Now that you’ve taken the preliminary steps of designing your blog, it’s time for technology to take over. Because you are going to create a WordPress blog,* the first thing that you will need is hosting. If you have a website for your business already, you likely already have a web hosting provider and either space on a server or your own server. If you are setting things up for the first time, you will contract with your chosen web hosting provider who will allot you website space on a server and set you up with a FTP (file transfer protocol – this is the way you upload and download files from your server) account.
Basics: A server is essentially a large computer that is held in a hosting provider’s data center. Your hosting plan determines how much of the server your account “owns”. There are three main types of hosting services: shared server, virtual private server, and private server.
Shared Server: The most economical option. Your website is hosted on a server along with multiple other websites. The hosting provider that you choose will set limits for your account so that you do not overload the server and cause the rest of your server’s websites to go down. This option is great for those of you just getting started, as the memory and bandwidth that you will be provided is likely sufficient for your needs. However, if you expect several thousand visitors per day (at peak times), you may experience slowness with shared server hosting and your web host even has the ability to take your site down to steady the server.
Best for: Just getting started; Non-complex sites; Static websites (non-blogs); Sites without a rush of traffic at peak times
Virtual Private Server: Picture a server as a packing box for glassware. You get the space for one glass and share the box with multiple other glasses.
The server is partitioned off so that you have full control over only your piece. No other website can touch your area of the server, and vice versa. Advantage: your own place to play, guaranteed server resources up to your partition’s cap. Disadvantage: you can’t take advantage of the resources that the other partitions aren’t using like you can with the shared server.
Best for: I personally don’t recommend VPS hosting. I tried it for a while and was completely unimpressed. In for a penny in for a pound, I say, and if I’m spending money and getting dedicated resources, I’d rather have…
Private (Dedicated) Server: your very own home for your website. With dedicated hosting, you will have full control over your entire server. There are differences between private server plans, so you should do your homework and speak with potential hosting companies to see where your website fits in with their offerings. Be sure to know:
1) Exactly what type of server you will receive and how much horsepower it has
2) The level of support you receive from the hosting provider
3) What you will be charged for (bandwidth, number of databases, disc usage, FTP accounts, etc)
Best for: High-traffic websites, those who want lots of control over their site and the resources it consumes.
For experienced website owners: what type of hosting do you use and recommend? Have you had good experiences with Virtual Private Servers? If you have a high traffic site, when did you switch to a dedicated server, or, have you been able to stick with shared hosting and save money?
Coming up in this series: Domain Names; Setting Up Your Server
* Of course, all of this applies if you have a website without a blog too!