Web Hosting: A Simple Definition

A website is a collection of files that resides on a computer. The entity, company or person that provides the computer on which a website resides is said to be “hosting” the website. Think of it this way. Your web hosting company is your landlord. You, or more specifically, your website, are the tenant. Does that make sense? Good. Let’s continue the analogy. When you rent a space from a landlord you want to know what comes with the rent. Are utilities included? heat, electricity, etc. How big is the space? How long is the lease? Here comes a universal truth. When it comes to web hosting, you get what you pay for. High rent, lots of amenities. Low rent, few amenities. Let’s look at one very common and very cheap (sorry, I meant inexpensive) hosting option.

Shared Hosting

Just what the name suggests … and also how web hosting companies make their money. Hosting providers keep the cost way down because they put hundreds of websites on the same machine enabling them to conserve server resources. Caution: You get what you paid for (I think I said that already). Here is what you need to know about shared hosting and why not knowing it can hurt you:

  • So many websites on one machine can and will effect the performance of your website. Your website will be slow and your visitors will be frustrated. Frustrated users won’t come back. Ouch!
  • If one of the websites on the server gets hacked or infected, all the sites on the server are in danger.
  • If one of the sites has questionable content and gets blacklisted by Google, other sites on the server may get blacklisted too – like yours!
  • If your site requires additional resources to deliver the intended user experience, those resources may not be available if the web server has hundreds of other sites on it. One result could be sites crashing – like yours!
  • If your site needs an extra layer of security (important when you’re accepting online payments, asking users for sensitive information via a web form, etc), a shared hosting environment won’t support the installation of an SSL certificate (a file with encryption code that will protect your site from being hacked).

The point is this. If your site is a simple collection of html files with no database back end, no user interactivity, very little traffic, static content and few graphics,* shared hosting might work for you.

*NoteIf I just described your website, hosting is the least of your problems.

A Cautionary Tale

I, or should I say, my clients, have had problems with a particular hosting provider. It’s probably not prudent to mention the company’s name so I’ll just give you a hint. It starts with Network and ends with Solutions. They’re not a bad company. I have all my domain names registered with them. But they are just not set up to provide the proper level of support for high performance websites, particularly those built on the WordPress platform. I always steer my clients in a different direction. But there are times when working with Network Solutions is unavoidable. During a recent plugin upgrade for one of my client sites the website encountered a fatal error related to insufficient memory. A fatal error is bad. The site’s functionality was compromised. After endless phone calls and conversations with support personnel I finally reached a technical supervisor.

“A technical supervisor,” I thought. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”

I’m paraphrasing but here is the gist of what he told me: “Our shared hosting solution doesn’t support the needs of a typical WordPress website. With a WordPress site you’re better off hosting with someone else.” Huh!? I did some checking. The screen capture below reveals that there are a total of 304 websites on the same machine as my client’s site. No wonder there are problems.

Web Hosting

The Takeaway

Shared hosting is not  the only hosting plan available. There is VPS or Virtual Private Server, there is dedicated hosting, there is managed hosting. You’ll have to keep tuning in as I explore each of these separately. I wanted to concentrate first on shared hosting because it’s the most popular and least expensive option. And don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that it’s never the right solution.  Just be aware of the potential risks and dangers. Ask the right questions based on your understanding of the needs of your website. Better yet, consult with your web design company and make sure they ask the right questions.

And Now Back to You

Have you had problems with your website loading very slowly or taking too long linking from one page to another? Did you consider that the problem may have been related to your hosting plan? How did you resolve the issue?

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Marvin Kane, President of Kaneworks

Marvin Kane