When you’re setting up a website you’ve got to make a multitude of decisions about content, design and functionality — not to mention the type of web hosting service to use.
Regardless of the size of their organization, at some point during the early stages of the development process your client (or you, on behalf of your client) will need to decide how and where the site should be hosted for optimum performance, security and configuration options.
As an adviser, it’s your job to help your clients decide what is the best website hosting service for their needs. The type of web hosting needed depends on the needs of the business and the goal for the website.
Showing off a portfolio? Marketing a killer blog? Developing a platform for an ecommerce store with thousands of SKUs? Whatever the needs may be, there is an ideal hosting solution to meet them.
The basics of choosing a web hosting service
Broadly speaking, there are three types of web hosting:
- Shared hosting (all annual plans come with a free domain)
- Platform/CMS-specific hosting
- Cloud and VPS hosting
Let’s dive into the differences between each type to help guide your client into the perfect solution for their needs.
Ideal for: Small businesses, tight budgets, beginners, sites with low-to-medium site traffic, and sites that need to launch right away.
How it works: The hosting company has servers where data is stored, and when you need some web space, they create an account for you and you share this server space with other people. Think of it like shared accommodations — it’s like renting a room in a large house.
What’s the upside of a shared hosting service?
It’s budget-friendly. Shared hosting is often the least expensive way to get a website online. Plans can start at just a few dollars a month, and scale up to higher tiers with additional features and perks.
It’s user-friendly. Shared hosting plans are friendly for beginners and great for clients who plan on managing their own service. These plans come with a dashboard like cPanel, making it easy to handle common tasks like setting up email addresses, adding users, and installing software like WordPress or Drupal.
What are the downsides of shared hosting?
Basic performance levels. Shared hosting is most appropriate for sites with low to moderate traffic. If a website sees a sudden spike in visitors it may become excruciatingly slow, or even taken offline, depending on the number of people visiting the site.
With today’s technology and performance-minded web development, site speed on shared hosting is typically adequate for the needs of the average small business.
Limited control. Shared hosting is typically locked down to protect the integrity of the servers. This can be restricting for custom-coded sites. Languages like Ruby and Python may not be supported, and server configurations may not be freely changed.
CMS-Specific Managed Hosting
Ideal for: Small businesses, sites built with a supported CMS
Platform hosting is tailored to specific content management software (CMS) platforms. These managed hosting services, like GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress, will take care of optimization that is usually handled by a developer.
What are the upsides of CMS-specific managed hosting?
Better performance. The biggest benefit of CMS-specific hosting is better performance. As already mentioned, these types of services are optimized to suit the CMS. This tailored optimization results in greater site performance and a better experience for the site’s users.
Easily scalable. With a managed service you are typically charged by how much traffic the site serves, not by the size or speed of the server. You only pay for what you need, and the service handles spikes in website traffic.
Built with developers in mind. Managed services provide tools for moving the sites between different stages of release, like Development, Staging, and Production. This simplifies a process that usually involves more steps on other types of hosting.
What are the downsides of CMS-specific managed hosting?
Limited control. As with shared hosting services, managed hosting services have restrictions in place to If you need a tool outside of the specific ones provided by the hosting company, you’re probably not going to get it with CMS-specific hosting services.
Cloud and VPS hosting
Ideal for: Large sites, SaaS, applications, high-traffic sites
Cloud and VPS hosting refers to servers in which you have the highest level of access of these three options. You run the show! This type of hosting best suits complex websites. If you are providing an application or service that needs a high level of flexibility and customization, cloud hosting may be your best bet.
Cloud and VPS hosting pros
More control: Cloud and VPS hosting give you the most control out of the options listed here. Since you typically have command-line access to the server you can usually install any tools and processes you need. This method of hosting is also very scalable if you’re working in the cloud, since the servers can usually be spun up and down as needed.
Cloud and VPS hosting cons
Complex: This type of hosting is the most complex of the options discussed here. Correctly configuring and optimizing your servers can be a labor-intensive task, and means there typically needs to be an experienced person or team helping manage this aspect of your digital world.
High maintenance: Since you are managing the server yourself, it’s the responsibility of your in-house developers and security team of website support providers to make sure all software is up-to-date.
Some hosting providers offer managed hosting. In this situation, the hosting/IT company sets up the servers and gives you/your developer access to them, but they will also support you by adding new tools when requested. This is a desirable option for many owners of complex websites who want some control but might not have the development resources for total control.
Choose the right web hosting service
When helping your clients choose a hosting provider for their website, make an assessment of their needs using the above criteria and do some research to learn more about pricing, reviews and features. Then take your short list of providers and discuss your options with the client, who will ultimately be working with the site in the long-run.
Depending on the complexity of the website, anticipated traffic and the required architecture, there might be issues or complexities that need to be addressed when it comes to hosting solutions. Remember, you’re the pro! Help your client understand what they need in a web hosting service.