Web hosting allows you to publish your company website for the world to see.
Your choice of web host will affect how long it takes your website to load, its speed during browsing, the efficiency with which it handles large visitor numbers and its availability.
Picking the right web hosting service will make your website more effective, and your business easier to find online.
Web hosting options
When you buy web hosting, you get access to one or more servers to which you can upload the files that make up your website, enabling you to publish it online.
You'll encounter different types of web hosting. The most common options are:
- Shared web hosting. This gives you a limited amount of space on a server which also hosts a number of other websites. It's cheap (often less than £5 a month) and suitable for most new and low traffic websites or blogs.
- Virtual private servers. This also gives you space shared with other websites, but offers more flexibility to change and customise settings. It's a good option if you intend to scale the business gradually and costs from £15 a month.
- Dedicated web hosting. This gives you exclusive access to a server which doesn't host anyone else's websites. It's good for important or busy websites and costs from £50 a month.
- Cloud web hosting. Made popular by services like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, cloud web hosting enables businesses to pay for the resources they use each month. It's good for websites with unpredictable requirements or which might need to scale quickly, and costs from £15 a month (although some free tiers exist).
Your hosting requirements may be an important consideration when deciding how to build a website. For example, most template-based website creator packages usually include business hosting.
Similarly, if you're working with a web design agency, hosting might be included in their service. In this case, you still need to consider how appropriate the hosting is to your specific needs.
How to choose a web host
The key things to consider when you choose a web host are:
- Capacity. Business hosting packages limit the total size of files you can upload and the amount of traffic your site can receive. If you exceed the limits, you usually have to pay an extra charge or watch as your website becomes unavailable under heavy load.
- Functionality. Your website can be built using a number of different technologies. Make sure your host provides the features you need (for example, ecommerce, application support, etc).
- Reliability. Your website should be available 24/7 - particularly if you rely on it to generate business or service customers.
- Service and support. Round-the-clock support is important - especially if you don't have your own technical staff. Look for a service level agreement (SLA).
- Security. Make sure your hosting company takes precautions to guard against hackers, denial of service (DDoS) attacks and backs your files up regularly.
- Contract. Watch out for long contract terms and expensive extras in the hosting agreement.
It can be hard to estimate exactly how your website will grow and what changes you will make in the future. This means it's often a good idea to start with a cheap web hosting package which you can upgrade easily when you need to, rather than opting for a more expensive package from the start.
However, do be aware that the cheapest packages are often a false economy. Their deficiencies will show up at crucial times - like when your site receives an unusually high number of visitors or you urgently need support.
It's a good idea to look for a guaranteed level of service from your web hosting provider. This is usually provided in the form of a service level agreement (SLA) stating the service you can expect – and entitling you to compensation if those targets are missed.