You know you need a website. And you know you need a place to put your website. But with all the different types of web hosting, and the different terms, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you’re looking at and what you would be getting.
So we’re going to look at it like housing. Because what else is web hosting but a home for your website?
Website Builders = Hotels
These are packages where you have a built-in website builder. You don’t have any control over how things are run, and you usually have to make things look a certain way, but, at the same time, everything is managed by the company. You don’t have to worry about security, software updates, or knowing how to code – you go in, write your copy, add your pictures, and it’s done.
They’re great if you don’t know anything about websites but know you need one. After a while, though, much like constantly living in hotels, you’ll find you’re getting tired of not being able to really change anything or it’s not quite meeting your needs (maybe you need a kitchen) and you want a place of your own. Which is when you might move to…
Shared Hosting = Rented Apartments
These are packages like our own web hosting. Where you’re in your own place, but you’re paying rent to a landlord and sharing the building with other people. You have the ability to make some changes, but your hosting company is still responsible for making sure everything keeps running smoothly and might restrict things. It’s a nice space, and some packages will have more space for multiple websites (sort of like multiple bedrooms).
Your neighbours (the other packages on the server) are usually pretty nice and everyone gets along, but occasionally there’ll be one that’ll be noisy or cause other problems and everyone in the building will be affected – like your site might load slowly or you’ll be unable to access certain things.
Shared hosting is great for most websites, but sometimes you need something a bit more specialised, which is when you might move to…
Managed Hosting = Rented Apartments with a Building Manager
These are packages like our Managed WordPress, where you have your own place, but it’s specifically tailored to what you need and someone is there to look after you a bit more. With shared hosting, like a rented apartment, when something goes wrong, you need to tell the landlord and they’ll sort it out. With managed hosting, they’re already keeping an eye on everything, so most of the time, you don’t even notice something has gone wrong – it’s already sorted.
You might still get the rowdy neighbours, but the building manager is there to smooth everything out. And there’s everything you need for your particular website, like automatic WordPress updates, backups, a content delivery network, and more. But sometimes you really just want to run everything yourself, which is when you might move to…
Virtual Private Server = Purchased Apartment
You’ve done it, you’ve bought your apartment, and now you can tear down walls, put in that in-floor heating you’ve been wanting, whatever – it’s your place now. And that’s what a virtual private server is. You’re still in a building with other people, but you have full control over what happens within your space. Turn it into a game server where all your friends hang out, break it up into even more virtual private servers for side projects, host a bunch of websites on it – it’s entirely up to you.
Because you own it, though, that means you’re responsible for its upkeep. You need to know how to change the locks, fix the boiler, and hang the drywall (or hire someone who can do that for you). And because it’s virtual, that still means your neighbours are still around. They can’t cause as much trouble as they could on shared hosting, but there’s still the possibility.
Sometimes you need even more control, or are looking for more space, which is when you might move to…
Dedicated Server = Purchased House
This is all yours and you can do anything you want. It’s in a data centre, which means that someone’s looking after the infrastructure (much like how your house is connected to the power grid and water supply), but you’re responsible for everything that goes on inside your server.
There are no neighbours right next to you to bother you, there’s no landlord coming in, it’s all yours and you need to keep it going. So get ready to learn how to run a server, or hire someone who can, because when a Zero-Day exploit is announced, you better be on hand to patch.
Once you’re completely adept at running a server (or multiple servers), you could decide you want to see what it’s like to be without a data centre, which is when you might move to…
In-House Server = Cabin in the woods
You’re responsible for everything. Absolutely everything. You build it from scratch, maybe even from the trees around you, and make sure there’s light, heat, water, and shelter. You’re completely on your own.
And being on your own, you have to make sure there’s power and a good Internet connection to your server, that you’ve put down a good firewall, that you’re constantly checking for any issues, and that your website stays up no matter what’s going on.
A lot of company will have in-house servers for files, emails, and business software systems, but it’s rare that a company will run their website on their own servers. It can be a great experiment (and I have known people who ran their own web servers – even during the dial-up days), but it isn’t really great for anything that needs to be up and running all the time.
So which web hosting would work best for you? It depends on what you’re looking for. Think about how you want your website to perform, what kind of resources it needs, and then what would work best for you. Good luck, and happy hunting!