Step one: Finding a web host
The first step in building an online presence is to find a web host.
A web hosting provider will store your site’s files on its servers and deliver them to the browsers of your readers and customers.
Web hosting providers offer different packages to fit the needs of their customers. This includes varying amounts of storage, number of sites, data, estimated traffic figures, and other features.
Payment for hosting can be broken up into different formats, including month to month, annually, or somewhere in between.
One should also be familiar with the different types of hosting tiers.
Some are geared toward single sites that require a lot of resources (i.e., dedicated hosting), some toward multiple sites on a single server (i.e., shared hosting), some specialize in WordPress, others in e-commerce, and so on.
What Is Dedicated Web Hosting?
Dedicated hosting is used by sites that require ample amounts of resources. This is for larger, complex sites or those that get a lot of traffic. It is both powerful but more expensive.
Dedicated hosting makes your website the lone user of a particular server and gets to use its full power. This is opposed to renting just a piece of it, like in shared or VPS hosting.
For sites that are likely to consume lots of resources, dedicated hosting is the best way to go.
Some web hosting services also require you to handle backend maintenance and technical issues.
On the other hand, some web hosting services provide managed hosting. In this case, the hosting provider provides maintenance, upkeep, and overall IT needs.
Managed hosting adds a bit of cost, but for larger sites that will need the resources for dedicated web hosting, managed hosting is typically something they go for to avoid having their hands tied up in maintenance tasks.
What Is Shared Web Hosting?
Shared web hosting is a type of web hosting where the provider hosts multiple sites on one server.
Sites A, B, and C, for example, are all on the same server. This helps split the cost, so shared web hosting can generally be fairly inexpensive. Often the costs can be $10 per month or less.
The drawback is that a disproportionate consumption of resources by one of the sites can impact the others. If site A is seeing a spike in traffic, it’s possible it could slow down sites B and C, or even take down the shared server entirely.
Shared web hosting is nonetheless a quality option for those looking to build a starter site or a vanity page on a budget, or those simply trying out the web business in the least expensive way. It could also be an option for any type of local specialized business that isn’t likely to get a lot of traffic.
A site can always move over to dedicated hosting if and when it grows larger to warrant the extra expense.
What Is VPS Web Hosting?
VPS web hosting has similarities to shared hosting. Multiple sites can share the same server. But in this case, each site has resources dedicated to it individually.
Site A’s traffic won’t encroach upon the resources of Sites B and C in the same way. Naturally VPS hosting will cost a bit more than shared hosting and come with the benefit of fewer server-related hiccups.
Shared web hosting is often compared to having roommates within the same apartment, whereas VPS hosting is analogous to having your own apartment but still sharing the building with other tenants.
What Is WordPress Web Hosting?
WordPress hosting is dedicated to those who want to build their sites off the WordPress content management system (CMS), which is used by hundreds of millions of sites globally.
Building a self-hosted WordPress site generally involves transferring the WordPress CMS to a server or signing up for the web host’s WordPress plan. The host will enable automatic backups, as well as updating plugins. Moreover, the WordPress environment generally comes pre-installed on the server.
Most WordPress-specific hosts (e.g., WPEngine) will offer different plans that enable for the type of hosting that fits the needs of the site and individual customer preferences.
Business hosting, such as cloud server platforms (e.g., AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud), provide custom servers if necessary and around-the-clock support.
They typically follow the pay as you go approach, where you only pay for the services you consume.
For those selling products, having an SSL certificate on your website is important to encrypt the data between a customer’s browser and their purchasing information. It is shown as the lock icon in the address bar whenever you visit an online retail outlet, online financial institution, or most sites on the internet.
Some web hosting providers give an SSL certificate at no additional cost as part of your package, while others will charge for it explicitly.
Some platforms are built especially for e-commerce functionality. Shopify is a popular option, as is WooCommerce (integrated within WordPress) and BigCommerce.
Shopify is a dedicated online commerce application and doesn’t involve separate hosting fees. It acts as an all-in-one e-commerce solution. (You will still need to pay for the domain name.)
Others provide a variety of tools related to supporting e-commerce functionality, such as email marketing, conversion rate optimization (CRO), cart abandonment, and so on.
Other web hosting info
Many individuals don’t know their exact hosting needs going in and choose to start small with shared web hosting.
Moving up to VPS hosting or dedicated hosting is possible once a site grows large enough or extra features are needed.
That said, not all hosts offer all types of hosting. It will be up to the individual to determine how they expect to grow their website before committing to anything longer than an annual plan.
It also depends on the nature of the project. For those undertaking a project that might run from only a few weeks or a few months, some might be able to complete it while receiving a refund. Some hosting providers providers refunds up to 30 days, while others are longer.
Web hosting features
Web hosts typically provide a limited set of features in their starter packages, then expand what they provide as a customer buys more.
If you want to start out inexpensively but need a site builder to help you more efficiently design it, then ensure that any host comes with on their starter plans. Many will provide a website builder for an additional fee, though some come integrated in with hosting service.
24/7 customer support chat is also important, as your site can run into issues at any time during the day beyond traditional business hours. They should at least provide chat support and some will provide phone support to get things figured out as soon as possible.
Hosting providers also normally provide blog posts, knowledge repositories, and email support.
Linux is the standard operating default option. Some services provide a choice between Linux or Windows. Some clients will have server-side application that will require Windows (e.g., a custom application written in .NET).
Windows hosting is generally pricier than Linux hosting, though that’s not always true.
Email is necessary when having a web presence. It gives a chance for everybody to reach out and send a message.
Most web hosts provide email as part of their hosting plans. Some enable as many email accounts to be created as possible while allow up to a certain amount.
At the same time, not all hosting providers offer email. In these cases, email must be provided by a different host.
G Suite from Google is a popular option. GoDaddy also sells email packages. These are typically priced based on a per-user per-month rate.
Keeping your email separate from your web hosting can also be worthwhile so that not everything is dependent on the same provider.
Everything is about reliability and uptime
Many things are important when it comes to the web hosting experience and selecting a provider.
But uptime beats out all else.
If a site is down, then your clients or prospective customers will be unable to find you or find out about your products and services.
Website hosting providers are heavily docked in our review process when sites do a poor job of keeping sites up and running and won’t be able to qualify for the top spots in our ratings.