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Insider’s guide to web hosting

Suppose you're going to open a clothing store in your town. You've hired staff members, purchased all of the merchandise you'll sell, designed the layout of your store, finalized your branding, and actually bought your POS system. But wait... you haven't signed a storefront lease. You don't yet have a physical location for your store.

This is what having a website without a web hosting service is like. Although your domain and web page files are present, visitors will be unable to locate your website on the internet. Similarly, if your retail store lacks physical space, customers will be unable to visit and shop.

Let's change that — in this guide, you'll learn why it's critical to find a web hosting service that supports your website and meets your needs.

What exactly is web hosting?

Web hosting is the process of making your website available on the internet for others to view. This is possible thanks to a web hosting service or provider (also known as a web host).

How does all of this take place? That's a good question.

What is the process of web hosting?

Web servers are where websites are stored. Servers are powerful computers that store and process data, and web servers are those that store and process requests to view the files that comprise websites.

When a visitor clicks on a link to your website or enters the URL of your website into their browser, they are requesting to connect to your web server. When this request is approved, the web server returns the requested web page file and any associated files. This is what causes your website to appear in the visitor's browser.

Please keep in mind that some web hosting services require you to first obtain a domain name before selecting a hosting plan. Determine whether you will purchase your domain from a domain registrar before choosing a hosting service, or if you will purchase one from the hosting service you select (assuming they offer that option). You should also think about your URL structure, such as whether you want a subdomain or a subfolder.

Web hosting services typically provide various levels of support, security, and the benefits of high performance and uptime and hosting your website on the internet. Uptime refers to how frequently your website is operational — 99.9% uptime means your website can be accessed 99.9% of the time.

There are literally thousands of web hosts available, and the key is to find the one that is right for your website and small business. So, before we go over some of the most popular services available today, let's discuss how you should go about selecting one.

Choosing a web host is a complicated process.

  1. Determine what kind of website hosting you need.
  2. The type of site you're building should be clear.
  3. A web hosting service's features should be determined before you buy.
  4. Determine how much help you'll need from a web host.
  5. Consider the growth of your website.
  6. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on web hosting services.

Consider free vs. paid web hosting.

  1. Decide on a web host.

Determine what kind of website hosting you need.

If you own a retail store, you have the responsibility of deciding on the best location for your business's infrastructure. Your website's visitors and customers will appreciate it if you choose the right web hosting service.

Let's take a look at some of the most popular hosting options for small, medium, and large businesses.

Types of Web Hosting

Shared Hosting

Hosting your website on the same server as a large number of other websites is known as shared hosting. Thus, it's the most affordable hosting option. Because you're sharing a server with dozens or even hundreds of other businesses and individuals, shared hosting is only practical if your site receives very little traffic on a regular basis.

Virtual private server (VPS) hosting 

It is more expensive than shared hosting, but it is ideal if your site receives a lot of traffic on an ongoing basis. Virtual private server (VPS) hosting gives the impression of having a dedicated server exclusively for your website, despite the fact that it is still a form of shared hosting. It's common for small businesses to start with VPS hosting because it's more customizable and offers better performance than shared hosting, but it's also more affordable.

Dedicated server hosting

One of the priciest web host options is dedicated server hosting, which is designed for sites that experience high volumes of visitors for extended stretches of time. If you choose dedicated hosting, your website will be hosted on a separate server from the rest. As a result, your company has total command over your server's systems, security, and functionality. Managing your own server, on the other hand, requires a significant amount of knowledge and experience on your part.

Managed hosting

If you choose to manage to host, your web host will take care of the technical aspects of running your server, so you don't have to. If you don't have or don't want to hire a team member who understands the technical aspects of a web server, this is a great option. These servers are specifically designed to run a WordPress website, making them a popular choice for this type of hosting.

Cloud hosting

When it comes to web hosting, cloud hosting is a relatively new concept. It enables a large number of smaller servers to act as if they are all part of a single larger server. It's ideal for businesses that are expanding because as traffic and volume increase, the cloud space can expand as well. Pay-per-use models like this one are common in cloud hosting because of this setup. You only pay for the cloud storage space you actually use.

  1. The type of site you're building should be clear.

Pick out a theme for your website and stick with it. Your options for web hosting services should become more condensed as a result, making it easier to follow along.

As an example, the type of website you build will be vastly different if you're writing a blog or selling a service. The following are the most frequently created types of websites:

  1. Blogs can be found on the internet.
  2. Online shops
  3. Portfolios that can be accessed via the internet.
  4. Personal web pages (start-up or small business)
  5. Websites for commercial enterprises (small-to-mid-sized or large businesses)

Ask yourself: What is the purpose of the website I want to build?

  1. What's the purpose of this site?
  2. What kind of company am I running?
  3. How big is my company and what kind of foot traffic should I expect?
  4. To whom is this website directed?
  5. A web hosting service's features should be determined before you buy.

Decide what features your web hosting service should offer you once you identify your website type.

It's important to make sure your hosting provider supports e-commerce if you run an online-only store. You'll also need to make sure your hosting service can grow with your business, if you're a small or mid-sized business with rapid expansion. This will avoid the hassle of switching providers later .

1. Determine how much help you'll need from a web host.

Servers, like our personal computers, require regular upkeep and updating in order to operate at peak efficiency and protect their data. The upkeep will require some time and effort on your part.

When it comes to technical support like security, maintenance, installation and optimization, there is a wide range of options available from different hosting providers. Determine whether or not you have a member of your team (or plan to hire one) who can manage your server before making a hosting decision for your small business. Managed hosting is an option if not.

Consider the size of your business and the traffic you expect to see on your website. Then ask yourself, "Are we at risk of losing customers and ruining any level of trust we've built between them and our brand if there was an issue with our website that couldn't be resolved immediately?"

Your service provider's response time will be influenced by these findings.

2. Consider the growth of your website.

Whether or not you intend to grow your business significantly over the long term is a question you must answer. Do you anticipate a significant shift in the volume of traffic to your website as you grow, or will it remain relatively stable?

This information will help you select a hosting service that is best suited to your business's needs and growth projections.

If you expect a lot of traffic to your business website, you may want to consider purchasing a dedicated server. Cloud-based hosting is a good choice if you don't know exactly how much growth and traffic you expect for your site, but there's a chance it could change dramatically in the future. You'll never need anything more than a shared server if you're a travel blogger who wants to share your experiences with others.

3. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on web hosting services.

What is the price of web hosting? Choosing a hosting provider, the type of hosting you require, and the plan you choose all play a role. The fact remains that this is a critical consideration, especially for small businesses.

Generally speaking, the more you pay for your hosting, the more bandwidth you will receive, and the more security protection you will have in place, as well as the more features and perks you will be able to access (e.g., SEO tools, backups, analytics, and site builders). It's best to set a budget before starting your search, as many providers will try to upsell you on these features.

Consider free vs. paid web hosting.

As previously mentioned, there are a number of free hosting providers willing to host your pages without charging you a dime. In the following section, we'll discuss a few options. There are, however, several drawbacks to free hosting.

There are a number of drawbacks to using a free hosting service, the most obvious of which is that it places far more restrictions on your online presence than a paid service would. The ability of your website to expand is hampered by fewer pages and storage. Slower (or nonfunctional) web pages mean fewer happy visitors and lower search engine rankings as a result of low bandwidth and uptime.

A second disadvantage of using free hosting services is that they may include their own branding or advertisements on your site. For example: "example.wordpress.com," the provider's name in your site's URL, the provider's logo displayed on your pages, and/or display advertisements. All of the profits from these ads go directly to the host.

As a final consideration—and this is the most critical—free web hosting servers often lack adequate security features such as an effective firewall and spam filtering capabilities. A successful attack on your server can have a far greater impact on your reputation than an inactive page or a banner advertisement. When it comes to cybersecurity, you can't take it lightly.

Free hosting services are best for hobbyists who don't intend to scale their websites or store any personal data. Businesses and bloggers looking to expand their reach online should consider purchasing a paid plan that fits their budget.

4. Decide on a web host.

In the process of selecting a service provider, keep in mind the decisions you made in the previous steps. Web Hosting Geeks, for example, has customer reviews and testimonials that you can read.

The individual websites of the services you're considering can be helpful, but keep in mind that they're all going to be biased.

The time has come for you to make a final decision about your web hosting needs after you've gathered all the information you need. As a starting point, here are 11 of the most popular and highly regarded web hosting services available. A few extras will be thrown in for good measure.