Understanding Small Business Web Hosting

Posted October 22, 2014

By Larry Alton

As the owner of a website and a small business, you probably didn't put much thought into choosing your Web hosting company. Be honest: can you even name it off the top of your head?

Many domain registration sites double as Web hosting companies, since it's an easy upsell. Once you buy a domain name, you may as well add on hosting—especially if it's marketed in a way that makes it seem like a great package deal, right? But hold on, are you really getting the best Web hosting services for your business and budget?

small business web hosting

3 Types of Web Hosting

There are three major types of Web hosting: Shared, managed dedicated, and unmanaged dedicated. Within these three categories, you'll find endless possibilities of additional services (such as around the clock support), pricing levels, and how much uptime the company guarantees. Generally speaking, if a Web host offers anything below 98 percent uptime, you'd better start running. Let's take a closer look at the trifecta of Web hosting:

1. Shared Web Hosting

This is exactly what it sounds like; you share a server with other clients, which is what makes the price so much lower than dedicated hosting. However, the more people sharing the server means worse service in terms of speed, performance and reliability. Ask prospective (or even current) Web hosts whether they cap the number of clients per server, and if so, at what number.

Also, be sure to ask how many people you'll be sharing the server with on the day you sign up, and ask what kind of uptime they guarantee.

Shared hosting is by far the most popular and affordable option for small businesses. Experts recommend that you stick to shared hosting unless you have more than 3,000 unique visitors per day. However, do your research and make sure you find a suitable shared server that allows for fast browsing.

2. Managed Dedicated Web Hosting

A dedicated server is a server dedicated only to you—no other business allowed. When it's managed, that means the Web host takes care of all the maintenance and will quickly address any issues. Since you're the only business using this server, your website be much faster, and in turn increase your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. However, it comes with a very costly price tag.

Think of it this way: a shared server is like having a timeshare. A managed dedicated server is like renting a house just for you—and then paying for daily maid service. For larger websites it's a must, but the vast majority of small businesses just don't have the need or budget.

3. Unmanaged Dedicated Web Hosting

You really don't need Web hosting if you choose this option, since you're essentially buying a server and all the accoutrements, and then taking charge of it. There are some incredibly tech savvy startups that want this type of setup just for bragging rights, but otherwise small businesses don't need it. Unless your startup grows to Amazon-like proportions, the most you'll ever require is a managed dedicated server (if that).

As a small business, start with a shared server. Just do your homework, check the fine print, and choose a provider that offers 24/7 support. After all, if there's a problem at 3 AM during your Black Friday online sale, you don't want to be stuck with no tech help.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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