Does your choice of web host affect your website?

Web hosting is a critical part of every website, whether you’re building on a self-hosted platform like WordPress or a hosted one like Wix. Nevertheless, the choices you make with regards to web hosting can affect what you can do.

Web hosting doesn’t just affect the kind of website you build either. It can also affect how well the website performs down the road. Speed, security, SEO — many of the issues websites face when it comes to these critical elements often stem from the web hosting used.

Here are some of the web hosting decisions and features that affect how we end up designing a website for our clients:

Does Web Hosting Affect How You Design a Website?
The answer to that is very much “Yes”.

Hosted vs. Self Hosted

When you build websites with a hosted site builder platform (e.g. Wix, Squarespace, Shopify), there’s definitely less to worry about. These kinds of site builders automatically include hosting — hosting that they manage — so all you have to focus on is designing the website.

But is that always a good thing? Unless you’re building a website for a very small business or for yourself as a freelancer, it might not be.

Control panel access — which you typically only get when you purchase your own web hosting for content management systems like WordPress — gives you more control over the backend. This includes things like domain management, FTP file uploads, .htaccess edits, and so on.

Control panel access gives you more control over the backend.

Self-hosting also gives you the ability to own your data. So, if you ever decide to migrate to a different site builder solution, you don’t have to start from-scratch. That will be a problem with hosted platforms.

Self-hosting also gives you the ability to own your data.

Web Hosting Type

Typically, there are four kinds of hosting to choose from:

1. Shared:

This puts the website on one server where it shares resources (bandwidth, disk space, etc.) with other websites. If other websites are resource-greedy, the website’s performance and sometimes security can be compromised. Web hosts also tend to be very strict on how many site visitors and transactions can be processed, too.

This is really only best for very small blogs or portfolio websites with light traffic.

 

2. Cloud:

This is similar to shared, except that the website shares resources with other websites across multiple servers. This way, if performance is lagging or there’s an outage on one server, another one can pick up the slack.

It’s a much better choice for local businesses and others that are smaller in size but are working to increase traffic.

 

3. VPS

If shared hosting is like staying in a hostel with a bunch of other people, a virtual private server (VPS) is like staying in your own private hotel room. You still only get access to resources in a small segment of a server, but they’re 100% yours. This is a great choice for SME websites or growing eCommerce sites that would benefit from greater security and more reliable performance.

This is a great choice for SME websites or growing eCommerce sites.

 

4. Dedicated

This is the equivalent of owning your own home, which also means it’s the most expensive and difficult to maintain.

You should only buy a dedicated server when hosting an enterprise-level website or global eCommerce site from it.

Server Location

Web hosting companies don’t always have dozens of data centers spread out around the world. In fact, some only have data centers and servers in a few choice locations.

For local businesses that expect traffic from the surrounding geographic region, server locations won’t be a problem. Just make sure their plan comes from a local web hosting company.

For global businesses, server locations do matter. Even if you’ve built a relatively small website for your client, the server still has to work overtime to gather up all the data and send it over to visitors on the other side of the world. This leads to slower loading times which are never good for the user experience.

If you have failed to procure a web hosting plan with servers around the world, you could do a couple things to speed up loading times for everyone. Like convert the blog into AMP or the website into a PWA. Otherwise, you will need to buy a different hosting plan or get a CDN added on top of the one you have.

Uptime & Performance

With many leading web hosting solutions, customers are given certain performance guarantees. That’s because web hosting companies have outfitted their servers with speed enhancers like caching, Nginx, and SSD drives.

And, with the exception of shared hosting, most plans include a failover option. This means that if a server goes down, the website doesn’t have to go down with it since other servers on the network can pick up the slack. This is why many hosting companies can promise a 99.9% uptime guarantee.

However, there are some hosting companies, hosting plans, and hosted site builders that don’t make these sorts of promises.

Web hosting without a performance guarantee shouldn’t be used for businesses that intend to attract high volumes of traffic or do any sort of server-intensive activities.

Security

Sam Bocetta has a wonderful guide on how to build security into a WordPress website. But as you can see, you need to have a lot of control over your content management system and web host in order to properly secure it. If the web hosting plan (or built-in hosting) doesn’t allow for that, your client’s website could be putting their visitors in harm’s way.

If you’re designing websites that:

– Collect data from a form
– Process payments
Track visitor data through cookies or tracking pixels

Then, security must be a top priority for the web host.

This means the server and datacenter are both fully secured from the web host’s end. Backups are included in the hosting plan. SSL certificates are included or offered as an upsell. And the web host allows you to add other security features like a firewall, two-factor authentication, and more.

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