How to Choose the Right Kind of Web Hosting for Your Business (shared, dedicated, cloud, VPS)

Web hosting is something that many small business owners, entrepreneurs, and startups take for granted. When planning and designing a website, most of us focus on practical things as they relate to the viewer but neglect the backend stuff, including web hosting. 

By understanding how to choose the right kind of web hosting for your business—and taking an active role in choosing or changing your web host if necessary—you can get ahead of many potential problems that can arise from choosing inadequate hosting. 

Why Is Choosing the Right Web Hosting Service Important?

The right web host plays a role in helping your website to run smoothly, safely, and effectively for its intended purpose.

On the other hand, the wrong web hosting can wreak havoc on your traffic, leave you open to cyber attacks, and have a negative impact on your revenue. 

Your web host provides security, stability, and performance. If any one of those is compromised, your site visitors are more likely to choose a different site to go to next time, which could have big implications for your business. 

A poor web host could potentially lead to increased downtime, slow page loading speeds, and your visitors’ data being compromised. All of these can be ticking time bombs in terms of business, driving away potential customers and significantly lowering your conversion rates. 

Not to mention that a poorly performing website can be seen as unprofessional, so if you’re providing a service, you may find that potential customers don’t take your business seriously. 

Types of Hosting 

The first step is to select the right type of web hosting. Most of the other features hinge upon this choice, so it’s essential to get this right. 

Shared 

Shared hosting used to be the one to go for. It was cheap, and it did the job. Now, most websites are too comprehensive for shared hosting to be a good option. It may be affordable, but in general, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot if you opt for this kind of hosting. 

You’ll be just one of many websites sharing the same server, which means the server’s resources get split between all the websites residing on it. So while you’re paying less, you’re actually also getting fewer resources. 

This comes with multiple disadvantages. If one site on the server gets a ton of traffic, your speed may slow down considerably. It also may be more susceptible to hackers. 

Dedicated 

Dedicated hosting puts our website onto its own server, so you aren’t sharing resources with anyone else. It costs more, but it eliminates many of the problems shared hosting comes with, so it’s worth it if your site is anything more than a single-page website. 

The bonus here is that you can also take control of the backend of your server if you’re so inclined. Dedicated hosting is a better option than shared hosting 95% of the time! 

Cloud 

Cloud hosting is the newest of all hosting types and the most reliable. The downside is that it’s also the most expensive, but if you have the budget for it, it’s highly recommended. This type of hosting uses multiple servers to store a single website, all in the cloud, as its name suggests. 

This approach significantly reduces many of the issues that come with other types of hosting. Load time is faster, uptime is higher, and security is noticeably tighter than other types. 

Cloud hosting providers charge based on the resources that your site utilizes, which means it’s relatively easy to scale as you grow with this kind of hosting. This is a huge bonus that other types don’t offer, but take note that it will get expensive the bigger your site gets! 

Virtual Private Servers 

VPS hosting is a middle ground between shared and dedicated. A server is split into multiple “virtual servers”, and your site is allocated one of these. You don’t share resources with other sites, but you’re still technically on a shared server, which comes with some limitations. 

It’s an improvement over shared hosting but not quite as good as dedicated hosting. However, it tends to be the middle-ground budget option for those who don’t want shared hosting. 

Other 

These hosting types are less common but still worth considering, depending on your business. 

  • WordPress Hosting: Specifically for WordPress sites, make it easy to manage and run your own website. 
  • E-commerce Hosting: Especially for e-commerce stores, offering features like inventory management, payment gateways, shopping carts, etc. 
  • Reseller Hosting: Clients buy hosting space on a server and resell it to others. A form of shared hosting, so not necessarily the best for everyone. 

Managed vs Unmanaged Hosting

Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay

Within your different types of hosting, you can sometimes choose from managed or unmanaged hosting. Managed hosting includes everything needed to run the technical side of the website. So things like software updates, backups, and tech support are dealt with by professionals for you. 

On the other hand, unmanaged hosting places the responsibility for all those factors in your hands. You need to make sure your site is updated, backed up, and has the technical support it needs. Not advised unless you’re well-versed in backend matters and have the time to dedicate to it. 

Hard Drives vs Solid State Drives

It’s a great idea to find out what drives your chosen host uses. Hard disk drives (HDDs) are the original type, and they still work pretty well. But if you want the best in terms of speed and performance, solid-state drives (SSDs) are the way to go. 

Query this before you commit to a provider. SSDs are naturally more expensive, but considering their superb performance, reliability, and energy efficiency, they can be more cost-effective in the long run. 

Uptime Scores 

Uptime is one of the most important elements of a web host. The more your site is “down”, the higher the chance of driving away annoyed customers and lowering your income. Downtime can cost a significant amount of time, customers, and revenue. 

Check the web host’s uptime scores before choosing to sign up with one. The margins are quite slim, but hosts generally offer 99.9% uptime or more. It’s worthwhile checking customer reviews too, just to gauge what real-world experience is of their supposed uptime. 

Load Time 

Your web page loading times can significantly impact the user experience. More than half of website visitors will leave the site if it hasn’t fully loaded within 3 seconds! While there are plenty of elements that can contribute to slow load times, it begins with your web host. 

Shared hosting typically offers longer load times because you’re sharing resources with other sites. Dedicated, VPS, and cloud hosting are faster, but it’s always worth checking what sort of speed your chosen host is offering. 

Server Location 

If you’re using a hosting type that’s not cloud hosting, it’s worth finding out where the server is located. The closer the server is to your visitor’s server, the faster it will load. Obviously, this is out of your hands to some extent, as you can’t control where your visitors come from. 

However, for local businesses, it’s definitely something to consider. Make sure your host’s server is close to your local audience, and it will make a huge difference to your loading speed. 

If you’re running a business that’s international, there are various things you can do to boost speed, like using a CDN. But in this case, try to find a server that’s closest to where the majority of your traffic comes from. 

Server Resources

This refers to storage space and bandwidth. The storage you need depends on how much data your website holds. If it’s mostly text, you won’t need a lot. But if you’re hosting digital products or courses, for example, you’re likely to need more.

Bandwidth refers to how much data can move between your site and the server at once. This determines how many people can visit your site at once—if the amount of data being transferred exceeds your bandwidth, you’re at risk of a website crash. 

Find out the numbers before you choose your host—not just their numbers, but yours. If you know how much data your site stores, you’ll have a better idea of what sort of hosting you need. 

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A Content Delivery Network is a group of servers located in different countries that are all connected. The purpose? To store copies of your data so it can be delivered to your website visitors faster and without hassle, no matter where they come from. 

Storing your data on a CDN can make a significant difference to your website’s loading times if your visitors come from all over the world. They’re also reliable and very secure, which can bring you peace of mind. 

Not to be confused with caching! 

Caching

Caching is the process of storing your website’s status data on the browser. This means that if a website visitor uses Google Chrome, for example, instead of retrieving your site data from the server (which may be far away), it can be retrieved from the browser instead, making it much faster to load. 

The key to successful caching is to stick to using system fonts and keep things simple. Anything that’s time-consuming or difficult to retrieve will slow things down. But in general, enabling caching can make a huge difference, so check if your host offers it. 

Security

Look carefully at your chosen host’s security protocols. You can’t afford to neglect this—if security is breached and your site is affected, you may have to start from scratch. If your host isn’t secure, your website will always be vulnerable. 

Check whether your hosting provider offers secure hosting—HTTPS—and has an SSL certificate. There should also be some kind of antivirus or firewall installed. 

Another part of security is installing updates in a timely manner. You may need to check user reviews to find accurate information on this. 

Backup

Does the web host back your website data up regularly? Should something happen, and your website is compromised, you need to know that your website host will be able to restore it quickly and easily. 

Again, this is something you may have to find out via user reviews, as every host will advertise that they do this. But it’s something you can’t wait and hope for—you need to know for sure before you commit. 

Capacity to Scale 

If you’re planning on growing a business online, scalability is going to be important. If your business grows, you want to be on a web hosting plan that can upgrade easily and encourage your growth, not hold you back. 

Cloud hosting is completely scalable, while others are less so. Double-check what sort of upgrading options you have before you get started unless you’re not planning on growing your business beyond what it is now. 

Monthly Traffic

The more traffic you get on a monthly basis, the more resources your website is going to need to run smoothly and keep your visitors happy. Falling behind in terms of keeping up with your traffic can chase potential customers away and cause you to lose out on business. 

A small site that gets a small amount of traffic may be perfectly okay with shared hosting. If you get a good chunk of traffic, you don’t want to be fighting for resources, so dedicated VPS or cloud is best. 

Scalability plays a role here too. You may have a small amount of traffic now, but if you’re planning on growing that in the future, you need to think with that in mind now. 

Conclusion 

Figuring out how to choose the right kind of website hosting for your business can be tricky. It’s a comprehensive process, but it’s absolutely worth putting your attention and effort into it upfront. Choosing the wrong type can have an adverse effect on your business while choosing the right one can take your business from strength to strength.

Paul Wheeler
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