Once you or a designer has created all the files for your small-business website, your files need to be uploaded to a server so anyone on the Web can access it. Just like you’d host a guest in your home, host servers give your website a place to stay. A server with an Internet connection ensures access to anyone who wants to visit your website.
You have many small-business Web hosting options, ranging from purchasing your own server to reserving a dedicated server for your site in someone else’s data center. The right choice depends on your site’s traffic levels, your IT savvy, and your tech support needs.
To host a website on your own server, you’ll need a server and some IT know-how. You can use two kinds of servers: a bare metal server or a virtual server.
Bare metal. Bare metal servers are the physical machines you visualize when you picture a server in your mind.
Virtual server. Virtualization enables a single bare metal server to host multiple virtual machines (VM). If your small business already has a data center, you can spin up a virtual server dedicated to managing your website.
Serving as your own host means everything depends on you, including the availability and security of your website. Be sure that you can:
Maintain an always-on connection. If you run your server on your business premises, a local power outage or loss of your Internet connection can knock out your website. You’ll have to run your server 24/7 to make sure customers can access your site.
Reserve enough bandwidth for high-traffic periods. If your site attracts significant traffic during certain seasons, or if you receive unexpected publicity that brings traffic to your site, you’ll need to have enough network resources to keep your site up-and-running during periods of high demand.
Keep your server up-to-date. Downloading the latest operating system, upgrading all software, and maintaining security patches is up to you.
Prevent data breaches. Hosting your own website means taking precautions to protect sensitive information, whether you’re protecting financial records, customer information, or your own intellectual property. If your business is subject to regulations, such as PCI-DSS or HIPAA, you’ll have to protect yourself from liability and regulatory fines.
Another option for hosting your website on your own server involves leasing space for your server in someone else’s data center. This process, called co-location, takes some of the pressure off of you in terms of security and connectivity.
Through co-location, you gain access to a data center’s resources, including backup power options, extra bandwidth in case of a traffic surge, and a fast and dependable network. Some co-location facilities offer managed services for your server, which means they take care of peripheral security, server backups, and storage for your data.
A cloud service provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS) will allocate virtual server space for hosting your website. You access your virtual server, which lives in a remote data center, using your Internet connection. The advantage of an AWS VM is that Amazon only charges you for the resources you use. Instead of paying a flat monthly rate to lease co-location space, you only pay for the times when someone accesses your website on your VM. Also, AWS is a public cloud provider, which means AWS data centers can handle incredibly high traffic demands.
Hosting with AWS requires IT skills; server maintenance and provisioning is entirely up to you. Also, Amazon’s pay-as-you-go billing structure can become complicated and hard to predict.
A lot of small-business owners have no time for server maintenance or website security management. It’s much easier to delegate the IT side of managing a small-business website to someone who has more expertise.
If you choose a hosting provider, you’ll be able to upload items to servers via FTP and backup your website offline. You won’t have to worry about tasks like maintaining a server’s operating system, managing network firewalls, or connecting backup power in case of an outage.
When you conduct a Google search for free website hosting, you’ll see plenty of providers willing to allocate free space to your site. Free hosting is fine for personal websites or small hobby websites, but it can have significant disadvantages for small-business websites:
No customized domains. With free hosting, the provider gives you a URL, which looks something like http://www.freehosting.com/user/~yourwebsite.com. You won’t have a branded domain that’s easy for customers to remember and simple for search engines to recognize. You might get access to free email, but email addresses will use the hosting provider’s domain, not your personalized business domain.
Limited software options. Hosting providers that charge monthly fees often offer access to software, such as Help Desk or online chat options, for a better customer experience on your website. Free hosting providers usually offer no additional software options.
No technical support. If you have questions about moving your website files or making changes, don’t expect technical support from a free hosting provider. Most free services provide limited security or database support, which means you’re largely on your own.
Limited storage and functionality. If you want a website that runs videos, offers high-resolution images, or contains a large number of pages, you’re not going to have much storage space with a free hosting provider. You’ll also have no guarantees regarding website availability, performance, and uptime.
Shared hosting puts your website on a VM within a hosting provider’s data center. Instead of managing the VM on your own, you rely on your hosting provider to manage everything for you. It’s called shared hosting because your provider may host multiple business websites on the same server, within the same data center. The provider then allocates resources to each website to keep everything up and running.
Shared hosting is usually the most affordable, hassle-free solution for small-business websites. Unless your website receives tremendous traffic, shared hosting provides the resources you need at a competitive price.
A shared hosting provider often offers a wide range of value-added tools including free domains and domain registration, free website builders, and free email addresses and calendar functions for your employees. You also get access to free software to enhance your website with functions like online chat, message boards, blogging capabilities, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and Help Desk functionality.
In addition, you can feel confident that your hosting provider takes care of physical security for every data center. Reputable providers like Web.com put strong network security measures in place and have backup plans for network interruption or power outages. Your service agreement also includes guarantees regarding website availability, with the best providers guaranteeing 99 percent uptime or better.
Some high-volume websites, like busy ecommerce sites or online publications with high readership, host their websites on dedicated servers. They also use virtual private networks (VPN) to ensure they have a set amount of resources dedicated to their websites at all times. Dedicated hosting provides all the resource management and value-added services offered with shared hosting. Your website files live on their own server, however, and they don’t share space with other business websites.
You’ll pay significantly more for dedicated hosting than for shared hosting, and it’s an option most small businesses don’t need. If your website traffic really grows, you can talk to your Web hosting provider about upgrading from shared to dedicated hosting.
Start by asking yourself how much server maintenance you want to do and how qualified you are to secure your server and your network. Then, ask yourself whether you need reserved server space for a high-traffic site or whether you prefer the maximum value and lower costs that comes with shared hosting.
Web.com provides tools like free website builders, ecommerce website builders, free domain names, email, and more at a price you can afford. We specialize in keeping small-business websites up and running and ensuring your website is available 24/7.
If you’ve already created your small-business website, we offer multiple hosting plans depending on your storage and traffic requirements. We also make it easy to transfer your files to Web.com’s servers with minimal service disruption.
Check out what we offer, and select the small-business Web hosting plan that’s right for your small business. Enjoy reliable performance and hassle-free hosting. Get started with Web.com today!