This post originally appeared on Think Forward Media
What is Hosting?
Before your website can be seen by your customers it has to be stored on a computer that is accessible by them, the computer that fills this roll is called a server and the companies that provide this service are called hosting providers.
Selecting a quality provider can be a difficult task, each service provides different features and benefits and varies greatly in cost. What provider you go with can vary greatly depending on what your website was created with, your security needs, and your anticipated traffic.
What are your requirements?
Before you can start looking for a webhost, you first need to know what you need. There are a variety of hosting types, which range in both price and capabilities. For many customers shared hosting might suffice, however for higher traffic websites, or websites that require a higher level of security such as eCommerce websites, A dedicated or cloud based solution might be necessary.
Shared hosting is the most popular type of hosting and and while it can be very cost effective, but is also one of the most restrictive. With shared hosting you share a server with potentially thousands of other websites. In shared hosting you are generally given access to a control panel such as a cpanel which allows you to do things such as create email accounts, and databases.
While there are many pros that come with shared hosting (ease of setup, and cost) there are also a number of serious downsides. Many shared hosts give you very limited access to customize your hosting needs. This means the software provided on the host may not work with your website, or they may upgrade it at any time causing your website to stop functioning. Also since you are sharing your hosting with other websites, if they have a poor reputation this could harm your Google ranking and even the delivery of your email.
Since you are sharing your hosting with other customers your files may also not be 100% secure. While providers take measures to insure your files are not accessible to other accounts, malicious files uploaded by other accounts may cause your files to become accessible or even removed without your knowledge or permission.
Dedicated Server Hosting
Of the types of hosting, Dedicated Servers are by far the most flexible in terms of what you are able to configure and the resources available. Dedicated servers as the name suggests are a physical server leased from the hosting company. These servers can be fully managed, partially managed, or not managed depending on requirements, skill level, host and budget. It’s a good idea to shop around to find a dedicated server solution that meets your needs specifically.
Dedicated servers are usually substantially more than shared hosting solutions, but have complete access to system resources and configuration. They tend to be the slowest to get set up and also usually require the most technical experience to maintain.
One of the crucial benefits to a dedicated server is that you can handle far greater volumes of traffic than you can on a shared host, and usually you have unlimited bandwidth on these services.
Cloud hosting such as the hosting provided by Amazon Web Services, is a hybrid approach between shared and dedicated hosting. It is similar to shared hosting in that you share the physical hardware with other users, however the big difference is that your website runs inside of a virtual server on the main server which sandboxes it from the other accounts running on the same server.
One of the great benefits of a cloud solution is auto-scaling. Auto-scaling is the practice of increasing and decreasing the number of servers your website runs on dynamically based on the amount of traffic going to your site. This helps reduce cost by only using the resources you require.
Cloud services tend to offer near the same level of configuration as a dedicated server. However they are very quick to setup, and generally cost significantly less depending on the scale of your website.
Think Forward Media Specializes in cloud based solutions, we take the headache out of management and maintenance of your website allowing you to focus on running your business.
So what do i need?
The requirements of hosting change from website to website and really from person to person. When selecting a web host is be mindful of a few basic things.
- Your software and what it requires to run
- How much traffic you are expecting
- Your level of expertise
- Your budget
You need to be able to find a solution that fits all of your requirements as closely as possible, and if the host you’re looking at doesn’t seem to, it’s not a bad idea to check out another one. There are hundreds of review sites that can help with these decisions that are only a google away.
Cloud hosting providers such as Amazon EC2 allows you to spin up an instance of a server at any size and then grow it as your needs grow, this can be helpful if you don’t know what kind of traffic to expect on your website, or if you know that your needs could change frequently. For example if you’re an accountant, you will probably be much busier at the beginning of the year, where if you are a retailer you may be busy toward Christmas. This kind of flexibility keeps your costs low, and also allows you to meet customer demand.