Alongside our latest podcast, where we talk about the importance of things like email hosting and domains, I thought it would be worth devoting a post to the subject of websites, and more specifically, web hosting
Web hosts are not created equal
Hosting a website is technical, and ensuring it stays available 24/7 requires some scary technical stuff. The job of a web host is to ensure that you don’t have to worry about any of it. In reality, the way that hosting companies manage this complexity defines the service they offer. To generalise, hosts fall into one of 3 categories:
- Cheap & Cheerful shared hosting – Under this model, the company manages the complexity by removing flexibility, and reduces cost by creating a one size fits all offering, hosting many (often hundreds) of unrelated sites on a single “host”. This type of hosting tends to be cheap (Typically £5-£10 per month), and offered limited flexibility & support will be basic. In the Real World – If your requirements are fairly basic, and the site is non-mission critical, then this is a sensible option. Especially if supplied through an added value reseller like BSA Marketing. The cost may be slightly higher, but the support will (or should) be much better.
- Managed Shared Hosting – In this scenario, an added value reseller will buy dedicated hosting from a specialist hosting supplier. Whilst still shared hosting, other sites will be fewer in number and all under the direct control of your provider. This means that the performance tends to be better as hardware resources are stretched less thinly, and managed more actively. In the Real World – If you are running a more complex site (e-commerce for example), or have requirements that would stretch the capabilities of a “one size fits all” host this is the way to go. Here, the Job of your host is to remove complexity and to translate your business requirements into a technical solution. Working with the specialists to deliver your requirements. Other benefits are that sites will tend to be actively monitored. This ensures that issues are sorted quickly without the need for you to notify your host of the problem.
- Dedicated Server Hosting – Here you have dedicated hardware (either a physical box or a virtual machine on a cloud platform). For SMEs this tends to be the ultimate solution, giving full technical control over your hosting platform. In the Real World – In terms of the levels of service, there is little difference between this and Managed Shared Hosting. The key difference is flexibility and the ability to handle more exotic technical environments. Because you have 100% control over the server it can be set up to meet your exact requirements. The other scenario where this type of hosting makes sense is if you have a requirement for hosting multiple sites, as they tend to be charged based on resources used rather than on a per domain basis.
So why should I care about all this
As I said at the beginning of this post:
hosting a website is technical
Choosing the right hosting scenario, and the right host can ensure that this technicality is managed appropriately without paying over the odds. Normally these issues arise when hosting is not up to the task you are asking it to do, either technically, or from a customer service/support perspective. To illustrate this point I would like to present two hypothetical cases:
Case 1 – Technical issues
In this case, the site in question has outgrown the hosting environment & the hosting company are not in a position to scale the requirements to meet the demand. The site which started life a simple e-commerce site with a few products grew in terms of both the number of products and the traffic, to a point where the hosting can not cope and the site falls over! Had this person considered their hosting more carefully, they could have seen this coming and managed the move to a more robust platform. In reality, the first they know of the issue was when the site fell over. The hosting company was then unable to fix the issue. The key issues here are having a host who will:
- Work with you and your business to plan for the future
- Be flexible enough to offer the hosting scenario that is currently most appropriate
Customer Service Issues
However good website hosting is not just about managing the technical environment. It is also about working with you to make sure that the site delivers from a business perspective, ensuring that it is kept up to date & relevant. Whilst this work is often done by you, it’s important that the hosting company is able to give the level of support required to facilitate it. In this case, this support isn’t forthcoming, severely impacting the value of the site from a business perspective. Lack of support and assistance from a host can prevent you from fully utilising the site as a marketing tool. Ultimately this will significantly reduce its value The key issues here are having a host who will:
- Work with you to manage your site effectively on an ongoing basis
- Be responsive when things get too technical. Thus allowing you to do what you want with the site without having to know all the technical stuff
What happens when it all goes when it all goes wrong
However good your hosting is, There will be times when things will go wrong, In these scenarios, it is about fixing things and getting sites running normally as quickly as possible. The key to this is backups. Usually, when things go wrong they can be quickly fixed. In some circumstances however they can’t. In those cases the route to a speedy recovery of the site is to restore from a backup. Most hosts offer backup as an option, but few (especially at the cheaper end) offer it as standard. In our view having good backups of your site is critical.
So – Do You Care About Your Web Hosting?
If you are involved in marketing your business via the web, then the answer should most definitely be “Yes”. Has this has got you thinking about the subject of hosting? If so, the first thing to do is to talk to your hosting company. If they can’t offer satisfactory solution, then we would be delighted to talk to you about how you can take control of your website and its hosting.