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Business Web Hosting, What Choices Are There?

Business web hosting
.offers more alternatives than just getting a hosting plan from a web hosting provider. Although we won't go into a lot of the technical details on this site, obviously not all businesses purchase their business web hosting services from outside providers.

For example, the largest companies on the Internet, such as eBay, Google, Amazon, and all the big names do not go out and lease shared web servers or even dedicated web servers for their business web hosting. I cannot imagine how many servers a company like eBay has, but they certainly have more than I will ever need.

For a comprehensive discussion of the choices larger companies have for business web hosting, I'd like to turn the discussion over to an expert on the subject, I hope the article is of interest for those that might have larger scale needs than the average webmaster.

Where Should My Website Live?

By Jason OConnor © 2004

Understanding where your website should live, or your various hosting options, will allow you to make the right decision for your unique business situation and help you save time, money and energy.

If you pay a monthly fee to have your site hosted by another company, there can be considerable savings with the right choice. Internet Service Provider’s (ISP’s) provide people with access to the Internet. With this access, one can use the Web, which sits on top of the Internet infrastructure. Host companies are organizations that rent out space on their servers for individuals or organizations to keep their websites on. Sometimes host companies are ISP’s as well.

What’s important for a business owner or executive to know is that there are a number of choices when deciding where to physically locate the business website. Every website sits (or physically exists) on a server. Each server physically lives in one of two places. It is either located at its website owner’s company, which is called in-house, internal, or self-hosting. For example, if a company has an active website and owns the server the website is on, and the server is physically located at their company, then it is self-hosting.

The other place a website server can physically live is at an ISP or Host Company, which is often called virtual hosting. This allows a company to avoid having to maintain its own Web server and connections to the Internet. There are a number of configurations the server can fall under in this category, dedicated server, co-location, or a shared server. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered by decision makers.

The following information illustrates some of the main differences among your hosting options:

In-House Server

  • Company-owned, physically lives on site (on the company’s premises)
  • You are in charge of all your support
  • Buying and maintaining the machine is inexpensive, but time-consuming

Dedicated Server

  • ISP/Host-owned computer that is used by only one company
  • Support can be either the customer’s or ISP/Host’s responsibility
  • You don’t share the space, but you pay monthly fee for both the computer and service, pay a setup fee, and pay for support

Co-location Server

  • Customer/organization-owned computer
  • Support is the customer’s responsibility, in some instances the hardware will be supported by the ISP/Host
  • You don’t share the space, but you have to buy the computer, pay monthly fee, not pay for setup or support (must do it yourself)

Shared Server

  • ISP/Host-owned computer that is used by more than one company at the same time
  • Support is the ISP/Host’s responsibility
  • You share the space, rent the computer, pay monthly service fee. Usually the least expensive

Cost and support can vary considerably. One of the first things a company needs to understand is its resources. If the company has two employees only and neither person has any technical ability, then a co-located server may not be the best choice because they will be responsible for the technical setup, maintenance and troubleshooting of their website server. They may well consider a shared server that provides all the setup and support for them and costs a lot less. In contrast, a multi-million dollar company may benefit most by a dedicated or co-located server where they have control over the machine but share some of the responsibility with the Host Company.

It may even be more advantageous for a large company to forgo outsourcing their hosting needs altogether and decide to host their websites in-house. This is only practical if there are employees skilled and available however. If a business internally hosts their Web presence, then they will need technicians to handle both the software and hardware of the server, networking people to deal with the connections to the Internet and security issues, and Web people (programmers, designers, and marketers) or people who have all these skills who create and maintain all the Web pages and services.

There are quite a few things to be considered when choosing a place to locate a company server. There are more hosting options than mentioned here, and more will emerge as time goes on, but understanding the basics of this will help a business save time, money and effort in the long run. If you decide to go with a shared server at a Hosting Company, be sure to research numerous potential companies. Services vary widely. Here are a few things you need to ask before you make any decision:

  • Are there setup fees on top of monthly costs?
  • Do you provide both software (operating system) and hardware support?
  • Does your support service allow phone call inquiries or just email inquiries?
  • If just email inquiries are allowed, how much does it cost to buy phone support?
  • What kinds of programming languages (besides html) do you allow on your shared servers? For example, Java, CGI, Perl, ASP, etc.
  • Is it a UNIX or Microsoft server that my site will be on?
  • Do you provide website server log file statistics? If so, do you offer a Web interface that I can use to view my website statistics or do I have to download the log files myself and run them in Webtrends or similar software?

Choosing the right place to for your website to live is a very important decision. Making the right one will definitely save you a large amount of time, energy and money.

About the Author...
Jason OConnor is President of Oak Web Works

The synthesis of Web marketing, design, and technology, Jason is a Web development expert, e-strategist, and e-marketer

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