Hosting Your Company On a Shared Platform

(Ping! Zine Issue 15) – If you’re seeking to promote your business through the internet, one of the most crucial decisions you will make is your choice of a web site host.

For the majority of small businesses and webmasters, a paid-for, shared web hosting plan makes the most sense, rather than free hosting or a dedicated server.  Most free hosting platforms are flexible enough to allow the kind of ‘brochureware’ site that straightforward promotions require, but the chances are you would have to put up with external advertising on your site – which is hardly going to do your brand a lot of good.  At the high end of the price range, a dedicated server for a small promotional site would be needlessly extravagant.

So, a shared service, in which your website sits on a server along with the sites of dozen or hundreds of other enterprises, is usually the most cost-effective compromise.  It can have its drawbacks, such as the classic case of when a problem with a single site crashes the whole server.  But, for most website owners who simply wish to promote an offline business, or even for those who run small to medium-scale e-commerce operations, shared hosting remains the most efficient and economical option.

So what should you look for in a shared host?  Most companies that offer shared hosting plans have to make delicate trade-offs between security and flexibility.  You should look for one that seems to have the two in balance and also offers a good price – these days ‘good’ usually means just a few dollars a month for 50-100Mb of space.

The first thing about a shared hosting provider that you should check out is the level of access they offer to your server space.  This boils down to whether or not you will be permitted to install your own ‘backend’ programs like databases and shopping carts.  If they offer you unrestricted remote access to tinker around with what you want, that’s excellent from a flexibility point of view – you or your web designer can upload files and processes easily – but this is less desirable from the point of view of security.

Why? Because it means other businesses who are sharing your server could install unstable, badly-written software or, even worse, viruses or spyware.  This is where the trade-off comes: you want the flexibility to install programs on the server – or even if you don’t right now, you may wish to expand into e-commerce in the future.  But, you don’t want your site hosted on a shared server where access is a complete free-for-all.

That’s why most shared hosts offer ‘packages’ – add-ons to your site that range from simple mail forms to fully-featured shopping carts. The shared host’s staff installs these, or at the very least carefully supervises and checks their installation. Many shared hosts allow you to shop for features. For example, if you want a simple brochureware site you only buy the website space. If you want surfers to be able to check out your products, you can add a database. If you want them to be able to actually buy online, you can add a shopping cart.

This flexible approach, combined with great-value pricing, is the sign of a good shared host.  It allows you the flexibility to develop your site according to the needs of your business, while offering you peace of mind, in that the chances of major downtime will be greatly reduced.

WebSiteHostDirectory.Com (WSHD) is a resource for webmasters and consumers looking to find a web hosting company or quality, expiring domain names with traffic. WSHD is part of the TechPad Agency network of web hosting related sites, visit www.TechPadAgency.com for more information.  This article may be reprinted or published without the authors consent as long as the “About” and “web links” are kept intact.  If you publish this article, we would love to know the location.

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