A web hosting service provides individuals and businesses server space to make their websites accessible over the internet. You can choose among different types of web hosting based on the amount of traffic that comes to your site, the types of files you need to host (e.g. videos and images), and your budget.
In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the different kinds of web hosting.
Types of Web Hosting
There are four main types of web hosting options:
- Shared Hosting (Price: $2-$20/month) – Shared web hosting means having more than one web host subscriber in the same server. This practice is cost effective because you share the cost of the server with multiple subscribers like you. With the shared service, a server can host around 1000 subscribers, all of whom share the same server resources.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) (Price: $5-$120/month) – With a virtual private server (VPS), you still share servers with other web hosting accounts, However, it mimics a private server because the activity of one account will not affect the rest that share the server. Additionally, one VPS is limited to a maximum number of accounts, so each account gets more server space.
- Dedicated Server (Price: $70- $250/month) – A dedicated server means having a private server just for your web hosting account.
- Cloud-Based Hosting (Price: $6-$30/month) – Cloud-based hosting is similar to a VPS server, but uses the resources of multiple servers in a network. This kind of setup enables websites to withstand surges and dips in the number of visitors.
For most small businesses, shared hosting is sufficient. Of course, the downside of shared hosting is that if there’s a technical issue that affects one of the other sites sharing your server, your site could be affected to. If you get more than 100,000 visitors to your site each month or host a lot of multimedia files, we recommend a virtual private server or cloud-based hosting. For more information, our buyer’s guide on web hosting providers has a comparison of shared web hosts (all of which offer VPS, cloud-based, or dedicated servers when you’re ready to graduate).
There’s also a handful of free web hosting services that let you build an entirely free website, but with limited storage and bandwidth, among other limitations. For this reason, we do not recommend it for a professional business website, although it can be suitable for some personal websites.
Factors to Evaluate When Choosing a Web Hosting Service
If you are looking for a web hosting service, make sure to check the features offered by their web hosting plan before you sign up for an account.
Here are some factors to evaluate when choosing a web host:
- Pricing – Website owners normally pay for web hosting services on a monthly basis, but there are also some web hosts that offer their services for free. However, some free web hosting service providers will sometimes force you to have banner ads on your website, which can be off putting for your customers.
- Disk Space – This is the primary feature offered by web hosting service providers. The disk space is where web host subscribers store their web files that make up the website. The space should still be enough for your business’ needs.
- Bandwidth – This determines how much data is allowed to travel to and from your host account server. Greater bandwidth is needed for websites that get a lot of visitors. Look for a web hosting service that will provide enough bandwidth as your business grows.
- Website Design Service – Some web hosting services offer web design services at an additional charge.
- FTP (File Transfer Protocol) – In order to have a properly working email and website, look for a web host that offers 24/7 unrestricted FTP access. This ensures that you can transfer important files to and from your host server at any time.
- Email – A web hosting service should let you set up a business email address and be able to provide a webmail interface to let you manage your emails anywhere there is internet access. Additionally, POP3 and SMTP should also be available so you can access your email using a mobile device.
- Support & Uptime – Uptime is the number of hours that a website is available on the internet for a certain period of time. Businesses are affected negatively for each second that their website is down, so web hosts will usually guarantee a certain percentage of uptime for their clients. Look for a web hosting service that commits to quality technical support that’s available 24/7 in case your site is experiencing issues. Cloud Spectator ranks web host uptimes each month. Here’s a sample ranking:
Most web hosts also offer domain registration and website design services. This makes them a one-stop shop for customers looking to establish their presence on the internet. Prices vary and are usually bundled to cover one time website design along with the regular web hosting and domain registration fees.
Speciality Web Hosting Services
Some businesses need something more than the four basic hosting options mentioned above. Here are some specialty web hosting services for certain types of businesses:
- Reseller (Price: $10-$125/month) – This is a kind of shared service meant for businesses that want to resell server space. It is similar to subletting or letting other businesses set up kiosks in rented commercial space. Your web hosting service provider will provide you with free website templates, technical support, private name servers, billing software, and a web host manager control panel.
- Managed WordPress Hosting (Price: $2-$130/month) – Servers for this type of hosting are designed to keep WordPress sites up-to-date. They prioritize fast loading times, maximum security, and top WordPress support.
- Colocation (Price: $80-$150/month) – If what you need is just a space to house your own servers, colocation is an option for you. They provide the facilities and power source but you have to provide the maintenance and support for your software, data storage, and backup.
- Self Service Web Hosting (Price: Thousands of dollars per month) = If you wish to be completely independent, self service web hosting is an option if you have the resources to house, build, and maintain your own servers. You won’t have to worry about terms and conditions that can limit your operations or the response time of technical support.
These options aren’t recommended for small businesses as they require a lot of technical knowledge and are expensive.
Web Hosting vs. Web Domain
There are three components to launching a website that work together – domain, content, and hosting. A web domain is the website address. It’s what internet users type on their web browsers to get to your website. Content is the material that you publish on your website. The objective is to publish content that attracts your ideal customers. Web hosting is the service that’s used to publish websites over the internet and make your content visible to browsers. You must have a domain before you can subscribe to a web hosting service provider.
As an analogy, let’s look at the relationship between shopping centers and business owners. A shopping center divides up its commercial spaces and leases them out to business owners who pay rent in order to conduct business inside the shopping center. In the same way, a web host divides its storage space and leases it out to website owners. The site owners pay the web host regularly in order to keep their website available on the internet.
Web hosting is necessary to make your website available online, so it’s important to be aware of your options. This can mean the difference between a website that customers love to visit, and one they avoid.