When it comes to launching or re-launching a website, there's a big difference between renting and buying.
Most business websites are renters -- meaning that they live inside of a Web hosting company rather than on a computer that's owned and operated by the business. This scenario, known as "shared hosting," provides reliability, security and performance for a relatively low price.
But having roommates may not be right for every business. Some sites need more room to roam, faster road access, high security walls or the freedom to do some major renovations. In that case, a dedicated server or a "virtual private server" -- which is a term used to describe partitioning a single server, or computer, to work more like a separate physical computer -- may be a better fit.
Shared hosting is the most affordable of the three options. The service typically costs anywhere from $3 to $15 per month. The difference in price usually reflects the quality and availability of customer support and the companies' willingness to lose money on your account in your first year.
For $40 to $150 a month, a virtual private server, which behaves much like a dedicated server, can be yours. For those who need more performance than shared hosting can provide but are still cost-sensitive, it's the way to go.
Then, dedicated hosting -- that is, operating your own physical computer -- typically starts at $200 per month or $2,400 a year and goes up from there. It's more expensive, but you're getting a server-class machine, located in a data center with fast, redundant internet connections and support staff to keep things up-and-running.
If you're still not sure which to choose, here are five questions to ponder:
- How many visitors do you get?
If you expect that your site will get thousands of visitors per day, you'll need a virtual private server at a minimum.
- Will you be selling a significant amount online?
If you're turning away customers because your site is too slow, consider stepping up to either a virtual or dedicated server. In addition to resource needs, speed of page loads is important. If your site feels sluggish, you'll likely pay for it with lost sales.
- How mission critical is your website?
Do you depend on your website for sales leads? Shared hosting will do the trick. But faster page loads can help improve your lead-capture rates and can even help your Google ranking. So weigh the pros and cons of a basic plan vs. the next step up, and go from there.
- Do you have lots of video or audio content?
Streaming video and audio takes a lot of resources and bandwidth. If visitors to your site will be tuning in, you'll need a virtual or dedicated server.
- What can your business afford to pay?
Depending on the complexity of your site, a $3 a month service may be all you need. But if you rely on your site for a significant source of revenue, boosting the quality of your offerings may be in order.
Tell us why in the comments section.
-Bob Anderson is director of marketing for InMotion Hosting, a Los Angeles based Web hosting provider serving more than 100,000 small businesses and consumers.