You’ve built a beautiful website (or had a website designer build one for you) and you’re ready to launch. Right?
Not so fast… Before you can launch your website for the world to see – you need a very important piece of the puzzle. A website hosting provider. One that can keep up with demand and resource requirements of your website.
What IS a Hosting Provider?
It may seem like a rudimentary question – but it’s an important one to ask (and answer).
What is a hosting provider?
The TL:DR answer is that a hosting provider is a portal that allows you to ‘rent’ or ‘buy’ a server elsewhere in the world where your website will live, be accessed and updated from.
Imagine you’re a baker. You own a bakery and have all the ingredients to bake a delicious apple pie. Now, you can’t serve customers an unbaked apple pie. That’s just not a good idea…
Plus, no one likes a raw apple pie…
You need an oven to bake your pie and make it accessible to your customers. This is a very basic way to think of a hosting provider. It’s the bridge between your website and the world wide web.
Without one; no one will be able to visit your website.
What Makes a Hosting Provider ‘Good‘?
When it comes to what makes a hosting provider ‘good’ there are the Three Cs you should always keep in mind.
Speed, Support and Security
Although there are others that will (rightfully so) add that scalability is also important. The ability to rapidly grow your website as your visitor audience grows too.
If you can navigate the thousands of available hosting providers to find one that provides fast speed – great support and even better security; you might want to see what they have to offer.
Before you decide which hosting provider is best for your website; there are a few key things you’ll want to keep in mind:
Do you need assistance in setting up your site?
If this is your first rodeo and you haven’t done this before you might want to get assistance from an expert. This is usually free when you open your hosting account and is typically pretty straight forward.
They’ll make sure you’re all good to go when launching your website using their hosting system.
Expecting Lots of Traffic?
Hosting providers tend to allocate resources to the websites that get a lot of traffic. This deals with the bandwidth allocation of lots of visitors and is often what dictates the price of your plan.
If you’re launching a new website, it’s unlikely that you’ll need a ton of bandwidth and server resources.
On the flip side; if your site goes viral or starts generating a ton of traffic – if you don’t have the power to back it up… your 15 minutes of fame will quickly dwindle to 15 seconds…
Know Your Server Type
While there are critics and advocates for all respective server types.. It’s important to know the key differences nevertheless.
You’ve got your shared servers, VPS and cloud servers.
Each of which have their own benefits and downfalls of using them. This is important to note as they tend to vary in pricing and choosing the wrong one can not only cost you more but also inhibit your website’s potential to succeed.
Shared Hosting is one of the most commonly used approaches and is, in essence, your website (alongside a vast number of others) all hosted within one ‘box’ on a server rack.
These limit your site’s capabilities as well as your file uploding ability and shell access.
Shared hosting is undoubtedly the most affordable and easiest to get your feet wet with. But tread lightly – if you’re building something more complex than a few pages and a contact form; this is likely not your best option.
BlueHost has a great article that details Shared Hosting more in depth: https://www.bluehost.com/blog/webhosting/what-is-shared-hosting-9711/
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
The next logical upgrade in your server knowledge is that of the virtual private server or VPS. It’s rather straightforward in that it’s your website running on a simulated virtual computer – in a box.
Most hosting providers still run multiple VPS instances from one box – however the performance is almost ALWAYS BETTER than a run-of-the-mill shared hosting plan.
You should have a basic understanding of what a server is and how to maintain one if this is the route you take for your website.
VPS options are typically a little more expensive than the former – however in terms of control and functionality – it’s definitely something to consider when launching your website.
DreamHost covers VPS systems in great detail in this article: https://www.dreamhost.com/blog/beginners-guide-vps/
Cloud servers are a great way to get the best of both worlds as they’re typically ran on giant clouds like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft’s Azure.
They’re often much more customizable and can be built specifically for nearly whatever you might need them for.
The big benefit is that scaling is nearly seamless. You can handle more traffic and resource use without having to migrate or move anything to anywhere. (Often times it’s just a quick paywall stopping you from achieving this)
IBM discusses the benefits and technical aspects of cloud servers in this discussion: https://www.ibm.com/cloud/learn/cloud-server
Understanding Unlimited Hosting Plans
You might see a hosting provider offering unlimited files and storage in addition to their hosting packages.
Things aren’t always what they seem…
Unfortunately this is often accompanied by a throttling of your site’s performance as you increase the use of this ‘unlimited’ functionality.
Now, there are some hosting providers that actually provide truly unlimited space and resources (with obvious stipulations). However; when it comes to most big-name hosting providers, this unfortunately isn’t the case.
There’s a great discussion on Quora that talks about the more intricate details of what ‘unlimited’ truly means in the eyes of hosting providers.
You can find that discussion here: https://www.quora.com/What-is-unlimited-web-hosting
Finding a Great Domain
Most hosting providers offer an introductory discount on a domain when you purchase a hosting plan.
From $0.99 .COM domains to free SSL certificates.
You should always try to take advantage of these offers when given the chance. BUT KEEP IN MIND that most of these offered domains (or at least those purchased through this type of discount) are locked to the host you purchased them from for a period of time.
Meaning, you aren’t going to be able to just purchase a $0.99 domain with a $20/mo hosting plan only to cancel your hosting and move your domain.
They’ve thought of that – and likely isn’t a good idea anyway.
Ultimately there are a ton of great hosting providers out there. Do your research and find the one that best fits your needs and will help you grow your website.
After all, that’s the point of starting a website in the first place!
To share it with the world and to provide a quality source of value to your visitors. Check out some of our other posts where we discuss how you can design a pixel perfect website, search engine optimize it and turn it into a huge success!