Without stating the obvious, one of the reasons, you are reading this article is to find out about website hosting services in general, and possibly to obtain answers to your questions about domain registration, site design, and where exactly to put your site’s files once they are ready to go live and available to the public. Typically, the process of finding the right spot for your site can be overwhelming and fraught with many decisions. You start out thinking you want to spend x amount of money, but then, when you read the specs that are associated with that dollar amount, you are not sure whether you have chosen the best hosting or not.
Admittedly, even for the seasoned professional web owner, choosing a hosting provider is not a quick nor easy task. It really goes beyond the basic requirements of a computer, since you don’t actually know how new the equipment is nor do you have any idea of past problems. This is a good reason to read several website hosting reviews. But, we will give you one word of caution here. Be careful of the focus of review sites! Often, they are in the business of earning compensation or commissions for steering you in one direction or another.
And to be clear, we have nothing negative to say about that business model. Everyone has to earn a living. But you should understand that the reviews may be biased. Yet, at the same time, if they provide charts to compare different companies, this would be helpful for you to see the differences side by side.
Definitely, you should check forums to see what others are saying about providers, and again, take each complaint or compliment with a grain of salt. If a large group of people have had nothing but problems, then you can expect the same. On the other hand, if only one or two individuals are complaining, they are the exception to the rule and possibly may not be happy with any service.
What Types of Server or Hosting Accounts Will You Encounter In Your Search?
As you have probably gathered by now, not all providers and services are equal. Some are quite costly, as they offer specialized services, which are not required when just starting out or for a simple hobby website. Even larger sites with shopping carts, newsletters, support departments, and product catalogs can find cheaper website hosting that does the job quite fine. And remember when we say satisfactorily, we are referring to things such as fast page load, few to no server outages, timely support desks, knowledgeable technicians that actually fix server problems, and reputable neighbors on the same system. So basically, cheaper doesn’t always mean poorer quality, it just means less than something else, which you may not need.
In this section, we are going to explore five different types of accounts you might choose from. Also, we’ll offer some reasons for each account and what you should be looking for in order to make a decision and get the best website hosting.
#1 Single Hosting Account
This is where a lot of people start when they want to get their feet wet and they are not sure if they are going to be online for the duration. They might just want to set up a hobby site or a journal of sorts for thoughts and writings. It may not be so important to have all the bells and whistles, nor spend an inordinate amount of money. Cheap or free might work in this circumstance. You should know, however, that there will be a lot of other websites and customers on the same server. This is called shared hosting.
But, what do you get with a hosting account? Often, you are only allowed to host one domain name. That means that your monthly fee permits space for one website. Of course, you might be able to host more through sub-domains, but all of them would still be under and display the same domain name. So for example, let’s say you had a site named “mydiaryandmydailythoughts.com”, and you wanted to try to write a few articles about pet care.
If you couldn’t afford or didn’t want to invest the money in more domains and more hosting, you could reasonably do a pet section on your journal site, by adding a sub-domain, so that your site would be divided like this “mydiaryandmydailythoughts.com” and in the root, your notes for your journal and second, “petcare.mydiaryandmydailythoughts.com”. In this way you save money, while at the same time you are able to do two different projects.
And aside from the domain name, you don’t even have to hook the two up together. People reading your diary might not even know about your pet care section. If you decided to promote one or the other, you could send traffic to only one and you could even add pet accessories to sell through affiliate programs on the pet articles.
Lastly, some of the other items you might check out when choosing a hosting account are whether or not there are restrictions. These might include limited bandwidth, limited space for your files, limited number of databases, and a restriction on what types of businesses you can run on the account.
Sometimes, these factors are quite constricting, but they do help to weed out spam and other bad practices, which in turn protects your website. And if you don’t need more than the provider offers, then you are fine with a simple hosting account.
#2 Reseller Account
Reseller accounts are the next step up from hosting accounts, but they are a big step, which can be hugely productive for certain types of customers. Let’s say that you own several domains and have or will develop all of them. Since you need a place for each separately, a simple hosting account will not only be inadequate, but it could get costly quick, adding up the monthly fee times the number of domains you have.
Reseller accounts either let you add an unlimited number of domains, or with some providers, they set a number at maybe ten or twenty-five. Regardless, this gives you the opportunity to host many sites and keep your costs down by not having to go directly to a dedicated server or virtual private server.
With reseller accounts, there is plenty of flexibility because you add more services, if needed, and you can even partition out your space to help a friend get online or even sell space to a few clients to cover your own costs. Remember, though, if you sell out space, you should be available to help those clients when they have problems. You might not be tech savvy, but at the very least send in a ticket for them and get the problem resolved. There is a bit of work involved in selling space.
If you are quite industrious, you could start your own hosting business by selling out all of the space on your reseller account. Thousands of individuals do this, and to be honest, this is one of the things that you need to check when choosing hosting. A large company will have the support and sales in place, but with smaller enterprises, the support might not be there. You will have to inquire and maybe try out the service for a month or two.
#3 Virtual Private Hosting
Like the scenario with hosting accounts, a VPS is also found in a shared hosting environment. That means more than one customer is on the same server. The key difference, though, is you can do many more things with VPS. It is not as restrictive and is more like a dedicated server, than a multiple version of the single hosting account. In addition, there will not be as many customers on a VPS as there would be on a server that hosts many individual accounts.
The biggest advantage of having more than one customer is that the costs are shared. This factor alone makes VPS ideal for web owners that are trying to keep expenses to budget and who may not have the technical wherewithal to manage a dedicated server. It is the perfect compromise.
The other main benefit of VPS is that while it is in a shared hosting environment, the other customers’ sites do not affect its neighbors because each customer is partitioned and it is like having an imaginary wall. Each customer’s section has its own operating system, bandwidth, ram, and storage or disk space.
One thing you do have to ask when you purchase virtual private hosting is whether or not you can upgrade. If you require more resources, you need to be able to scale up quickly and efficiently, without having to move all your files to another server or configuration.
#4 Dedicated Server
Once you’ve determined that your business is too big or too important to host on any of the above solutions, you will now think about a dedicated server, which comes in two scenarios, managed and unmanaged.
An unmanaged server is one where either you or your employees will maintain the software updates, set up the new server configurations, identity weakness and fix them, add new programs as needed, install security features and plug loopholes, and finally, complete any functions required to keep the server at optimal performance.
In the case of a managed server, there are two options. Some companies include the management or support as part of their monthly fees, keeping costs down. Others charge extra depending on how much assistance you need. Others again, provide the server, but you find a managed solution to maintain it. For most people, the best hosting solution is having the server managed by the people that own it.
Dedicated servers can be very expensive. We doubt that you are going to find any reputable services for less than fifty dollars per month, and even then, that is kind of the bottom of the barrel. Expect to pay for this type of hosting, but also expect to benefit in increased sales or engagements from your website. Of course, the added costs of the server must be outweighed against the potential uptick from having a better hosting solution.
#5 Cloud Hosting
Although all hosting is a network of sorts, since many computers are hooked up to the internet and available to all interconnected devices, cloud hosting specifically involves more than one server to host a company’s business. In order to prevent any downtime for users, and bottlenecks in traffic, different servers house different parts of the website or business. Very large corporations are apt to use this form of hosting, since they can partition out departments and ensure the smooth operation of each.
By segregating functions or departments, a problem with one does not affect the others like in a traditional hosting environment. Additionally, planned or emergency maintenance and updates can be conducted without interfering with customer or user activity. Plus, the load on each server would be equal or at least able to handle its duties without a massive spike in resources.
You have seen this in operation with major corporations that offer consumer goods. For example, when businesses such as Kraft, Kellogg’s, or Procter and Gamble sell thousands of products through different brands, you will notice each has its own domain name, customer support, coupons, and contests. Accordingly, each division will most likely be placed on different servers within a network. This keeps problems to a minimum plus each area would have its own employees.
As you can imagine, cloud hosting tends to be more expensive. Prices have come down over the years as the concept becomes more popular, but this is really a specialized service that would only be advantageous to larger enterprises.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Paid Space, Cheap Website Hosting and Free Hosts?
#1 Paid Website Host
All of the five types of hosting listed and defined above are paid scenarios. You might be offered promotions for free months in return for paying a year in advance, or the last month free for staying onboard for six months, but you do have to pay. And rightly so. If you had a brick and mortar business, you would either buy a building or lease space from someone else. Having an online business is the same thing. Your monthly or yearly hosting charges are your rent or mortgage to house that business.
Indeed, the main issue is trying to balance the cost with what you can afford, and what can be achieved by having good hosting. There is a trade off and hopefully, you can determine what your priorities are and what you are willing to lose for a lower price.
Obviously, experience will help in this area, and once you get going, you will know exactly what you require moving forward.
Probably, the best advice we can give you when choosing the best hosting provider is ask questions, even if you know the answers, just to see how their sales department treats you. Also, search around to find out what other customers are saying. Try to compare apples to apples when looking at prices, although, this is sometimes easier said than done, as each company has its own branded plans. And before starting, make yourself a checklist, and once you have everything in place, you have probably found the host you want to join.
#2 Cheap Website Hosting
Before we start, don’t confuse this with wordpress.org. The .com version is the online software where you host only your website content. The .org is the version everyone else uses, and is self-hosted, meaning that you install the content management system, update it, and keep it on your own hosting account.
WordPress.com has been around for a long time, too. Unfortunately, it was a target for spammers and a lot of so-called blogs had to be deleted and the rules became much tighter. You can still can host free using the sub-domain of your title plus wordpress.com, but now they have other packages that include premium hosting and domain names, too.
If you read over the terms to use a specific plan, and avoid the bad side of this website, then this might be the answer to your budgetary constraints. The hosting fees are minimal, and because lots of people use the application, it will be easy to get help when you need it. So much documentation exists and that is an advantage.
Without getting into too much commentary, as this site is not the only target for bad SEOers, it is unfortunate that things had to change, but the other side is that with a nominal charge, you can learn about building a site and actually benefit from cheap website hosting in the meantime.
#3 Free Hosts
The phrase says that you get what you pay for. And often, we have to agree with that point. Free is not always great, but in a pinch, it might do, as we’ll explain in the pros section. But let’s get those nasty cons out of the way, shall we?
Cons To Free Hosting
There are many sites out there offering free website hosting and we believe that you need to avoid them no matter how small your budget is. There are several reasons for this philosophy:
They can shut down at any time and have no obligation to you whatsoever.
They may use proprietary systems which make it hard for you to obtain a backup or do other vital tasks.
They are going to expect you to do something in return for using their equipment. Free doesn’t come without a cost. In most instances, you agree to have their ads displayed on your website. In other cases, they might own the domain name, and everyone gets a sub-domain which means you are very limited and will lose plenty when you move to your own domain.
At the mercy of the equipment, software and owner.
Server limitations wherein you may not be allowed to have a database, email box, or other common features of a website.
You might have to buy a domain name through this company which is dangerous. Regardless of how big or how reputable a business, you never buy your domain name through the same company that hosts your website. This situation is an open invitation to trouble, especially if your domain name is held hostage in a hosting dispute. Use a domain registrar to purchase domains, and use a hosting provider to host your websites.
Pros of Free Hosting
There are companies out there that are visible in the community. For this reason, they allow reputable charities and neighborhood service groups space for free. You often hear about a provider sponsoring a Little League team and giving them the hosting for free. Of course, in this scenario, it is recommended to use the service. There is no sense in spending donations on fees for a host when the provider is donating that expense outright.
For the average person wanting to start up a website, whether to make a little extra money or a hobby to teach others, there are a couple free solutions that can work out nicely.
You even have two options for hosting. You can choose a relevant domain, which will be a sub-domain of “blogspot.com”, so if you like to talk about gardening, your website address might be “gardeningwithmary.blogspot.com”. The second option is to buy your own domain name, but hook it up with the Google provided DNS, and then although the site is hosted on a free platform, you have your own name and identity. And if you need to be country specific, there are TLDs within blogspot for those operating outside of the US.
Other Benefits of Using Blogger:
can backup files
because people know it already, domain doesn’t look dodgy
no ads from Google unless you sign up yourself and place ads in your website content
millions of people use the application
can upload custom graphics, videos, and other media
no limitations on how big site might grow
server uptime excellent
flexibility to migrate site
plenty of support through both support.google.com archives and the world at large
can promote your site linking from regular channels
can add social media to the site
One caution, you should be aware of is that you can lose your site if you do not adhere to the published Terms and Conditions. It makes sense that there are rules for using the servers for free. But to be honest, if you are not doing anything underhanded, you should be fine. Blogs on stayed on there for years with no problems.
Here’s a Step By Step Tutorial To Get You Started:
Now, I know we have said many times throughout this site that we don’t recommend companies, and that is true. But we are not promoting the paid service here, and WIX has emerged as a major player in online website development. They, too, have longevity on their side and the features and themes are constantly improving.
One of the neat things about this interface is that you can choose to have the editor build your site or you can do it. For someone who has never done any sort of design before, this is quite handy. The system asks a few questions and then creates a framework from which to start. Needless to say, you need to add your content and finesse the site to your choosing, but at least it points you in the right direction. Even building the site yourself, the online software walks you through the process.
Indeed, there is plenty of functionality, as you can go completely free, using a sub-domain to host your site, using one of their free themes for the design, and of course, hosting everything on their servers. For the more advanced or sites that have grown, you will later have the option to choose other paid features. Now for the obligatory disclaimer. We don’t know anything about their services or reliability. If you choose to spend money, check online reviews. We do think, however, that as a free solution, this is perfect for many individuals.
#3 Google Free Website Hosting
Interestingly, Google offers another service called Google My Business. They do admit in the promotional material that the resulting website will be simple, but it can be ready in ten minutes, built either through a computer or phone. One good thing about this is you know that the site will be responsive. In other words, it will look good on any device.
Further, according to support.google.com, you have the option to use a totally free solution where you can choose a name to put before “business.site”, which is the sub-domain scenario, or you can purchase your own domain name.
Finally, there are other free website builders and hosts out there. But you really need to read the fine print to make sure there are no catches or that the conditions are some which you can deal with. One of the things that you want to be careful is getting signed into a program that no-one else knows or has every heard of. This means that it will be harder to get answers to your questions.
And while it is great to be able to try something for free, if they don’t offer a real free solution, but rather, just a free trial, you will have wasted your time if you can’t pay and need to go elsewhere. Most likely, you won’t even be able to export your files.
Indeed, we would be remiss at this point if we didn’t discuss the expense of a domain name for just one moment. We understand what it is like to start on a shoestring and being scared about spending money that is earmarked for household bills. But if there is one area that we do think you might splurge ten dollars and that is to buy a domain name.
The biggest reason we recommend this is because once you have put all the time, effort and promotion into a sub-domain, you will lose the goodwill when your website transfers over to a custom domain. Yes, some of the services allow redirection, so that you can send your traffic to the new domain, but realistically, most places are not going to be able to help. If your idea does take off, you run the risk of losing loyal fans in the shuffle of switching from someone else’s sub-domain to your own domain name. But, if you are building your domain from the beginning, no-one can take that hard work away from you.
Now that you have read through this page and absorbed the contents, you most likely agree that hosting a website is not as scary as it seemed before you came here. No-one is saying that you will be an expert right off the bat, because, to be honest, very few web owners know exactly what to do in all circumstances. We stress that you don’t need to understand the ins and outs of the technical issues.
In fact, you don’t really even need to know the terminology, as sometimes that clouds our thinking and decision making process. But if you can take bits and pieces from what we have written, then you can come up with a game plan to knuckle down and order website hosting.
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