One of the questions I get quite a bit from new innkeepers is “How do we get information about web hosting and who do we use? There is so much information out there, but much of it is paid reviews or paid lists.”
A website has several moving parts, a domain name like http://www.janedoeinn.com, and than hosting, which is akin to renting space on the internet for your website to live.
This is the perhaps the best analogy we could find that compares the different type of hosting platforms out there:
Credit to http://www.inmotionhosting.com/support/website/difference-between-shared-vps-dedicated-hosting for the information and analogy.
“Shared Hosting is very similar to living in an Apartment Complex. All residents are in the same location and must share the available resources with everyone. These may include such things as the pool, parking lot, and playground. In shared hosting, all accounts must share the available resources with all the other accounts on the server. These include CPU time, memory, and disk space.
VPS Hosting is similar to owning a Condo. While you still share things on the property, you are ultimately responsible for maintaining your own property and repairs inside the condo. There is also significantly fewer residents per building and assigned parking. On a Virtual Private Server, you are allotted resources that are not shared by everyone. The overall CPU time and memory are shared across all accounts on the machine, but at the same time, portions of those resources are always dedicated to each account. This allows for more power and flexibility than being on a shared account.
Dedicated Hosting can be compared to owning a house. You are allowed and have access to all resources available on the machine. No one else’s account resides on the machine (your house) and would not be capable of tapping into your resources.”
Most reputable web design companies offer dedicated hosting through providers of their choice, which can be pricey (but well worth it) per month. Unfortunately some inns can’t afford a professional web designer, and can’t afford the monthly hosting fees for having dedicated or VPS Hosting. While VPS is definitely the more affordable of the two options, it still ranges about 4-5 times higher than shared hosting plans.
We could do a side by side comparison of all of the hosting options for the multiple companies that do web hosting, but it would be like comparing apples to orangutans. Instead we will give you a list of things to look for when sourcing a hosting company for the first time, or transferring to a new one. You can always move up to another level of service and it’s quite a bit easier to upgrade an account vs downgrading one.
Note. There truly is no such thing as 100% Uptime (Uptime meaning your site will be online with no blips in service 24/7) It is something that many hosting companies promise, but technically doesn’t cover things like system failures and DoS and DDos attacks. A Denial of Service (DoS) attack is different from a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. The DoS attack typically uses one computer and one Internet connection to flood a targeted system or resource. The DDoS attack uses multiple computers and Internet connections to flood the targeted resource. Downtime can happen from web attacks, network and power failures, Acts of God (i.e. Tornadoes and other severe weather) and maintenance.
Some tips on finding a good hosting service:
- Check the pricing on both sign up and on renewals. They may have introductory pricing that looks good, but may get significantly higher on renewal (check the small print).
- Read the hosting company’s ToS (Terms of Service) to find out about account suspension and server usage policies.
- Is this an national or international recognized and reputable company, or a local provider offering server space in their living room? Stay away if possible from the small providers, while they may be inexpensive, you are not doing your business any favors.
- What features do they offer and how much are add-ons.
- Investigate reliability and uptime guarantees, there are a huge amount of review sites out there for comparison.
- Find out what your upgrading options are and the associated costs involved.
- What kind of interface do they have for the backend of administrating your hosting, Cpanel capabilities are recommended, as are “Easy Install” capabilities, this helps with ease of installing things like WordPress, or other options for website base builders.
A few questions as well for the company:
Does the hosting provider provide backup capabilities for your site, does it cost more, is it automatic and if it’s automatic how frequently is it backed up?
Know what your hosting needs are. Are you going to have a small gift shop for your inn, host large image galleries of the property, and have any additional needs, does it support WordPress?
Do you need a special version of software (ie. PHP or other)?
Do they offer SSL (this is a must) and what is the pricing for it?
Find out how easy (or hard) it will be to transfer your website to another provider if at some point you decide to switch. Do they help, do they offer paid help?
Do they offer domain name parking? Are there costs involved?
Does the company have a disaster recovery plan? Do they create backups of the backups?
Do you have easy access to all aspects of your account, can you easily edit and create or delete new email accounts, as well as offering online email login capabilities?
Do you plan on starting out a small website and then expanding it? Make sure the service can handle what you need down the road and check the pricing for what that will run. A good starter hosting service can get very expensive with additions like adding space and bandwidth.
Probably the most important questions you need to ask:
Do they have 24/7 support, not just for customer service, but for technical support and billing support.
How long on average does it take to get a hold of support, and are they responsive and helpful?
Is technical support an additional fee, and if so how much?
What mediums do they have to support and respond to a customer: Website chat, phone, 800 number, Facebook support, Twitter support, Zendesk, other trouble ticket submission options?
Reliability, customer service and support are the three keys to finding a good hosting service. If you have a good web designer, I would suggest listening to them and going with their suggestions (if you have a choice to do so), but otherwise, do your homework and cover all your bases before deciding on a web host. Your Bed and Breakfast website is one of the life lines online of bringing business to you, make sure it’s taken care of.