South Africa has a wide range of service providers offering a variety of hosting products & services from few rands a month to thousands of rands.
If you are a small business depending on your requirements getting started, you can probably start with shared hosting, virtual private server (VPS), or dedicated server ranging from R60 – R999 per month.
Here is what we recommend you consider when choosing a web hosting provider.
Decide how much help you will need. Basic customer service provides access to email, ticket and phone support. Turnaround time on requests, however, this will vary. Some service providers even offer 24-hour phone support.
Fot those looking to have self-managed services – VPS & Server hosting. The limiting factor to non-managed service is that while your service provider may answer questions about basic server configurations, they are not your systems manager. You will still need to do most work yourself.
If you want to outsource the management of your server completely, then you want to consider managed service. Providers of managed service will make sure your system is configured properly for your load, keep an eye on security issues, patch your software as needed and manage backups among other tasks.
Estimate the amount of traffic you expect. Hosting providers generally charge based on storage and bandwidth usage. Bandwidth is a measure of how many bytes you serve over a given period. If you expect only a few folks to visit your site, bandwidth will be low. But if you’re suddenly featured at the top of Google first page or your product goes viral you can expect bandwidth requirements to go high.
As long as you’re honest with yourself, there’s not much of a risk. For example, if you plan to only serve a few pages to a few local customers, you’ll never run afoul of any limits. But if you know that you’re really building a site that will stress low-end shared servers, be sure to pick a dedicated or cloud-based server. If not you will find your website suspended by your service provider.
Understand server types. The very cheapest hosting is available on shared servers, where one box may run hundreds of websites. The performance of your site depends on the load all the other sites are putting on the host. Shared hosting limits your access to the server’s capabilities, generally limiting you to uploading files via FTP or SFTP, preventing shell access, restricting what programs you can run on the service and limiting the amount of database access your site can perform.
The next tier up is VPS (for a virtual private server), which is a full instance of a virtual machine (a simulated computer) running on a box. Usually, hosting providers run many VPS instances on one box, but performance is almost always better than base-level shared services. If you use a VPS, you should be familiar with basic server maintenance and management.
If you don’t want to share performance with other sites, consider a dedicated server, a physical box that’s rented to you. It’s the same as having a server sitting behind your desk, except it’s located in a service provider’s data center. Only those with system management skills need to apply.
Cloud servers may be a better choice. They usually run on the giant public clouds, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. Service providers can build whatever configuration suits the needs of their customers. The big benefit of cloud servers is that you can scale seamlessly. If you need to be able to handle that big traffic surge, just pay your provider more money. Nothing needs to be moved or rebuilt.
Be wary of unlimited offers. Some hosting providers offer so-called unlimited storage and bandwidth for a few rands a month. This deal often isn’t what it seems to be. If you pay three bucks a month for hosting, there will likely be something in your terms of service allowing your hosting provider to either throttle your performance or shut you down after a certain usage level.
Choose a portable content management system to avoid lock-in. Most hosts are pretty good, but times change. Management changes, acquisitions, and technology shifts can alter your web hosting plans. Make sure your site isn’t locked to anyone host and that you have a backup practice in place. In case there is dispute and you want to move to the next service provider.
For my business, I make sure I use an open source content management system. Many people use WordPress on top of PHP, which will run on just about anything. Do regular updates and site backups, so you always have access to your site’s data, media and structure. This approach means all you need to do is load your backup on another provider’s service and point your domain name to that provider.
Own your domain name. We have helped clients who wanted to transfer domains to us but only to find out that their domains are not registered with their name. The registered owner can decline or ignore to accept transfer tickets when moving to new service provider.
Now that you know how to get your site up onto the internet, you’re all set to get started. Go forth and build something great. Check out our web hosting services to find a service that works for you.