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Buyers’ Guide to Web Hosting for Small Business Owners
Before you can get started looking for web hosting deals, you will want to determine the best type of hosting for your needs.
Types of Web Hosting
Generally speaking, there are three types of hosting you’ll see advertised:
- Shared Hosting
- VPS Hosting
- Dedicated Servers
Shared hosting is the most inexpensive option available. Web hosts place multiple websites on one server, and all of the sites draw from the resources available on that server. There are no strict definitions on how much of the available resources a given site may use.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
VPS hosting is similar to shared hosting, but there are two big differences that make it a more premium option. First, there are fewer websites hosted on any given server.
MediaTemple have a great variety of plans and deals.
Second, resources are allocated and their use is regulated. Essentially, each website gets its share, and it cannot use anyone else’s share (however, no one else can use that website’s share either). Improved resource allocation and available results in better site performance.
With dedicated server hosting, all of the resources for a given server are devoted to one site. Dedicated servers are some of the fastest, most powerful, most customizable options available. With that said, there are two downsides. First, dedicated servers are expensive.
Second, their use requires hands-on management, either from you or from an IT professional. Some web hosts sell managed hosting services, where the company handles such duties on your behalf, but this option could get expensive.
Comparing Shared Hosting, VPS Hosting, and Dedicated Hosting
For the sake of extra perspective, let’s line these 3 popular options up next to one other. How do they compare?
|Shared Hosting||VPS Hosting||Dedicated Server Hosting|
|Resources||Enough for a smaller business start-up or individual project||Ideal for growing business needed slightly more resource, experiencing spikes in traffic||For larger businesses, in need of dedicated, solid resources with consistently high traffic|
|Price Range||$5 to $30/month||$15 to $60/month||$90/month and above|
Other Hosting Types
In addition, you might come across things like reseller hosting and cloud-based options.
Reseller hosting options are for those who want to manage multiple websites (for example, someone might want to launch their own web hosting business, or they might be an owner of multiple small businesses, each requiring its own website).
SiteGround is a popular choice for reseller hosting.
Cloud-based hosting options are those whose infrastructure rely on the cloud. Cloud hosting can come in the same “flavors” as traditional hosting — that is, you can find cloud-based shared hosting or cloud-based dedicated servers.
There are additional perks to choose cloud-based hosting options, such as better protection against downtime. However, cloud hosting is typically more expensive than traditional hosting.
What is the Best Web Hosting Type for My Small Business?
For most people, shared hosting is the best option when getting started. In addition to being the most inexpensive option, shared hosting packages are designed to be more user-friendly than more premium options.
Depending on your web host, the overall ease of use for your package may vary, but generally speaking, you are not expected to maintain the server itself — you do not have to optimize your software, install updates, patch security issues, and so on.
What Is Expected To Be Included In Hosting Deals?
The only things you have to worry about are those that directly affect your site. Many hosts will include in your package some type of control panel where you can do these things (in more expensive plans, you are sometimes expected to pick your control panel, so they are not included).
Some of these tasks include:
- Managing email accounts
- Transferring files to your website
- Keeping an eye out on resource utilization
- Adding features
- Adding new functionality
- Installing new software (usually one-click installs)
- Building databases
- SSL certificate management (if your host doesn’t take care of it)
- Custom error pages (although these can now be done via easy-to-use plugins)
- Backups (many hosts now offer automatic backups)
Premium-Hosting for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses
Sometimes, a shared hosting plan might not be the best option. As such, it might make sense to consider the next step up in hosting plans: virtual private servers (VPS).
VPS hosting plans are a great option for those who are running websites that get a high level of traffic, host a large number of media files (such as high-resolution images and audio and video files) or both.
Price and Knowledge Requirements
VPS hosting plans are more powerful and allow you to have greater control over your server environment. The downside to this, however, is that the plans cost more, and you are likely to have to manage your own infrastructure.
The hosting provider will still take care of certain tasks for you (since you do not have the whole of the physical server to yourself), but you should certainly be comfortable with technology before opting for a VPS plan.
How Do I Find the Right Web Host for My Website?
If you already have a website, then you probably have a good idea of what makes a good host (and therefore what features and services you should look at when reviewing hosting provider options). However, if you are completely new to the world of choosing a hosting provider, what should you look for?
It goes without saying that the hosting company should be able to meet your website’s technical needs.
Be Clear on Your Technical Requirements
For example, if you are working with a web developer, and they have created an app for you that requires a certain set of technologies, you will want to make sure that your web host can support these technologies. If you are using something like WordPress, having a one-click installer would make the setup process much easier for you.
But what if you are in need of hosting for a site that requires no special functionality?
Determine the Type of Support You Want
In most cases, we recommend taking a close look at the customer service and technical support offered by the hosting provider. Having a great support team that you can talk to whenever you have any questions or concerns is invaluable.
When reviewing support offerings, you might consider how the host’s support team can help you:
- When is the support team available?
- If the company does not offer 24/7 availability, what time zone is the company in and how does that affect my ability to talk to someone? For example, if you are in Australia, it may be difficult for you to reach someone on the west coast of the US.
- What does the support contract cover? Some hosts are strict about their support teams only assisting customers with issues, while others are willing to include consulting services and offer other types of assistance.
- What do others say about the company’s support teams?
- Are the staff well-trained, and are they capable of answering the questions you might have?
- Are there specific specialist support branches?
- Is there a knowledge base available?
- Does the host provide tutorials?
- Do they offer emergency support?
Consider Uptime and Service Level Agreements
If you are planning on conducting business online, downtime equals lost revenue since people cannot shop at a website that is not available to them.
One way to hedge against this is to seek a web host that promises a minimum level of uptime and backs it up with a service level agreement. Essentially, if the host does not meet the uptime agreed upon, they will compensate you for the downtime experienced.
Typically, hosting providers offer a minimum of 99% uptime guarantee.
Many hosts will offer additional features and add-ons to improve the value of their plans. These bonuses may include:
- Free domain names (read the fine print — a lot of hosts will cover your fees for the first year, and then you are responsible for everything afterward)
- SSD for storage
- Unlimited resource allocations (again, read the fine print — some hosts call their plans “unlimited,” but your usage must not exceed a predefined amount that may or may not have been disclosed to you)
- Site building tools, so that you can design a website if you do not already have one
Plans, Billing, and Money-Back Guarantees
Many hosting providers will list the lowest prices they offer for a specific plan. However, to get this price, you might have to jump through a couple of hoops. The primary one will be to get an extended contract (most of the time, web hosts will give discounts to those who sign up for longer contracts — the longer the contract, the bigger the discount).
Alternative Types of Billing
There are certain providers that offer month-to-month billing, but we make two caveats about this:
- Month-to-month billing tends to be an option available to those with premium level hosting (few shared plans come with a month-to-month contract)
- You will pay more for hosting, in the long run, this way
A2 Hosting offers fairly priced monthly payments.
You Can Try Web Hosts Without Risk
For those who are nervous about signing such long contracts with a given provider, consider looking for companies that offer some type of money-back guarantee. Typically, these are valid for thirty days (though some are as short as fifteen days, while others can be as long as ninety days).
Basically, you can sign up for a hosting plan, try it out, and if you end up deciding that what you purchased is not for you, you can cancel and get the fees you paid back. The specifics, however, may vary from host to host.
Have a small business deal you want to share? Contact us here and we may consider adding it. Just remember that the deal has to be relevant for a small business owner or an online entrepreneur starting out online or looking to grow their website, blog or online store.