possible.
VPS Hosting (medium/large websites with moderate traffic)
I have more clients who are purchasing this type of hosting, which offers you storage space that is partitioned/sectioned off and completely separate from all other customers on the same computer. In Shared Hosting, mentioned above, you share server software with lots of other people – in VPS you are sectioned off from each other. You can run your own software (Linux, Windows, etc) and if something goes wrong with another customer’s operating system/software…you would not be affected. You still share the same hardware, but this gives you a level of security that shared hosting can not offer. This hosting is more expensive than the others above, and it sometimes requires you to have advanced knowledge on installing operating systems (or you can usually pay the hosting company to set that up for you). You might also want the hosting company to assist with updating the operating system, etc – just your home computer might need an upgrade for Windows/Mac…your VPS hosting will need the same.
Dedicated Server (large websites, with high traffic and security needs)
This is very expensive hosting, because in this scenario you are actually getting your own server – separate from all other customers at the same hosting company. You don’t share software or hardware in this scenario, so it offers the best in security. It is the most intensive to maintain because you are responsible for updating the software and maintaining the hardware too (unless you pay the hosting company to manage that for you).
Check around, ask friends and family whether they have heard of one company or another. If you plan to work with a professional designer, get together some hosting companies you were looking at and ask for their input. This is great, especially for new sites, because some WordPress Hosting plans can be very restrictive to external programming/changes and you want to make sure your designer/programmer can achieve the site you want without any issues.
I personally have worked with probably about 30+ different hosting companies over the years, but there will always be about 5 that rise to the top whenever I share my favorites with clients and friends. Drop me a line if you want to chat about who I like, and why….I’m happy to share my thoughts!