Hosting: What are you actually paying for?
For our second post in the #TechClarity series we want to look at Web Hosting, a topic that is widely misunderstood or avoided by many. New clients often come to us unsure of who they are paying and what hosting services they are paying for. Many times, hidden or unnecessary hosting "add-ons" are tacked on and can add hundreds of dollars to your annual cost. In this post we will explain what hosting is and also give clear definition to some of the necessary (and unnecessary) add-on features.
In layman’s terms, “hosting” a website means putting it online for the world to see. Until it is hosted, no one can type “www.yourcompanywebsite.com” in a browser and see your website. The way to get your website hosted is by paying a web hosting company (also known as a “web host”) to store your website files. After choosing a web host, your website will need to be put on one of its servers, which is the physical or virtual equipment that renders or displays websites to visitors.
When choosing a host make sure you know what you are paying for. Your host should provide you with a single monthly cost and an informative list of the essential hosting features included in the price. Here are some of the common features and definitions you may see when shopping for a host:
AUTOMATIC BACKUPS: Necessary
Backups have become essential in the digital age. We highly recommend choosing a host that includes a backup plan so that you have a copy of your files in case something happens. Having a backup of your website means that a “snapshot” of your entire operating environment is done on a regular basis and includes your entire database and file structure. In case of disaster your website could be restored in a timely manner with minimal downtime.
SSL CERTIFICATE: Not always necessary, but recommended
SSL Certificates are necessary if you are selling online products, collecting credit card information, or need form submissions to be encrypted. An easy indicator to check if a website has an SSL certificate is if the web address starts with https. In 2014 Google updated their standards to give “credence” to sites that utilize SSL certificates in hopes to improve security on the web; however, at this point the SSL certificate carries little weight in most search queries.
STATIC & DEDICATED IP: Not always necessary
A static IP is a "permanent" personal address for your website and is required if you have an SSL certificate. The alternative to a Static IP is a Shared IP which means that there could be hundreds of other websites that have the same IP address as you. While it is not always necessary to have a Static IP, we do recommend it because it can speed up page loading time and is more secure since your website resides in a controlled environment. By using a Dedicated IP you will also avoid the possibility of your website being affected when another site on your IP gets flagged as malicious.
UNLIMITED DOMAINS: Not always necessary
If you are hosting more than one website in your business operations you may have a need for this feature, but in most situations it is not needed.
EXTRA STORAGE & BANDWIDTH: Not always necessary
These factors depend on the complexity of your website and the amount of traffic you expect. If you don’t host large media files or offer streaming content, you can usually get by with under 10 GB per month. For most websites there is no need to pay extra for more storage and bandwidth.
Finally, one of the most important things to consider when choosing a host is: How and where do I go for help? Easy access to support is essential and is not something that should be an extra cost. At Digital Designs we offer Support Inclusive Hosting: after the setup of your hosting account there are no additional fees for support. Setting up a hosting account yourself can be daunting and mistakes can cost you hours of downtime. Be sure to inquire about this before choosing a host.
In a few weeks, we will bring you #TechClarity on a very important topic: How Responsive Web Design can help your website become mobile-friendly.