It is an exciting, if somewhat, daunting adventure when you start thinking about building a website for your small business. You dive in, open Google and type in ‘create a website’ or something similar. No doubt, when you scroll down the results and the amount of choice you have, overwhelm kicks in.
Fear not, in this article, we’ll take a look at the different types of web hosting available, what you need to think about before buying and some other bits of advice you need to consider to get the best solution for where you are in your business today and where you’re headed.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is like the foundations of your house. It’s your little corner of the world wide web where the web pages, images, and files that make up your website get stored. Without web hosting you will not be able to have a self-hosted website.
In techie terms, web hosting is a special type of computer dedicated to online activity called a server. You pay monthly or annually to rent this space with a web hosting company for a website plan that gives you a specific amount of space (for your content) and traffic (your number of visitors).
Online website software builder services like Strikingly* or Wix, take care of the hosting and the building of the website for you. You might pay a monthly fee to them to house, build and publish your website (although they have free options too). There may come a point where you outgrow such offerings and need more control over your website.
If you want to have control over your website, then buying your own web hosting is a must. This is when and where you will need to invest in a self-hosted website. A self-hosted website is where you have complete control over building and maintaining your website. More importantly, who you give access to your website as well. You can hire web professionals for the design and build of your website, yet with a self-hosted website, you get to decide who you give your website keys to.
You might decide to go with a web designer to build your website. If you do this, it is incredibly important to ask them whether the hosting will be in your name or their business name. You also need to ask, how you can access it and how long the hosting is for?
Types of web hosting
It’s important to remember, a web host is a special type of computer designed for internet use called a server. And there are three main types of self-hosted web hosting, or servers, you can purchase plans for:
- Shared Hosting – this type of hosting is especially suited to small business websites who have low traffic. You rent and share with other websites on a server. Don’t worry, you or website visitors won’t be able to see the other websites when they visit yours. Technical support is provided, which is helpful if you’re technically challenged.
- VPS (Virtual Private Server) – hosting is similar to shared hosting, however, you are provided with a dedicated number of resources 24/7. You have the responsibility for maintaining it. This is the solution you will need when your visitor traffic and content starts to grow. You need a certain amount of specialist knowledge and would need to ask a web professional to help out or see if the web hosting company can provide this service for you.
- Dedicated Hosting – is where you have exclusive use of a server. It is a very costly option and usually suited to big businesses with high traffic and content.
How to choose the right web hosting plan for your business
First things first, you need to ask yourself a few questions before you go ahead and purchase a web hosting plan. Grab yourself a pen and paper, open your trusty text editor and write down what you want your website to do for your business.
- What do you want to be able to do online?Promote your services? Sell products or courses? Let clients make online bookings? Blog? Get your business message across? Write down a list of things you would love to achieve online.
- What is your budget?How much can you realistically afford? Is your budget flexible? This will help you determine what plan to go with.
- Where do you see your business in 6, 12, 24 months time?You need to think about how you see your business developing in the future. How does this impact on your web hosting plan choice?
By taking a look at the other plans and server packages provided by your chosen web hosting company, it won’t come as much of a shock if you go over your bandwidth or your website develops quickly. Doing this exercise means, you will have a clearer picture of what your website and web hosting requirements are from the start – which gives you an advantage.
What to look for in a web hosting plan?
The 4 main things you need to take into consideration when buying a web hosting plan include:
- Bandwidth:This is the amount of traffic your website can receive, or the amount of visitors allowed to access your website. This is measured in GB (gigabytes). The higher the bandwidth/GB, the more traffic/visitors you are able to have.
- Web space:The amount of web space that is provided on the web host’s server. This is also measured in GB. The higher the GB the more space you have to grow your website which means you can house more content. Mailboxes (aka your business email) are also included in this provision.
- Support:What level of support does the web hosting company provide? This is an important deciding factor. Are you able to get hold of them when your website goes down at midnight? How can you contact them? How much will it cost you? Find out the answer to these questions before you buy a plan!
- Number of emails:
Web hosting comes with a mailbox function that allows you to create email addresses for your business. When considering your hosting plan, think about how many email addresses you will need and see how many mailboxes are provided with a particular plan.
Remember, not all hosting is created equal. Expensive doesn’t always mean reliable. Finding a web host that has good uptime, great customer service and you can see a clear path for growth is more important. Don’t forget to ask around your business contacts – who do they recommend and what have their experiences – good and bad, been.
Get going on your website journey
You are now able to make an informed choice so you get the best hosting solution for your business – get ready to start on your web hosting journey.
This page was kindly contributed by Steph at The Website Fairy.
Steph illuminates the path online to help small business mums create websites they and their clients love. Go from ‘web what?!’ to ‘web savvy’ and learn about all things websites to give your business the best start online. Why not buy her ‘Web Hosting Guide and Checklist‘ saving hours trawling the internet and get in the know before you buy your web hosting plan.