How to choose who hosts your information
If you’re going to create an online business, you need a platform to host the information that you want to share and to process your sales.
There are several types of hosting platforms available for you to use, but we’re going to concentrate on three major purposes in this article.
- Web Host
- Podcasting Host
- Video Host
These services are the foundation for your online business. There are different choices you can make, so we’ll take a look at the criteria to consider for each type.
What is a Web Host
A web host is a business that provides the computer and networking environment to serve a web site to visitors. They have plenty of servers, a staff to maintain them and a fast internet connection to serve your site pages to visitors.
The cost to build and maintain this environment for a small business would be astronomical, and it requires dedication to keep the web host service up to date and operational.
Most small businesses won’t find it economical to either build this type of environment or maintain it. However, a web host company has economy of scale to deliver services to many who need it.
Since there are people and businesses with different needs, there are different types of web hosting options available to consider.
How to Choose a WordPress Host
A WordPress Host, sometimes called a Managed WordPress host, is a hosting produc that’s already configured to host a WordPress web site for ease of use and optimum performance.
If you know that you’re going to use WordPress (and I recommend that you do), then you want to consider three criteria for a WordPress host to get your best value:
The idea of WordPress hosting is to relieve the customer of the need to mange the infrastructure. That allows the customer to have a simple, easy to use interface to access WordPress.
You don’t have to worry about anything regarding the hosting of your site. The WordPress host takes care of optimizing performance, performing backups, keeping your site secure and potentially even updating your WordPress installation and plugins.
That leaves you more time to work on your business instead of maintaining your web host platform.
You can find several Managed WordPress Host providers on the market. Most of them provide a good service, so you’ll want to pay particular attention to the Support department response and how they treat you, not just your web site.
Cost is obviously another factor to consider. Paying more doesn’t always mean you’re getting more.
I left a prominent WordPress Host provider because they became lax about customer service and their price kept rising.
My new choice was WPX.net, which provided more capacity and less than half the cost of my previous provider. Their response time (available only on chat) typically is 30 seconds or less. Even better, the performance of my web sites significantly increased using their managed WordPress host platform.
When Should You Use a Shared Hosting Plan?
Most Web Hosts use a methodology called Shared Hosting. A single physical server may house hundreds of web sites simultaneously. It keeps the cost low and makes the web host accessible to more users.
The problem is that Shared Hosting is like overbooking. If each web site on the shared host used all of their allotted resources at the same time, it would exceed the resources of the host.
Fortunately, most sites don’t use all of their resources. In fact, there’s a lot of waiting and spikes in the web site business. That allows the shared hosting platform to serve the web site in need when it gets traffic, and then reallocated server resources to another site when it gets traffic or demand.
Another problem with Shared Hosting is that a poorly configured web site on the host may consume ample resources on a continuing basis, which decreases availability for every other web site on the host.
A site with a huge spike in traffic does the same thing. Your visitors may suffer slow performance because the low-cost shared hosting can’t allocate enough resources to each web site when one of those sites gets popular or hungry.
Depending upon the server platform used, some Shared Hosting sites can offer performance that rivals more expensive hosting platforms. However, you can still suffer performance issues if one of your neighbors hogs the server resources.
When Should You Consider Using a Dedicated Server
On the other end of the web host spectrum is a dedicated server. As the name implies, this is a server whose resources are completely at the disposal of your site or account.
It’s also one of the more expensive options. It may cost hundreds of dollars per month. The decision to use a dedicated server often occurs when your business is popular enough to offset the cost and drive more revenue with better performance.
So how do you decide if you need a dedicated server?
1: Your web site is growing and getting increased traffic.
Traffic spikes on a Shared Hosting platform cause problems in both directions. If you lose resources because of a neighbor, then your business suffers.
If your web site is getting so much traffic that you’re denying resources to other web sites on the server, then you become a problem for everyone else. That’s usually when your web host has to move you to a better performing platform.
The time to move is before it’s too late. Your current web host should have an ability to handle occasional traffic spikes up to 30 times your normal traffic rate. If your traffic is on the rise on a regular basis, it’s time to plan a move to a better web host platform.
If you don’t keep up with traffic, your site will start slowing down. That can cause visitors to leave due to poor response. In turn, that increases your Bounce Rate and may cause search engines to reduce your ranking in their results.
That means you lose business because of cheap hosting.
2: You need better security for confidential information
If you keep customer data, credit card information or other sensitive data, you’re obligated to protect that information.
Hackers continually look for ways to get access to sites and the information they contain. When you’re on a shared hosting plan, you don’t know if another site on the web host has malware that could infect the server, and therefore allow access to the data on your site.
Most good web hosts try to scan for malware and security breaches, but it’s not a perfect system. The gap between scans of your site and others may be enough to allow a hacker or malware to get a foot inside of the server.
When you have a dedicated server, you don’t have problems with your neighbor’s security. Instead, you have the responsibility to keep your own site secure.
You get to optimize security for the needs of your web site. If that’s not your thing, some web hosts provide maintenance plans where you can specify your needs and the web host staff will take care of the details for an additional cost.
3: Page performance optimization
I’d like to tell you that performance is critical for your site and the pages in it. For most of you, that’s true.
Poor load times turn off customers and they go away. That increases your bounce rate and indicates to search engines that you’re not a good resource to refer in their results.
The exception is if your web site is so significant that people are willing to put up with your poor performance to get to the information on it.
CNN is critically abysmal site performance by many metrics, but it’s often ranking high in search results by Google and others.
Because their information is timely and relevant to those who want to read or watch the information there. Maybe they like the way CNN presents information compared to other news sites.
Is your site as relevant as CNN? If the answer is “no”, then you need to optimize performance as a critical ranking factor. Google’s Core Web Vitals show how much this means as a ranking factor and will disrupt who sits atop the results for many searches.
A dedicated server gives you greater ability to optimize performance as much as possible. No other site can use your resources, and you can always add more resources (memory, CPU, disk capacity).
4: You want control
As one of my old bosses used to say, “It’s good to want.”
Having a dedicated server gives you options for more control. You can allocate the resources as you see fit. You can change the operating system or web host software.
Those decisions are advanced issues and may require someone on your staff to control or contracting with someone else to implement and maintain. However, you can dictate what happens on a dedicated server.
When Should You Use a Virtual Private Server?
Somewhere between Shared Hosting and a Dedicated Server is a Virtual Private Server.
Here’s how it breaks down, so you can choose the right option.
Shared hosting is a web host with a single operating system and web service software, like Apache, Lite Speed or NGINX. There are several web servers consuming the same resources of memory, CPU and disk capacity.
A Dedicated Server is a separate hardware device. As we mentioned, you have all the marbles. You decide what OS, web software and resources are on this dedicated piece of server hardware. If you can afford it and manage it, then it’s all for you.
A Virtual Private Server is a combination of both platforms, but don’t dismiss it’s ability to be a good decision.
In many of the corporate environments where I’ve worked (Lockheed Martin, PwC, Lucent, AT&T, etc), a virtual server system was the idea solution for price, flexibility and maintenance.
Instead of running stand-alone servers, web hosts can operate server farms – collective arrays of servers and disk storage systems that operate as one grand resource.
Virtualization software, like VMware and others, divides up those resources into virtual servers. From a user’s perspective, it acts just like a dedicated server.
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) has its own dedicated amount of resources. The web server software inside belongs to that Virtual Private Server and doesn’t have other sites using the resources in your VPS.
It’s more cost effective for the web host to operate with virtual servers, so they don’t have to charge you as much as if you had a physical server.
If you need additional resource, like adding more disk space or memory, then they can do that with a software configuration change rather than pulling your physical dedicated server offline, cracking it open and installing a new drive or more RAM.
Keep in mind that your physical device upgrades take your site down during the upgrade time.
Another advantage of a Virtual Private Server is that the web host can reallocate the environment to another hosting environment in case of a problem, which keeps your site running.
Most of the Shared Hosting plans are likely running on a VPS, too. With your own Virtual Private Server, you get the lower cost of virtualization without the resource drain of sharing with other sites.
Many of the benefits of Dedicated Hosting also apply to a Virtual Private Server, though the details depend upon what the host offers. Remember, the more control or resources you want will affect the price you pay.
Virtual Private Servers are scalable, so you can add more resources as you grow your business and demand for your site.
Why You Need a Podcast Host
Not every business needs or wants a podcast, but it’s a good marketing tool that deserves consideration.
Having a podcast puts your voice in the ear of potential customers, or existing customers. It lets them get a better idea of who you are and how you run your business. It gives you an opportunity to show your knowledge and demonstrate how you can help customers.
For your audience, listening to a podcast is something they can do in the background. Articles on a web site demand someone pay direct attention, but people listen to podcasts on commutes or while doing other tasks. They don’t have to stop everything to watch, so they’re more inclined to listen.
You get to decide what goes into your podcast and how long it takes. That allows you to be an authoritative figure in your field as you share your experience and knowledge.
Spoken voice also helps establish a connection with your audience, where text can sometimes be misinterpreted.
How to Choose a Podcast Host
There are plenty of podcast hosts on the market. Most people who have never hosted a podcast can give you a lot of opinions on which one is best. Then others who have hosted a podcast and only used one platform will tell you their favorite.
I've hosted two podcasts, both with the same hosting company, for about five years now. My first podcast still has shows going weekly. My second podcast lasted 68 episodes and I decided to end it.
While I have my opinion and recommendation for a podcast host (Libsyn), my goal here is to give you criteria as to what you need to consider when you choose a your podcast host.
With that in mind, here's what I think is most important as you make your choice.
1: How many episodes will you produce?
In many cases, one show per week is a recommended amount. I started with three short episodes a week on my first podcast. While that was good to establish a base of episodes for my new show, it wasn’t sustainable
There are some podcasts that produce daily episodes of their shows, particularly some news related podcasts. The decision of how many episodes you produce and how frequently you produce them has a specific bearing on your podcast hosting plan.
In my case, my plan has limits on how much data I can upload per week. Others allocate how much you can upload per month.
If you want to have more episodes or longer episodes that take more space, you need to pay for a plan that works with your requirements for storage.
Should you decide to end your podcast, but still keep it hosted for people to discover, you can downgrade your plan because you don’t be adding new data to your account.
2: Do you want to monetize your podcast?
There are a lot of podcasters who believe their podcast is their business. I disagree.
In my view, the podcast is a marketing tool. Through that podcast, you can sell advertising and get paid per episode if you have sufficient downloads. You can also use your podcast to refer traffic, either to your own products or to affiliate sales products.
These are all potentially effective methods of marketing if you do a good job of attracting an audience tuned into your message.
Another earning potential is to get donations or offer a membership so listeners can directly contribute money to you. Patreon is one of the most popular methods, but they take a huge cut of the donations.
If you go this route, it’s better to set up your own web site and donation or membership system so you can keep more of the revenue that your grateful audience contributes.
After all, they want YOU to have the money, not a middle-man business.
3: What analytical information do you need?
As in most cases, it’s all about the numbers. You want to ensure that your podcast host can provide you with accurate and timely metrics for your podcast. In turn, those metrics will help you decide how to serve and grow your audience.
The same podcast host may have different plans with different levels of metrics. I mentioned earlier that you can downgrade your plan if you stop producing your podcast in order to save money. Doing so may also downgrade your available metrics.
When determining your podcast host, look for these metrics in their analytics package.
- Number of unique downloads
- Downloads per episode
- Downloads by Month (or specified period of time)
- Number of subscribers
- Sources of traffic
- User retention
- User agents
- Top episodes
- Downloads by time of day
- Subscribers month over month
- Subscribers and downloads by location
- Subscribers and downloads by City/Top Cities
4: Does the host provide a good podcast player for your web site?
You can actually get a lot of podcast listens and downloads on your web site. That means you need to have a good player that makes it easy for visitors to listen and subscribe.
I use a 3rd party podcast player called Fusebox, but a good podcast host will also provide a player that you can embed on your WordPress or other site.
Some hosts offer a free podcast web page that they host, in case you don’t have or want your own web server.
It’s likely not a question of “if” your podcast host offers a player, but rather if the player is right for your needs.
5: How reliable is your podcast host?
If there’s one thing that you don’t want to do, it’s to self-host your podcast. Web hosts are good at web hosting, but they aren’t designed to be podcast hosts.
Also, it’s good to have seperation of services. If one has a problem, you can still use the other hosting service while you resolve the problem. If you put all of your eggs in one basket, you’re completely out of touch when something goes down.
Podcasts are funny things. They’ll consume bandwidth for every show. If you get a spike, then the podcast uses more bandwidth. With some hosting plans, they may just shut your whole site down due to excess usage – particularly on a Shared Hosting plan.
Where web hosts charge you for going in excess of the bandwidth, visits or downloads on your plan, podcast hosts typically operate differently. They don’t charge you for getting a spike in traffic.
That’s why a reliable podcast host with a proven track record of operational uptime is your best friend to keep your show running.
Some people like a polished user interface, and so do I. However, it’s the operational abilities and analytics that truly matter.
6: Does your podcast host provide good support?
Much like your web host, your podcast host ought to be there for you when you need help. That may be to get your started, migrate your show from one host to another, or resolve technical problems that seem to occur when you get involved with technology.
Once you have your podcast host in place and you’ve uploaded your shows, you need a way for people to find it.
One more benefit of a good podcast host platform is how easy they make it to add a destination to share your podcast.
You need to get your podcast listed in resources where people are looking to find podcasts. It’s sort of like getting your web site ranked on a search engine.
In my view, the two most important podcast directories are Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore other services, like Spotify or Overcast, but definitely get listed with Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts to drive downloads and attract listeners.
Here’s the most important reason to get listed on Apple Podcasts. Every single iPhone, iPad and iMac comes with this podcast app loaded to use.
It’s a built-in front door for potential podcast listeners of your show.
Google does something similar, where you can bet that every Android phone gets the Google Podcast app. Again, it’s an extremely popular app because it’s friction-free for the user.
Some users can and will get other apps. They can and will use different directory services to find podcasts, like Spotify, Stitcher Radio or Overcast. Get your show listed in those directories, too.
How to Choose Video Hosting
Video, much like audio, is something you shouldn’t host on your web site. Video hosting consumes a lot of space and bandwidth. Also web hosts aren’t optimized to serve video.
Instead, you want to keep your videos on a separate host and then link to them as a resource to serve the video. That’s often referred to as embedding in your site.
Something to consider is if you want people to watch your videos on your web site or on your video host. There are pros and cons to either method.
Video Hosting with a YouTube Channel
Creating a YouTube Channel is a great marketing tool for your business. It’s much like a podcast, in that your audience can search to solve a problem and find one of your videos that provides the answer.
It’s a perfect example of video hosting where you want to publicly share your videos on the hosting service for people to discover. If you stick with it, you can eventually monetize your videos with the Youtube Partner Program.
At present, that requires 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time for your channel. When you meet that criteria, you can apply for monetization and serve ads on your videos.
Where YouTube isn’t quite as good of a video hosting platform is when you need privacy for your videos. After all, it’s a sharing platform and search engine.
If you need hosting for paid services, like a course or membership, YouTube’s options aren’t that great.
You can list your videos on YouTube in one of three ways:
The Public option is most common. When you publish, others can discover and watch your video on YouTube or embedded on your site.
Private videos on YouTube are only visible to you while you’re logged into the platform. That’s not suitable for sharing with a paid audience.
Unlisted videos require that you have the URL in order to watch the video. That can work in a private setting, but anyone who has the URL can share it with someone else who didn’t pay for access.
Another problem is the YouTube player itself. It’s very obvious to any viewer that they’re watching a YouTube video. Also, YouTube shows other recommendations for the viewer which may detract your audience from watching.
The goal of YouTube is to keep people watching YouTube. It’s a free service, which is why it doesn’t do much for you to keep things private.
Depending upon the type of business you’re in, YouTube may not like what you have to share. They’ve taken down videos that disagree with their terms and political views. They will demonetize a video or remove it if they don’t like what you have to say.
Private Video Hosting
A private video hosting platform is a better option for courses, memberships or coaching. Of course, you’re going to pay for it as you do with other types of hosting platforms.
Do some research before choosing a private video hosting platform. Some of them also operate like YouTube by removing videos with topics they don’t like, even though you’ve paid for hosting.
Vimeo has certainly done this to its customers and that’s why I left them. Not that I ever had anything taken down, but I didn’t like the example they set for paying customers.
My preference for video hosting is Searchie.
Not only does Searchie provide great video hosting, but it also helps you repurpose the video you upload.
Every video gets automatically transcribed. With that process, you can search inside of your videos. When Searchie quickly finds the results, it will show you all of the places in the transcript where it found your search term. Click on a result and Searchie will take you to the moment in the video where it found the result.
With that transcription service, your audience can download the transcript, download the audio or download the video. Those options are something you can configure to allow or disallow.
More than that, Searchie allows you to create more options to serve your audience.
You can import from other services, like podcasts, live streams or social media. Those imports also get transcribed.
That means I can automatically import my podcast and then download a transcription, which I can post on my Show Notes page for the podcast episode.
Those transcripts not only add more information to search engines to index, but they also serve to help hearing impaired members of your audience. I know, because they told me!
Searchie allows me to create playlists for related videos, which I can then embed in my web site, as in a LearnDash course.
You can determine who gets access to a Hub, Playlist or Video based upon a tag assigned to subscribers. Then Searchie knows whether to show or hide the Hub, Playlist or Video.
If someone shows an interest in a topic, you can add a tag to their account, which then reveals more video content related to their interest.
If you think about the value of having Searchie transcribe your video and audio uploads to enable search, transcripts and more, it’s like having someone on your team to do all of that processing for you.
If you’re interested in learning more about Searchie, click here. I’m a paying customer and also an affiliate. That means there’s no extra cost to you, but I’ll earn a small commission if you buy from my recommendation.