The simple truth is that every website needs to be hosted somewhere and your chosen hosting platform can impact your website in many ways from page speed to security. However, many website owners are unsure of how to compare hosting plans and can end up locked into cheap, 5-year contracts. Placing your website on the wrong hosting platform is like putting the wrong type of oil in your car – eventually you’ll notice the effects.
Why Managed Hosting Beats Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is the cheapest means of hosting a website. As the name indicates, your site shares a server with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other websites and this reduces the cost. The disadvantage of shared hosting is the “bad neighbor effect.” If one site on your server suddenly takes up tons of resources, your site can be affected and suddenly experience slow load times and security issues.
Because of their lower pricing, traditional shared hosting platforms like GoDaddy, Bluehost, Dreamhost, and Hostgator are popular. However, the hosting is less dependable since you have no control over the sites on the server, and your website’s performance can suffer from less resources. Like most things in life, when it comes to hosting, you get what you pay for. If your website is a critical part of your marketing like most businesses, then frequently down and slow load times can have a direct impact on sales and the bottom line.
Managed hosting is a service where all technical aspects, including speed, backups, website uptime and scalability, are managed by the host. The top managed hosting platforms also have enterprise-quality servers that are built for websites on a certain content management system or CMS. Because of this, the sites experience faster load times and better performance.
The disadvantages of managed hosting are the higher price tag and that the servers can only host websites on a specific type of CMS, such as WordPress. If your site isn’t on that CMS or you switch to a different CMS in the future, then you have to go elsewhere for hosting. The most popular managed hosting provider for WordPress is WP Engine and their service also includes a premium customer support network with WordPress experts. If you can afford it, managed hosting is a better choice for stable website performance and less long-term headaches.
Deciphering Hosting Terms
Hosting packages can include a lot of technical terms to decipher. Here’s a quick cheat sheet the next time you are comparing packages:
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is a protocol that enables browsers to establish a secure connection between a website or web server. If a site has an SSL, you’ll see all the URLS on the site beginning with HTTPS. In the past, only e-commerce websites required an SSL. Now, it is recommended for ALL sites. Many browsers like Chrome and Firefox are warning site visitors if they land on a website with no SSL. Don’t purchase a hosting package without an SSL included.
From a hosting perspective, bandwidth is the amount of data transferred through the website in a given time. Your website traffic, average page size and expected page views by visitors are all factors in bandwidth. If you have a live site on a hosting platform, you should be able to see how much bandwidth your site currently requires. If you are building a new site and looking for hosting, it can be helpful to share the expected traffic each month with the new hosting platform, even though traffic is only 1 factor in bandwidth.
Be cautious when you see “unlimited bandwidth” listed in a hosting package as it can be misleading. When a package says unlimited, it typically means you’ll have an amount of bandwidth based on the average informational site, but if your site bandwidth reaches a certain level, you’ll be asked to upgrade to a dedicated server. These terms can be hidden in hosting agreements. Always find out exactly how much bandwidth is included in your hosting package.
Uptime refers to the amount of time that a server has stayed up and running. An uptime of 99% may look great, but in reality, it means the server is down 1% of the time. That translates to roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes each week and in total, 3 days out of the year. That’s not good.
For uptime, look for scores of 99.95% to 99.99%. Remember that even if your hosting provider guarantees an uptime of 99.99, your site could go down due to other issues, such as a security breach.
Guaranteeing Optimal Site Performance
Selecting a hosting provider for your website is a critical decision. Unfortunately, there is much more to maintaining a website than just hosting. To keep a site secure and running fast, consider implementing a security monitoring software, a daily backup service and having an experienced developer or development team do monthly software updates.
If the wrong hosting platform is like the wrong type of oil for your car, then skipping maintenance on your website is like forgoing oil changes for the next 5 years. Get ready for a break down in both cases. Preventative maintenance plus the right hosting platform is the best way to guarantee optimal site performance and a 100% uptime for your website.