What is web hosting and why small business owners and marketeers should care
Chances are your business or organisation already has a website, meaning that it is de facto tied up to a hosting platform. Just like domain names, this commonly gets renewed on a yearly basis and for many people this is where the matter rests, especially if one is not technically minded. However, if one is not careful, this obscure technical thing can come back and bite where it hurts the most -- revenue!
So, what is web hosting?
Well, to put it simply hosting is a computer, or set of computers in case of a cloud, on which the files, images and videos that make up your website are saved on. The hosting hardware is connected to rest of the internet on a 24/7 and when a request is made i.e. when someone types in the address of the website, the computer also known as a web server sends a copy of the page requested to the visitor.
Why does this need my attention (which frankly is already stretched)?
In the risk of stating the obvious, if your website goes down so does your business. Questions like, are hosting facilities secured and offer redundant power supply can indeed be worth asking.
Also, in the event of an outage or hardware failure on the server, what is the situation regarding back-ups? is there a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place? If not, how long before the website can be brought back up?
We are all busy and no one likes to wait. Consequently, a slow website is likely to deter or discourage visitors and Google understands this and for this reason response speed one of their ranking factors.
While pictures and animations are often scrutinised when things get slow, an ageing or overloaded server can significantly affect the delivery speed of a website.
This is especially the case on shared hosting platforms – where most SMB are most likely to have their website, and where computing power is used to serve all websites therein. Things should run fine if the hardware is shared by just a handful of websites (and none of them is a massive traffic magnet) but it is a completely different story if the platform is shared with several hundreds of other websites.
In relation to previous point if the images and files that make up your website need to be sent half-way across the world to reach your audience then speed issues might ensue.
Distance between your hosting location and your audience might also affect your website ranking as search engines will try to assess how relevant your website is for their local audience.
OK, so what I can do about it?
While this is a just a quick overview of why web hosting matters, it should give you key markers that you might want to check or have someone check for you, namely:
- What is the security around your hosting? Is there an SLA in place? How do we access files in an emergency and who has / where are the access credentials stored?
- How fast is my hosting platform? How many websites are we sharing with? Are some of high traffic? Or blacklisted? Whilst technical in nature, freely available online tools will allow you to clarify where your website stands.
- Where is the server geographically located? Is this aligned with our main market or audience?