If you’re a small business owner in the throes of launching your own e-commerce website – or upgrading your existing one – you probably know you need a web hosting service. You probably also know that there are more services out there than you can shake a well-crafted, artisanal walking stick at.
There are dozens of companies to choose from, many of which provide different tiers of services. Will a shared hosting service suffice? Do you need dedicated hosting? Should you specialize with WordPress hosting? What’s the difference between all of the available services?
We’re going to break it down for you, starting with how shared, cloud, VPS, dedicated hosting and other services compare, which service may work best for your situation and which companies stand out across categories, according to our research.
Ultimately, your best decision lies in understanding your needs as a business owner and talking about those needs with numerous service providers before making your final choice.
One caveat, however: Net neutrality, which simply means that ISPs are required to treat all content equally, regardless of what it is, and they can’t give preference to some digital content providers over others, including yours.
Of course, the Federal Communications Commission repealed those rules in late 2017, and while there have not yet been any widespread reports of ISPs changing the way they are treating content, many experts are concerned the internet could ultimately become “pay for play.” That could mean small business owners may have to shell out more money so potential customers can see their sites quickly, easily and without any interruption. If you aren’t able to afford the additional fees it could seriously impact your ability to do business online.
We mention all of this because you can choose the greatest web hosting service in the world, but if your ISP is putting some kind of limitations on your site, or trying to charge you unaffordable fees to reach a wider audience, your hosting service isn’t going to matter. Nothing about your website, in fact, will matter at that point.
Different Types of Web Hosting
There are some key differences between the different types of hosting, so it’s important to understand your short- and long-term goals for your website and which services will handle not only your needs today, but can grow along with your business. Here are some of the primary types of web hosting currently available.
The least expensive web hosting option is shared hosting. It is pretty much what it sounds like. You share a server provided by the hosting company with other businesses. This can be a good option if you don’t have, or expect to have, a lot of customer traffic to your site.
The amount of disk space and bandwidth you have with a shared service are limited, and you’ll be charged if you surpass the amount you’ve purchased in your package. Obviously, shared hosting can be limiting for a growing e-commerce site but a great place to start to grow your online presence.
Managed WordPress Hosting
Specifically designed for WordPress websites, this can be much faster than generic shared hosting, more secure and even offers better uptime. But it can be restrictive for users who have highly customized WordPress pages because some plug-ins are not supported by various providers. And, in case you were wondering, yes, it is more expensive.
Unlike shared hosting, when you buy a dedicated hosting package, you are purchasing a dedicated server for your business that you do not share. This is especially important for sites with heavy traffic or those that expect heavy traffic in the near future. The negative of dedicated hosting is that it tends to be more expensive than shared hosting.
There’s a hybrid option available from some web hosting companies called VPS, or Virtual Private Server, which mimics a dedicated server within a shared hosting environment. The benefits of VPS are that it can be significantly cheaper than dedicated hosting while providing similar bandwidth and disk space. Keep in mind that VPS hosting can be significantly more expensive than shared, so if your site traffic doesn’t yet warrant an upgrade, you may be spending money unnecessarily. Also, some hosts don’t allocate server resources for VPS as well as other services do, so research is crucial in making your final decision.
Cloud hosting is basically the same thing as VPS hosting. In fact, some providers have abandoned the term VPS altogether. In a nutshell, your hosting is provided across a network of servers instead of just one. This allows for significantly better uptimes for your e-commerce site, with the added benefit of a stronger safeguard against DDoS attacks, which attempt to overwhelm your site with traffic to essentially shut it down.