The technical jargon associated with web technologies and the sheer number of web hosting providers often makes it difficult for beginners to get started. Complex pricing plans and striking differences between initial pricing and renewal pricing make things even more difficult for them (pricing plans for new customers are usually much cheaper than pricing after the initial promotional period).
This guide aims to make it easier for users to pick the right hosting services provider and covers different types of hosting services and important things to consider when choosing a provider. Let’s start with some common terminologies associated with web hosting services before moving on to different types of hosting services and how your business can benefit from each.
Key Terminologies Related to Web Hosting
- Domain name: the URL or unique name that allows visitors to access your website through a browser e.g. saasmetrics.co
- Web hosting service: Refers to the server space a web hosting providers offers for a subscription
- Server: The computer where your website is stored and hosted
- TLDs: Top level domains, suffixes at the end of a domain e.g. .com and .net
- Subdomain: Allow setting up child sites using the same domain name e.g. office.microsoft.com where ‘office’ is a subdomain
- CMS: Content Management System that allows users to create and manage their websites/blogs e.g. WordPress
- Bandwidth: The amount of data that can be sent or received from the server. Hosting providers usually limit bandwidth for starter plans
- CDN: Content Delivery Network, servers distributed strategically across the world for faster delivery of content
- Control Panel: The portal that allows controlling domains, emails, apps and other settings
- Domain Name System (DNS): A system that translated domain names (easy to remember) into IP addresses
- SFTP/FTP: Secure File Transfer Protocol and File Transfer Protocol allow transferring files, usually large files and support bulk transfers
- HTTP/HTTPS: Hyper Text Transfer Protocol is a protocol for transferring files and is essentially the foundation of the internet as we know it today. HTTPS is basically HTTP, but over a secure connection (the browser displays a sign when a site is HTTPS) and in conjunction with TLS (Transport Layer Security).
- Parked domain: A registered domain that does not points to a website. Usually registered for future use or reselling
- PHP: The widely used web development language that combines static content such as images with dynamic content such as prices.
- SSL: Sometimes also referred to as TLS (Transport Security Layer) Secure Socket Layer secures connections between clients and the server. Some service providers offer it for free with web hosting plans.
- Uptime: Represented in percentage e.g. 99.9%, uptime refers to the amount of time the service provider promises for uninterrupted accessibility. 3 9s (99.9%) uptime plans cost less than 5 9s (99.999%).
- Domain registrar: The ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) accredited company permitted to manage and register domain names
- Malware: Computer code written to take control, disable or damage certain functionalities, steal information for ransom or other purposes
- Viruses: Self-replicating malware designed to spread and affect other networks, computers and servers
- Site backups: Archiving data on a regular basis to ensure that the client can restore his/her website if something goes wrong
What is Web Hosting?
When you enter a web address in a web browser, it downloads the content of a website from an address where all the code and data is stored. Much like a local hard drive, the data is stored somewhere, but in this case, it’s stored on a server aka web host.
The reason we store data on remote servers is because our laptops and desktops cannot handle the kind of load websites demand. So, we store the data in a server that is designed to handle thousands even millions of requests every minute.
A web hosting provider rents out ‘resources’, allowing users to upload their data on their servers and pay a rent for the facility. In addition to storage space and depending on the subscription, these resources can also include maintenance, backups, updates, support and security.
Types of Hosting Services
Shared Web Hosting: Best Option for Startups, Individuals and Small Websites
The most commonly used web hosting service in which a single server is shared between different users. Shared web hosting is ideal for startups and budding businesses that do not expect a lot of web traffic in the beginning. Businesses can upgrade their plan later on as they grow. Shared hosting levels the playing field for all businesses and provides them with a chance to showcase their products/services online for better exposure.
Pricing for shared hosting starts from as low as $2 per month, but we don’t recommend going for the cheapest option. The main issue with shared hosting is that another website on the same server with a lot of web traffic might slow your site down (and vice versa). Shared hosting is the default option for first-timers and not a bad option itself. But you need to be careful in choosing the right provider otherwise your site will be at mercy of an unreliable provider with poor customer services.
Managed WordPress Hosting: The Best of Both Worlds
The service provider is responsible for managing updates, backups and security of the WordPress installation. Although more expensive than unmanaged web hosting, managed hosting saves businesses form the hassle of managing updates and security themselves.
Managed WordPress hosting is arguably the best option for growing businesses that plan on running a WordPress website and don’t have the technical resources required to protect their site from ever-increasing security threats.
Dedicated Web Hosting/Server: For Established Businesses
More expensive than other options, dedicated web hosting makes more financial sense for established businesses that have the budget to rent out a physical server. The advantages of renting a dedicated server include full control and no sharing of resources with other users.
Dedicated servers work well for e-commerce stores that get a lot of traffic and cannot afford to slow down because of resource sharing. The main disadvantage of dedicated servers is obviously the high cost, which can increase considering you might also have to hire a resource to manage the server. Pricing for dedicated hosting usually starts from $100 per month and increase according to individual requirements.
VPS (Virtual Private Server): Shared Hosting on Steroids
Although VPSs generally share a single physical server, they act like separate servers and are considered a nice middle ground between dedicated and shared web hosting. What differentiates them from shared hosting is the allocation of dedicated resources while using the same hardware resources as other VPSs.
VPS pricing is based on guaranteed CPU/memory resources and usually starts from $50. It’s suitable for businesses who expect a lot of web traffic and businesses that want to provide their customers with a better experience (compared to shared hosting).
Cloud-based Web Hosting: The Future
Hundreds of different servers work together in cloud-based web hosting to deliver services like a single big server. This allows the hosting provider to add more server as the load increases. Another advantage of cloud-based web hosting is that the provider can offer location-based services, which allow the customers to access a website form the server located closest to them (improves latency and pages load quicker).
Cloud-based hosting is a nice upgrade from shared hosting and works great for growing businesses. Cloud-based hosting providers usually charge on a pay-for-what-you-use basis so the cost mainly depends on the required features and the kind of web traffic you will get.
Reseller Web Hosting: For Hosting Space Resellers
This type of hosting is fairly similar to shared hosting, but you also get tools needed to resell the hosting space and more technical control. This type of hosting is meant for businesses that plan on reselling hosting services and isn’t targeted at most other businesses. Free site templates, technical support for you clients and private name servers are some of the perks of reseller web hosting.
Self-Service Hosting: The DYI Solution
The DYI-like hosting service allows businesses with the right human resources and hardware to manage everything by themselves. Self-service hosting involves setting up your own servers and managing everything on your own, including configuring software, ensuring proper cooling and other system administration tasks.
This kind of hosting is only suitable for businesses who already have the hardware and technical expertise to make this happen. For the rest of businesses, shared hosting, managed WordPress hosting and VPS remain more suitable options.
Colocation Web Hosting: For High-tech Businesses
Here is how it works: a business rents rack space from a provider in a data center, bring in its own hardware and mange everything itself. The vendor is only responsible for providing physical security, connectivity, power and adequate cooling. All the rest is managed by the business. Again, much like self-service hosting, this option is also suitable for businesses that already have the technical expertise and hardware to setup their own web server.
Instead of choosing the cheapest or most expensive option, it makes more sense to take into account your budget and requirements and match them with what different providers have to offer. Shared hosting is a great way for individuals and small businesses on a budget to get started. You might also want to check out our separate post on some of the best affordable web hosting services providers that offer great value for the money.
In theory, setting up a website might seem a simple task, but things can start to get pretty complex for beginners once they start getting warmed up. Choosing a web host is one of the most important steps and requires some homework and research. The internet is a great place to learn and it should not take much time to start letting the world know that you/your business exists and expand its outreach without spending a fortune.