What is hosting, and what makes it great?

What is hosting, and what makes it great?

Hosting doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it’s actually important.  Most people seem to think that all hosting is the same, so they just look for whatever is cheapest or the most popular.  As with most things, this is a usually a mistake.

Not all hosting is the same.

Here’s the deal.  Think of your website as a file folder that holds all the files of your site–images, text, pages–all your content is in that folder.  Then, your hosting account is the filing cabinet that it’s stored in.  That filing cabinet holds all kinds of other folders (websites), too, but it has a special place just for your yours, and hopefully, nothing from the other folders get mixed in with yours and there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Except that not all filing cabinets are the same, right?  They come in all different sizes, styles, and kinds of security, right?  There are those cheap, little plastic ones you get at the marts; those huge, old and rusty metal ones that you find for free on Craigslist; and then there are those new, shiny, sturdy ones with great locks and drawers that glide open for easy access to things.

Which kind of filing cabinet do you want for your website?  Your very expensive website that you’ve put tons of time and money into?

Some hosting is as outdated as harem pants.

It might seem dramatic, but those are the kinds of differences we’re dealing with when we talk about hosting.  Some hosting is terribly old and outdated.  The servers won’t even support the latest version of certain software that you need.  If a server is old and out of date, it can make it nearly impossible for you to upload, run, or maintain your website.  You need a hosting company that is diligent about the capacity and updates of it’s servers.  You don’t want to have to wait to update to the latest, most secure version of WordPress because your host can’t handle it yet.  (I’ve seen this happen more than once.)

Some hosting has worse security issues than a Hollywood starlet.

Some hosting is also not secure.  Host companies have big rooms full of huge servers (or they should) and they can be hacked, virtually or in reality, just like anything else.  Hosting companies are in real-life (though usually secret) places and someone can break in and literally take the drive your website is stored on just like they can take money from a bank.  (It’s not easy, but it can be done.)  You don’t want your server in a somebody’s backyard shed with a little padlock on it.  You want a host that is conscientious about this, and takes steps to make sure that their stuff is secure, both virtually and physically.

Some hosting companies offer massive grid servers that store thousands and thousands of websites, which means that you share drive space with a lot of other people, i.e. those filing drawers are huge.  This can make your hosting less secure.

And some hosting companies are just plain awful.

And of course some hosts are just a headache to deal with.  Clunky back ends, confusing interfaces, and nonsensical procedures mean that if you do need help with your site, a designer will probably charge you more to deal with it because it will take them more time to work in your host.

So, all of this is to say that hosting counts.  It matters.  It’s not all the same.  So don’t buy into cheap deals or snazzy advertising.  Do they have a customer support number?  I.e. is there any actual person you can talk to if something goes wrong?  And what happens if your site goes viral?  If you suddenly get a ton of traffic, will your site go down, or do they have an automatic upgrade in place to handle it?

Those are just a few of the questions you might want to ask.  Also, are you hiring a designer?  What do they recommend?

There are lots of great hosting companies.  Now that you know what to look for, reach out to people you trust and get some great hosting for your website.

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