How to Select a Hosting Plan

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What are the choices to consider when selecting a hosting plan for your website?

If you’re in the DIY camp and building a website for your business or organization you need to gather all the information you can before selecting a web hosting plan for your website.  There are three important factors in making your decision: reliability, pricing and usage limits.  Understanding what these are and how they relate to the goals you have for your site will get you off to a good start when building your website.

Reliability

You want your site to be available whenever visitors come to call.  In earlier days websites were served from computers on site at your physical location.  This led to all sorts of availability issues: slow network speeds, power failures, equipment failures, etc.
An industry around website hosting sprung up quickly.  Now your website could be served from a data center that you paid your hosting provider a fee to be part of.  However, not all hosting providers are created equal.
Many were “Fly-by-night” operators with not much more resiliency than the on-site server setup.  They were plagued by the same reliability issues and many quickly fizzled.  The ones that thrived were the ones that invested in industrial strength facilities that could withstand disasters and experienced very little down time.
With the rise of these providers reliability improved greatly.
Today, the biggest issue of reliability in a hosting plan comes from one key decision; whether or not your hosting plan is “Exclusive” or “Shared”.
It is possible to divide the resources on a server among many customers and websites.  This means a hosting provider can sell slices of server capacity at a lower price for you the customer.  This is a great, cost effective approach if you are on a budget, but, there is a reliability gotcha.
All of the other customers on the same server as you may be running sites that tax the resources of the server.  So, if another tenant of the server suddenly has a spike in traffic you could pay the price in reduced performance on your website.  The more tenants of a server the more likely these spikes and performance drops are to happen.
The alternative is an “Exclusive” server.  One where you are the only tenant and the only impact on performance comes from the traffic heading to your website.  You won’t get the cost benefits associated with a “Shared” server so be prepared for a larger monthly fee.
Which option is right for you?
In most cases, a “Shared” server will work fine for what you need.  However, if your site or customers are extremely sensitive to performance an exclusive server model may be the best choice.  If you’re on the fence, message me, and I will help walk you through some questions that should help clear things up for you.

Pricing

Most web hosting providers offer competitive plans.  The biggest pricing choice you will have to make today is whether to pay annually or monthly.  Most hosting providers offer nice discounts if you pay for a year up front.  Some, like Bluehost, which I use offer very significant discounts on their yearly plans.
Monthly plans may be more acceptable to you if you you are bootstrapping and don’t have a couple hundred dollars to spend for a year’s worth of service.
Look at your business and your financial situation.  If you can afford the outlay, the savings from an annual plan may be worth the investment.

Usage Limits

The last and probably most important consideration for your website hosting plan comes down to usage limits.  Many website providers like Bluehost, offer unlimited storage and transfer bandwidth.  Others set caps on how much you can use and charge additional fees for usage that exceeds your limits.
This can get expensive quickly.  Knowing whether or not your plan has a cap and what that cap is is important to everyone, especially if you are serving large files like video or audio from your website.
I typically recommend that my clients go with an unlimited plan.  The prices are typically not much more that what is offered with capped or limited plans and you don’t have to worry about unplanned expenses.
If you are unsure what your plan provides, message me and I can help you figure it out.

Conclusion

Picking an appropriate hosting plan isn’t difficult but does need to consider reliability, pricing and usage limits as they relate to how you will be using your website.  With these factors in mind the right choice should become readily apparent.
Note: This post is part of Obsidian River’s “Website Setup Checklist Series” sign up to receive the Website Setup Checklist free of charge to make sure you’ve covered all your bases when creating your own DIY website.
Notice of Affiliation: Some of the links in this article are “Affiliate Links”.  This means that if you click on them and make a purchase I receive an affiliate payment from the vendor.  That being said, I only recommend products and services that I use myself and think will be of benefit to you in your business or organization.]]>

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