The internet is magic. You type something into the search bar and voila, in a matter of seconds you have the information in front of you at your disposal. Not only is it instantaneous, but you are rewarded with various options, regardless of your search. While you may have been looking for something in particular, you may be taken to a site that is even better than the original site you were looking for. The internet, truly, is magic.
Like any good magic show, the performance needs a qualified magician. Web hosting is the “magician” that lets businesses, organizations and individuals add their website to the internet for all to see. This service provider, behind the scenes, stores each of these websites on servers, and when someone types in a website or domain name, the server pulls up the content that matches the query. All of this happens in a matter of seconds. In days of yore, gathering information meant visiting a “library” or reading an “encyclopedia”. Nowadays, these are words that millennials type into a search bar to learn more about.
In order to get a web hosting company to use your domain, you need to own the name of the website. If you do not, you can purchase it through the hosting company. Some names are inherently more popular than others, like www.coke.com or www.sony.com. The more in demand the website name, the more it will cost you to own it. Of course, you don’t want an obscure website, or one that is difficult to spell or one that contains too many words strung together—these factors only lead to errors and missed opportunities.
Before you sign on to any one web hosting site, it is important to explore what they have to offer, your unique needs and your budget. Some of these services offer website building and can work with you on content and keyword placement. You can also receive what is known as shared hosting, which means your website shares a server with other websites. This sharing includes software and the actual server but cuts down on the costs for all parties but it can slow down your website’s loading time. Instead, you may opt for dedicated hosting, meaning the server is exclusively yours. Your load times will be faster, and security features are higher with this type of system. Another option is to buy your own server and keep it at the web host company’s building or facility. You can load any sort of software you need, and you have exclusive rights to the server itself. A new type of hosting is cloud hosting, where everything is stored in the internet “cloud” and pulled down as needed. While this is a cost effective way to manage your website, it does require additional knowledge to use it properly. Virtual private servers, or VPS, runs its own copy of an operating system, and giving your company resources that are not shared, but not owned outright, either. If your software is limited by your shared host, you may consider switching to VPS to use any type of software you would like.
A hosting company can offer you email accounts, disk space, file transfer protocol, also known as FTP, as additional options for your business. Email addresses are often part of the hosting package, and accounts vary based on your business’s needs. Generally, the most common email account is called a POP3 account, one that saves your emails on the server but also lets you download your mail through an email program. You could also use a forwarding email, one that sends your mail to another email address instead of saving them on the server. Lastly, an alias account will catch all the emails that are not recognized by the server, and banish them to spam land (or quarantine). Each of these email setups can be valuable to businesses; it just depends upon the needs of your company. The hosting company will also offer some disk space so you can store your web files, databases, emails—items you will need for your day-to-day business. The amount of disk space you need can determine the cost you pay to the web hosting service. If you want to transfer your web pages from your computer to the web host’s server, you will use FTP, another service that is included in your package.
Selecting a web host is an important decision, and there are many factors to consider. In addition to assessing the size of your business and its special needs, you will also need to determine if you must have specific software, how much traffic to your website you can anticipate, and if you will need to add on additional domains at some point. If you will be selling items or services online, will you need a shopping cart feature? A website that offers e-commerce will need a web host that offers a dedicated IP, support features and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certification, which helps with security. Will you need a live chat feature? Not all of these items are offered by all web hosting services and if you anticipate growth, you need to account for it. Many web hosting services offer a free trial period or other incentives to get you to sign up. Make sure you understand the refund policy and any extra fees you might be responsible for paying.
One of the most essential elements to a web host is what happens if your website goes down and information is lost—can it be retrieved by the host? As long as they back up the files on a regular basis, this might be a crisis averted, but you need to find out how often that might be. This also holds true for your website’s responsiveness when someone clicks on your link or types in your domain name; if the response time is too long, you may lose the reader, so asking your host about response time will be helpful, too.
Overall, knowing what you need, along with any special features and your cost concerns can help you pare down which web hosting site to service your website. Ask a lot of questions and ask for a trial run, first. Once you know what you need for your business and you have researched web hosting possibilities, you can get started!