Hosting a website may sound intimidating, but in reality, it is a simple concept. As a business owner, it is necessary to know the key concepts and terms behind website hosting so you can choose the best provider for your business website.
Long story short, websites are hosted (stored) on vast computers called servers. These servers are what allow people to access a website when they type in its URL.
For your website to show up on the internet, you need to purchase a domain name (the URL of your website) and then have that domain hosted on a server. There are a ton of hosting providers that make it super simple to buy a domain and then set up hosting on it right away.
Website hosting for businesses is essential, as you need to pick a quality provider to ensure your website loads fast, doesn’t experience outages, and won’t break the bank.
While this whole process can sound complicated, we’ve made it as simple as we can and have outlined the basics of hosting a website for businesses below.
How Does a Server Work?
Trust us, this will be simple.
A website is made up of tons of documents and folders that contain the code and assets of the website. Elements like the website copy and images are all in these folders, which is what is stored on the server.
Think of a server like Google Drive, except instead of storing your documents, the server is storing your website.
When a user goes to your website, that server is pinged with a request to access the webpage that the URL corresponds to. Once that request has been completed, and your computer has all the necessary data to load the webpage, it is then displayed on your screen.
The craziest part about this is that it all takes place in milliseconds, and the servers being pinged are often thousands of miles away from you. Crazy, right?
Terms to Know
While website hosting services offer similar features and are competitively priced, depending on the type of website you will be creating, you may weigh certain features over others.
Below are the key terms to know that will help you choose the right website hosting provider.
An SSL certificate makes the connection between the user’s web browser and your site much more secure by encrypting the connection.
This has become a much bigger deal recently with popular browsers like Safari and Chrome labeling websites that do not have this installed on their site as “not secure.”
Talk about making a bad first impression.
SSL certificates are necessary for businesses to establish trust. Especially if you plan on handling sensitive user data such as credit card info and profile logins.
As such, this has become a requirement for websites due to the negative impression left by users after seeing a “not secure” connection icon.
Fortunately, most hosting providers have started offering this for free.
Check to see if the plan you are signing up for this offers this as a free add-on. Otherwise, it’s going to cost you about a hundred dollars a year.
This refers to the amount of space that your plan offers for your website to be stored on. Think of it like a hard drive or cloud storage service.
Unless you have a massive website with a significant amount of pages due to years of content production, the standard amount of disk space that comes with basic plans will likely be more than enough for your website. This is especially true for businesses just starting.
You also have the option of upgrading the storage at a later date if you need to.
Bandwidth is the term that is used to describe the amount of data that is received and sent by your website. Every time a user comes to your website, and a page is loaded, bandwidth is transmitted, and data is used.
Bandwidth limits also apply to assets that you upload to your websites, such as images and videos.
If you’re setting up a hosting plan for your first website, it can be difficult to gauge how much bandwidth you will need.
The amount of bandwidth needed for hosting a website also depends on if you plan to market your products and services outside the US. This will result in more traffic, and thus, more bandwidth will be required.
We recommend comparing the bandwidth limits each hosting provider offers and going with what will best suit your needs, based on how much traffic you expect to get.
Website Hosting Options
Once you pick a website hosting provider, there are still a few different options you can go with that will have a significant impact on how the hosting of your website will be managed.
In this section, we’ll break down what those options are and what we recommend.
Just like the name implies, shared website hosting is when your website is hosted together with other websites. This also means that resources, such as disk space and bandwidth, will be divided between all of the websites on that hosting plan.
Going with a shared hosting plan can make sense if you’re an individual or small business. But in general, for large companies, we recommend against it.
With shared hosting, if one website were to get hacked or targeted with spam or malware, your website would likely also be affected.
For new and small businesses, the increased cost isn’t necessary. If your website does not receive much traffic, the benefits are not going to be worth it.
This extra cost is only worthwhile for large businesses that receive heavy traffic and need to monitor their reputation due to brand safety concerns.
Managed and Unmanaged Plans
These two types of plans are very different. With a managed plan, the hosting service you choose will take care of server administration.
This includes things like installing security patches, performance updates, and making sure everything is optimized. Things that the non-technical business owner would never want to manage anyway.
Alternative, with an unmanaged plan, you are responsible for all of that.
Unless you have a dedicated IT team and want the full control that an unmanaged hosting plan can give you, we always recommend going with a managed plan. If you are unfamiliar with servers, there is going to be a lot to learn, and that time could be better spent working on your business.
Even we go with a managed hosting plan for this website just because of the time that it saves.
Choosing the right hosting plan for your business website is critical. Done right, and the only time you will have to worry about it is when you have to pay to renew the service.
Done wrong, and you will run into issues at the worst time.
We guide all of our clients through this process and are more than happy to provide insight during the consultation process. In general, we recommend keeping it simple and choosing a single, managed website hosting plan from a reputable service.