The age old adage for business goes that the three most important things to consider are location, location, and location. But what if you are starting an online business, blog, portfolio or other online presence? What you need is a quality web address (a domain name) and a stable, secure web hosting solution.
What’s Your Address?
Buying an internet address (known as a URL) can usually be done with whatever web hosting company you ultimately decide to do business with, but you can use any number of providers to make that purchase. You can then transfer these domains to any web hosting company you would like. You can buy any number of domains ending in .com, .edu, .org or even newer options like .nyc or .bicycle. The prices for domain name registration are generally flat across companies, although some companies buy popular domains and then charge a premium for them.
What is Web Hosting?
The term web hosting refers to a company or organization that will host all of your data, files and serve them up to internet browsers around the world. The options and pricing vary by company, but most offer some manner of hosting, backups, maintenance and support. You can also find speciality hosting solutions for specific types of data, such as file hosting for files and not web pages, video hosting as well as e-mail hosting options.
One of the most important items to look at when choosing a web hosting company is reliability and uptime. Reliability is a measure of how often a system is publicly accessible and reachable via the internet whereas uptime is a measure of the actual system being active and running. Most hosting providers guarantee at least 99.9% uptime which allows for 43 minutes of downtime per year.
Shared or Dedicated?
Web hosting companies run powerful servers capable of hosting several websites at once and these are referred to as Shared Hosting Options. These are perfect for those looking for web hosting on a budget or those with a fairly rudimentary website such as a portfolio, blog or personal site. Dedicated sites are just that: One server that is earmarked just for you. These are good for high-volume, highly-visible websites like e-commerce or web applications. Pricing and other options vary by provider but it’s generally accepted that shared hosting will cost less and be easier to set up than a dedicated platform. Both options generally provide access to a web server, an FTP client, some manner of database as well as a bevy of other options.
Most web hosting companies offer the ability to install commonly used software on to your shared hosting platform with just the click of a button and a few parameters. These include popular Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Joomla, ZenCart and many others. This is a great option for the less technical-savvy that still don’t mind reading through a few help files and forum posts to get up and running. Once installed, these systems can be managed through a graphical user interface with minimal technical knowledge. This allows users to create and develop ideas and start serving them to the wider world without a ton of extraneous knowledge. These options will generally do tedious things like the creation of users and FTP sites, database tables and backups as well as file management and storage without needing access to the server itself.
Web hosting in the cloud is a new option that provides powerful, scalable and reliable web hosting generally based on utility billing. This means that whatever resources your server uses you pay for. This can be extremely cheap or even free to begin and you only pay when your utilization of resources increases. This is a great option for businesses who want to provide quality web applications or other high-visibility projects but don’t want to open a datacenter along with it. The downsides to this option are concerns over data security and privacy as well as a loss of control for the client company. Although Amazon has been a strong player in this field for many years, Microsoft and many others have made great inroads to compete and offer strong options and incentives in their own right.
So here is the summary of the essential things you should look for in any hosting company ordered from high to low priority.
- Disk Space
- Customer Support
- Server Uptime
- Email Accounts
- Control Panel (FTP/ SFTP)
- One Click CMS Install
- Regular Backups
- Load Balance
- Datacenter Location.
Whatever project you are working on, understanding the options, metrics and terminology will get you one step closer to getting your ideas out of your head and on to the internet. Find the top three hosting services you can rely on here as the choice of a web hosting company is a big one and one that causes a lot of stress.