What is Hosting & why do you need it?
Welcome to Post 1 one of our series on Debunking Digital Myths!
We have chosen to start here, at hosting. Why? Well, it is actually the fundamental part of having an online presence, be that a website, an app and piece of software it needs somewhere to be hosted.
So, we thought it was a logical start point.
So first, what is hosting?
Well, believe it or not, your website does not simply float out there in the magical depths of cyber space for wandering internet travellers to stumble upon.
It is actually stored on a computer somewhere as files. Much like the Word and Excel files that clutter up your PC, just different kinds of files. The computers that store websites and web-accessible data are called servers.
There’s lots of complex stuff about how they’re set up and managed that would bore most people to tears, so we won’t get into that now.
But, put simply, hosting is the physical space your website takes up on one of these servers.
Why do you have to pay for it?
The simple answer is, you don’t. But in order to ensure you don’t you first need to buy your own server, you’ll need to employ the services of an IT technician to set it up for you and then you’ll need to have that same IT technician programme the environment for your site/software, to sit on. Once that is done, you’re only really looking at the 24/7 electricity bill and periodic maintenance required to keep that server running.
All costs, but you’ll get your hosting for free.
So, realistically, you need to pay a hosting provider to do all that for you. Since they’ve done all this what they are doing is renting you the space on their server for your site to sit on. Similar to a warehousing company renting out shelf space.
Most hosting providers will have an SLA (service level agreement) in place that will tell you what guarantees you have by hosting with them – uptime, emergency response etc.
So that is what you are paying for.
Think of it a little like a kennel you keep your dog in when you’re away. Yes, you’re paying for the space, but you’re also paying for the people there to keep your dog alive for you too.
What hosting is right for you?
If you’ve spoken to a web company or an IT company or even numerous people about your hosting needs, you may very well have been told a number of different things.
So what kind of hosting do you need?
Well, again we’ll try and use some comparisons to help illustrate the point. Firstly, answer these questions; How important is your website to your business? If it goes down, what is the cost per minute, per hour, per day to the company?
Once you know the answers to those, you’ll know what kind of hosting you need.
So, if we imagine that your website is vitally important to your company, your business is an online shop for example. It is the lifeblood of your business, without it you start losing money. The longer you are without it, the more money you use. It is akin to a life-support system in a hospital. It needs to be up and working all the time, 24/7 and that is key.
In which case, you need to go to a hosting company that can guarantee you a 99.99% uptime and have 24/7 emergency contact and promise a maximum 1 hour response time for any issues. Depending on the money coming through your site you might want things like load balancers, redundancy servers and so on set up. These prevent your site from going down at all, if one server crashes, another one takes over and no interruption to service is experienced. All of this of course is at a cost. But a worthwhile cost if your website/system/app is business critical.
If on the other hand your site really isn’t that important to your business and you could realistically afford to have it down for a 24 hours (not that you’d want it to, but it would be survivable) then you can chose a much more standard hosting option.
The things to avoid
Firstly, avoid taking the opinion of just one person. Ideally, punt it out to two or three IT companies for a quote and be stunned at the variation in recommendations and costs you’ll get back.
Avoid running before you can walk. Even if you’ve got grand plans for your business and you’re expecting that there might be sudden floods of traffic to your website, remember that, even if you don’t get those floods of visitors, you’ll still be paying for your premium hosting while you wait for them.
Avoid IT companies that keep bolting on new things. We’ve seen it before, they know you don’t know what a server setup looks like, what software is needed, what protocols are required and why. So, when they quote you, make sure they stick to that quote, if they get away with sneaking in some extras the first time, they’ll do it every time.