Most poeple who run businesses have no understanding about web servers. And you don’t need to, but it’s good to know some basics.
(Very!!) generally speaking, there are two types of hosting: Shared hosting and Business hosting.
There are many hosting companies who sell shared hosting to businesses (we do), but it really depends on your website and your plans for your website use: How important is a good website experience to your visitors?
Everyone might argue it’s important to every website visitor, but I would say that even though statistics say people have a short attention span and click away if your website doesn’t load, depending on your business, shared hosting might be the right option for you.
Where do you buy web hosting?
- You can buy web hosting yourself, by simply signing up with a web hosting provider.
- You can ask your web designer to organise web hosting on your behalf.
- You can host your website with your web design firm (that’s what we do). Web firms often have a partnership with a larger web hosting provider and they buy huge amounts of server space and then pay for this on a monthly basis (we do).
What are the main differences between shared hosting and business (VPS)hosting?
- Price – shared hosting is very cheap – depending on the provider, you may be able to buy shared web hosting for as little as £5 per month.
- Website Average Speed – The hosting companies usually advertise with benefits such as 99.9% up time. But up-time doesn’s say how fast your website ultimately is – ie. how many seconds a website visitor has to wait. Why is speed important? If you have a slow website – google will punish your website and won’t show it high up in the search results! -You can check your website speed on Google’s Page Speed Tool. You can also enter your competitor’s website in the search 🙂
- Website Speed Variations throughout the day – When you sign up with a very cheap web hosting company, chances are the the speed of your website can vary drastically during the day. It might be totally fast at 4 AM, but grinding to a hold at 8 PM. Usually you don’t know when or if this will happen until your website is live. This might happen in the exact time window when most of your customers want to access your site – and ultimately giving them a bad experience. (Imagine Happy Hour – everyone wants to go to the bar at the same time, and there are long queues!)
- Customer Support – A company offering cheap hosting can obviously not provide premium customer support (ignore the adverts!! It’s not possible, you cannot buy Premium for £5 a month!). There will be a ticketing system and you get a reply when your ticket reaches the top of their support queue. This might be today, or tomorrow, or next Monday. If you business depends on your website working ALL THE TIME – you need to look for a better hosting provider.
- Support Type – Cheaper providers will provide ticketing support. You will have to log in to your hosting dashboard, possibly wade through a lot of FAQs before they allow you to contact them or raise a ticket. Professional hosting providers usually offer a ticket system and if you buy a premium hosting package, you may also have an emergency phone number which can be called 24/7. But this won’t be part of a £5 hosting package. There are also two main ticket system version. The one-category is usually offered by cheap providers, whereas the two-category system by premium providers. These are not standard industry terms, I simply named them one- and tw-category for easy of understanding:
- One-category ticket system – this means regardless of the urgency of your request, your question is answered when it reaches the top of the queue.
- Two-category ticket system – this mean you can log a call / raise a ticket / ask for support for any kind of support, but you have the option to tick a box to alert the hosting provider that your website is down. This will then bump your ticket to the top of the queue and it should be sorted much quicker. Beware of this option though: If you abuse it and say your site is down when in fact it isn’t, your account gets marked and any “down” requests are ignored in the future. This is obviously bad, because if it actually is down, you won’t get the support you need.
- Functionality – When you buy cheap hosting, they might either give you a lot of functionality and you won’t know where to start, or they might push their website builder and you should use that to build your website. However, cheaper providers might not allow you to amend certain settings that allow you to “tune” your website. If your website is not business critical, then that would be totally fine.
Here’s a short overview of what is likely included in the package:
|E-Mail Support||Yes, but slow||Yes||Yes, you’d receive a reply within 30 minutes or less|
|Tel Support||No||No||No, but likely to have an emergency telephone number for outages|
|“Easy” Website Builder|
provided by Hoster
What is shared hosting?
When the hosting is very cheap (such as £1 to £5 per month), this is usually an indicator for shared hosting. Shared hosting means – you are letting a flat in a block of flats. The difference is, that you don’t know how many flats are available in the block of flats, and if some flats house 20 people or 500 people. So imagine, you move into a block of flats, and once you’ve paid the rent for the next year (it was cheap after all!), you realise, that every time you want to use the lift, you have to wait for 20 minutes because there are so many people wanting to use the lift too and you have to wait your turn. In Website terms – you would have a slow website. This means, the website is displayed slowly to the person who wants to see the content. Google will also notice this and then penalise you for living in such a cheap flat and will not show your website in the search results very high up, but much further down the list.
For that reason, shared web hosting should be chosen with care and only be used by businesses or individuals, who do not rely on their website as the main source of income or for client conversions.
What is Business hosting?
Many hosting companies offer Business (VPS) hosting. This means Virtual Private Server. So in terms of the flat analogy, this means you are renting the penthouse of an apartment block, but you have your own private lift, which is always available to you. No waiting. Ever! You obviously have to pay for this service, but VPS hosting packages have come down in price over the years. If you want the hosting company to look after the security and provide backups (highly recommend), you would pay for that accordingly. Good VPS services are available from £15-£20 per month and you can usually “build” your own server. This means you can set the RAM, server space, Operating System etc. that is to be used on your server. You are basically furnishing your penthouse, and you determine the quality of the furnishings.
Another alternative would be that you have your own server and run this at your own premises. But that’s getting all a bit complicated.
How to choose a hosting company?
The first question should be: What country is your business serving? Are you a UK business? Then you should buy your hosting from a UK company. Do not buy cheap US hosting. Your website would be located in the US, and if people from the UK are trying to access your website, the data needs to travel a long way for it to be accessible to the UK website visitor. I know the internet is fast and getting faster all the time, but delivering website content across the Atlantic still takes longer than requesting the same content from a UK data centre and Google will reward faster websites with higher search rankings. So it’s an important consideration.
How much should you pay?
Shared web hosting can be quite cheap. However, you should shy away from web hosting companies who offer web hosting for free, or for a tiny fee, such as £1 per month. Usually, they need something in exchange for the small fee. This could mean they will place a logo on your website that advertises their hosting company and the logo can be quite prominently displayed and you have no control over it.
Also, cheap hosting packages will not have many features included in the package.
Private web hosting is available from between £15 to £20 per month and allows you more control on how your server is “built”.
Summary and action plan
If you are unhappy with your existing provider: Send us an email via the form below and we can help you move to a different provider. You can either host your site with us, or we can suggest hosting companies we know provide a great service.
If you are looking for web hosting for your new business website – get in touch and we can help you set everything up.
If you are looking for the re-design of your existing website and you want to consider moving away from a website builder system that is provided by a cheaper hosting company, send us an email and we might be able to help.
In any case, please choose good quality web hosting from a reputable hosting provider and consider what your plans for your website are. If you only use your website as an online business card which people will find after you have given them your business card, or after they have had your leaflet, shared hosting is absolutely fine.
However, if you plan to sell products online, if you want your website to rank highly in search engines and you need your website to provide your visitors with information, if you need the website to be displayed really fast on mobiles and other mobile devices, and you need it to convert visitors into customers, you should consider private hosting (VPS). Treat your website like a member of staff. If you pay for them properly, you will get better results from it in the long term.