Monday, 02 March 2015Written by Alan Foster

You have built a great Joomla website and now your ready to share it with the world. However, if you have not thought about which hosting company or service to go for, chances are you won’t get the results you might have been hoping for even if your site is perfect in every way.

Choosing the right web hosting service plays an important part in building a website. The last thing you need when launching a new website or running an established website is server downtime or a slow loading site which will have a serious impact on your business. You only get one chance to make an impression on the internet, if your site is slow or down or maybe has a technical issue then you could loose an important sale and the visitor will move onto the next website.

Useful hosting tips

Before we get started we want to try and provide you with some general advice and tips which you may find useful to help you make the right decision.

  1. You get what you pay for. Which ever hosting package you sign up for whether it's free, shared, VPS or dedicated you always get what you pay for and you need to weigh up the pro's and con's for each service before making a decision to ensure it meets your requirements in for the short and long term.
  2. Is your website business critical or is it just a personal hobby website? If it's business critical where you make your living from it and have paying customers who use your services then you may want to consider a VPS or dedicated hosting solution.
  3. Before making a decision think about both the short term and long term requirements for the website. How much disk space will you need, what about bandwidth and resources on the server including CPU and memory.
  4. Don't fall for the unlimited bandwidth, disk space and so on offered in shared hosting plans. If you use to much resources on the server you will be forced to upgrade or your account may even get suspended.
  5. Don't base your decision solely on the reviews included in the hosting review websites. A large majority of them are run for one purpose, to earn the people who operate the sites a commission every time someone clicks on the links included in the website.
  6. If you have any questions, concerns about the hosting company contact the sales team directly via chat, email or phone. This will help you understand if they can deliver the service you expect from them.
  7. Post a question on a reputable forum like the Joomla forum or a more specialized forum like web hosting talk where you will get replies from people who have real world experience of the hosting company in question.
  8. If possible use Paypal to pay for the service. If you have any issues or your unhappy with the service you can always get the issue resolved via PayPal.
  9. Think about where the hosting company is located. If your customers are based in the UK, then choose a company in the UK as the servers will be hosted in a UK data center. It will also be a lot easier to speak to someone on the phone plus you are more likely to get much faster site load times based on the server, network location.
  10. Don't rely on the hosting company to do website backups for you. Make sure you do full website backups via Cpanel or via a third party Joomla extension like akeebabackup to ensure you have a local backup on your computer.
  11. What type of support do you expect to receive? You will get very limited support for a free plan. You may have to wait longer to get your support ticket answered with a shared plan but you should get priority support if you go for a VPS or dedicated server.
  12. Give the support element some though, it can be easily over looked. If your website is down or you have a technical issue and you need support now not in 1 or 3 hours then it's worth paying more to get a better service.
  13. If you sign up for a VPS or dedicated server do you want managed or un managed?
  14. Does the hosting company meet the technical requirements to run Joomla?

Free web hosting

Free web hosting services offer a number of benefits, so it's always worth exploring what the free services have to offer. Free hosting is OK if you plan to run a hobby based website and you don't mind if the site goes down now or again plus you have to wait a few hours to get a reply to your support ticket.

This option can also be great if you just want to learn the tricks of the trade and want to learn how Joomla works on a live server environment before investing your money in a paid hosting plan.

Advantages

  1. Great for simple sites which don't plan to use much server resources and get very little traffic.
  2. Good for testing Joomla out and getting to know how it works on a live server environment.
  3. It's free so no monthly hosting bills to pay
  4. Most free packages include basic features including FTP access, one MYSQL database and email account.

Disadvantages

  1. It's free, so you get what you pay for. If your site goes offline and you need urgent support then you will more than likely have to wait longer to get a reply to your question.
  2. Your site maybe offline more than you expect due to the number of free sites hosted on the server using up the server resources or the server could get abused by another free user account that uses to much resources and takes the server offline.
  3. Joomla may not work as expected, issues could occur which may not occur on a paid hosting plan.
  4. You won't get the same level of support as paid customers. If you have a technical issue, you could wait longer.
  5. If your site gets busy, sudden upsurge in traffic then you may use to much resources on the server and your account may get suspended or you are forced to upgrade to a paid plan.
  6. If your site gets hacked and you need to contact your hosting company to recover the site from a backup. Because its free then backups may not be included.
  7. The site might load slowly due to the number of free accounts hosted on the server.
  8. Your website may display advertisements as part of the deal to get free hosting.

To sum up free hosting packages are fine for small, hobby type sites where if the site goes offline or it's slow you don't really care, because it's free. They are also good for people who just want to test Joomla out on a real hosting environment and get used of using FTP, email, MYSQL and so on. But if your site is business critical with paying customers then you may want to consider a paid solution.

Shared hosting

The next and most popular option is shared hosting which is used by a majority of people running small websites. Shared hosting ranges between $5 - $8 per month and comes with everything you need to get your site online. You normally get a free domain, sufficient amount of space and bandwidth plus resources to run a small Joomla site. You also get support if you run into any technical problems setting up the website or have email, FTP or MYSQL database issues.

Advantages

  1. Low cost, expect to pay between $5 - $8 per month.
  2. Normally a free domain is included.
  3. You can create an unlimited number of FTP and Email accounts.
  4. You should expect less downtime and better site performance, faster page load times.
  5. You will receive technical support for any hosting issues you may have.
  6. Daily site backups should be completed for you as part of the plan.

Disadvantages

  1. Your site will be sharing the same server and hardware resources as lots of other websites hosted on the same shared server. Sometimes this can be hundreds of other websites all on the same server.
  2. If another site hosted on the same server uses to much resource (CPU, memory) then it may take the server offline and therefore take your site offline.
  3. If your site becomes popular and uses to much of the allocated resources you maybe forced by the hosting company to upgrade to a VPS or dedicated server or your website could also get suspended.
  4. Your site will use a shared IP address so it may not be suitable for running e-commerce websites.

To conclude shared hosting offers everything you need to get a website up and running and is great for anyone looking to run a small site. However if you run a business critical service with paying customers and your reputation and livelihood depends on the site been available online 99% of the time then you may want to consider a VPS or dedicated server.

VPS hosting

VPS hosting has become a popular option for people who have out grown a shared plan but don't need the resources or want to pay the price for a dedicated server.

VPS hosting is great for anyone planning to run a small / medium sized website and needs access to more hardware resources (CPU, memory, bandwidth, hard disk space) and control over the server.

A virtual private server (VPS) basically resides on one physical hardware server but the physical server is split up into separate virtual environments. The hosting company may offer two options which include managed and un managed. Managed means they will take care of the VPS for you, run all the updates, make changes to the operating system and much more. Un managed means you take care of everything except the physical hardware and network. If you have the knowledge and skills to look after Apache, MYSQL, installing RPM's doing security updates plus more then you will get a great deal on an un managed VPS package. If you don't have the technical knowledge or experience then go for a managed solution.

Advantages

  1. Cheaper than investing in a dedicated server.
  2. You get a lot more control over the server environment compared to shared hosting. For example you can create new hosting accounts, restart services including Apache, MYSQL, root access and much more.
  3. Install and run more CPU, memory intensive scripts which could not be run on a shared plan.
  4. Only your websites will be hosted on the VPS.
  5. You should get better site performance and less downtime as less sites will be hosted on node compared to the shared server which could have hundreds of sites running on it.
  6. Easily scalable, you can increase the resources (memory, disk space, bandwidth) you need as and when you need them depending on your business requirements.
  7. You get allocated specific resources (number of CPU cores, memory, bandwidth, hard disk space and so on)
  8. Built-in software firewall.
  9. Great for business critical web sites.
  10. Dedicated IP address (s)
  11. You can purchase a managed VPS plan where the hosting company will take care of everything for you.

Disadvantages

  1. It's more expensive than a shared plan.
  2. Some hosting companies have been known to oversell, which means they put more VPS's on the physical server to earn a quick dollar and hope customers don't go over there allocated resources because if they do the server will become unstable. Before signing up with the company its worth asking how many virtual machines are on each physical server.
  3. If there is a physical hardware fault on the node or server then your VPS container will go offline and take your site offline.
  4. More technical knowledge and experience is required to manage the VPS. Most of it can be managed via the user friendly Cpanel WHM console so if your OK with using WHM then you should be fine. If you have purchased a managed VPS package then the hosting company will take care of everything for you.

Dedicated server

A dedicated server is where you lease a physical server located in a data center from the hosting company, so it's all yours to host only your websites. You can also be specific about the specification of the server including CPU's, hard disk space, SCSI or SSD drive, network port speeds and so on.

Advantages

  1. It's your server to host only your website or sites.
  2. Better performance in terms of overall site load time as your website is the only site using the resources.
  3. You have full control of the server to do what you wish with it within the terms of the hosting agreement you have signed up to. You can also tweak the settings of the server to improve the performance of it.

Disadvantages

  1. More expensive compared to shared and VPS plans.
  2. Technical knowledge and experience is required to manage, maintain and update the server. This however can be managed by the hosting company for an additional fee

Conclusion

This blog post is not intended for experts and we are not experts in field of hosting but we have tried to share our general knowledge and experiences with you which you may find useful to help you make the right decision.

Finding the right hosting company and solution is an important part of the jigsaw puzzle when running a website.

The bottom line is it all comes down to cost and your specific short and long term requirements for the website you plan to build.

You also need to take into account how business critical the website is, do you make your living from it, if its offline will your customers kill you on Twitter and Facebook and destroy your online reputation.

One more thing to think about is to do your research. Visit the websites which contain real and valid reviews, speak directly with the hosting company and post questions on reputable forums to get real customer feedback about the service you plan to sign up to.