When you’re in the beginning stages of building a website or thinking of having one built there are a lot of things to think about:
It’s easy to forget in the process the hosting which will be holding the website files. We often don’t think of hosting as we’re distracted by the website itself but without hosting, it’s not possible to have a website.
What is hosting?
Hosting is the server that holds your website files and translates them into a viewable format for your site visitors.
Think of it like a house:
You now know why you need to secure your hosting before you can build your site but a Google search will probably leave you more confused as there are so many options and it all feels a bit too technical.
Let’s break it down into the main types of hosting:
Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
Virtual Private Servers sit in the middle of the options between shared hosting and dedicated servers. They are still shared but rather than having numerous websites all jostling for space on the server, it is (virtually) divided between a set number of websites and your site will have a solid amount of space and resources dedicated to it, regardless of the activity of the other websites hosted on that server. In short, it’s more reliable.
This doesn’t mean that shared hosting is unreliable. For small, low-traffic websites, it’s very reliable. But if you have a lot of connections to your website each day, for example you’re running a membership or e-commerce website or release resources weekly to a large email list, you may want to be sure everyone can connect at the same time without it affecting your website load times. A Virtual Private Server can help ensure this.
It’s a reliable option for medium/large websites.
The support will be good.
cPanel should be more advanced than on shared hosting.
It’s a more expensive option than shared hosting.
There’s a finite amount of space and resources dedicated to your website.
There will be limits as to how much control you can have over the cPanel.
A dedicated server is exactly what it says on the tin – a server dedicated solely to your website. In general these are great options for large websites which receive high volumes of traffic and demand a lot of resources from the server.
The server is dedicated solely to your website.
You should have access to set it up and manage it just as you want to.
It’s the most expensive option.
It can take a lot of technical expertise to set up and maintain.
Then there’s WordPress Hosting
Recently there’s been a big push with the hosting companies offering WordPress specific hosting. What this essentially breaks down to is:
What this looks like in reality is very similar to shared hosting, the difference is WordPress is installed already. This isn’t a big deal as it’s one click of a button on other hosting. The automatic updates could come in useful though. You can choose for updates to run automatically on your website or you can do them manually. The advantage of running them manually is that you can wait for any bugs and kinks to be ironed out before updating. If they run automatically then you could be in for a buggy site until WordPress gets wind of them and releases an update to fix it. Most hosts offering WordPress hosting say they’ll only run the automatic update on the server once they’re certain the new version is bug free and running as it should be.
If you’re running a WordPress website this could be a good option for you. However if the host you choose is charging a lot more for it than shared hosting, I’d recommend going with a shared hosting package.
WordPress is already installed.
cPanel is easy to use.
It can be more expensive than shared hosting.
Updates run automatically which could interfere with plugins which haven’t released updates yet.
Managed & Unmanaged
There are two options with hosting – managed and unmanaged. Managed hosting means that your host will manage most of the settings for you. This is great if you have little experience of this side of websites as they generally lock down tools which could break the sites you’re hosting on the server. In most cases of hosting you’ll be dealing with managed servers – particularly on shared and virtual private servers. The downside to this can be that for certain functionality you may need to contact your hosts to change settings on your behalf and not all settings will be available to you. The plus side is most hosts have a team available 24 hours a day to support you.
Unmanaged servers are just that – unmanaged – you have a server dedicated to you and it’s up to you/your technician to configure and maintain it to give the best performance. Great for seriously technical people, not so great for everyone else.
What to look for when choosing hosting
With so many hosting options available this list is not exhaustive but it contains the main things I think are important when looking for website hosting.
When choosing a hosting package for the first time it’s easy to feel bewildered and not know where to start. Many of the hosting companies offer competitively priced starter packages with the same services. A Google search will start off showing you the companies which pay to advertise their name first. They may not be the best, but they’ve got your attention by paying to be at the top of the search results. A good place to start is using this article by whoishostingthis.com, which compares the top 15 services. You can also find discounts for many of the providers recommended.
People often ask me for my recommendation of who to host with. For individuals and small businesses I recommend Siteground. It’s competitively priced, includes premium security, optimisation and starter plugins as part of the package and their customer service is excellent.
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