If you want a website online, you need hosting. Hosting is a generic term that covers any service that looks after your website files or domain name. Specifically web hosting is for hosting your website and files while domain hosting is specifically for your domain name. They are often the same but can be two separate services.
We are going to talk about web hosting specifically, what types are available and specifically what managed hosting is and the benefits it can provide for you.
The importance of hosting that helps you succeed
Your business relies on your website. Whether it is to simply be an information point for your business or a mission critical service such as your e-commerce store. Hosting does the heavy lifting that will ensure your site runs quickly, efficiently and with as little downtime as possible.
If your hosting isn’t powerful enough to handle your complex website than just like a computer that is getting old and takes a long time to load anything, your visitors will have the same experience.
If your hosting isn’t efficient than as you get more visitors you will find the site will become more and more sluggish. A powerful server is great but an efficient server is often cheaper in the long run as you can generally handle more visitors with less powerful technology.
Another important consideration is downtime. Like any computer, the server that hosts your website needs updating or repairing from time to time. Sometimes it might crash randomly or become damaged in some way, for example, by malware. A website that is constantly down because of a problematic server is not going to help you succeed.
All of this is about giving you confidence to focus on selling or providing the services and products that you went into business for. The less you have to worry about your website because of poor hosting the better you can focus on other tasks.
The different types of web hosting
There are many different types of web hosting available. Some are premium services designed for powerful or traffic-heavy website. Some are more budget-friendly services aimed at getting you online for as cheaply as possible. Let’s explain the various types you may come across.
As we said earlier, your website hosting is based on servers – a type of computer optimised to share data when it is requested by visitors to your website. Dedicated hosting is when you have an entire computer and all of it’s resources to yourself. The hard-drive, memory and processing power is all available to you to do what you want.
This type of hosting has the highest costs because you are paying for the entirety of the resources of that server. This type of hosting usually means you or the person managing your hosting has full control over the system and how it operates. This was traditionally classed as the most powerful type of hosting because as you need more power, you could upgrade the server with more memory, hard drive space and processing power.
Your website is also private and only shares resources with other websites that you might be hosting on it.
The downside of this type of hosting is that when the server needs maintenance that involves turning it off, the website is unavailable for the entire time unless there is a backup server available.
VPS or Virtual Private Server is a type of hosting that tries to lower costs while still providing private resources to the sites on your hosting package. This type of hosting takes a dedicated server and uses technology to divide it into multiple virtual servers. The benefit to cost is that multiple people are sharing the cost of the dedicated server.
The virtualisation process also dedicates resources to your account so if you have a quarter of the resources, none of the other virtual servers can access those even if they hit their limits. You will generally have full control over your virtual container and can host as many sites in your area as possible.
VPS, just like dedicated hosting, causes downtime on your website if maintenance is required on the server itself. There is a benefit that if the maintenance is specific to your virtual portion of the server only, that section will be affected while the other may be able to keep running.
Shared hosting takes the principle of dividing a dedicated server up to the next level. The difference here is that each server will be responsible for hosting many sites, rather than dedicated virtual containers. This allows many more sites to occupy a server and comes with cost benefits.
Because many sites are using the resources of the server, the costs are cheaper than any other type of hosting. The downside of this type of hosting is that you don’t know who else might be using the server. “Noisy Neighbours” is a term that refers to another site on your shared server that is using more resources than it should and having a knock-on effect to your site. The issue could be caused by a spike in visits, targeted attacks or malware on that site and even poorly designed and built sites that aren’t very efficient.
Shared hosting doesn’t allow you the same level of control of the server as dedicated and VPS hosting. This can make some types of optimisation difficult.
There may be some isolation between sites in terms of security but generally you will find that servers are affected by all sites on the shared hosting. This also means that all sites on the server are affected if that server needs to be taken offline for maintenance.
Cloud hosting is a major buzzword because of the benefits it brings from all other types of hosting. With the cloud there is an infrastructure of multiple servers linked together to share resources. There are lots of ways this can be achieved but the idea is that the sharing of resources in this way is incredibly efficient. You may have less control over the servers than dedicated or VPS hosting but generally services are scalable.
Because you are able to bring in the resources of multiple servers, additional power, disk space and memory can be added to your site/account quickly and without downtime. The benefit is that you can pay for as little as you need and naturally scale up as your service or website grows.
The other benefit of the multiple server arrangement is that noisy neighbours can often be isolated more easily to prevent knock-on effects. Cloud hosting also means that if one of the servers in the cloud environment requires maintenance, other servers can pick up the slack. This means that good cloud hosting has the best uptime of any hosting available.
The upfront cost of paying for the environment can be higher but as your service scales up the costs will generally drop dramatically making it very cost-effective in the long run.
Managed hosting isn’t really a different type of server environment but is rather a service that complements the hosting it comes with. Generally with hosting you are given a control panel that allows you to manage your site or server yourself. You may have support provided by your hosting provider but generally it is your responsibility to look after your own sites and service. This means setting up backups, maintaining security, installing software like WordPress etc.
Benefits of a good managed host
The purpose of managed hosting is to take a good server infrastructure and take away the need for you to worry about how to run your site. The additional cost of the service is paid for by many time-saving services provided by the host.
A WordPress managed host for example will take away the need for you to install WordPress by doing this for you. The installation is also looked after by providing automatic WordPress core updates so you don’t have to worry about them.
The other benefit is that the WordPress installation is usually optimised by the host to work as efficiently as possible on that server environment. This means that the server can handle more visits and intensive sites without as many resources.
Free WordPress site migrations are also generally provided so you don’t have to spend time migrating your website manually from any previous hosting.
Managed hosts handle scalability in a variety of ways but the general rule is that they will do as much of that management themselves as possible. If your managed host is not using cloud hosting then this means they will generally handle giving you additional resources with as little downtime as possible so you don’t have to worry about it.
They also handle scalability through powerful caching mechanisms. Because these hosts provide optimised installation of WordPress, they also include incredible caching services. One of the best ways to improve site performance is through caching but configuring plugins yourself is a long and heard-learned process. With this included you have the benefit of caching without the need for extensive knowledge and expertise.
The support provided by managed hosts is generally top notch. Many managed hosts will have people available by telephone, email and live chat 24/7. They tend to be far more responsive than any other support and due to their expertise and specialism in a particular software, the advice is tailored to you.
Managed hosting often comes with specialist services like “staging” environment where an exact copy of your website exists so you can make changes to content, themes, plugins and site code before putting it on your live website. This is incredibly helpful to protect your mission-critical site from being hit by an unexpected bug when installing a new plugin for example.
They often tailor their control panels to make organising your sites and installation much easier. They also often provide assisted use of development tools such as git.
Managed hosting backups tend to be extremely powerful with automated backups being included alongside user-requested backups and backups before new versions of WordPress are installed.
Often you can even backup your website files separately to your database and restore only one of them if there is a problem that doesn’t require a full restoration of both files and database.
Managed hosts will generally provide some of the best site security on the market. Many managed hosts protect your site with industry-standard firewalls, malware prevention tools and load-balancing to prevent issues from DDoS attacks.
This is all provided in the background without you even thinking about it.
Whatever type of server you decide to go for, managed hosting is a great option for any business. Nobody wants to spend time figuring out how to use hosting or fixing issues when they come up. You want to be focussing on running the business you are responsible for.
Managed hosting is like having your own in-house server team looking after your site and waiting for you to contact them for assistance. For many mission-critical website and services the additional cost of this peace of mind and time saving is not a hard decision at all.