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Most website owners leave this part out, but web hosting should be at the top of your website build checklist.
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503 Service Unavailable
You must have seen these error messages when you visit some websites, leaving you frustrated and empty-handed. You don’t want this to happen to your own website, do you? These are some of the website errors that are stemmed from your website’s server – your web hosting service.
Web hosting may be a little technical and should be taken care of by your web developer, but as a website owner, you may want to have a wee bit of know-how on this subject. Especially if you are DIY-ing your website. So take heed.
What is web hosting?
Simply put, web hosting is an online service that allows you to publish your website on the internet. Websites are hosted on specialised computers called servers that are owned and maintained by web hosts, companies that provide web hosting services.
Understanding self hosted websites
As we mentioned in our post about the pros and cons of the top 5 popular content management systems to build your website, some content management systems INCLUDE hosting.
For example, wordpress.com, Squarespace, Shopify, Weebly and Wix websites all offer plans that include the platform taking care of the hosting for you, often on a shared server (see below).
There may still be different hosting options depending on your plan, so it is worth considering how they may impact your website based on your site’s content and traffic.
Other website platforms however, such as wordpress.org, Drupal, Joomla, Silverstripe, require you to arrange your own hosting to make the website available on the world wide web. i.e. self hosted. Which is what we are discussing here.
So in addition to having your website built, a domain name you can access it with, the files must also be hosted on an internet accessible server.
Common issues with insufficient web hosting environments
The biggest issue website owners tend to encounter with website hosting is website performance. This is usually indicated by a slow performing website, or a website that won’t load at all!
This is due to the resources available within your web hosting type.
Typically web hosting packages are limited by:
- Bandwidth; i.e. the amount of space made available to display your website throughout the month. Think of it like the upload/download limits on your internet plan.
For a small website, with not a lot of traffic, a basic web hosting package may not be an issue.
But for larger websites, or as your website grows, you want to make sure you don’t encounter any performance issues.
File space and bandwidth issues are also a very important reason for optimising the images on your website.
Popular types of web hosting
Think of web hosting as the digital equivalent of landlords.
Shared web hosting
Shared web hosting is the go-to option for novices who don’t have much experience in managing a server. It’s the cheapest option out there but remember that you always get what you pay for. Sure, it’s affordable but as the name implies, you will have to share a pool of resources with other clients. It’s like living in an apartment where multiple tenants are sharing the same amenities.
Sharing a single web server with several others may not be a problem if you are running a small website, but bigger companies may want to choose a different type of web hosting if they don’t want to lose customers. As you may have guessed already, overcrowded servers can hamper performance. That means you may run into a “508 – Resource Limit Reached” error sooner or later.
Of course, starting out with shared web hosting remains a great option especially when you don’t get a lot of traffic. It’s by far the cheapest option.
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Virtual Private Server
A single physical server is also shared by several other websites in virtual private server hosting. The key difference here is that the physical server is partitioned into multiple virtual servers, and there are fewer sites sharing the resources. So unlike shared web hosting, all resources are split evenly between each user and no one is allowed to exceed their limit. More resources mean more performance.
Virtual private server hosting costs significantly more than shared web hosting, but it can allocate more resources per user and it allows much greater customisation. When you start getting decent amounts of traffic you should consider upgrading to virtual private server hosting.
With a dedicated server, you no longer have to share resources with other websites because you now have the entire physical server to yourself. This option is ideal for high traffic websites that require a lot of resources, and it also gives you the flexibility to control and customize the server.
Of course, you may have to hire a professional system administrator to run a dedicated server, and it can be expensive.
Cloud-based web hosting
Want to have the flexibility of a dedicated server without paying the high cost?
Cloud-based web hosting is actually quite similar to virtual private server hosting, but instead of relying on a physical server, the resources of several servers are pooled together to create a virtual network. With a cloud-based web hosting, users don’t have to worry about server crashes because if one server is down, the others can pick up the slack.
To sum up, web hosting keeps your website accessible in the world wide web hence it’s critical to employ a reliable web hosting service. A short downtime can impact your business revenue.
Read reviews, ask your web developer, and get expert advice to help you decide. It all comes down to your website technical requirements and how much traffic you are expecting.
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Need more help planning your website? Check out this post – How to Design a Website: A Complete Guide by Slick Plan