Friday, 14 July 2023 | 9 min read
Web hosting for your business: What’s the right solution?
These days, every business — large and small — needs a website. And creating a business website has become easier, more accessible, and more affordable over the years. One thing businesses often overlook about their website is web hosting. While web hosting might seem like an afterthought, where you host your website can be just as important as what’s on it.
Here, we break down your options for web hosting to help you find the right web hosting solution and ensure your customers and employees have a smooth experience on your site.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is the place where you store the elements that make up your website. Some types of data that can be stored in a web hosting environment include images and videos for your pages, code that tells visitors’ computers how to display your site, encryption certificates (SSL), email accounts and messages sent to your business, backups, and DNS information that links your domain name to your website.
Your hosting service provider will host all these types of data – and more - while you pay an ongoing subscription fee for the host to store and serve of all that information. This fee usually also covers ongoing maintenance and software updates.
Most web hosting services also allow you to host your business email addresses using your unique domain name (such as ‘[email protected]’).
There are several options when it comes to web hosting providers, each with their own pros and cons. These may include:
What is the difference between domain names and web hosting?
Your domain name is the web address you type in to get to a website. For us, it’s "aussiebroadband.com.au”. Domain names need to be unique and should try to reflect your business and be easy to remember.
Domain names are used to store DNS information – such as the IP address of your website – so that there is a simple way for people to visit your home page. Because domain names have to be unique, it means that an address can only be registered to one entity (such as a person or business).
Your web hosting is a service that gives you space on the internet for storing your website files, allowing it to be available online. You need both a domain name and a web hosting to create a website.
The domain name ‘points’ to the location of the web hosting server where your website files are stored. It’s like using the registered postal address for your home (the domain name) instead of providing the exact geographic coordinates (the IP address of your website) to everyone who needs to find you.
Find out more: What’s the difference between ISPs and hosting companies?
So, if you want a website for your business that uses your own domain name, you’ll also need to arrange web hosting.
Free web hosting
Only certain vendors offer free web hosting, and these services rarely allow you to use your own domain name. The provider may require your website to display advertising, or limit your available bandwidth, to compensate for the free service they provide.
Another potential disadvantage could be that the free service offers little-to-no control over your website in terms of its design, back-end modules, and software for things like customer logins and accounts.
With these in mind, if you’re just starting your business and have limited resources, free web hosting can be a great launching pad. While there are limited features and controls over what you can do with your website, this may also make it a simplified and user-friendly experience for getting to know how websites, domains, and hosting all work together.
‘Shared’ hosting refers to a service that put on a server that is used by multiple hosting customers at the same time, often using the same IP address. But don’t worry, the hosting server still securely separates them, and this does not affect the point of view of the customer. Shared hosting environments compartmentalise each customer using a virtual file system, so that each user is only able to access their own files.
Shared web hosting is a solution that is suitable for all types of businesses and users, including beginners, and is the most common type of web hosting for small businesses. It’s also typically the most affordable paid choice too (other than the free options, of course).
Depending on the scale of resources you need, you might pay about $15-20 a month for a simple hosting service, or $30-50 a month for a larger website. Shared hosting is a great place to start for new small businesses with limited funds or for those simply looking to create a web presence without high maintenance needs, especially if you’re not expecting a lot of traffic to your site right away.
The drawbacks of shared web hosting
Although this is a simpler and cost-effective solution, the ‘shared’ environment can cause some minor nuisances depending on how the hosting provider manages their resources. For example, if the hosting provider has a more relaxed approach to how much usage each of their customers are allowed, or how many customers they host on each server, then one or more of the other sites could suddenly have a spike in traffic which could excessively drain the performance for everyone else.
This could slow down your website and give your customer a bad experience, which can have a flow-on effect and reflect poorly on your business. A good thing to look out for when trying out a shared hosting service is a money-back guarantee, which can let you trial the service at no cost if the experience is less than satisfactory.
For businesses requiring specific software and server options, the shared web hosting solution can also pose a serious constraint to installing the software you want. If your web hosting needs aren’t available through a shared hosting provider, a Virtual Private Server might be what you need instead.
Virtual private server hosting
A virtual private server (VPS) hosting service is somewhere between ‘shared’ and ‘dedicated’ web hosting. With a VPS, you’re still sharing the server’s physical hardware with some other users, but the web host mimics a virtual machine within the shared server environment. This means it is running on its own separate operating system with its own IP address, and you are given more control over what runs on the system and how resources are used.
Since you’re running on your own dedicated (virtual) server, this type of hosting is usually more expensive than shared hosting but cheaper than having a dedicated server for your website.
Most providers offer either a managed or unmanaged VPS solution. If you go with a 'managed' solution, your vendor takes care of the maintenance for you and will install the apps or software you need; with an 'unmanaged' solution, you’ll be responsible for additional installations, ongoing maintenance, backups, and security.
However, it is worth noting that there may still be some restrictions to what is put on the server, regardless of whether you choose a managed or unmanaged solution. It’s best to chat to the hosting provider about your needs before setting up your service to confirm if they allow the systems you want to host.
Although VPS hosting services offer greater resource availability and more reliability and security, at the end of the day you are still sharing the hardware with the provider’s other users. Because there is still a ‘shared’ aspect, this could potentially compromise your capacity and speeds; although the risk is far lower compared to using a standard shared hosting service.
Dedicated server hosting
The next level up from a VPS is a ‘dedicated’ server. This is where your business website is hosted on a dedicated server that is only used by your business. Since you’re not sharing with any other hosting customers, you will likely end up with a faster, more secure hosting experience. You can also set up any programs, apps, and software you choose without limitations and enjoy a higher level of customisation.
Like a VPS, you can choose a managed or unmanaged solution, depending on your needs and expertise in server management. With the ‘managed’ option, your costs will be higher, but it will cover ongoing maintenance and updates. With an ‘unmanaged’ option, you’ll need to have your own technical staff to help with maintenance, troubleshooting, and updates.
As dedicated hosting is a more expensive and intensively involved solution, it’s mostly used by more established and larger businesses, or those who have more funding capital to launch with. Additionally, dedicated server hosting can provide a higher level of security and control when compared to the other shared hosting options - so if you deal with a lot of sensitive data, it might make sense to seriously consider a dedicated server for your business.
Cloud web hosting
Cloud web hosting, which is also known as ‘cluster server hosting’, offers an unrivalled level of flexibility and scalability. Instead of using a dedicated machine and sharing it with others, your business website is hosted in a virtual hosting environment that draws on what is effectively an unlimited pool of physical servers.
Where traditional hosting solutions rely on one server or machine, multiple servers support cloud server hosting. In the virtual hosting environment, you can upgrade hardware without affecting the continued uptime of hosting services.
While there are many advantages to cloud server web hosting, as noted below, it may also cost significantly more than other hosting options. Its flexibility makes this a difficult solution to compare, and there are also more budget-friendly options available for those who are just getting started.
Advantages of cloud server hosting
Flexibility and scalability of capacity: With cloud server hosting, you can scale up or down as your business requirements dictate. For example, you might expect a high volume of traffic during the Christmas period; if your website is hosted on a dedicated or on-site server, you might have to buy extra hardware to scale up in the same manner. This can be costly and time-consuming to set up and requires skilled staff and labour to implement. However, with cloud server hosting, you could scale up in minutes with a simple call to your provider.
Pay as you go: Cloud server hosting typically lets you pay on a subscription basis, so you pay as you go without big outlays for hardware. This lets you save because your business is paying for only what it’s using in each period, instead of committing to major outlays in anticipation of traffic volumes that might not be realised.
Which web hosting solution do I choose?
When it comes to hosting your business website, you will need to decide what your needs are and what priority they are – such as ensuring minimal downtime, flexibility and customisation, running costs, software compatibility, or the security of your chosen solutions.
If you want to save money and don't need much customization or control over your website, then shared hosting could be the choice for you. If you need more resources, security, and flexibility for your website, then dedicated hosting may be what’s right for your business.
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