What Is Hosting & Why Do I need It?



Your websites is basically a collection of files. These files need to live on a computer that is running web server software. This computer needs to be connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unlike your home computer, the computer running your website can never be turned off even if it has a failure.

Imagine if the Google search engine was down for 30-40 minutes because a technician had to replace a hard drive? Obviously this is not an option for companies like Google any more than it is an option for your small business website.

In order to maintain this level of uptime, webservers are typically put in a configuration called a server cluster. What this really means is that multiple computers work together and if one of the computers has a failure, then remaining computers in the cluster handle the load while the unit is being repaired.

That's the basic idea, but it is more complicated than that. It's not just the computer running the webserver that needs to be on 24X7. Other things that need to be available 24x7 include a high bandwidth connection to the Internet, the building power, centralized air conditioning to control the temperature & humidity as well as a team of bright eyed technicians that just love getting up at 3AM to handle routine scheduled maintenance and unscheduled repairs.

In short there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in order for your website to be available all the time.

For a typical small business website you could expect to pay between $0 & $10 a month for hosting services. If you plan to run a very busy ecommerce site or otherwise plan to have a large volume of visitor traffic you can expect to pay more.


Why Should I Pay For Hosting When I Can Get It For Free?

That is a reasonable question for a small business person to ask, after all you're likely not made of money and it doesn't really grow on trees.

The real question is how can some companies give this service away for free while others charge? After all they still need to have that computer room, air conditioning, computer technicians etc., so are they just being nice to you?

Probably not. Do you know of any successful companies that have a business model that consistently puts 'nice' ahead of 'profit'?

We didn't think so.

Many of you will be familiar with the concept of a loss leader, if not pay attention, you're a business person now!

A loss leader is simply providing a product or service at a price that is below market value. You could think of this document as a loss leader or hosting at $0 a month or a free USB stick to the 1st 100 customers at an electronics store.

Some of the offerings that start out as 'free' have paid options that can ramp quite quickly. For instance, most people have heard of Weebly, they offer free hosting and 'build it yourself' websites. Hosting is free provided you are not using your own domain name. So you would have a web address something like YourBusiness. Weebly.com. If you want your web address to be your domain i.e. just YourBusiness.com without the weebly part, they charge you a monthly fee.

Does this change cost Weebly anything? No.

But Weebly's David Rusenko is a pretty smart business person. He knows that you are not going to want to have a web address like YourBusiness. Weebly.com and will eventually cough up the monthly fee to be able to use the domain you registered.

Weebly's pricing also indicates that if you wanted multimedia, search and password protection the price goes up. UPDATE May 28 2014: The pricing model now includes a % transaction fee on all levels except the top level which makes their offering more similar to sites like shopify.

So even free is not really free. As a small business person with limited resources free is very appealing but unanticipated charges can be a problem for a new business startup. If someone is selling you something for free find out what the real cost is.

Even if you do decide to start with a 'free' hosting service it might not hurt for your financial planning to assume a modest monthly fee for hosting. If, at the end of the 1st year, you did not have to pay for hosting, you will have saved enough for a dinner with a friend. Assuming of course it's not a 5 star restaurant and you did not over indulge in the cocktail hour!

NEXT: Content & Custom Capture



What We Do?

Websites 4 Small Business, designs, builds and hosts websites. We specialize in small business websites.

When it's possible, practical and cost effective, we use Open Source off the shelf software to get your site up and running fast. Our philosophy is simple:

Why reinvent the 'technology wheel' at your expense?Cave Man creating wheel

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Who We Do It For?

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