If you have been following along with our Starting an Online Business series you will have some of the information already on hand to help you determine the type of web hosting your online business will require. Get your target audience research out, you will need it.
You don’t need to sign up for web hosting until you have your website created but you will need an idea of web hosting costs for your website budget.
So what exactly is web hosting?
“A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to provide their own websites accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server they own for use by their clients as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center. Webhosts can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for servers they do not own to be located in their data center, called colocation.”
So basically, you are renting space from a web hosting provider to store your website and make it available to internet users.
There are various types of web hosting available. Which one is best suited for your online business will be determined by your target audience research.
Types of Web Hosting
The type of website you are planning and the features required for the website will dictate the type of small business web hosting to secure. There are various types of web hosting to choose from:
- Shared or Virtual Hosting
The type of web hosting is the most common and would meet the needs of a small to medium sized online business.
- Virtual Private Server or Virtual Dedicated Server
Suited for those who wish to have the stability of a dedicated server but no do not need a full fledged dedicated server.
- Dedicated Server
Suited for large, high traffic websites that require a more complex setup for web applications.
- Managed Web Hosting
A dedicated web server with the added benefit of management services provided by the web hosting provider.
- Co-Location Web Hosting
You own the web server and have it located at a data center. A very large or active website would use this type of web hosting.
- Reseller Web Hosting
A reseller web hosting package would be suited for someone who has a network of websites or is interested in offering web hosting to others. Web Designers often have this type of web hosting to be able to offer web hosting to their clients.
- Free Web Hosting
Free web hosting isn’t really free. The price you pay is that your website visitors are subjected to advertising.
The web hosting requirements for larger, more complex websites is quite involved. You will have to consult with your web designer/web developer what is exactly required if you are using a complex, custom application for the website.
Next, we will expand on the more common small business web hosting that the average small business would require when starting out.
Shared or Virtual Web Hosting
Shared web hosting or virtual web hosting is where your website is on a web server that you share with a number of other websites. You all share the available resources, operating system and applications on the web server. The website owners on a shared or virtual web server cannot control the actual web server but with quality web hosting, you can control your webspace through an interface called a control panel.
This type of web hosting is good for small to medium sized websites and if you just need email hosting. It is usually the cheapest option for professional web hosting.
The web hosting provider is responsible for maintaining the web server, keeping it running and upgrading any hardware and software provided on the web server.
Keep in mind, you will be sharing the web server resources so if there is a very active or resource hogging website on the web server, your website may suffer. Also, check that all the types of features your website requires are either already available or can be added.
Reseller Web Hosting
Reseller web hosting is where a block of web hosting is purchased from a web host provider. A Web Design firm may have this type of web hosting so they can offer web hosting to their clients. Someone who is in the business of selling web hosting would also have this type of web hosting account.
As a website owner, it may be beneficial to your small business to sign up for this type of web hosting. Not because you will be selling web hosting to others, but because if you have multiple websites and/or blogs you can host them in one location.
Free Web Hosting
We have already covered the cons of free web hosting in our business domain name article.
If you have a personal website for family or friends and what to try out your HTML skills, then free web hosting would be ok but not really an option if you are serious about building a successful online business.
Web Hosting Checklist
When evaluating web hosting plans, have a checklist of the web hosting requirements you need to look for. You should already have this list started (if not complete) when you did your target audience research.
Some things you might not have thought of yet or don’t quite understand are webspace and bandwidth.
Webspace is the amount of storage your website will require on the web server. If you have a basic website then you won’t need much space. On the other hand, if you have lots of pictures or are developing a online catalogue of your wares complete with pictures then more space will be required. Pictures take up alot of space on the web server. A database driven online catalogue (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a shopping cart) or blog will require more space. Check the web hosting package description for the number of allowable databases within the account.
Bandwidth is the measure of traffic, both into and out of, your website. Having a very active website, a chatroom, a forum or items available for download all add to your bandwidth calculation. A website heavy on pictures will also use a lot of bandwidth.
Note: Be wary of web hosts that offer unlimited webspace and/or bandwidth. There isn’t any such thing as unlimited. Take a look at the fine print, it’s unlimited up to a point.
There are few other things to keep in mind when selecting web hosting.
Don’t go for the cheapest price! The old saying: “You get what you pay for” is so true when selecting web hosting. Base your web hosting selection on the package/plan that best suits your needs now and has room for expansion, not on price.
Support, Uptime and Backup
Does the web host provider offer:
- Telephone support? Is it available 24/7?
- A online trouble ticket/help desk system for your questions and concerns
- Forums and/or live chat for customer support. What kind of questions and problems have been posted to the forums by customers? Can you see any major problems posted?
- Email support
What kind of uptime is posted on the website? Uptime is the amount of time the web server is guaranteed to be running at full functionality. A posted rate of 99.9% would be much better for your online business, anything less will cost you money.
Will you receive a refund if the web host provider does not provide the services as listed in their term of services?
Are the web servers automatically backed up nightly? Note: Have a backup of your website that you have done yourself just in case the web server is not backed up, even if they are supposed to be backed up nightly.
Does the web hosting plan have all the features you require?
Taking your time and doing plenty of research before selecting a web hosting plan can be important to the future of your online small business. Hasty decisions can in the end cost your small business money through wasted time, having to move your web hosting to a better web host and not being able to provide the website features your target audience expects to be available.
Remember, being control of every aspect of your online business is the way to go. It may seem very complicated having different service providers for each part of your online business (domain registrar, web designer, web hosting) but in the end, this can be important if there are any problems in the future.
Check our web hosting checklist article for more information.
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