For some people who don’t consider themselves tech-savvy, the concept of launching a website and being responsible for it seems intimidating. Once upon a time, you had to have some technical know-how, perhaps even coding skills, to be a webmaster on the information superhighway.
Those days are long gone. Maintaining a website in the 2020s is a simple matter of clicking one-button installers, following video tutorials with step-by-step instructions, and never getting your hands dirty having to muck around in source code. Website host services are widely available at such affordable prices that cutting out one cup of coffee once a month will cover it.
Your website host will depend on your needs. What is important to you?
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Since environmental concerns and climate change are becoming worldwide headline news, giving some thought to your website’s impact on the environment might be prudent. Some countries are already passing laws requiring environmental responsibility on the part of even the smallest businesses, with more on the way. If you want to stay ahead of the curve on this issue, you will want to shop around for environmentally-friendly hosting options. Providers such as GreenGeeks web hosting are filling this need. You can also check for great hosting on Hosting Foundry if you are looking for hosting in Canada.
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How much traffic do you think you will get, and what kind of numbers would you hope to get? You want a hosting plan that scales with your business. For some niche businesses, a basic shared server plan will do fine. But if your marketing team is a big hit on social media and makes you go viral, you will want to be able to handle the traffic spike.
Some business models live on traffic alone, such as media-intensive business models. For higher traffic needs, website hosting plans do account for increased bandwidth.
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The other factor website hosts have to consider is plain storage. If all you’ll ever host on your website is a WordPress blog with a few uploaded images, you can skip this part. For the rest, especially if you’re selling a digital good such as software, video files, audio tracks, apps, or third-party plug-ins, you’ll need more real estate to handle your file storage.
The tiers of server hosting storage are:
- Shared server – You and several other websites on one machine.
- VPS – Virtual Private Server, same as above, but fewer sites on one machine and partitioned disk space to make sure you have room.
- Dedicated server – Your own computer all to yourself! Luxurious and roomy, but pricier.
- Cloud servers – Enterprise technology for Fortune 500 companies.
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Most standard blog websites will never have to sweat security beyond having enough safeguards to stop a basic spambot invasion. But your security needs come into sharper focus the second you start handling any third-party data.
Any website which requires users to enter credit card information or entrust it with user names and passwords needs advanced security to make sure this is done safely. Similarly, SaaS sites have various attack vectors, requiring firewalls and other protective measures. Remember, once you have compromised a third party’s data, you’re now subject to a lawsuit. Here’s a good resource checklist for cyber-security.
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How much hand-holding will you need? For most basic websites, web hosting providers always offer at least an email ticket-resolution model, and other customer service amenities. However, this support is very basic. If you’re doing something that requires a bit more complex services, managed service plans are available.
For example, say your business offers one-stop accounting SaaS (Software as a Service). This is outside the scope of a WordPress install, and custom-built software will require a few packages of support libraries for your system. A managed service plan makes sure your website’s bandwidth can handle the extra load on the server-side, your installed packages are compatible and up-to-date, and other administrative trivia.
If it comes down to wanting somebody to manage the whole site for you from the ground up, you’re ready to hire a freelance website maintainer on UpWork and leave the details to them.
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Nearly all website hosting providers supply building blocks for common needs at no charge:
- cPanel – Website management interface
- PHP, SQL, Ruby on Rails, and other software platforms – needed to run apps
- WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, and plug-in support
- Email and FTP services
- PrestaShop, Shopify, or Zencart – eCommerce support
- Options to install additional features, such as an image gallery or a chat server
This will suffice for most website’s needs. As mentioned earlier, specialized services will want support installed for larger-scale projects.