How to Choose a Hosting Plan

As a web marketing company, we build and work with a lot of websites here at Oozle Media. That means working with a lot of different hosting companies, both with our clients’ existing sites, and to launch new ones. Selecting a hosting company for your website can be a frustrating or confusing process. There are literally thousands of hosting companies to choose from, and once you choose, you still have several options for what type of hosting you need. Here are details on a few of those options.

Linux vs Windows Plans

Many hosting providers offer both Linux and Windows hosting plans. You might be tempted to choose the one that you’re familiar with. Don’t do it! The hosting you need actually depends on what kind of site you have, or what kind of site your web marketing company is building for you.

Linux hosting is the most common kind of hosting, used on about 2/3rds of all websites. You’ll definitely want a Linux plan if your website is built in WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or a similar content management system, or if it’s written in PHP. Generally speaking, if you’re not sure what to pick, this is your safest bet.

Windows hosting is typically used for sites that are built with .NET or ASP. These are development languages used almost exclusively by Windows/Microsoft developers. It’s less common for small businesses to have their sites built in this language, so only choose it if your development team suggests it for you.

Types of Plans

Many hosting companies, especially the big names like Godaddy, Bluehost and Hostgator, offer several types of hosting plans. It can be confusing if you’re not sure what you need. If you’re a small business, going with the cheapest type of hosting is appealing, but may not be the best choice. Let’s try to break down some of these options:

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting basically means that your site is stored along with hundreds, or potentially thousands, of other sites on the same web server. You share the same IP address and server resources (like memory, processor power, etc). This the cheapest type of hosting because the cost of the web server is spread out across many clients. It’s also typically the slowest, but since most of those shared sites will also be small businesses/personal sites with low demand, this is a pretty reasonable choice for most people. This is the most common type of hosting.

Some hosting companies, like GoDaddy, offer the ability to “upgrade” the resources allocated to your site. That basically means that, even though you’re on shared hosting, you buy the rights to more resources. You also usually have a choice between shared hosting plans. The hosting company will tell you what the different levels offer in terms of resources.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is a type of hosting that you don’t share with anyone else. Your site has full access to all of the web server’s resources, as well as its own unique IP address that nobody else uses. This is usually the most expensive type of hosting you can get, and you really only need it if your website is very demanding. For example, if you have an eCommerce store, such as Magento or WordPress with WooCommerce, with lots of traffic, you might want a dedicated server to manage all those simultaneous visitors and orders. But this could be overkill otherwise.

Virtual Private Server (VPS)

A VPS is similar to a dedicated hosting, in the sense that it’s got a separate installation of the server software, its own IP address, and its own allocated resources. It’s a “virtually” separate web server, but physically, it’s sharing a web server with other VPSes. So it ends up being cheaper – usually – than a dedicated server, while still giving you some of the benefits of a dedicated server. A unique IP address, for example, is vital when you’re using an SSL certificate (like on eCommerce sites). You’ll also end up with a lot more control over your website hosting, and have more resources for your website than you would on shared hosting. The VPS can be a good middle-ground choice between dedicated or shared hosting.

Cloud Hosting

An increasingly common and popular type of hosting, cloud hosting is hosting that is spread across a few web servers. Your website isn’t stored in any one place; it’s actually being “mirrored” on multiple servers. This type of hosting is designed to load your website faster and prevent downtime. However, you’ll still likely be sharing an IP address with other sites, as well as many server resources. Depending on the type of hosting, your usage may be “unmetered”, or it may be limited. It’s best to learn more about what each hosting company offers in terms of cloud hosting before assuming it will be better than shared.

WordPress Hosting

Another increasingly common type of hosting, this is designed specifically for WordPress sites. Typically, your host will set up the WordPress installation, and then provide specific tools to help optimize your WordPress site. This type of hosting may come with automatic backups of your WordPress site, or integrated caching to make your site load faster. This can be very appealing, but it also might limit what you’re able to do with your site.

Add-ons and Extras

When you’re buying hosting, the hosting company might try to upsell you into services that you don’t always need. Here are some common ones:

SiteLock: Advertised as a way to protect your site from hackers. It’s relatively cheap, and for the price, probably a reasonable purchase. Having it won’t necessarily prevent your site from being hacked, but could serve as an early warning if it is.

Backups: Automated backups for your site are probably a safe bet, if you’re offered this by your hosting company. Assuming it’s relatively inexpensive (say, $20 annually), I would certainly recommend adding this to your package.

SSL Certificate: Unless your site has a need for security, such as when processing credit card payments through the site, this probably isn’t a necessary purchase.

Search Engine Services: This type of add-on, with different names and different claims, essentially promises to improve your SEO automatically for a few bucks a month. These types of services are deceptive, since your site may already include the things the service promises – for example, just using WordPress comes with this type of SEO benefit. In the old days of the internet, you needed to “submit” your site to multiple search engines. This simply isn’t true anymore, and most of these SEO add-ons are redundant and a waste of money.

Get Advice

If you’re still not sure what sort of hosting you’ll need, your best bet is to talk to your web marketing company. They should be able to give you targeted advice on your specific needs.

Cheryl Montgomery Aug 16 2016
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