How to choose the best site and site-engine hosting

Whether you are an individual working as an independent contractor, an entrepreneur starting a new company, or part of an organization with a larger footprint, you need to be online. The internet is the essential medium through which business gets done in 2020. 

Your first step for a new project or brand will often be to buy a domain name. This is the internet address that people can enter into their web browsers or send their emails to. Then you will need to select a host and a hosting plan, which is more like where your website actually lives. 

The type of hosting you choose will determine the type of server your online home is stored on. But the endless variety of possible uses for your online space calls for some careful planning when it comes to choosing the best hosting solution for you. The tools you decide to run will determine the most appropriate power, storage, and bandwidth options for your business.

In this article, we will describe the various types of hosting available before diving into the practical implications of the services you might be thinking of installing on your site. We will cover a few popular platforms and their best fit in terms of hosting plans.

The different flavors of hosting

At the simplest level, your internet presence is basically a computer that is always on and reliably connected to the network. This machine is called a server, and what it serves can be a website, email communications, a database, sales software, streaming media, or an online store. There are three tiers of server:

  • Shared server
  • Virtual private server (VPS)
  • Dedicated server

No matter which flavor of hosting you choose, the best hosting companies provide the redundant power supplies and beefy network connections that guarantee that the server running all these important services will be available at least 99.9% of the time.

Shared Hosting

On a shared plan, you share a big machine with other clients. You get access to a slice of the storage where you can store your site. It’s like living in an apartment. You have your private space but if your neighbors get too loud, you will feel it. 

Just like in apartments, you are limited as to the amount of space and features you can have. These features are defined by the shared hosting plan you sign up for. Some suppliers offer more than others. There are many different prices and feature sets, so compare them carefully.

When you are sharing a machine with so many other users, you are at the mercy of their conduct. When more than two or three of them start pounding the server, your site’s performance will drag by no fault of your own. 

Virtual Private Server

On a VPS plan, you get more than just a slice on a shared machine. It’s like moving from an apartment to a townhouse. You get your own environment to operate in. It looks and feels like its own, self-contained machine.

Compared to a shared server, your neighbors are farther away on a VPS while they use the same hardware as you. What they do can’t affect you so much. You are guaranteed a processing capacity and a working memory allocation that can’t get squeezed when there is a surge in unrelated traffic.

You have more freedom to set your VPS up as you would like. The flip side to this freedom is increased responsibility. You will have the power to break things. And you will have to sort out the resulting mess by yourself if you did not budget for advanced technical support.

Dedicated Server

If complete control over the hardware and the operating system is what you are looking for, then a dedicated server is what you need. A dedicated server plan is basically a lease on a whole computer, while using the hosting provider’s network.

This is the best option if you are offering computationally intense services to large numbers of users. It allows you to freely choose your operating system and configure the optimizations it runs. Having full control over the hardware allows you to maximize performance. That's why it's a perfect fit for advanced hosting needs like gaming, video streaming, database servers and more.

This tier is only for people who are well-versed technically. That might not be you when you are starting out, but you can always migrate up to a dedicated server when your computing needs and your team’s technical proficiency warrant it.

Choosing your hosting plan based on your site’s potential needs

After you’ve bought your domain, you probably have some idea of what you would like to put on there. You might be interested in it mainly as a place to win over prospective clients and communicate with the existing customers of your small business. This could mean setting up one of the following:

  • A simple landing page
  • Databases
  • An ecommerce storefront
  • An email server

For a simple landing page, you can get by using an entry-level shared hosting plan. You will be serving HTML and CSS files for your text layouts and navigation, plus photos and graphics to enhance your site’s visual identity. That requires very little processing power, and the storage you need will be easy to calculate from the elements you upload.

If your business communications require maximum flexibility in email administration with powerful anti-spam filters, lots of automated processing, and strict retention policies, then you might want to run your own email server on a dedicated server that is reliable and expandable.

Or you might want to set up tools there to help you with various aspects of your production or marketing. In that case, you would be looking into installing something like:

  • Sandbox environments
  • Build and deployment tools
  • Back-end resources for your apps
  • Backup storage

Sandbox environments allow you to put up a prototype of your site or of parts of your sites for testing. When you have a team of people responsible for different pieces of the development, each person will need to have their own login. This is an advanced need that can be accommodated in a VPS

Automated testing and continuous build tools can be computationally demanding. Your setup needs to be able to handle spikes without shutting out other legitimate concurrent requests of the server. The preferred way to handle this would be on a dedicated server where you can monitor and restrict exactly how the hardware is allocated to different tasks.

If you are an app developer, it is likely that your creations rely on a back-end server to store media assets and data used in-app. You will need to find the sweet spot to ensure low lag times even when the number of concurrent users ramps up. While it is possible to start with a shared server, a VPS will be the safer bet in the long run.

It’s also possible that the content on your site will be your main product. Through subscriptions, ads, and affiliate links you can monetize your writing, your videos, or your audio content. This is where the following solutions can help:

  • A content management system for blogging
  • A streaming server for video or audio
  • A web forum

A shared server with blogging software or forum scripts as part of the set of available software you can install will be enough to support a medium-sized blog with a handful of authors or a small forum for up to a few hundred conversations a year. Once you get into serious media streaming, on the other hand, you will want to look at a VPS or a dedicated server to handle the load in a predictable fashion.

No online strategy needs to be set in stone. These categories are not rigid. The flexibility you gain once you have set up your online home is tremendous. You can add a forum to your landing page if you decide that is how you can best build a community around your products or services. A good hosting provider such as Namecheap will make it easy to right-size your server package as your needs grow. Namecheap’s team can assist with the upgrade as your needs change over time.

Engines and the right hosting

Most independent websites run on code written by others. The owner doesn’t have to code anything from scratch. A lot of smart people have written fabulous engines to power content-management for bloggers, gallery administration for photographers, shopping carts for online stores, workflow facilities for media editors, or task-management software for project managers.

If a fairly static website is all you need, then you can build it using the website builder that comes with Namecheap’s Shared hosting. It is an easy way to build a website for newbies.

For more control, you can opt for a flat-file site generator such as Bludit, Grav, or Kirby. These tools allow you to edit text, graphics, and layout of your site in a visual interface, and then they create a file structure that you upload to your server’s web directory via secure file transfer and that’s it: that’s your website.

This is a simplistic description, and the method has shortcomings, but the resulting sites are fast and light on your server’s resources. For agencies that make many one-off websites for clients, including taking care of the hosting, this rudimentary approach can be made to run on a simple shared server with multisite capability such as Namecheap’s Stellar Plus. At this point, you would also want to look into Reseller Hosting and transitioning to the role of broker of wholesale server resources.

Hosting for blogs

For creating a good-looking, responsive dynamic blog, the modern platforms such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla solve all the problems and let you confidently set up your own regularly-updating and responsive site. Plus they allow you to leverage thousands of plugins representing a plethora of tools for layout and design, search engine marketing and optimization, content creation and distribution, and much, much more.

The problem with tricking your site out with more and more powerful extensions can put a serious burden on your server. A basic, well-tuned WordPress engine can fit in far less than half a gigabyte of RAM when it is serving hundreds of connections per hour. But if you get hooked on fancy layout plugins and data-hungry SEO modules, then you might be in for RAM and CPU hits that make shared server hosting out of the question.

Because so many bloggers want the same basic things, a judicious host can save resources by cleverly pooling some of the engine and plugin functionality across several blogs. That is why for performance, reliability, and security, the most economical solution could be managed WordPress hosting such as EasyWP. The hosting company takes care of keeping the core code and the plugins up-to-date on their security patches and implementing performance-boosting caching architectures. All you have to do is produce that content.

Moving into ecommerce

There are packages that allow you to run an entire ecommerce store right on your website. The leading engines here are the WordPress plugin WooCommerce and the open-source platforms Prestashop and OpenCart. They offer beautiful templates for catalog views and product pages, shopping carts, payments, and financial reporting. They are free to run but you have to pay for certain extensions.

If you are running a small store without too much traffic, then shared hosting can handle the load of one of these engines. However, in order to accept secure electronic payments, your shared hosting has to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Namecheap’s Stellar Business servers are PCI compliant. On a VPS or a dedicated server, implementing the standard is your responsibility.

Conclusion

There are many amazing things you can do with your slice of the internet. Even with almost no technical skills, you can spin up a sophisticated site that will provide a beautiful space for you to showcase your talents, sell your products, and build your brand for years to come. 

You can start on a beginner-friendly shared hosting plan and learn the basics before migrating to a VPS plan or a dedicated server when your needs have outgrown what shared hosting can do for you. The skills you will have picked up along the way will ensure that the future will be firmly in your hands.


Ruth Gonzalez

Ruth Gonzalez

More articles written by Ruth.

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