If you are a casual web user or an entrepreneur, freelancer, or business manager who has never created or managed a website before, you may be completely unfamiliar with the concept of web hosting.

What Is Web Hosting?

A web hosting provider is service provider that manages the hardware and infrastructure necessary to host and support a website and other services over the Internet. When you visit a website, whether it is owned by a huge multinational corporation or a small business, the same process happens behind the scenes – your request is sent over the Internet to a web server, and the server, or computer hardware hosting the content, responds by sending the components of the website back to you. Most companies, especially small businesses, do not own and manage the servers, server software, and other infrastructure necessary to host their own websites and other services. Instead, the web hosting function is outsourced to a hosting provider, and if you are responsible for creating and/or managing a website, it is very important to choose the right hosting provider for your business.

What Should You Look For In A Hosting Provider?

The best web hosts, like many other service providers, are silent and invisible. Your website should deliver content quickly, adhere to security best practices, and have close to 100% uptime, or time that the website is live and functional. If your web hosting provider is delivering optimal service, you shouldn’t have to worry or even think too much about web hosting, and when an outage or other problems occur, it should be fixed or resolved quickly and be as slight a disruption as possible to your customers and website visitors. While it would be nice to have the best possible hosting provider available, most freelancers and small businesses must also consider the cost of web hosting, and there’s no sense in overpaying for this service. The key to choosing the right hosting service for your business is having a clear understanding beforehand of how important website uptime and hosting technical support is to your business and how much bandwidth, or network capacity, is necessary to host your website and other services. Then you’ll need to balance those benefits with the cost of hosting.

Don’t Go Cheap Or Bite Off More Than You Can Chew!

There are many web hosts that offer discount hosting services, sometimes at a very steep discount when compared to other hosting providers. If your website is very basic and is not a critical component of your business, a cheap hosting package may prove to be acceptable. However, if something breaks or if there’s an outage, you may be on your own or even unable to reach a support representative for days. Also, if your website attracts a large influx of new visitors, you may exceed the bandwidth of your hosting plan and your website may be shut down. Finally, the security features offered by a discount web host may be insufficient to prevent a hacker from bringing your website down or stealing information from your website. These hackers may not even be targeting you specifically, as the majority of discount hosting packages are shared hosting packages. Shared hosting means the same server hosts many websites at the same time, and if just one of those websites is compromised, all of the sites on that server may be compromised as well.

Be Sure To Research Your Hosting Package Thoroughly

Now, if it turns out that your discount hosting package is unacceptable or insufficient for your business, it should be easy to cancel the plan and choose another, right? Some discount hosting plans require a large bulk payment upfront, sometimes for years of service, and do not offer refunds. Also, if a discount web hosting provider is uninterested in making the process of migrating away convenient or easy, your company could experience significant downtime while migrating your website to another hosting provider. Never assume that you can start out with a cheap hosting provider and easily switch to another provider if you aren’t happy with your service – there’s no substitute for doing your “homework” before you make a decision.

In our next post, we will review the different types of hosting packages typically offered by a hosting provider and whether or not you should utilize the same host to manage other related services, such as domain registration and email services.