You’ve done the work and created a brilliant new website that is ready to be revealed to the world. To show your website to the world you need to choose a hosting solution. So you open up Google and type “best hosting” and are presented with 2,000 pages of suggestions and none of them agree.
What should you do? How should you proceed?
Well, before wading into the mire of hosting options, knowing a bit more about hosting will help you to narrow down your options and find a solution that fits your needs.
Types of Website Hosting Options
There are five primary types of hosting solutions:
- You own a server, connect it to the internet and let the world come to you. You are responsible for everything from networking to software to hardware maintenance. You could connect to the internet via your ISP, but that’s frowned upon and if you get any level of traffic more than three visitors a day your ISP could kick you off their service. The better option is to find a local connectivity provider that will provide you with rack space for your server. You’ll have to rent the space and pay for bandwidth, but your ISP won’t be mad at you so that’s a win. In the Puget Sound area, Optic Fusion provides these services.
- Depending on how popular your website is the cost of hosting your site this way will vary. If your site is really popular, you’ll be paying for all the bandwidth used, which can become very expensive quicker than you’d expect. But if 20 people a year visit your website, you’ll pay very little.
- You rent someone else’s server. They are responsible for the care of the equipment. You’re responsible for the software.
- Good providers will offer a limited amount of support with software setup. Great providers will partner with you to create just the right solution for your site.
- The cost of this solution is mostly dependent on the (virtual) hardware you use. More resources will mean a higher cost. The provider usually provides at least a quota of bandwidth per month with an overage rate.
Examples: Lightcrest, Rackspace, Media Temple, Cloudways
- You get a bit of space on a server to host your site. The hosting company does all the server work. You only have to worry about your site. Because you’re one of dozens or hundreds of sites on a single server, if any of those sites causes a drag on the server your site will suffer.
- This is the most inexpensive of the hosting solutions, but it does come with the downside that you have very little control over how the server you use runs.
Examples: Dreamhost, Bluehost, Media Temple
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- PaaS is like managed hosting with a really narrow focus. The provider has a limited set of software they work with such as WordPress or Drupal and provides you space or a server to host a site that runs on that software. The provider maintains the hardware and software, you only have to worry about your site.
- PaaS providers generally have small, medium, large, extra-large and enterprise plans that you can choose from. The cost is generally lower than managed hosting or Cloud Hosting because of the narrow focus of the host. They’re really good at optimizing for this one thing, so they don’t have to charge you for extras you won’t need.
Examples: Pantheon, Heroku, WP Engine
- Similar to self-hosting and managed hosting, you are responsible for just about everything. They provide you with a plethora of tools, but it is really up to you to learn how to use them.
- Pricing is deceptively simple for cloud hosting. The prices are often per minute or per hour of use, which makes them look really low, fractions of pennies per hour. But they will charge you for every. single. service. Depending on the complexity of your site this can add up really quickly. You need to stay on top of the billing to make sure you’re not paying for anything you’re not using. That being said, if you have a fairly simple website, this can be a cost-effective way to host your site.
Examples: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Digital Ocean
How to Decide Which Website Hosting Option is Best for You
There are three basic things you need to consider when deciding upon what type of hosting you need. First, you will need to be honest about your skills configuring a server and knowledge of things like networking and DNS management. If you have no idea what those things are then you’re going to want to go with shared hosting or PaaS. If, on the other hand, you’re pretty skilled with those things then self-hosted, managed or Cloud hosting could be the right choice for you.
Secondly, you need to consider the time involved in getting your hosting set up. If you have the time to architect a great hosting solution then Cloud, managed, or self-hosting will be more attractive solutions. But if you need to be up and running fast, a PaaS or shared hosting solution will likely fit your needs better.
Lastly, you’re going to need to think about the cost of the choice you make. AWS is an attractive solution, but it can easily run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars a month if you’re not on top of what you’re using. Shared hosting is relatively cheap, but it also comes with drawbacks that might make it less desirable for your site. Balancing cost with performance is one of the more difficult decisions when it comes to choosing a hosting provider.
At SiteCrafting we use a combination of self, managed, PaaS and cloud hosting. One of the early decisions we make for every project is where and how it’s going to be hosted. We take into consideration the complexity of the project, the framework it is going to be built on, and the cost of hosting for the amount of traffic it’s likely to see. These are all things you should think about as well as you consider where and how to host your website.
The Case for Using an Agency for Hosting
If all of this sounds a bit confusing, that’s because it kind of is confusing. As much as I’ve tried to translate the technical language to normal language there are a lot of caveats that come with choosing a hosting provider. For example, the PHP language releases a new major version every year. Every version of PHP has a three-year lifespan (two years of support then one with only security updates). If you’re not aware of the life cycle of PHP then you could very well end up using a version of PHP that is no longer receiving security updates, thus making your site vulnerable to attacks.
In addition to security, every version of your primary language should be faster than the previous. Being able to upgrade to the latest version of a language should be straightforward. Finding out whether or not a host lets you upgrade or not is sometimes difficult and that can make choosing a host a bit of a gamble. This is one of the reasons why using an agency, like SiteCrafting, is a great choice if you’re not the technical type. We understand the ins and outs of hosting and can point you in the right direction.
Need help with hosting? Check out our flexible managed hosting services.