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Website Hosting Guide

Website hosting solutions come in all shapes and sizes, with an equally wide range of price tags to match. So how do you even begin to understand what will be suitable for your site? Let’s start by looking at the popular hosting options on the market.

A host of options

Shared Hosting: As the name suggests shared hosting keeps costs low by hosting multiple websites on a single server. It’s a great solution for getting a website up and running fast without needing to do any real server configuration. Shared hosting packages usually include email accounts and 1-click installation of popular platforms such as WordPress. Prices will range based on factors such as disk space, bandwidth allowance and how many databases are included, but you can expect to pay between £5 and £15 per month from a reputable host.

Because you are effectively sharing a server with a number of other websites there are some limitations to what you can do in terms of server configuration. It’s also important to remember that the speed, stability and security of your own site will to a degree depend on the sites you’re sharing with. This is where choosing a reputable host who will keep a careful eye on performance and not try to pack too many shared hostings onto one server really counts.

Virtual Private Server (VPS): Although still running on the same physical hardware as other websites a VPS hosting operates much like a separate machine. As well as offering more predictable serving resources you can also gain root access to your virtual machine to perform advanced configuration and install custom software.

As the machine is virtual it can usually go from order to operational within minutes to your precise spec requirements and can be scaled up and down just a quickly to suit your changing needs. So if you have seasonal peaks in traffic you could scale up on processing power and RAM during just those months to cope with the extra traffic without paying for it the rest of the year round.

An added benefit of the VPS is that it provides the potential to host multiple sites on a single package. So if you have a number of domains that need hosting, particularly if there are are some common resources they need to share, a VPS can be a great choice. And an affordable one too with base configurations starting at around £20 per month. The price does goes up as you add processing cores, hard drive space, RAM and different operating systems, so you might expect to pay more like £45 a month for a typical mid-level configuration.

Cloud Hosting: Often confused with a VPS, Cloud Hosting spreads the serving of your site across multiple servers for an (in-theory) always-up experience. Resources can be dynamically allocated by the host to match peaks and troughs in traffic so any spikes can be overcome without you having to manually adjust your configuration. Cloud Hosting is also considered to be more resilient as if one server goes down another one seamlessly takes over and your website stays up.

The payment model is a bit different from other hosting options, tending to follow a pay-as-you-go approach where you pay for bandwidth, processing cycles and storage space as you use it. At present this extreme flexibility does tend to come at a price. You can expect to pay around twice the on-paper equivalently specced VPS.

Dedicated Server: A dedicated server is usually seen as offering the ultimate in control and performance. The server can be built and optimised the around your specific requirements with all its resources dedicated solely to your website. In most cases you’ll also get a dedicated 1 GBit/s connection to the internet which ensures that pages are severed to visitors as fast as your box can deliver them.

A Dedicated Server is a popular choice for high traffic sites or those which have particularly strict security requirements. Because no one else has access to your hardware and you also have new options, such dedicated hardware firewalls, you can achieve increased levels of security.

Inevitably there is a price tag to match, with base configurations starting at £80+ per month and quickly climbing into the hundreds as you start to add to the spec. You also need to keep in mind that even with managed solutions the degree of technical know-how to get your server up and keep it running day-to-day is a lot more demanding then other hosting options.

Choosing a hosting solution

It’s fair to say that one size doesn’t fit all. A number of factors will play a part in determining what is the right balance of cost and performance for you, including your site’s anticipated traffic, how much data you need to store, which platform your site runs on and if you need to install any custom applications or host multiple domains.

Our clients span the range of hosting approaches from shared up to multiple dedicated servers. For many individuals and small businesses a basic shared hosting package from a reliable host does the job and keeps costs low when you’re starting out. But as traffic grows or the technical requirements of the site demand it, you may need to step up to a VPS or Cloud Hosting solution. Typically when your site starts attracting more than 10,000 visits per month or experiences individual spikes beyond 1,000 visits per day it’s time to consider an upgrade, but if your site is particularly bandwidth or processor intensive you could hit the limit of shared hosting sooner.

Not all providers are created equal when it comes to support, performance and reliability.

Choosing the right host and not just the cheapest is an important note. If your site is often down, slow, or you can’t get the support you need then cheap hosting quickly becomes a false economy.

Hopefully this article has helped de-mystify some of the options around hosting a website, but if you’re planning a new web development project and aren’t sure which hosting route to take please feel free to contact us for some impartial advice and to learn more about our own managed hosting platform.

Chris Barron

Written by

Chris Barron

In his role as Technical Director Chris oversees all development work ensuring our creative ideas are translated into fast, reliable and elegant technical solutions.