Before we get started, check out our guide on how to get a website up and running in less than an hour. It's surprisingly easy to get a Wordpress site set up on a custom domain. Click here to give it a shot.
Before We Get Started – Here Is What Will Work for 95% Of Small Businesses
If you are simply looking to make a quick decision about where to host your site, we recommend and use the Deluxe hosting package from GoDaddy. This package, which costs $5.99 a month, should be more than enough for businesses that get less than 500 visitors a day to their website. It also offers a free mobile site and 24/7/365 support from US based support staff who will walk you through the entire setup process.
For those of you who want the full overview before making the decision, let’s get started!
What Exactly Is Web Hosting?
The files that make up your website need to reside somewhere. Where they reside is known as a server. A server is just a computer with special software that allows it to host your website’s files and serve them up to the internet when people visit your website.
If you wanted to you could host a website on your personal computer. However, because most people do not have the technical knowledge or desire to host their own website, most people use web hosting companies instead. Web hosting companies rent their servers out to client’s so their website files can reside (be hosted) there.
The 5 Main Types Of Web Hosting Packages
Not all websites have the same amount of traffic or need for features such as advanced security. Because of this web hosting companies offer a wide variety of different packages. These packages can run anywhere from a few dollars per month, into the millions of dollars for sites that get tons of traffic.
1. Shared Hosting (less than $10 a month)
● Primary Advantage: Cost
● Primary Disadvantage: Lack of Control
● Who shared hosting is right for: Most small businesses
How Shared Hosting Works
You can think of shared hosting like renting space in a large room that everyone shares. Because it’s shared it’s the cheapest form of hosting. In the past shared hosting plans have come with the large drawback that if one of the sites on the shared host starts getting a lot of traffic, then this can slow the performance of all the sites which reside on that shared host.
New grid technology that is used by many of the top hosting providers like GoDaddy, has relieved much of this problem. Shared servers using this technology are now much better at allocating resources to the sites that need them at a specific time, without affecting the performance of other sites on that same server.
With the above in mind the primary drawback of a shared server which uses this new technology is that you do not have much control over how the server is configured.
2. Virtual Private Server ($20 to $150 per month)
● Primary Advantage: More control than shared hosting.
● Primary Disadvantage: Higher cost and complication without much additional benefit
● Who a virtual private server is right for: Small businesses that need more control over the server.
How A Virtual Private Server Works
You can think of a virtual private server, or VPS for short, as like renting an apartment. The server is still shared, but it is divided up and you get a specific amount of dedicated space on that server. The primary advantage of a VPS over shared hosting, is that you have more control over the configuration and what you can install on the server.
Dedicated Server ($100 to $250 per month per server)
● Primary Advantage: Full control over server settings
● Primary Disadvantage: Higher cost and complication
● Who a dedicated server is right for: Large Businesses that want even more control
How Dedicated Hosting Works
You can think of dedicated hosting like renting a house that is not shared with anyone else. You have full control over everything, and because you do not share any of the server with anyone else, if your site is having performance issues it’s easier to figure out where the problem is. You also have basically unlimited options for configuring the server.
Co-Location Facility ($200+ per month + Cost of Equipment)
● Primary Advantage: Absolute control over settings and equipment
● Primary Disadvantage: Cost and complication
● Who is it right for: Large businesses that want maximum control
How A Co-Location Facility Works
A co-location facility is like owning your own house but having all the maintenance taken care of by someone else. Its basically the same thing as dedicated hosting, but instead of renting the servers from the hosting company, you buy the servers yourself. Large companies may use a co-location facility because they handle making sure there is uninterrupted power, internet connections, climate control etc. You have full control over everything else.
Cloud Hosting (Price Based on Usage)
● Primary Advantage: Capacity (and costs) scale up and down automatically as needed
● Primary Disadvantage: Less control than a dedicated server
● Who Cloud Hosting Is Right For: Small and large businesses that have inconsistent traffic.
How Cloud Hosting Works
Cloud hosting is the newest hosting model and works like a traditional utility in the sense that you only pay for what you use, and it scales up and down automatically.
The easiest way to think about it is like this: In the old days if you had a business that required electricity, you had to have your own power source. After a few years however, utility companies sprang up where you could simply pay the utility company for the power you use. If you use more power then you don’t have to add additional capacity, the utility company simply allots more of its available power to you automatically.
Cloud hosting offers a huge advantage when hosting sites and applications whose traffic is unpredictable. So, if for example your site may get millions of views one day and just thousands of views the next, cloud hosting (and your costs) will scale up and down automatically.
The primary disadvantage is that since you do not have a server that is specifically reserved for you, you have less control than with a dedicated server.
Which Type Of Hosting Should You Choose?
When this article was written, FitSmallBusiness.com had about 500 visitors a day to the site and was using a shared hosting package from GoDaddy without issue. With this in mind most small businesses will be fine with a shared hosting package.
If you are doing a lot more traffic than this, have large unpredictable traffic spikes, and/or are hosting a lot of images and video, then you may want to consider upgrading to a cloud hosting package.
If you are a web hosting expert and want full control over your server, then you shouldn’t need this guide and may want to go with a dedicated server.
Web Hosting Basics: Basic Terms You Will Encounter When Buying Hosting.
Bandwidth is the amount of traffic which is allowed to travel between your site, the internet, and the visitors to your website. You can think of bandwidth like the amount of traffic that a road can handle. Some hosting packages and companies will limit the amount of bandwidth that is allocated to your site, which means that you are only allowed so much traffic.
Many companies also claim to offer unlimited bandwidth, however this is a bit of a misnomer. Going back to our traffic example, while there is no limit on the amount of traffic that is “allowed” to travel on the interstate at some point there will be a traffic jam and your site will slow to a crawl.
If you are a small business website that only has a few pages and a few thousand visitors per month, then you are unlikely to exceed the bandwidth limits on even the most basic packages. However, if you have a large amount of visitors coming to your site, and/or have things like video or audio files that are being downloaded directly from your site (as opposed to embedding them from another source like Youtube) then you will need more, and your hosting company can provide you with the best options.
Disk/Storage Space Defined
This is the amount of space on the server that the files which make up your website take up. As with bandwidth, even the most basic hosting packages will have enough storage for most small business sites. If you are hosting a lot of images or videos, then you may need more space and your hosting company can provide you with the best options.
Linux vs. Windows Servers Defined
Most hosting companies will offer two options when it comes to the type of server, Windows or Linux. Long story short, if you do not know the difference then go with Linux, which is by far the most popular option. The only time you may want to choose Windows is when you are running a Windows specific application on your website. I say “may” here because most Windows applications can be run on a Linux Server as well.
MySQL Databases Defined
Many web applications like the popular content management system WordPress need a database in order to run. While you can technically configure many of these applications to run using 1 database, the default is 1 database per install. For example, if you are going to host 2 wordpress sites on the same host, then you will want to have 2 MySQL databases to do so.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate Defined
Normally when you go to a website the domain will have the following structure: http://www.fitsmallbusiness.com. When on websites like banking websites or credit card order pages, you will often see an s added to the http: so it looks like this https://www.fitsmallbusiness.com. When you see the s you are operating on a secure connection, which is accomplished using an SSL certificate.
Unless you are accepting credit cards on your site, and not using a third party service like paypal to do so, then you are unlikely to need an SSL certificate.
Additional Perks Some Web Hosting Companies Offer
Many hosting companies like GoDaddy, offer coupons for Google, Bing and Facebook which can total $200 or more in free advertising. For most businesses these additional perks will more than offset the cost of hosting for the first year.
Have a question about hosting or disagree with something in this guide? Let us know in the comments section below.
Don't forget to check out our free guide on how to get a website up and running in less than an hour.