Web hosting options for your freelance (or SMB) website

If you’re looking at setting up shop as a freelance writer or small business owner, then one of your first port-of-calls is going to probably be setting up some basic online infrastructure.

In the second episode of the DSR Ghostwriting podcast, I briefly explain the differences between some of the most common types of web hosting. Listen to the full episode above for all the details!

The Main Hosting Categories

I would divide the web hosting market into the following categories.

All-in-One Solutions

All-in-one providers, such as Wix, take care of everything you need to get set up online.

However, you will lose out on the ability to customize some key aspects of your website.

Even if you chose a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) builder that allows you a good degree of control over the website that the public sees (the frontend), expect to be curtailed in your ability to do more sophisticated things like configure DNS records and set up cron jobs.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is a great choice for many small business owners and most people’s first experience with hosting their website online.

In shared hosting, the hosting provider bundles a large amount of website onto a single server. Typically, resource allocation is not guaranteed and users are also restricted in terms of the total number of files and folders (collectively: inodes) that they can have on their account. The difference between “regular” shared hosting and “WordPress hosting” is less cut and dried. In many cases, hosts will specifically tailor their shared offering to support the needs of WordPress webmasters β€” or offer additional add-on services like real-time malware monitoring β€” but in terms of broad taxonomies, they sit within the “shared” paradigm.

This may not be a big deal for those with basic issues, but by the time you add a few websites and start adding self-hosted services like CRM and ERP tools, you can run into difficulties.

Additionally, as I recently learned the hard way, separation (or caging) between different addon domains on the same shared hosting account leaves much to be desired.

In fact, cross-contamination can even occur from other users’ websites on the same shared server. I therefore recommend making sure that you have a proper backup infrastructure in place and thinking carefully before placing any business-critical services on a shared hosting provider.

Finally, shared hosting accounts are not the best choice when your freelance website begins to scale in terms of traffic. The extra bandwidth your websites take up may cause your account to be throttled by the hosting company, resulting in a serious slow-down in performance.

Some popular providers of shared hosting packages include:

VPS Hosting

If you’ve ever used a virtual machine in VMWare of Oracle Virtualbox (as I mention in the podcast: I am a proud Linux/Ubuntu geek!) then you have a good intuitive idea of how Virtual Private Server (VPS) services work.

VPS hosting can be both managed and unmanaged.

In either configuration, you get access to a dedicated virtual machine provisioned within an actual bare-metal server. With VPS, you typically receive a guaranteed resource allocation and can choose the distribution of your server (if it is Linux-based) and manage packages. With root access, you can really change things however you want.

However, VPS is significantly less user-friendly (and more expensive) than shared hosting. You may find yourself even having to purchase and install Cpanel separately as it is often not included in the package. If you’re an advanced user and want something between shared and dedicated hosting, however, this may be a good choice.

Some VPS hosting providers:

Dedicated Hosting

Although there are more advanced hosting options which I did not cover in the podcast (I’m thinking of cloud hosting) the traditional “top dog” in the hosting world is dedicated hosting.

With dedicated hosting, you get access to a dedicated server in your hosting provider’s data center. Because with dedicated hosting you’re renting an actual physical machine, it’s unsurprisingly typically the most expensive hosting option out there.

Some dedicated hosting providers:

Reseller Hosting

I call reseller hosting the “hidden gem of the hosting world” and recently migrated to a reseller package after a succession of shared providers (as well as my brief experimental attempt to host my website from an old laptop!).

As the name suggests, reseller hosting packages are intended for those that want to white-label another hosting company’s server capacity and β€” effectively β€” enter the hosting provider market under their own trading name.

However β€” hush, hush! β€” it’s entirely possible to simply purchase one of these for your own personal use. In some interesting conversations I had recently with hosting professionals, I learned that a substantial portion of their average reseller hosting client base in fact subscriber to their reseller packages without the intent of actually reselling the space.

That’s where my sixteen or so domain names are currently sitting (don’t ask!).

I have nothing but good things to say about reseller hosting.

You get incredible value for money β€” in terms of inode limits, storage space constraints, and other factors, there’s simply no dollar comparison with most shared plans. Your websites are relatively well isolated from one another. And even if you have inode restrictions, you’re unlikely to ever run into limits on any one account.

Some reseller hosting providers:

For my thoughts on the above, in audio format, please listen to the podcast. For more technical tips and tidbits for freelancers and SMB owners, subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

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