Demystifying Website Hosting: A Beginner's Guide

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Welcome to Website Hosting 101

Building a website for your business can feel overwhelming, especially when you're not familiar with the lingo. Website hosting is one of those terms that may have you scratching your head, but don't worry - we've got you covered!

So What Exactly is Website Hosting?

So, what exactly is website hosting? Well, think of your website as a collection of files, images, database, and applications that take up virtual space. In order for these elements to be visible to others on the internet, they need to be stored somewhere accessible. That's where hosting comes in. Website hosting providers rent space on their physical or virtual servers to store your website's data and ensure it's available to visitors 24/7. Essentially, you're paying for their technology and resources to keep your website up and running smoothly.

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The Importance of Your Website Host

Your website host lays the foundation of your website - it's the stable ground that everything else is built upon. The amount of data stored on the host server and the available bandwidth can affect how your website load time and how accessible it is to users. Be sure to choose a host that offers enough resources to support your website's needs. Additionally, it's a good idea to research a hosting provider's customer service reputation and pricing plans, so you can be sure you're getting the best value for your investment.

Types of Hosting

As you look for a hosting provider and plan, you'll come across different types of hosting. Here's a quick breakdown of what each term means:

  • Shared hosting is like having roommates for your website - you share resources and split the cost, making it a budget-friendly option for small businesses.
  • VPS hosting allots a partition of the server to you. This option is more expensive, but the dedicated resources mean better performance.
  • Dedicated hosting allows you access and control of the server. This option is expensive and best for businesses who can’t risk downtime and have a technical expert to maintain the server.
  • Cloud hosting uses virtual cloud-based servers to host your website, offering flexibility and scalability based on your service requirements.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Website Hosting Provider

  • Cost: Shop around and compare provider plans. You may find free hosting options, but they often come with limitations. The cost will vary depending on the type and features required for your website. Providers usually offer an introductory incentive but be sure to factor in the renewal price when budgeting.
  • Uptime guarantee – Uptime is the time a server is operational and available. Forbes recommends avoiding service providers that report an uptime of less than 99%. This sounds like a high bar, but there are plenty of providers that report an uptime of over 99%, see here: https://www.hrank.com/providers
  • Support – in terms of support, look for a company that offers live support, chat support, has a social media presence, and does not outsource their customer support service.
  • Scalability – this refers to a host's capacity to handle changes in size or demand. Even if you're not considering cloud computing, think about how much traffic and content your website may need in the future. Choose a host and plan that won't be too limiting if your needs grow.
  • Security – as previously mentioned, you’ll want a company that keeps their architecture secure. You also want your website protected with Secure Socket Layer (SSL). Many hosts include this for no additional charge. Some companies provide the option to purchase the SSL certificate for an additional cost.

Technical Setup

There are a few technical setup steps that need to be done, such as registering your domain name (read more here: Your Domain), setting up hosting, and connecting your domain to your hosting. Depending on your technical expertise, you may choose to handle these tasks or have your web designer or developer handle them for you. Don't worry if you're not comfortable with the technical side of things - you can always get help from a professional to make sure everything is set up correctly.

One-Stop-Shopping: Domain & Hosting

A topic that often causes confusion is the bundling of domain registration and hosting services. These are essential services to get your website operational. It can be appealing to use a company that acts as both registrar and host. However, there are pros and cons to coupling these services. First the good stuff, then the not so savory details:

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Pros:
Convenience – having your website services all in one place can reduce the risk of forgetting to renew either service

Potential cost savings – many hosting companies offer steep discounts or even free domain registration services when signing up for hosting

Simplified management – it's nice to have just one company to work with when you need support

Cons:
Single Point of Failure – think of this like putting all your eggs in one basket. If the company experiences turmoil – goes out of business, gets hacked, etc, the ramifications could be major for you.

Difficult to Transfer – if you decide to transfer hosts later, your host service provider may make this difficult, to include charging you extra to keep your domain name.

Specialization – companies usually specialize in hosting or registration services. It's nice to know that you will get the specialized support needed for both areas should the need arise.

Security – again, you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. If the company experiences a security breach, both your website and domain may be compromised. Segregating your services may boost your security features. For example, you may be able to get DDoS protection from your hosting services provider and two-factor authentication from your registrar.

Possible hidden fees – it is worth mentioning again that some companies will offer a significant discount on hosting or domain registration for the introductory period. The price rises after the initial period. By separating your services, you can shop around for each service to take advantage of promotions and discounts while getting the tailored services you need.

So, Who is the Host with the Most?

In conclusion, website hosting is an essential component of any online presence. Your website's hosting provider will not only store your website's data but also determine its accessibility, security, and performance. As a small business owner, it's crucial to choose a hosting plan that fits your needs and budget, research providers based on their uptime guarantees, support, scalability, and security measures. Additionally, it's important to understand the technical setup required for domain registration and connecting it to your hosting. While bundling domain registration and hosting services can be convenient, be sure to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

At the end of the day, the right hosting provider will help ensure that your website is available, secure, and performing well, which helps you reach your goals and grow your business. If you need assistance choosing the best host for your business, book a call with me.  I'd be happy to help you find the best solution for your business!