So, you’re a small business owner or webmaster thinking of setting up your first website, and you’re looking for a hosting partner to help you run things. Chances are pretty good that whichever company you end up going with, you’ll select a shared hosting plan. After all, everyone’s always saying this is where a small business should start, right?
What if I were to tell you that isn’t always the case?
While it’s certainly true that most first-time webmasters will want to start with shared hosting – it’s far cheaper than any other plan, and far simpler to manage – that doesn’t mean it’s the Holy Grail of hosting for every small business. Before you settle for a shared plan, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself.
How Big Is Your Website And How Big Is It Going To Get?
How many people visit your website on a regular basis, and how much do you expect your traffic to grow in the coming months? How big is your domain’s sitemap? Is it just a few landing pages, or is there an absolutely encyclopedic collection of articles and media?
If your site is a little on the hefty side, it might be better to set yourself up with a dedicated server in advance. This is especially true if you’re running multiple domains.
What Are Your Resource Requirements?
Relative to the above, what sort of scripts do you plan to run on your site? Most shared hosts tend to limit CGI scripts (and similar processes) for their clients, as they’ve a tendency to drag down performance for others on the server. If you expect to run a number of resource-intensive applications or processes, then shared hosting is probably the wrong choice for your website.
Are You Willing To Share Resources And IP Addresses?
With a shared hosting plan, you’re on the same server as a number of other clients, sharing both server resources and an IP address. You have very little control over who those clients are and none over what they’re doing.
What that means is that you could find your site being slowed down – or even crashing – as a result of what they’re doing. Worse, if your host doesn’t have an extensive-enough TOS document, many of those clients may be engaging in illegal activities, which could in turn cause your domain to be blacklisted.
It’s sort of like sharing a house or apartment with a few randomly-selected roommates. Sure, it costs less – and your landlord will handle property management for you – but the tradeoff is that you need to share the common areas of that house with those roommates. What they do can indirectly reflect on you – if, for example, one of them ends up being a drug dealer, you could end up being arrested with them.
Do You Have Any Experience With Server Management?
Shared hosting is great because you don’t actually need to know anything about server administration to use it. Just sign up, setup your website, and you’re good to go. An unmanaged dedicated server requires a pretty impressive set of technical skills to run successfully, and even knowing what you need from a managed server requires at least some technical knowledge.
Can You Afford Your Own Server?
The most important question, of course, is how much capital your business has at its disposal. Can you afford to spring for a dedicated server without breaking your budget? Assuming you can – and you know your website requires the power, control, and freedom that’ll give you – there’s really no reason not to.
To Host Or Not To Host?
Most first-time webmasters and small businesses will start with shared hosting before moving on to something better – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. That said, it isn’t the right choice for every business or webmaster. Before you commit yourself to a shared plan, make sure you understand your business needs and resource requirements – otherwise, you could end up making a costly mistake.