Just as is the case with any physical business, those setting up online will face the choice of renting or buying their premises. Of course in this instance it’s a wholly virtual property we’re talking about – web hosting being the Internet-equivalent of renting or buying a store out of which to operate.
The two choices are technically quite simple in nature – you can either rent the space and service you need from a hosting company, or you can buy the gear you need and build your own web hosting service in-house. As it tends to be exponentially cheaper, easier to set up and backed by a potentially world-class service team, it’s hardly surprising that the former – aka shared hosting – is the choice about 99.9% of new businesses make.
Nevertheless, there will always be those business for whom sharing a communal working environment and effectively ‘borrowing’ what’s needed isn’t the best way to go. Some websites will inherently need more storage space, better data transfer speeds and more outstanding security than others – all such needs are generally better-suited to private servers. And then of course there’s the bridge between the two which exists in the form of a virtual private server – a service that offers most of the benefits of the private on-site server combined with those of shared servers and for a comparatively low price.
As for costs, this is where the differences really begin to show. Shared hosting packages can be found these days from less than $1 per month up to about $50. As for the VPS, these tend to start around the $40 mark and head up to about $200. Those in need of dedicated hosting however would be looking at spending between $200 and $400 per month for an off-site server, or a pretty massive initial investment to set up the necessary hardware and software on-site.
Which begs the question – what do you really need for you own business?
Here’s a quick look at the five questions you should be asking yourself before making your final decision:
1 – How Much Traffic Do We Receive?
If your business attracts just the odd flurry of business here and there, chances are you won’t go far wrong with an affordable shared hosting package. By contrast, if you tend to attract thousands and thousands of customers each day, it’s likely that you’ll need to consider either a VPS or a dedicated server in order to cope. Not having the kind of hosting that can support high traffic volumes when necessary is a sure-fire recipe for a site that’s both unattractive and unviable in the eyes of its customers.
2 – What Kind of Content Do You Publish?
There’s a very big difference between a website that publishes nothing but plain text and another that’s supremely rich with video, HD images and others data-hungry content types. In the case of these latter sites, it’s imperative that your hosting package is sufficiently capable of handling this kind of content and displaying it quickly and fluidly. You’ll also need a package that offers a solid amount of storage space as this is the kind of content that quickly eats into your allocated data allowance.
3 – Will You Be Making Direct Sales?
If you plan to use the website to sell products or services directly, two things you’ll have to factor in are overall site security and speed. When page loading times are far too slow or unreliable, conversion rates take a drastic dive. Web shoppers these days just aren’t willing to hang around for slow-loaded pages and sluggish sites, so be sure to choose a hosting service that can keep up. And if you’re dealing with credit cards, bank accounts and sensitive data in general, the only acceptable level of security is total.
4 – How Damaging Would Downtime Be?
While promises of 99% uptime may sound appealing, the missing 1% could prove nothing less than fatal for some businesses. You need to be aware of the kinds of consequences you’d be looking at were your site to suddenly go down for any period of time – would you be able to cope just fine, or would it be game over? These days, it’s in the best interests of any web business to look for guarantees of at least 99.99% uptime and accept nothing less.
5 – What Can I Afford?
Last but not least, you generally get what you pay for with web hosting these days and while overpaying doesn’t necessarily guarantee better service, opting for the cheapest package on the market will only ever leave you and your business at risk. Web hosting does not need to be expensive, but at the same time things like superb bandwidth speeds, massive data allowances and 24-hour service teams don’t come free of charge. So when it comes to establishing what you’re willing/able to spend, try to think more in value-for-money terms rather than just penny-pinching for the sake of it.