The business hosting maze is one reason many companies use all-in-one website builders where hosting is included. These site builders do a good basic job for an unsophisticated first company site, but after a while, you want a few more features than they offer.
Business hosting possibilities
You have just five types of hosting to choose from (cheapest to most expensive); Shared, WordPress, VPS, Cloud, and Dedicated Server. Hosting companies may call their hosting by other names like ‘Business Hosting’ or ‘Geek Hosting’: Some allow multiple sites, others have extra bandwidth or other features, but every plan falls into one of these five categories when you look behind the hype.
Ignore headlines like ‘Unlimited Bandwidth’ and ‘Unlimited Disk Space’. Hard disks and bandwidth are dirt cheap, so of course are unlimited. No company will tell you about the limit they put on CPU usage because that is THE limiting factor on any hosting account.
Shared hosting is cheap because companies cram fifty to one hundred websites onto the same server. CPU resources are strictly limited, and some hosts will slow down your site (called ‘throttling’).
There are thousands of hosting companies, and every one offers this basic service, so you need a way to narrow your choice, a way to filter all the shared hosting plans by different factors.
If you try to do it without consulting review sites, you might choose a host like the third one in the screenshot above.
Don’t fall for all the heavy marketing by the big companies, because many of their users are unhappy campers, as illustrated in the review screenshot below.
The Bluehost screenshot also demonstrates how meaningless industry awards are where a company with so many poor user reviews can win them.
WordPress hosting is similar to shared hosting on that many sites are packed onto one server, though the number per server is often lower than with shared hosting accounts. The difference is that WordPress hosting includes company support engineers performing some WordPress management functions such as updates and backups.
You will see claims that servers are optimised for WordPress and the CPU resources you are allocated may be higher because the cost is more than double that of shared hosting.
If you are running a WordPress site, it is worth considering this option, but read the reviews with care.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is more expensive, and you have a bigger share of the computing resources on the server because there are fewer accounts on each hard disk server.
The hard disk is divided into virtual partitions, and you have your own partition. This means all your website data is together, so your pages load faster than with a shared server.
Hosting companies will often press you to move to a VPS contract if your site is using too many CPU resources on a shared server.
Cloud hosting uses two or more servers to deliver your web content. You usually pay monthly and are no annual contracts. If you expect a ten-fold increase in site users, you can order ten times as much disk space and bandwidth for a month or two. If your site is in danger of crashing under an unexpected load, you can order extra hosting for a few hours; cloud hosting is that flexible.
Dedicated server hosting
Dedicated server hosting is high-spec hosting that you will only need once you have outgrown your VPS. You have a whole hard disk just for your account and can pretty much do what you like with it. You need more technical expertise to run a dedicated server than a VPS or shared hosting.
Scenario 1 – you are unhappy with your current hosting
Look up reviews of your current host and decide whether it is worth staying with them. If they are too awful, then it might be better to cut your losses and start again with a better host.
If you are happy with your hosting company but have merely outgrown your hosting, then ask their support department about upgrading.
Scenario 2 – you are unhappy with your website builder site
You cannot move any websites built using a website builder. If you feel your host’s included website building software is limiting your business, then you will have to create a new site. This is less daunting than it sounds if you use WordPress or another Content Management System (CMS).
You are taking out a new contract, so do your due diligence and find a company you will be happy with based on others’ reviews and scores.
The 30 second version
Hosting is less complicated than it is made out to be. Start with a simple shared hosting contract and move to a more expensive plan when your business grows. Never take out a 36-month deal, even if the savings are impressive. Companies change ownership and what might be an excellent service now could be the worst around next year.
Brexit is one other factor to consider in your hosting choice, and it might be wise to look for UK web hosting as a hedge against future risks.