Once upon a time…a business owner informed their website hosting provider that they had elected to move their website hosting elsewhere. She was told by the provider that her services had already been renewed and payment was expected. Surprised, she pointed out that the charges were never approved. The provider offered to “try” to obtain a refund. How kind of them, how thoughtful…right? What the provider did not tell the business owner was that they would suspend her website immediately once refunded, leaving her without a website for the foreseeable future. And they did. The End.
This not-so-happily-ever-after story actually happened. I know, because I’m the one that had to rescue the aforementioned protagonist from her digital dilemma. This a great example of a less-than-ideal (and unprofessional) hosting provider who:
- Failed to tell the client what she was paying for ahead of time
- Failed to remind the client about her upcoming hosting renewal
- Failed to handle her notice of change appropriately
Worst of all, the provider was petulant and condescending to the client when confronted about her website being suspended. This is unacceptable, and of course the client was relieved to be free of that provider.
Although the above incident illustrates the importance of customer service, when it comes to hosting your website, there are several very important factors to consider to ensure your business doesn’t end up in the same situation.
Website hosting is necessary if you want your website online. It’s like a home, complete with an address and a name on the mailbox to which users can navigate. No one will ever see your site without hosting. And just like a house, there are different types of hosting offering various options that may or may not serve your needs.
Types of Hosting
Website hosting breaks down to essentially four different options: shared, virtually private server (VPS), dedicated, and managed.
- Shared Hosting. By far the most common because of its low price, shared hosting is offered by every hosting provider. It is the least expensive, and is generally good enough for the needs of small or first-time websites. But, if your site is larger or has evolved, or if it incorporates eCommerce…
Shared hosting also has the most drawbacks. As the name implies, you share server space with hundreds, or even thousands of other websites with little to no separation between them. All the sites on your server use the same resources you do, such as bandwidth, memory and storage — meaning there’s a distinct possibility that your site will be slowed down, or even crash because of spikes in resource usage from other sites.
Another thing to consider is that these sites were built in various ways, using a variety of platforms, codes and features. There’s no guarantee that they will work correctly or are secure, meaning if they are infected with viruses or malware, your site is susceptible as well.
Shared hosting also offers very little in the area of support, you’re typically on your own.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting. Offering some advantages of the more expensive service called “dedicated hosting”, VPS hosting is a big improvement from shared hosting without a huge increase in cost. VPS significantly reduces the number of websites you share server space with to typically less than 100 sites, while providing partitioned separation from each other. VPS also increases its resources so your site enjoys even more of them, reducing downtime and security issues. You also get better access to your site’s server and back end, so management and updates are easier to accomplish.
But, be advised that VPS hosting requires oversight of both the server and the website, more than what a business owner not in the business of hosting can do on their own! VPS hosting support is definitely better than shared, but still requires website knowledge. Support will not fix issues for you either.
- Dedicated Hosting. This is the most efficient form of hosting, but also the most expensive — usually hundreds of dollars per month. A dedicated server is best for very large or high traffic sites that require a high volume of resources.
A dedicated server has exactly one website on it, which is free to use all resources at its disposal. Site performance is as good as the amount of power the server has, and the only threats are from the outside. The hosting provider will maintain the server’s needs, but like VPS hosting, you will need a web professional to manage the site itself.
- Managed Hosting. Offering a potent combination of performance, security and price, managed hosting is the best option for the majority of businesses who have graduated from shared hosting. With managed hosting, your provider not only gives you the benefits of VPS hosting, but much more:
- Backups of the website
- Security scans for viruses/malware
- Upgrades as needed to the server power, memory and storage (at no additional cost)
- Response and troubleshooting if your website goes down
- And more
Managed hosting is the best option for business owners who don’t want to be bothered with website server-related issues, and don’t have an in-house team to manage it.
To sum it up:
- Shared Hosting is great if you’re just starting out or have a small website
- VPS Hosting is better, but you still need support from a web professional
- Dedicated Hosting is great if you don’t mind paying high prices and have a team ready to support it
- Managed Hosting is white glove, giving you VPS server performance as well as a team to manage it
Last, remember the story at the beginning of this article. Managed hosting, by design, requires a higher level of customer service, and responsibility.
If you place a premium on the function and security of your website, where and how you host it is paramount. Don’t sit out in the bleachers, get a seat behind home plate and watch your website hit one out of the park!