Different Types of Website Hosting Accounts
Wednesday, April 6, 2016Kelly Nelson
To be accessible to the world, a website needs to be in a stable web hosting environment that can be reached successfully by your clients and prospects. While researching your hosting options, you’ll come across a wide range of vendors and recommendations. We’ve outlined some of the most common ways of addressing your web hosting needs:
Hosting Servers can be located on-site at your business. These require you to be responsible for providing the needed resources, such as space, hardware, software, maintenance, electricity, cooling, a steady internet connection with enough bandwidth to support your needs, firewalling and other security needs. You’re also limited in support to your available staffing. This is rarely a good choice for small and medium businesses (SMB) looking to keep a website running 24/7, as it’s much more effective to have a full time web hosting company address this for you. Think of it like accounting or legal. Most SMBs don’t have an accountant or lawyer on staff, but rather outsource their relevant needs to specialized firms. While businesses are more likely to run a more localized server to host accounting or other internal software, managing a server that the public needs to access to get to your website is typically best left to full-time web hosting companies.
If you have the labor to manage the software and other needs of your own web hosting server round-the-clock, but don’t have adequate redundancy to keep hardware safe and secure, colocation could be your solution. You can bring your server to a web hosting company, and use their facilities which typically include robust bandwidth, cooling systems, and failovers for electrical disturbances. These are also generally secure facilities, and include extra fire-suppression systems that are safer for server hardware, and other benefits. Colocation is a good option for larger businesses that don’t want the hassle and overhead of keeping their servers at their offices.
With bare metal hosting, a web hosting company takes responsibility for up-keeping server hardware, as well as all of the services provided with colocation. You’re still responsible for the operating system and other software on the server, but the web hosting firm address any hardware failures, typically in a rental situation in which you are leasing or renting the equipment from them.
As a digital agency, the vast majority of our clients choose a fully managed hosting solution. In this situation, you have a 24/7 team responsible for hosting hardware, software, and overall uptime. This adds minimal overhead to your organization, while providing a robust support team responsible for keeping your website up and running, and addressing any issues that may arise on an as-needed basis. With this, you have fewer worries about what happens when your IT person is on vacation, or keeping up with the latest hosting technology concerns. A good managed host can also help to optimize your account for faster loading of your specific website, and help address a wide range of other issues that can arise - typically within a flat monthly pre-determined fee.
Different web hosting companies offer different services and guarantees, and specialize in different software platforms. For instance, some specialize in hosting Magento websites, while others are focused on WordPress websites. Be sure to understand what your host will manage, and what you’ll be responsible for. You’ll also want to understand the type of plans that they offer, such as:
Many hosts offer shared hosting, in which they place many different hosting accounts onto one web server. This can be very cost effective for small businesses, but you can potentially be affected by other websites on the server, and you’ll have limited opportunities to fully adjust server settings to be optimal for your specific account. This can be a good place to start with your first website, or for a business with a small website and limited traffic. However, if your website is critical to your business, you may want to splurge on something more substantial.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
With a VPS, while you don’t have your own dedicated server, you do typically have more guaranteed resources. This often includes allotted CPU and RAM resources that would have been shared across accounts on a shared server. This means that if an another account on the server is trying to use a lot of server resources, it’s less likely to affect your website, or cause any service interruption for you. You can also have incrementally more control of the settings and optimization of your hosting account. From a security perspective, with a VPS, the chances that another web hosting account on the server being compromised negatively affecting your account are diminished as well.
This is your server, built and managed just for you. There are no other tenants to cause direct disruptions to your hosting account, and you can optimize settings to best suit your specific needs. A dedicated server could potentially yield the best results, but as the hardware is physical, it can be harder to upgrade or downgrade, and in some cases, can require a migration to a new server if you ever need to switch. Due to set up costs, hosts will often require a commitment period (a lease) for a dedicated server.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. For some websites, the best option is to use separate servers for the frontend (HTML, etc.) files and for the backend (databases). Each server is optimized to for its particular purpose. This can often yield the best website speeds and reliability. In some cases, additional servers are setup with load balancers, spreading out web traffic across multiple devices, helping to avoid any one server from becoming overwhelmed and causing lag or downtime.
Cloud Servers are typically groups of servers bundled together, with more redundancy. Much like a VPS, you get your allotment of resources. Cloud servers often have more options to scale up and down quickly with minimal (if any) downtime, and act like traditional servers in many ways. You generally have more complete control of server settings and optimizations, and can connect servers together in a multiple-server configuration, just like with dedicated servers.
There are also some popular Add-ons that we recommend looking at:
Content Delivery Network (CDN):
A CDN is a network of servers, often around the globe, that can store and load copies of files that comprise your website. Doing so can lessen the load on your main hosting account(s), providing faster loading speeds for website visitors, and even provide security enhancements by keeping hackers away from your main hosting server. CDN’s can be extremely cost effective, and can can be a great addition to any sized web hosting account.
SSL certificates can be used to encrypt data transmission between users and your website, such as for contact forms, login pages, and eCommerce checkout pages. Most web hosting includes some level of firewalling. A few hosts even offer services to scan for Malware and other intrusions, and help to mediate any malware issues that may arise. Others recommend 3rd parties like Sucuri or Sitelock to provide additional security services. It’s good to plan out your security footprint in advance. An ounce of prevention can be worth many pounds of cure.
We recommend off-site backups. If the data center where your website is hosted is hit by a natural disaster or other calamity, you don’t want to lose all of your data. Off-site backups can keep multiple copies of your website (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) in a safe storage space off-site. This also means that if you’re hacked and everything in your hosting account is ruined or lost, you still have a fallback plan.
Different websites can benefit from different caching technology to speed up loading times for website visitors. Hosts that specialize in hosting website platforms like Magento and WordPress often have recommended caching technologies that they’re experienced in deploying quickly and easily to help speed up sites. As a digital agency, our clients often look to us for overall recommendations. We’re always happy to suggest web hosting firms that we believe will be a good fit for a client’s needs and budget.
Robert Rand of RandMarketing.com
was educated at NYU Poly and has managed the development and marketing of hundreds of websites. Along with Rand’s award winning team, he helps clients take their businesses to the next level by employing best practices, while staying at the forefront of the website development and internet marketing industries. From technical issues to traditional marketing efforts, Robert takes pride in providing our clients with services that will make a difference in their bottom lines.