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What do you know about web hosting? If you’re the normal non-tech-company small business owner, probably not much. And you shouldn’t. Your job is to run your business—not be an expert in how web servers work.
But at some point, the decision will be in front of you. You will decide where your website will live—and it’s a bigger decision than you think.
Let’s break it down into the simplest terms. You live in some sort of home—an actual house, an apartment, a condo, or maybe one of those new trendy tiny houses. Your life would likely be very difficult without a home. Same with businesses. Can you imagine a grocery store without a physical location? That would be chaos!
Your website works the same way. To work, it has to be housed somewhere. A web host places your site on their web servers. Without a web server, your site wouldn’t make it to the internet. It would go no further than your computer.
Unless you own your own server, (you probably wouldn’t be reading this article if you did) you have to rent space on somebody’s else’s servers. But how do you know who to use and what you need?
RELATED: How to Move Your Website to a New Host
1. Don’t Use Your Web Person
Sorry if we make any web designers mad but putting your site on somebody’s private server is usually a bad idea. What if you later have to fire your web person? Think of how awkward it will be to fire them and then ask them to be part of moving your site to another host?
Or even worse, what if they’re mad and try to charge you and outlandish fee to move the site? You ALWAYS want your website on neutral ground. You should retain total control of your web host. If you have to fire the person, you simply remove their access to the host.
2. Use a Big Company
Small business owners understand the difficulty of growing a business but web hosting is best kept with large companies. Large companies offer 24/7 tech support, guard against cyberattacks, purchase the newest technology, and generally offer the most reliable service at the best cost.
Smaller companies will be more friendly to talk to on the phone or through chat but they don’t have the resources to offer the technology services of larger web hosting companies.
3. Use a Managed Server
Don’t let the term intimidate you. Think of it like this: If you know very little about something, do you want somebody who knows more than you as your manager? Of course you do. That’s what a managed server is—a server with an automated and human management team keeping it running for you. Management services might include automatic backups, virus scanning, software updates, server health monitoring, and more.
With an unmanaged server, the only management you get is a guarantee that the server will work. You even have to install all of your own server software in most cases. Do you know how to install things like Apache, Ubuntu, MySQL, and other super techie things like that? If not, you want a managed server.
Who would use an unmanaged server? Anybody who has somebody on staff or hired as a contractor to manage the entire web presence including the server. Unmanaged servers are often better-performing servers at a fraction of the cost—sometimes 1/5 the cost of a managed server. If you have somebody you’re already paying monthly, they might recommend an unmanaged server.
4. Know Your Choices
When signing up for managed web hosting, there are 3 basic types: shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting.
Think of shared hosting like an apartment complex. A whole lot of people share the same building. In this case, your website runs on a server with a bunch of other people’s websites. You might only pay a couple dollars per month for shared hosting but it can sometimes run slower than you would like. If you have a super-simple site that doesn’t have any high-end programming running along with it, shared hosting is probably fine for you.
VPS, or virtual private serving hosting, gives you control over how the server is configured. You have your own space but you’re still sharing the server with other people—although far less people than with shared hosting. It’s often faster but also more expensive. Plan to pay between $25 and $50 per month.
Dedicated servers are like living in a home. It’s all yours. Nobody else shares it. That comes with a lot of advantages but it’s more expensive. Plan to pay $80 per month on up. And you’ll need your own tech person managing the server for you.
Unmanaged hosting doesn’t come with all of these options. If you’re considering managed hosting, talk to your tech person.
As a general rule, very small businesses are fine with shared hosting. If you run an e-commerce site or have more advanced needs, move to VPS hosting. When you need dedicated hosting, your hired team of tech people will let you know. You may never need dedicated hosting.
5. Consider Managed WordPress Hosting
If you’re the do-it-yourself kind of person, you might have considered building your own website. This is entirely possible with wix, Squarespace, and some other builders. If you want to be slightly more techie, you might have looked at WordPress, the most popular website software in the world. Because of its popularity, some webhosts now offered managed WordPress hosting plans.
These plans completely manage WordPress for you including software updates, daily backups, security, and speed. Speed is of particular importance because WordPress sites tend to run slowly without some tweaks from a tech person.
The downside to Managed WordPress hosting is that it’s going to cost around $30 per month but site speed is become an increasingly important consideration so the cost could be worth it.
Your web designer might recommend it if they aren’t hired to maintain the site.
Overall, it’s more expensive but if you rely on your website as an important part of your business, it’s probably worth the cost.
Like anything, don’t overbuy. It will be a long time, if ever, before you need a dedicated server but VPS hosting comes with advantages that make it worth the cost. Shared hosting is fine for beginners but you definitely get what you pay for.
Finally, remember to keep all of your digital assets under your control. Nothing should live on your web designer’s servers other than something they’re developing that you haven’t paid for. You wouldn’t let somebody store your business’s money at their home. Your digital assets hold a lot of value as well.
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