There are so many different types of hosting that you don’t know where to start. For a startup company, you know that your hosting decisions are crucial for the future of the business, but there are so many articles fuelled by affiliate fervor that it is nearly impossible to get an unbiased picture of what you need.
This article thus contains no affiliate links, and we will give you independent advice on the best way to meet your startup’s hosting needs.
There are a few factors to consider when choosing your web hosting solution:
Speed is an important factor in ensuring an excellent user experience and searchability.
Security can never be total. Rather, there are degrees of security. It depends on the risks you are prepared to take.
Up-Time will never be 100%. However, you can get very close to 100% up-time if you use the right hosting choices.
Cost will always be a factor. A business will need to consider not only outright costs, but also total cost of ownership, and whether costs can be factored in as capital or operational expenses. Sometimes, higher initial costs pay for themselves with better performance and profitability, but this is not always the case.
This is the simplest and least expensive option for most small businesses. However, shared hosting means your site will be much slower and will share a server with scores, even hundreds, of other websites. If any one of the other site owners does something they shouldn’t be doing, you could find your server crashing.
One way to think of shared hosting is to imagine your favorite football stadium as an emergency accommodation center, covered with small tents. Each tent represents one website.
Shared hosting appears cheap, but is totally unsuitable except for the most basic business website that doesn’t expect much in terms of traffic and availability. For an already-profitable company, or for a startup looking to launch a product, it is not even cheap when you add in costs of down-time ($7,900 per minute) and potential hacker attacks. Downtime is a killer. Forget it.
Speed: 1/10, Security: 1/10, Up-time: 3/10, Cost: High (when downtime costs are included)
Dedicated Server Hosting
With a dedicated server you get your own server and your own IP address along with a much faster website. This is the minimum level of hosting that a startup should be looking into when already launching a minimum viable product (MVP) intended for public use or to demonstrate to investors. However, the limiting factor is the capability of the dedicated server. Because the infrastructure can be brought down with only a single point of failure or overload, your traffic and usage can only go as high as the server can let you.
Dedicated hosting can be compared to a house on its own very small plot of land. It is private, not affected by neighbors but there is no yard, so expansion is not possible.
Speed: 6/10, Security: 5/10, Up-time: 6/10, Cost: Medium
Cloud hosting has one massive advantage: It is almost infinitely scalable.
It can also save your startup significant amounts of money. If you only expect to need massive server resources during rare instances, then it is cheaper to pay as you go, with a cloud service, rather than to run one high-spec dedicated or virtual server.
You could compare cloud hosting to an apartment in a city of empty apartment blocks. You have total privacy and all those other apartments to expand into if necessary, but you only pay rent on them if you need them.
Describing these services as “cloud” is oversimplifying matters, however. There are essentially three types of cloud hosting; public, private and hybrid.
For most purposes, and if you choose a good provider, then public cloud security is adequate and fully compliant with industry standards such as Sarbanes-Oxley, PCI and HIPAA. You do need to worry about such compliance, because not all cloud hosting services comply.
Public cloud-hosting offers limitless scalability using an unlimited number of virtualized servers according to the traffic and demands on your servers. This removes, or at least minimizes, website crashes caused by server overloads.
You pay for data transfers and compute cycles used. Compare this to a dedicated server where you pay for “unlimited” bandwidth: the problem is that no single server can cope with unlimited bandwidth.
With a public cloud hosting service such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, you can set it up so that your computing resources automatically increase when demand increases. This means your website load times are always optimal.
Speed: 8/10, Security: 8/10, Up-time: 9/10, Cost: Medium
Private cloud hosting means that you own or rent the infrastructure, but the cloud stack runs on virtualization. They may be situated in your own place as on-premises infrastructure or in a third party data center such as Rackspace, but they are yours. The data on the servers are yours and nobody has access to it. They are totally isolated and secure. You can scale out the infrastructure through multiple servers – which can span the globe – and manage the load through load balancing platforms.
Big Data companies like Google and Amazon can never access to your data if you invest in private cloud hosting. The disadvantage, of course, is that the capacity is only as good as the servers that run your cloud.
Speed 8/10, Security 9/10, Up-time 7/10, Cost: Medium
Some companies require data sovereignty as part of their compliance requirements.
If, for example, your business is in a country like Indonesia, but you are hosting with Azure which has servers in Singapore, then you may want to physically keep some data in your local servers, which will require a hybrid setup (your own server + the Azure cloud).
Hybrid cloud hosting is the perfect solution, offering data security, low down-time, high availability and the scalability of the public cloud. Parts of your cloud can reside in the public cloud, but you can keep others – such as your database – within your own private cloud.
Either a hybrid cloud or private cloud infrastructure can be designed with high availability in mind by using a combination of load balancing, failover and disaster recovery mechanisms from companies such as Incapsula.
Speed: 10/10, Security: 10/10, Up-time: 10/10, Cost: Medium
If your business depends on the quality and scalability of your hosting service you will never want to compromise quality in order to save a few dollars in the short-term.
It is important to look at the real costs of “low cost” shared web hosting solutions. Down-time costs are massive, and these include under-utilized employees, lost orders, lost future orders and lost reputation.
No startup business can risk being hit with such massive and unpredictable downtime costs.
The risks are real: 91% of companies reported unscheduled downtime over the past 2 years.
More than anything else a startup needs predictable costs.
This is what makes the hybrid cloud solution the clear winner for any startup. It stands out in terms of network and data security, high availability, resistance to hacker attacks and reliability. It is scalable and can grow as the company grows.
What is your thinking on hosting priorities for your startup? What are you prepared to compromise on and by how much? Please use the comment box below for your input.