In this article I will cover PHP hosting platforms, types of hosting, types of hosting providers and their differences. I will also cover the advantages and disadvantages of each. This article is based on my experience in the industry and having been employed by two of the largest hosting providers in the world. I will reveal the truth about the hosting industry.
There is both Linux and Windows hosting. If you are hosting a PHP based website such as WordPress, Drupal, Magento, or a custom PHP website I recommend you stay with Linux hosting because PHP is native to Linux and Linux makes for a better server.
Types of Hosting
Shared hosting is by far the most popular, the least expensive, and the least reliable for the serious small business. Later in this article I will share 2 incidents where small businesses were negatively impacted by shared hosting.
While working for several of the top hosting companies in the world I saw things that shaped my opinion that shared hosting is not a solution for small business.
The hosting providers I worked for had a very structured process for interacting with website owners. If a website owner had an issue he or she would enter this process in one of two ways. The first would be to call customer service. The customer service agent is a level one tech. They are limited in what they can do and they may not have the skills to fix a problem. If the level one cannot resolve the problem within a few minutes they will escalate the problem to a level 2 tech. This may mean a delay of upto 72 hours. This means an issue can linger for days. Website down? Not able to communicate via email? You have to wait. The second way to enter the system is through completing an online form which goes into a queue. It may take minutes to many hours before a level one tech responds to this open ticket. If the level one tech is unable to reselve the issue at his or her level, the ticket will be escalated to a level 2 tech. Resolution could take 24 to 72 hours.
This could mean a website that is down or no ability to communicate via email.
Not a situation I would want for a small business. When you see the alternatives you will understand why I express this opinion.
If reseller hosting works as planned this could be a viable option for the small business. The problem is it does not. I experienced this first hand when my website screeched to a halt. After weeks of my website being unusable, I moved to another provider.
These plans are great. They give you the ability to host a great number of websites. The most popular is HostGator. The cost is good too. The problem is the same as the shard hosting technical issue resolution.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
In my opinion this is the way to go especially when adding the Plesk server management software into the mix. With Plesk things are just made easier. Plesk is so easy to learn and use, the average person could learn enough to run their own server. With the advent of the Solid State Drive (SSD) and as modern day server hardware becoming more powerful, a VPS running Plesk is the answer for most small businesses.
Modern day Plesk is very feature rich. Here are some of Plesk’s features :
- Install a free Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate.
- Force your website to always be secured, which is a big plus for Search Engine Optimization, and website speed.
- Force your website to the non- www or the www version of your website’s URL.
- Update your server Operating System with the click of a link.
- Edit files directly on the server.
- Stop or restart your server from the control panel.
- It allows you to manage your email accounts right on the server. Add, edit, and delete email accounts at will.
These are some of the main features that I think you will be interested in.
I am very impressed with Plesk on a VPS. This is the platform I recommend. As far as I am concerned there is no down side to running Plesk on a VPS as your hosting solution. I only see benefits from this arrangement.
Several years ago this was the way to go. Keep in mind that hardware is becoming more powerful and with SSD drives becoming affordable, servers fly making VPS’s viable. Hardware servers are no longer needed, for the most part.
The upside of having a hardware server is you have your own server all to yourself. The downside is a hardware server will more than likely be at least 2 times more expensive than a VPS.
One of the things you should be aware of is some hosting configurations come with the ability to manage email and others do not. Shared hosting will provide the ability to manage your email, while a hardware server may or may not give you the ability to manage your email accounts, unless of course you are running Plesk on your hardware server.
Having the ability to manage one’s own email accounts is one of the reasons I like Plesk so much.
Types of Hosting Providers and Their Differences
There is three types of hosting providers.
1) Commodity or mom and pop hosting providers. The GoDaddys and the iPowers of the world. I do not recommend this type of hosting for any serious business.
2) Business class hosting providers. These providers may offer you shared hosting which may be viable because this class of provider is more service oriented and may fix your issues, if they should arise, within a reasonable amount of time. This class of hosting provider is the one I would recommend, and would recommend you obtain a VPS from them.
3) Specialty Hosting Providers. These guys are the best in class. They specialize in a certain software package such as WordPress, Drupal, or Magento. They are very responsive to tickets and phone calls. Tickets are usually acknowledged within a few minutes and if you call you will be taking with a real system administrator. I’ve worked with this type of hosting provider and they are topshelf. However this is not a solution for the small business mostly because of cost. These houses charge $400 plus for a VPS and hardware servers are going to be in the $700 plus range, per month.
Pricing, Service, and Reliability
Shared hosting and reseller hosting are in the same class. Rather inexpensive and not so reliable. I do not recommend these for the average small business.
A VPS running Plesk provided by a business class host is by far the best solution for the average business. This solution may cost a little bit more, however it is worth is.
Hardware servers are reserved for the client that needs extra horsepower and resources for their website. Add Plesk and a business class host and you have a nice combination. A hardware server may cost 2 or more times as much as a decent VPS from the same hosting provider.
2 Bad Experiences From Using Shared Hosting at One of Those Discount Hosting Companies
Example One – I had a friend who was hosting his website and blog with one of the world’s largest hosting providers. He was on shared hosting. His website got corrupted and it took days to get his website back on line and he lost his blog entirely. If you are doing any amount of Search Engine Optimization, you know blogs are important. Not only that, it take lots of time and effort to build a decent blog. His blog was completely gone.
Example Two – I was at work at one of the largest hosting providers when I became aware of a businessman who who was trying to get his website and email working again after the shared hosting server his website and email accounts were on, died. It took over a week to recover his website and email. Imagine your business website being off line for a week and all your emails, inbound and outbound, are stopped. Would your business survive?
This is the truth about shared hosting.
If something bad is going to happen… it is going to happen to someone. That someone could be you.
PHP Hosting Solution
If you are still reading you probably know what I am about to say. Please keep reading because I am going to make the point, a point we all need to hear. The point is we all like to save money. I like cheep shared hosting for that reason and that reason alone.
If you are using shared hosting you may go a lifetime without any issues. And then you could be the statistic who loses your website for a couple days or worse yet your email does not work for days. In the mean time you are losing business, risk losing customers, and risk bankrupts.
My solution is very simple. Find a business class hosting provider and host on a VPS that also is running Plesk. If your website requires more resources then get a hardware server running Plesk. And do so in a business class data center where you can talk with a real system administrator when you call or email.
I’d bet your business and your piece of mind are worth the extra $35 a month for a VPS.
We have covered many aspects of hosting, which is better and some of the gotchas. We covered the type of hosting plans and the type of providers. As you can see not all are created equal. And there is some real potential threats to your business if you are unaware.
I’m guessing you are probably a small business person not a techie. There is a lot to know about hosting. It is important that you as a business person understand this part of your business.
Hands down I make one simple recommendation. Find a business class hosting company and get a VPS or a hardware server running Plesk. If you do so you will minimize your risk while spending just a few more dollars each month.
Isn’t your business and peace of mind worth it?