Choosing the right hosting solution is one of the most important considerations when launching (or re-launching) a website. Picking the right host or configuration can mean the difference between a fast, snappy website or one that is sorely lacking. In this post I’ll cover some of the basic considerations to keep in mind when choosing a web host.
Decide On Your Budget
Your budget will be the biggest determinate for what type of hosting you choose. If you’re a brand new website/venture then you’ll likely want to spend as little as possible to keep costs down but, on the other hand, if you’re a well-established website then you’ll have some more freedom in this respect.
Decide how much you can spend on website hosting and then use the information below as a guide to what you should expect to get for your money.
Hosting Solutions – Shared, Virtual Dedicated or Dedicated?
There are three main types of web hosting available for websites.
This is the most common type of hosting where your website shares a server with several (usually hundreds) of other websites. Shared hosting is low cost and a cheap and cheerful option that suits many new web sites. You can expect to get reasonable shared hosting for around £30-£80 a year.
You should bear in mind though that a shared host can quickly become unsuitable if your website grows fast and isn’t always suitable for ecommerce projects where specific or bespoke scripting may be required. Shared hosting can also be less secure than the other options and one website can slow down or crash the entire server.
Some budget hosting solutions also restrict the use of databases which in turn may mean they don’t offer support for websites built on platforms like WordPress or Joomla. The amount of web space you get may also be quite limited – perhaps around 500Mb. You will need to consult your web developer to find out how large your website’s file size is. For most ‘typical’ 20 page websites this is usually plenty of space but if your site includes a lot of PDF downloads or even audio/video files, it may not be enough. As with most things these days, its also worth reading reviews from existing customers particularly with regards to customer service and support.
Best for: New websites with low resource requirements. If your site is larger then you should consider our next options:
Virtual Dedicated or Dedicated
In contrast to a shared solution, a Dedicated server, as the name suggests, is one server just for you. Unlike shared hosting, this machine dedicates its entire resources to your site meaning that your web site should load faster and generally be more secure if managed correctly.
Virtual dedicated hosting is similar to shared but allows you more control over the server and generally sits on more powerful machines.
The downside is that like all things in life, the better it is, the more it costs. There are varying specs depending on what you require but you’d look to pay between £50-£300+ a month for a dedicated (or virtual dedicated) server.
Best for: Ecommerce or a high traffic web sites or where increased security, speed and control are a priority.
What Programming Languages Does My Server Need To Support?
There are two main programming languages out there – PHP and ASP. The use of these languages on your website will dictate the type of server you need; either Apache or IIS respectively. Of course, it may be that your web site doesn’t actually use either of these programming languages in which case it won’t matter which type of server you choose. This is something you should discuss with your website developer. If your web site runs on a platform such as WordPress or Magento then you’ll need an Apache Server running PHP. If you have a website built in ASP, then you’ll need an IIS server. This is very important so it’s well worth checking before you purchase your web server.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a web hosting solution but search around and read reviews. I personally find MediaTemple to be a very reliable service and one that has a fantastic reputation on the web.
I strongly advise you speak to your web developer about hosting before you purchase anything. They’ll have a host they have used before and one that will integrate with your website.
If you’ve built your own website or are using an off-the-shelf package such as WordPress then check the requirements list these packages give you, most hosting providers will accommodate popular website systems.