Web Hosting Provider Selection

Early in the new-website creation process a hosting service should be selected.  Even if the site is being built locally, the hosting service provider should be selected so that the site creator will know exactly what constraints and infrastructure are present.  It is also desirable to test deployment on the hosting service early on so that issues with the provider or environment can be resolved and worked around during development and testing. Selecting which technologies to use for the website can also be related to the hosting provider selection.

Criteria for Hosting Provider Selection

Before choosing a provider you will need to decide if a particular operating system( OS) is required.  Not all providers offer Windows.  Most offer Linux. As long as OS is not a limitation (my preference), the following list is a good starting place for criteria for this decision:

  1. Up-time of the provider (usually expressed as a percentage such as %99.3)
  2. Load time (the average time it takes for your site to load)
    • This may depend on both provider traffic as well as traffic level on your site
  3. Security
    • This encompasses both your site and data operations as well as the hosts infrastructure
    • If all or part of a hosting service goes down, your site will too
    • Backend security of your site may be dependent on host infrastructure
  4. Hosting Costs
    • Domain name annual registration cost
    • Actual hosting costs
    • Data flow costs if high or billed separately
    • Routing/Load balancing costs if applicable
  5. Provider offered support (may be a cost)
  6. Community for help
  7. Scalability

1 and 2 above are the performance of the provider service. In addition, as your site traffic goes up it may bog down the server and cause slow page loading or response.  Major service providers have been measured by many studies available on the web.  Examine the current performance data on the providers you are considering. If your site use may grow, scalability features like load balancing may be necessary.

Security at all levels should be considered.  The best services offer solid infrastructure access security based on key pairs managed by the vendor. Simple password login to the infrastructure is not sufficient.

Hosting costs will always be an important factor.  It is best if these can scale up and down with business needs.

Some Possible Hosting Provider Choices

The included list includes some of the most popular hosting providers. It is certainly only a sampling of providers out there.  It does include three of the four largest in terms of sites hosted. The vast majority of sites are hosted by a few providers.  All of the providers listed offer fairly easy startup for a person or company with limited experience. Amazon and Google will probably take the most effort to learn but also have the most to offer in breadth and scalability.  Amazon is the number 3 provider in the world for number of sites hosted.

  1. Amazon AWS  $3.50 (LightSail)
    • Hosts the third largest number of sites in the world!
    • Pricing discounts for long term commits (more advanced services like EC2)
    • Fully scalable
  2. A2Hosting $3.92
    • Severe uptime problems due to ransom-ware
    • Have been measured as very fast when up
    • Supports both Linux and Windows
  3. Bluehost   $2.75 then $8.99 (second year and beyond)
    • Sixth largest provider
    • Good small scale choice
  4. Hostgator $2.92
  5. Siteground  $3.95
  6. Wix   $17/$13
    • Proprietary builder
    • Very hard to move away from
  7. Go Daddy $3.66
    • Hosts the most websites!
    • Requires long term commit
    • Bad support reputation
    • Lots of up-charges
  8. Google Cloud Web Serving $10.00 and up.

Of the eight providers listed above two are actually full service cloud computing providers. These are Amazon AWS and Google Cloud.  If these services would work for you they should be seriously considered.  They are both growing rapidly.  This type of service has the maximum scalability.

If Amazon or Google is not workable Bluehost has a very good reputation and will probably end up around $10.00 per month in the long term.

I would personally not use proprietary tools like Wix.  You might need to move your site in the future.

Cost Components for WebSite Hosting

Once you have developed a short list which meets your needs for reliability, performance and security you will probably then consider cost. There are actually several service items with ongoing charges for website hosting.  They are:

  1. Site hosting
  2. Domain name registration
  3. Storage
  4. Data flow (usually outbound only and only above some threshold)

Site hosting is the usual advertised price.  The lowest numbers are around $3.00 per month.  Some may include domain name registration, but, only with a long term commitment.

Domain names can be registered anywhere for $8.00 to $17.00 per year for a .com domain name.  I think NameCheap.com works just fine at $8.00 per year. 

Many services also provide very basic routing in the base price. For a fair comparison I would estimate the following:

Bluehost:

  Basic $8.99 plus $.66 for a domain ($8.00/12) = $8.65 per month

Amazon AWS LIghtSail:

  1GB $5.00 version plus $.66 (domain)

….plus .50 for route53, 1 zone =$6.16 per month

Both of these providers offer a first year at lower prices.  (For Amazon use EC2 for free for a year!)

Amazon AWS

I chose AWS! Amazon AWS offers almost unlimited scalability. They are the most extensive cloud solution available. In terms of reliability and performance, both the Amazon as well as the Google cloud infrastructures speak for themselves with their own products. In addition Amazon has done a great job with security. That means that most of the criteria list is completely satisfied. In my opinion Amazon is more mature, more polished and much easier to get started with. There are many scalability options. This service can be used for far more hosting. The fact that the service is broad in terms of usages and features does not get in the way of website hosting.

I think if you look carefully Amazon is about as cost effective as any solution.  Be very careful of articles that are a few years old as Amazon continues to sharpen its pencil so that they collect more small customers that can grow to big customers.

There are three basic ways to use AWS for website hosting.  They are:

  1. S3 (data storage)
  2. EC2 (Virtual Machines)
  3. LightSail ( a packged set of services to make website hosting even easier and inexpensive.

S3 (data storage only) can serve static sites.  For reasonably small ones this is free (forever I think!) If you need any type of dynamic site, including a Content Management System(CMS) such as WordPress, you will need either EC2 or LightSail.  LightSail is simply a fixed fee package for basic websites. It is like a small EC2 instance with the other basics for all in one package.  You just need LightSail plus a domain name for a basic site.

EC2 is an Amazon AWS service that provides a virtual machine (VM) in which you can create one or more instances. In each instance you can create a VPS (Virtual Private Server).  This can be done mostly manually or you can use a prebuilt Amazon Machine Image (AMI).  The Amazon instance creation procedure provides searchable access to hundreds of AMIs from a variety of sources.

Bitnami offers a number of AMIs for use in AWS EC2 instances. Two of these are WordPress complete stacks. Creation of an instance, installation of an AMI and launching of the whole stack takes just a few minutes. A few tidbits need to be collected and/or created along the way which will provide unique credentials for that instance.  The details of this process will be the subject of an upcoming blog!

All of my AWS/WordPress work today has been done on two Bitnami WordPress AMIs.  This is mostly a very smooth operation that appears to produce quality results. I am running a pair of websites, using WordPress and WordPress MultiSite (at different times and in different instances).

Conclusions

I personally think Amazon AWS is, by far the best solution.  It certainly is the most flexible. It is arguably the most secure and reliable.  You can purchase any level of performance you want (including dynamic traffic spike handling).  In addition, for any particular configuration I think it is almost as inexpensive as anything else. At any point you have a huge selection of services/programs that you can purchase instead of developing when that is the better business decision.

I strongly recommend Amazon AWS.

Thank you for reading this.

Please feel free to comment.  If you see something I have wrong, please tell me. If there is something you would like me to write about let me know.

Larry

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