If you’re making your first expedition into hosting your own website, you’ve come to the right article for advice. We’re not going to make any assumptions here about what you already know, so you’ll get all the information you need to help make getting started as smooth as possible.
Look at features first, then the cost
This is a really important point. Cost is not a good indicator of what you’re going to get for your money.
Even though the features-to-price equation is generally true in terms of getting value, do be careful not to pay extra for features you’ll never use.
The most important features are:
• Disk space – more is better. You need enough space for all the web pages (structure + program code + CSS + content (text, images and video)), plus space for extra things such as databases and email.
• Bandwidth – more is better. Most hosting plans will have more than enough bandwidth to get you started off, and how much you actually need depends on how popular your site is going to become and the type of content you’re hosting. Bandwidth is the total amount of data uploaded and downloaded from your site per month by all the visitors, including yourself.
• Support options – more is better. This is especially true when you’re just starting out, but it’s actually also true for every web hosting customer. Quality of the support is also a factor, and that’s something we’ll discuss in detail in just a moment.
• Payment options – more is better. Good web hosts make it easy to pay your hosting bill, offering you a choice in how, when, and how much you pay for your services.
Choose a good web hosting service
Many people misunderstand the importance of size when choosing a web host. The vital thing to know is that you don’t necessarily want to go with the biggest and most popular hosting service. That’s a strange thing to say, so let’s take a moment to explain what it means.
Normally, popularity is a good thing, but web-hosting services are a special case where this is not necessarily true.
This is because the resources available for hosted sites on any one provider are finite. Quality of service can be expected to decrease when the number of customers gets large enough to exceed the resources available to support that number.
In the chart above, you can see how the popularity of a host (and the popularity of the sites it hosts) impacts negatively on the quality and performance that can be provided by the available resources.
Here is why it happens:
• Competition for computing resources. Each server (or server cluster) has a limited amount of CPU, RAM and disk space available. Hosting companies always need to have purchase or lease more servers than they need in order to support the number of customers they have, and high quality servers are very expensive.
• Competition for bandwidth. Websites receive traffic from human visitors, web crawling “robots” that index pages in search engines, and from internal activities. Every email, picture, video, piece of text content, and line of program code connected to any one site is eating into the bandwidth limit.
• Competition for support resources. This may be the most crucial point of all. The quality and performance of site support must decrease if the hosting company is too popular.
In order to ensure you get adequate support, what you need to do is choose a hosting company that is large enough to provide the infrastructure you need, but still small enough to be able to dedicate personal attention to you and your needs.
A good example is Hosting Ireland, which is a very popular choice for business customers, but has not grown to the extent that it no longer provides personal support from its own staff. That means more personal support that is tailored to you, and gives your problems an appropriate amount of attention.
Many larger companies cut some of their support options, farm their support services out to third party services, and/or limit the amount of time any support worker can dedicate to resolving any one particular issue.
Choose the right hosting type
The lowest cost, value for money, website hosting option is shared hosting. This allocates the resources of a single server among many customers, keeping costs down and still providing adequate performance to meet the needs of smaller sites with lower bandwidth and performance needs.
The very best hosting option, which obviously also costs the most, is dedicated hosting, where the resources of a server are dedicated solely to one hosting customer.
In between these two extremes there is an option called a Virtual Private Server (VPS), which combines some of the cost savings of shared hosting with most of the advantages of dedicated hosting. There is still some competition for computing and bandwidth resources, but you are also more isolated from other customers on the same server and have full control and autonomy over the management of your server space.
Which one you should choose depends on the size of your business and the volume of traffic you expect to be handling. For most small to medium businesses, VPS or shared hosting should meet their needs comfortably, and a good web host should make it easy to upgrade if your needs expand to a higher level.
Linux or Windows?
Unless you need the features supported by a Windows server, most business and personal sites will be better off with a Linux server. This simplifies your hosting, costs less, and provides the most flexible range of options.
Regular hosting or WordPress hosting?
Some hosting customers decide they want to use a particular technology such as WordPress, and then buy a hosting package that limits their choice so that WordPress is the only thing they’re able to use. That can become a problem if you later find that you need to do other things with your site.
So while “WordPress hosting” may sound like something you might want, it really isn’t the best choice in the majority of cases.
Good hosting services make installing WordPress really easy, and you can always pay somebody to do that for you if you really need to.
Hosting Ireland provides a website control panel called CPanel, and one of the many features of CPanel is an installer system called Softaculous.
Using this installer, you can install WordPress very easily, but you’ll still have full server control through your CPanel to do other things like administrate email, create your own custom MySQL databases, and manage other site features more easily.
Getting up and running just takes six simple steps, as shown below:
As wonderful as WordPress is, it does have some limits on what it can do. If you have an ordinary hosting account, you can mix non-WordPress pages into your WordPress site, which you can’t do easily if your site only supports WordPress and nothing else.
Choosing a local hosting provider can be a smart move
If your business is based in Ireland, it makes sense to choose an Irish hosting service. You should also have an Irish domain name, to help you get more local site traffic from users in Ireland.
By choosing an Irish web host, you’ll have better access to tech support and possibly even the opportunity for one-on-one consultation in person. It also makes sense when the regular office hours of your hosting provider are matched closely to your own. That means no more waiting until 2am to make that call to sort out a billing issue.
If you choose to host your site with Hosting Ireland, you can get a discount on your domain name from 25 percent all the way up to 100 percent of the cost, which makes getting your Irish domain for your Irish site even easier and even more advantageous.
Get even more value from your chosen hosting option
Hosting packages are normally sold on the basis of a certain amount of disk space and bandwidth being allocated to you. The quotas are usually far more generous than you’d ever fill, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to worry about.
Performance matters, and anything you can do to lighten the load on your server will have a positive impact on performance. Here are a few simple things you can do to ensure your website always performs at its peak:
• Optimise images and video for your site. If you use video and image content on your site, making sure it is as perfectly optimised as possible will make your pages load as quickly as possible and will save you bandwidth as well.
• Invest in professional design. If you don’t have first class design skills and technical ability, it’s always smart to pay somebody who does to handle the design of your site. Just make sure they optimise your content, because some designers think looks are everything, when in fact performance is the more important factor.
• Use Google servers to host your video content. You should avoid YouTube for video hosting because it adds other things to your videos that you may not want to show, but hosting your video on your Google Drive is a good way to avoid placing the bandwidth and storage load on your own server.
You’re ready to start hosting sites
If you follow the advice given above, you’ll avoid most of the problems people new to hosting find themselves encountering.
You will have chosen a host that’s large enough to provide adequate hosting resources but small enough to provide personal support, chosen the best options to save you money, given yourself the most freedom of control, and optimised your site for peak performance.