Web Hosting comes in all different shapes and sizes, so choosing the right web hosting package for your site or business can be a challenge. After all, a blog is going to have very different hosting needs than an online store which will have very different hosting needs than a video site.
If you’re serious about your business’ online presence but are not ready to buy your own servers, there are four general kinds of hosting for you to choose from:
- Managed Hosting
- Dedicated Hosting
- Cloud Hosting
- Virtual Hosting
Each of these is available for both Microsoft-based and open-source technologies, and varies in features according to the hosting provider and the packages they offer. But getting familiar with the basics of each can help you make a more strategic decision when you’re choosing your hosting solution.
Managed Hosting Solutions
What managed hosting offers businesses is the ability to lease an entire server, but outsource the configuration and maintenance to their web hosting provider. So while your business is not in full control of how the server works, it doesn’t have to invest in in-house IT staff/resources to manage its servers. So part of what your business is paying for is your hosting provider’s expertise in maintaining uptime and server performance.
Since managed hosting doesn’t give you full control over your server configuration, however, it’s not the best choice for companies who develop their own proprietary or customized technologies. Instead, managed hosting it might be more appropriate for businesses with relatively high-trafficked sites that are powered by relatively well-established platforms – such as online newspapers or high-trafficked blogs.
Dedicated Hosting Solutions
Dedicated hosting is when you lease a server and get full control over its configuration and performance. Essentially, dedicated hosting is designed for businesses whose primary business channel is online. These are companies who rely completely on a relatively large piece of technology to do business.
There are several advantages to choosing a dedicated hosting package. First, a dedicated server is, well, dedicated to your sites and applications, meaning that no one else’s traffic is going to affect your server performance. Second, because a dedicated server is housed in your hosting provider’s data center, you don’t have to invest in any actual hardware, additional space, or additional infrastructure (such as redundant power systems).
Finally, dedicated hosting lets your IT team configure and customized your hosting around the needs of your business. This last advantage, however, means that you need to have your own, in-house IT team, so if that’s not within your means, you might want to consider a different kind of package.
One example of a company that might require dedicated hosting is an online retailer that uses a custom CMS to manage a large inventory and needs to be able to process thousands of queries a minute without any hiccups. Another example would an advertising company that runs an ad platform that’s managing dozens to hundreds of ad campaigns across multiple domains.
Cloud Hosting Solutions
Essentially, cloud hosting offers businesses the ability to lease a virtual server that they can dynamically scale on an as-needed basis. This kind of hosting is ideal for tech start-ups that (1) rely on their web-based technology, (2) don’t yet have the resources to invest heavily into their infrastructure, but (3) plan to experience several significant growth spurts in the coming years.
What a cloud server lets young technology companies do is scale their hosting resources according to how their business needs change. This means that they don’t have to commit to or invest more in their hosting solutions than they need in at any given time “just to be on the safe-side.” This frees up valuable budget and resources to be invested in growing other parts of the business – an important part of keeping any start-up out of the red.
Of course, all this also means that you will need your own in-house IT staff to manage your cloud hosting package. But chances are if cloud hosting makes sense for your business model, you’re a technology-based company and those resources are already part-and-parcel of your team.
Virtual Hosting Solutions
Virtual hosting is a good option for businesses that (1) receive a lot of traffic, (2) process a high volume of server requests, (3) cannot afford slow load times, but (4) don’t have the kind of technology to warrant investing in dedicated hosting.
Essentially, virtual hosting is when a “virtual server” is set-up as an intermediary between users and the real servers. This is done to balance server loads (i.e., load balancing) before queries are sent to a real server. This way the server itself only has to deal with certain requests, enhancing both load times and uptime.
An example of a virtual hosting candidate would be a site that lets users access a blog, forum, and web-mail interface all with one log-in. Each of these platforms is under the same domain but need their own server because managing queries for different databases simultaneously from the same users might be too much for one server. So the virtual server receives the query, determines which “real server” to send it to, and the user enjoys a seamless experience across multiple platforms.
Choosing a Hosting Provider
Deciding which kind of hosting best suits your business needs is the easy part. Where it gets challenging is when you have to choose a hosting provider.
The first step in choosing your hosting provider is to start looking for reviews on that kind of hosting. After all, some companies excel at offering one kind of hosting but not another.
So you want to make sure that you’re screening hosting providers based on what you’re actually shopping for. Don’t just look for hosting reviews. Look for hosting reviews for the kind of hosting solution that you’re shopping for.
Finally, if your IT team is going to be involved in managing your servers, also get them involved in the decision making process. They know your technology best, and will know what questions to ask hosting providers, and that can save you a lot of time, money and frustration in the future.