Hosting: More Than The Price!
The following page is due for review and update. While the general concepts present remain valid, many of the details continue to evolve.
osting: A cheap or free service? Hosting web sites… there are so many cut-price or even 'free' offers around. But before signing up for an attractive hosting package remember the old adage "You only get what you pay for!"
What is Hosting?
The simplest explanation of 'Hosting' is the behind-the-scenes service that allows people around the world to view your web site. Hosting involves storing your web site content (the files) on a computer: A computer that is fast, very reliable and enjoys a truly high-speed connection to the Internet. With a few exceptions, businesses do not have a technical requirement to 'house' their web site. Instead, most businesses employ a web site hosting service.
Hosting is also known as "web space". Some Internet Service Providers include some "web space" with an ISP or email account. Such 'space' may be used for personal, non-commercial use, but normally this cannot be utilised for business web sites (not without an additional fee). Such services may also not allow the use of a dedicated domain name - essential for a business web site.
Why does Hosting cost?
To provide a quality hosting service costs money - the higher the quality (speed & reliability), the greater the costs. Providing a reliable, high-performance service including regular software updates and robust internet security involves a considerable on-going support costs.
The server (a business-grade computer) involves a capital expense, as well as maintenance, data back-up, insurance and technical support services. The most significant cost is often that of the telecommunication link between the server and the rest of the Internet. This is the 'pipe' which delivers your web site content (text, images, audio, video) to anyone on the World Wide Web. The faster the connection, the higher the installation, equipment and running costs - which may run into hundreds or thousands of dollars per month.
The cost of Hosting relates not merely to the amount of disk space your site requires, but also to the volume of information viewed, the amount of computing power as greater number of people access the web site and the quality and reliability of its performance. The cost of business-grade equipment and services bear little relationship to consumer-level purchases.
Options in Hosting
Web site Hosting can be classified as one of:
- Shared hosting: Numerous web sites sharing one server amongst many located in a data centre
- Co-location: A dedicated server in a data centre for your exclusive use
- "In-house" Hosting: A dedicated server located within your facilities
Shared Hosting is by far the most common service, being used for millions of web sites across the globe. Prices vary from zero to a hundred dollars per month depending on the package, plan (storage, bandwidth & add-ons) and level of service. Shared Hosting is adequate for most business web sites - provided the level of service and reliability is excellent. That is, if the site is not operational you know who to contact and you can actually reach them to resolve the issue. Only a small proportion of business need to go beyond shared hosting.
Co-location (meaning a dedicated server in a data centre) is an option for businesses who want or need their site to have exclusive use of a server. With some providers you purchase the fully operational server and pay a monthly fee (example amount: several hundred dollars per month) to have the machine housed in a data centre. Or the server may be leased together with support (example amount $500 per month).
"In house" Hosting. Some business web sites justify the expense of this option. In-house hosting is good option if the majority of all activity on your site is physically from within your own business location. If not, significant costs may be involved in providing sufficient outward bound bandwidth (currently in Australia - think $1,000 per month for this). A typical broadband connection may work, but is only adequate for very low levels of traffic, and the delay to your web site visitors will probably be noticeable. Of course there is the cost of owning, maintaining and securing the server - and resolving any issues as they occur 24/7.
Hosting - The real issue:
Offers of inexpensive hosting cause attention to be diverted away from perhaps the more important issue - that of the response times and reliability of your site on the World Wide Web. Of whether your visitors will remain on your site because every page loads quickly and reliably. Of whether your site will generate leads, sales and revenue. And of whether you can personally discuss your concerns with your host provider.
As a recurrent expense, the price of hosting is obviously important, but if you're serious about using the Web for commercial purposes, the cost of hosting is not the only issue.
We're not discussing content, nor marketing, nor your product… But simply whether your site will consistently appear on a viewer's screen before they "time out". Consider the cost of not having an effective Hosting Service for your Web presence.
Of a general nature, the opinions expressed here are not intended to form the basis of commercial decisions. Each consumer needs to make decisions based on suitably qualified advice.