Choosing the Best Server for Your Business — How to Plan for Success Without Scaling Too Soon
Especially today, a strong online presence is just as important to a business as the ubiquitous cup of coffee powering the entrepreneur. However, just as the variety of beans, roasting techniques, and ingredients can affect how someone’s perfect cup of coffee tastes, different web hosting components can influence how a company’s website is brewed.
To the uninitiated, both coffee and web hosting come with a lot of barely understandable jargon that can have a major impact on your satisfaction and how much you spend. Just as you may not want to be overly caffeinated with a triple-espresso or disappointed with a decaf wake-up mug, web hosting server space and computing power should be tailored to your specific needs to have the most impact.
I don’t profess to know the differences between a latte or macchiato, but I can help decipher the unique challenges that entrepreneurs face when looking for business web hosting. Read on to learn about how to determine which server configuration will give your business the most exposure without busting the budget.
Factors to Consider: Affordability, Availability, and Scalability
More than 35% of American internet users said they primarily find out about small businesses through online research, with a similar number reporting that they check out a store online before walking in the door.
A company’s web hosting plan determines how well the website performs, or how quickly it appears for visitors. Naturally, more computing resources means faster page loads for more traffic, but costs increase as storage and bandwidth specs grow.
Web hosting comparison charts reveal the most valuable features for growing a business from scratch, as several metrics can affect your hosting success. Similarly, what might be important to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant might not resonate as strongly with a lawyer or consulting firm. Here are some of the components of web hosting you will want to compare:
- Hosting plan pricing and duration
- Uptime guarantees
- Website builders or WordPress
- Access and control panels
- Shopping cart programs
- Analytics and traffic statistics
- Mailboxes and email storage
- Reliable technical support
- SEO tools or marketing credits
- Ease of adding more resources
A good hosting plan for small businesses hits the sweet spot of balancing affordability with a wide range of high-quality services. Spend some time envisioning what you hope to build online, along with what tools you need to succeed.
Most hosts include an easy one-click installation of the WordPress content management system, but less tech-savvy folks might need to use a drag-and-drop website builder to get a design off the ground. Similarly, not every business will need to integrate a shopping cart program into a website that is more focused on the portfolio of services available.
Once you determine your needed features and traffic expectations, compare attributes that speak to your long-term hosting happiness. Higher uptime guarantees mean more people will be able to access your website, while responsive and friendly technical support teams can allow you to focus on helping your online business grow.
As the picture of your hosting requirements come into sharper focus, one of three server configurations should emerge as the most appropriate solution. Let’s take a look at the options available to figure out which is right for your business.
Option 1: Shared Hosting Provides Low-Cost Access to a Bundle of Business Tools
The most common starting point for new hosting customers, shared hosting servers divide computing resources among several websites. The plans are largely the most affordable options in hosting and are usually completely adequate for new businesses. Shared hosting services are typically equipped with the most user-friendly tools, including site builders, control panels, advertising credits, and tools for email and marketing.
When shopping for the best shared hosting plan, look at how much storage space, bandwidth (sometimes called data transfers), websites, and databases are allowed. Many hosts will even include a free domain registration, automatic backups, marketing guides, and robust email tools for security, spam, and forwarding. Although “unlimited storage and bandwidth” is a bit of a misnomer, shared hosting providers, including iPage, often use the term to show entrepreneurs that it will not restrict a customer’s growth or performance.
Option 2: VPS Hosting Offers Flexibility to Work Out the Growing Pains
Even if you sign up for iPage’s “unlimited” shared hosting, your business will hopefully grow to the point where you need a bigger portion of a server’s resources. Think of shared hosting as splitting a bed with your significant other and pets—at some point, the mattress is bound to get crowded and blankets will be at a premium. A virtual private server, or VPS, is more akin to sleeping next to your partner while your critters go elsewhere.
VPS hosting aims to give larger websites more computing resources to meet traffic demands. Even though your business website will still share the same physical server with a few other sites, you will have dedicated resources allocated that can adjust as needed.
Unfortunately, there’s no magical number of visitors per month that prescribes a move to virtual server hosting. As a plugged-in entrepreneur, you will likely notice slower page loads and see how your traffic is growing. More experienced developers might also be able to factor in how certain software programs can chew through computing resources, as well. Signing up with a reputable hosting provider should give you access to customer service agents who can help you determine when and how to make the transition.
While somewhat more expensive, VPS hosting provides more control, higher performance, and increased reliability. Many VPS hosts—again, including iPage—opt to construct their VPS architecture in a cloud-based configuration that allows for the instant provisioning of more resources. In addition to seamless migrations, cloud-based infrastructure means that other servers are ready to jump in and help shoulder the traffic load in case something breaks or gets overwhelmed.
Option 3: Dedicated Servers Give the Most Power and Control Over Your Success
At the top of the web hosting heap, dedicated servers offer the most power. However, in addition to being the most expensive server option, dedicated hosting plans are the most difficult to set up and maintain. Because you’re not sharing the physical server with anyone else, the management services typically provided by hosts at the shared and VPS levels are removed in favor of letting you configure the hosting environment to your specific needs.
If you have the technology-minded employees to handle a dedicated server, don’t let the price tag scare you off. Most likely, you have seen your online business grow with a successful hosting partnership. Continue your trajectory by sticking with the folks who got you there and see if there are any current iPage coupons available to help mitigate the costs.
Still Not Sure? Think About SEO, Customer Support, and Managed Services
When in doubt about which server configuration is right for your growing business, don’t be afraid to start small and check out the landscape. Entrepreneurs will appreciate the cost savings, and the best hosting providers are extremely willing to help consult with consumers on how to migrate to new services as needed.
Customer-focused hosting companies also provide a bevy of services and expertise to streamline end users’ experiences with your brand, such as professional design services, online advertising tutorials, and knowledgebase articles.
All told, the specific server doesn’t matter nearly as much as the quality of service a host offers, particularly for small businesses. Reliable, responsive support teams take a personal approach to explaining the nitty-gritty technical details—or simply taking care of them proactively. The best hosts empower entrepreneurs to concentrate solely on business objectives without getting distracted by load balancing and web security.