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Small Business Web Hosting Options

  • Created: Wed 6th Nov 2013
  • By Raivo

The goal of this article is to highlight the web hosting options available for small businesses in 2014 and beyond.

First some terminology:

A website is hosted (i.e. the files that make up the site are located) on a server, which is really just a computer. That computer (or server) is located in what’s called a data center - a room (or a building) full of these server computers.

Some businesses host the sites and applications themselves, on their own servers; others go with third party hosts.

In either case, here is one important information to keep in mind (and test!):

  • Response speed of your application/website is paramount. So make sure your site is served fast - 3 seconds is a good rule of thumb. More than that and users will abandon your site: 57% of users to be precise, according to one study [1].

Not only do users leave, search engines that visit your site will penalize you if the site is served slow [2].

You can use or to test your site.

Now, if you decide to host your site on a third party server, which is a really popular option, here are some options and definitions:

  • a shared host - this is the oldest option, there’s one machine and the hosting company sells accounts on it … lot’s of accounts. If something happens with the machine, or your neighbors hog up all the resources, your site goes down. The benefit is that it’s really cheap - it can be as low as $5 a month.

  • a dedicated server - either you buy one and co-locate it at a data center company, or you rent one. This can be pretty pricey (easily $100+ a month for a basic server) compared to shared but does offer great flexibility.

  • a virtual private server - this is a dedicated server that uses special software that creates multiple virtual servers out of it. This results in one set of hardware and multiple instances of an entire operating system on it. The benefit here is that the hardware is decoupled from the software; hardware failures do not affect the software. This setup makes it also great to add/reduce servers to reflect the demand, and comes at a reasonable price point of about $40 for a decent server per month. This is also out favorite here at Claybend, a st louis web development company.

Astute reader will notice that I didn’t mention anything about the “cloud” - the highly hyped term that has appeared a few years ago. So, what is a cloud? The Computer Security Resource Center of the National Institute of Standards and Technology defines a cloud as having these characteristics [3]:

  • On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.

  • Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).

  • Resource pooling. The provider's computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand.

  • Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.

  • Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

Wikipedia has a better definition stating simply that a cloud refers to software “services which appear to be provided by real server hardware, which in fact is served up by virtual hardware, simulated by software running on one or more real machines. Such virtual servers do not physically exist and can therefore be moved around and scaled up (or down) on the fly without affecting the end user—arguably, rather like a cloud.” [4]

Essentially, a cloud is a bunch of servers working together and seen by the operating system as one machine. That operating system is of course allocated a small fraction of the resources available, and those resources are metered and can be quickly scaled up or down. You’ll also notice that a “cloud” is made up of virtual servers we talked about above.

These, then, are the web hosting options available to small businesses in 2014 and beyond.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

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