A Guide to Choosing the Best Hosting Option for Your Website

A Guide to Choosing the Best Hosting Option for Your Website

Posted on May 22, 2023 0 Comments

Use this guide to consider which type of web hosting is best for your website, learn the pros and cons to each option and uncover the right one for you.

What makes one website better than any other? Having a good, clean, modern design is helpful. Providing visitors with a frictionless, intuitive and enjoyable experience matters a good deal, too.

But it’s not just how the frontend is designed to look and feel that impacts the user’s experience. The infrastructure that the website rests on can also have an impact, even if it’s invisible to visitors.

If you’re getting ready to build a website and are wondering what is the best way to host your website, then this post is for you. We’ll be comparing three of the most common hosting methods:

  • On-premise hosting
  • Hosting via a partner
  • PaaS managed services

Before we look at those options, though, we’re going to start with a needs assessment questionnaire. While you could realistically choose any hosting option and make it work, what you really need is a platform architecture that addresses your needs (and not just those of your website). So let’s figure out what those are first.

Questionnaire: What Do You Need from Your Web Hosting?

Web hosting does more than just give you a place to store your website. Different types of hosting offer various benefits related to performance, security and agility. Plus, the different ways you go about setting up hosting can impact your operation as a whole.

When considering hosting options, here are the questions you first need to ask yourself:

  • What is your website-related budget?
  • What type of website are you building?
  • Will your website more or less stay the same size with similar features over time? Or will you scale it?
  • What sort of regulations will your site need to comply with?
  • Do you already have a content management system (CMS) picked out?
  • Will you build the website or do you have a design partner doing it for you?
  • Do you or your designer have your own server infrastructure to host the website on?
  • How much control do you want over the backend of your website?
  • Are you comfortable with managing your server infrastructure?
  • Does website availability matter much to you?
  • Do you anticipate periods of higher-than-usual traffic volumes to your site?
  • Is security a big deal? In other words, could a security breach have a detrimental impact on your visitors and your brand?

While it’s not impossible to switch from one type of hosting to another, it’s not the type of disruption you’ll want to deal with once things get moving. So, it’s important to think about this from all angles so you can make the right choice from the get-go.

3 Hosting Options to Consider for Your Website

There are three common ways to procure hosting for your website. Do it yourself, outsource it to your designer or subscribe to a managed service. Let’s review what each option looks like and the pros and cons of each.

Option 1: On-Premise Hosting

On-premise hosting refers to web hosting that lives in your own ecosystem. One option is to store and run your website from physical servers that you store at your establishment. You don’t need an entire server facility to do this. Depending on the size of your site and your capacity needs, another option is to store your site in a private cloud on your computer.

While on-premise hosting isn’t as common these days, there are still specific use cases when it comes in handy.

For example, if you want to build a company intranet, on-premise hosting would give you the privacy you’re looking for. That doesn’t mean you can’t have privacy with cloud hosting, it’s just more guaranteed this way since everything is secured at your establishment.

Another reason you might opt for self hosting is because you want total control over your website’s hardware and infrastructure. If you have hands-on experience building and managing services, then this would be right up your alley.

You may have other reasons for wanting to own your website’s infrastructure. Regardless of what those reasons are, it’s a good idea to brush up on the pros and cons of going this route before making the investment in an on-premise setup.

  • No sharing of resources with other sites
  • Data security
  • Total creative control
  • Total technical control
  • Customize server configuration to your liking
  • Upfront costs vs. ongoing fees
  • Costs may be higher than other options when you account for hardware, software licenses, integrations, maintenance, etc.
  • There’s no automation of updates and maintenance
  • Adding third-party integrations can be challenging
  • Security, performance and uptime are only as good as you make them
  • You’ll have to do extra work to ensure you’re complying with relevant regulations
  • On-premise and private cloud restricts who can contribute to website as they need to be on site
  • Disaster recovery can be problematic if off-site backups aren’t maintained

Option 2: Your Designer Handles the Hosting

If you’re choosing to outsource the design and build of your website to a web designer or agency, these next two options will be a better choice for you.

With this option, your design partner will be responsible for choosing and setting up web hosting for your website. Depending on the type of website and complexity of it, there are different approaches they may take:

  • Build the infrastructure on their own premises (which is rare)
  • Pay a third-party web hosting company for a cloud hosting plan
  • Sign up for a PaaS managed service (which we’ll discuss in the next option)

Regardless of where they host your website and who is responsible for managing the infrastructure (i.e., them or a third party), they’re going to pass off those monthly or annual costs to you. And it might even come with a bit of a markup since they’re having to do all the work on your behalf. So that’s something to think about.

Another thing to be aware of is that some designers and agencies don’t want to deal with the technical details of a website’s infrastructure. Their area of expertise is in coding, design and UX. Anything that takes them away from creating the best frontend experience for users and backend experience for you as the owner of the site is something that some design partners will want to avoid.

So if you’re thinking that it would be super convenient to have your designer handle everything, it’s a discussion you’ll need to have before you sign any contracts. And if you do find a designer who is willing to set up cloud hosting for your site, get clear on what exactly they’re willing to do.

For instance, the cloud hosting provider will take care of managing the off-premise server at their data center. That includes managing the hardware, software, server uptime and security measures. However, someone still needs to manage your website, domain name, hosting services and perhaps also your server configuration. This will be ongoing work, too. If you want your design partner to do this, it should be established upfront.

Now let’s weigh the overall pros and cons of this option.

  • Pay for services that you need and nothing more
  • One partner manages everything related to your site on your behalf
  • You get to focus on content management and creating a great end user experience
  • You’ll have dedicated customer support
  • Top-of-the-line security and performance monitoring will occur the server level (depending on the hosting provider your partner chooses)
  • Disaster recovery is (usually) accounted for
  • Your partner can scale your server resources to adjust for changes in traffic and load
  • You might have to pay a bit more than if you procured the hosting yourself
  • Finding a partner who wants to manage hosting can be difficult
  • You’re entrusting the security, performance and uptime of your site to someone else and likely won’t have any access or visibility into any of it
  • Your hosting plan might cause issues for certain regulations that affect your business

Option 3: Use a Managed Cloud PaaS

This is a good option if you have an internal team to design your site or you’re hiring a partner to do it for you. And it’s a particularly great option if you are planning to build a website with a complex infrastructure and ever-evolving needs.

Essentially what this is, is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution that you build your website on. So unlike a SaaS, which gates off much of the backend code and configurations, that won’t happen with a PaaS. You’ll have access to a whole suite of tools that enable your designers and developers to do even more with your website, like CI/CD and content staging.

That’s just one of the reasons why this option is so attractive.

With a managed service offering, you won’t have to set anything up, configure your infrastructure or manage anything going forward as it will be handled by your managed service provider. Unlike a design partner who might understand the basic gist of server technology, your service provider is completely fluent in it.

The managed service provider typically has a technology partner like Microsoft. This partner provides top-of-the-line technologies for your website—secure and stable infrastructure, 99.9%+ uptime guarantees, worldwide CDNs for greater performance and failover, firewalls and DDoS protections, and more. The service provider does the rest, including:

  • Upgrading your software
  • Monitoring performance
  • Ensuring website availability
  • Monitoring for and addressing security threats
  • Assisting with scalability
  • Addressing regulatory needs
  • Providing enterprise-level support

Progress Sitefinity Cloud, for instance, takes it a step further. Sitefinity-hosted websites are both HIPAA and SOC2 compliant. So if those regulations apply to the website you’re building, that’s something to look for when choosing a managed cloud PaaS.

Bottom line: This isn’t a hosting option so much as it is an advanced solution for streamlining infrastructure management while optimizing your user experience from behind the scenes.

  • PaaS offers a more powerful solution for websites with complex needs
  • Transparent and predictable subscription costs
  • Expert technology and service provider partners manage everything related to your infrastructure
  • You can direct all your focus on your website
  • You can still work with your preferred designer or agency even if they have no interest in managing your hosting
  • You’ll receive dedicated support with enterprise level SLAs
  • Security, performance and uptime will be closely monitored
  • CDNs provide greater protections in the event of a disaster
  • HIPAA and SOC2 regulatory compliance are built into the infrastructure (depending on which service provider you use)
  • More expensive than a traditional cloud hosting solution
  • It’s a great managed solution for complex sites that require agility, scalability and power, but will probably be too much for smaller, static websites
  • Have to be careful about choosing the right managed cloud PaaS—the service provider as well as the technology partner

Wrapping up

The success of a website doesn’t just hinge on the quality of copy you write or the user experience you create. Where and how your website is hosted can impact how well it performs. Critical matters like performance, availability, security, compliance and scalability all stem from the web hosting solution you choose, so there’s a lot to think about before settling on one option.

Before you start researching web hosting providers or plans, though, take a few steps back. There are more important decisions you have to make. The guide above will help you consider the three common hosting options—on-premise, partner hosted and managed cloud PaaS. Consider the pros and cons of each against your needs, and the right choice will be clear to you.

Suzanne Scacca

A former project manager and web design agency manager, Suzanne Scacca now writes about the changing landscape of design, development and software.


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