This article is part of a series created in partnership with SiteGround. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.
Inspiration strikes! You wake up one morning and realize it’s time for a website. The initial thought comes with anticipation and freshness.
Perhaps you’re dreaming of a personal site where you can share your own perspective on life, the multiverse and everything. Or maybe you’ve formed a careful plan about how you can effectively promote your business on a website, or even actually conduct business with an online store.
It doesn’t take long to discover that there’s quite a lot involved in just getting started. There’s the choice of hosting provider, deciding on the type and level of web hosting, and trying to find the best deal. There’s also the choice of a domain name (preferably one that’s still available) and registrar, and possibly the choice of a suitable web developer and/or designer who will put the site together.
Inspiration rapidly turns to overwhelm.
Why? What is web hosting? And why is it so important?
Your Home on the Internet
Web hosting is real estate. It is where your website lives on the internet. It is the folders that contain your files – web apps, PHP files, media files and more. It is the databases that contain your content – text, HTML and comments. And it is the connection that makes all of this available online.
Choosing the right web hosting is choosing a suitable online home for your website. It is about matching all the available options to the unique needs of your site.
It’s not dissimilar to choosing real estate in the real world. And since that’s a concept most of us are familiar with, we’ll use it as a metaphor to explain what’s involved in finding hosting online.
Hosting Is Real Estate
Virtually all of us have had the experience of looking for somewhere to live. Some of us have also had to look for somewhere to run a business. Let’s think through the process and choices that need to be made when deciding on a new piece of real estate.
1. Some initial decisions drastically affect the price you are going to pay. Will you be buying a property, or renting a property that belongs to someone else? Will you be building something new, or using something that already exists? Will you be sharing the building with others, or occupying the building on your own?
2. There is the issue of financial priorities. Are you looking for something that’s great value for money, or are you willing to pay a premium for the best that’s available?
3. You will need to choose something big enough for your needs. Do you have enough bedrooms to sleep every inhabitant? Is there enough space in the living and dining areas for everyone? What about storage space — can you adequately store everything you own?
4. You’ll need enough facilities for everyone. Do you have enough bathroom and laundry facilities to prevent significant congestion? Is there parking space for every car?
5. A business will need somewhere that can cater for the number of people they are expecting to service. Depending on the type of business, you’ll need enough room for chairs in the waiting room, tables in the restaurant, cash registers in the shop, and seats in the training room. That’s on top of the room you need for storage, staff and everything else. Get this wrong, and you’ll be turning away business… and money.
6. Businesses may have unique special needs. Some may need drastically more storage space, or to allow for a greater flow of people. For others, location may be more important than any other factor.
7. Some businesses may need additional support with the maintenance of the property — cleaners, handymen, decorators. They may need removalists to help with the move. Others may need additional support with security – alarms, guards, night patrols.
If you get all of this right, your home or business is off to a great start. Some of the criteria may be crucial to you, others not so much. The trick is to identify the crucial factors and give them the attention they deserve.
All of these issues have analogues when choosing web hosting. Moving house is one of the most stressful events you experience in life. Choosing your online home doesn’t have to be.
In this series of articles we’ll take you by the hand, explain the options, and guide you through the maze of hosting decisions. We’ll cover topics like:
- Matching the type of hosting with the needs of the website.
- The sort of hosting you should use for a blog, ecommerce site and more.
- Making sure you have enough space for everything you’ll be adding to your website.
- Making sure your hosting can handle the number of visitors your website will be receiving.
- Important considerations when choosing the right hosting provider.
- What you can achieve with your shared hosting control panel.
- How to maintain your website and keep it secure, and hosting plans that provide help with maintenance and security.
- How you can use your web hosting for much more than you initially planned.
We’ll be dealing with WordPress-specific hosting topics over on the WordPress channel, too.
Do you have any questions about web hosting that you’d like us to cover? Are there any topics you’d like to see get some needed attention? Please let us know in the comments.
Adrian Try is an Aussie writer, musician, cyclist, and tech geek.