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Choosing a Hosting Provider for a CMS Website

The purpose of this tutorial is twofold.  Firstly, and most importantly, I'm going to teach you how to avoid turning your web designer or developer into a rabid, flesh-eating monster.  Secondly - and this is probably the part you're interested in - I'm going to help you to make the best decision when it comes to hosting your small business website.

Disclaimer:  This post isn't to promote Red Giant's hosting services.  Yes, we host websites.  No, it is not a primary service.  You won't even find it on our website. We only offer hosting as a value-add to our small business web design clients.  

There is a lot more to web hosting than I can fit into a single post.  Current small business web design trends towards CMS websites.  Our clients almost always request/prefer a CMS platform for their websites. For this reason, I'm going to focus only on choosing a hosting provider for small business websites, generally created using some form of CMS. (This includes most modern day e-commerce websites/online shops)

Right, off we go.

Red Giant's First and Only Web Hosting Commandment

DO NOT, under any circumstances, sign up for Windows (IIS) hosting.

Windows servers (IIS) are the primary reason for CMS web designers' (my) tendency towards cannibalism short bursts of suppressed anger.  

Please, if you are having a website developed on Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal or using an e-commerce solution such as OsCommerce, OpenCart, ZenCart, etc. do yourself a favour and make sure you are using a Linux/Unix (Apache) web host. 

Every single time we develop a website on a Windows (IIS) server we experience major problems with installation, configuration and creating ever-important search engine friendly (SEF) URLs.  I'll skip the technical jargon on why these problems occur. 

In our experience, Apache (Linux) hosting just seems to gel a whole lot better with many CMS platforms, including their components.  

If They Don't Have ["Huh?"] Tell Them To [Obscenity Here]

This is the part where you sprout acronyms and your web host says "yes" or "no" to each.  You're going to want to make sure that your web host says "Yes" to each of these:

  • PHP 5+ (NB!)
  • Cpanel or equivalent (Cpanel definitely our favourite)
  • SQL databases (NB!)
  • SSL capabilities
  • Perl

Compare Numbers

First, you need to establish your needs in the following categories and compare them with potential hosting providers' offerings. 

Number of domains and sub-domains

You may want to have multiple domains linking to your website, such as having both the .com and .co.za versions of your domain name.

You also might want different parts of your website on different sub-domains. For example: www.example.com, forum.example.com, shop.example.com 

Number of databases 

For any website developed using a Content Management System you're going to need at least one SQL database.  It's always useful to have a spare one, too.

Number of Email Addresses 

Make sure your host provides you with enough email accounts per domain to cover your needs. (e.g. info @ example.com, person @ example.com) 

Disk Space and Bandwidth 

Make sure that the hosting panel you take out allows sufficient disk space and monthly bandwidth to cover your short- and medium-term needs.  You don't want to get stuck in a situation where you run out of disk space or bandwidth in the middle of something important. 

For a small business website just starting off, 100-200mb of disk space should be plenty. In my experience, 2gb of bandwidth is usually enough until your website starts to bring in some major traffic.  Then you'll want to look at a better option. 

Local is Lekker 

This is another thing that tends to make my blood boil.  International hosting is cheaper than local hosting and this results in many South African websites being hosted internationally. 

Unless you sell to/service a whole bunch of international clients, that's a really silly thing to do. 

The location of the hosting server is extremely important.  Your website's loading time will suffer dramatically if it's not hosted locally.  And with South Africa's wonderful internet service provider(s), the last thing you want is an even slower website! 

Your website visitors will love you if your website loads in just a couple seconds.  The little extra investment required to host your website locally is worth it in almost every single case, provided your primary market is local. 

Super Support Adds Five Years to Your Lifespan 

Okay, possibly not, but it will probably save you and I a few sleepless nights.  Ask others about their favourite web hosts.  Find out who has the best customer service and support levels.  The last thing you want is a hosting provider who thinks your website going down is a protest against SOPA when you could be making millions. 

If you're in South Africa, a great provider of hosting packages for small businesses/individuals is Gridhost.  They usually go out of their way to make sure their customers are happy without breaking the bank. They also run some awesome specials from time to time.  For bigger businesses, you may want to look at Hetzner, which is the biggest B2B hosting provider in the country. (We use them and are very happy so far.) 

Rid the World of Rabid Web Designers - Choose Great Hosting

Now that you know how to go about choosing the right hosting provider, the world is going to be a better place.  Your website is going to a run a whole lot better and your web developer is not going to bite your head off  utter a few words of caution in your general direction. 

Have you had some terrible hosting experiences?  Or a really good one? Let us know about your hosting experiences in the comments.  If you enjoyed this post, please hit one (or more) of the share buttons below.

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Mark is a co-founder of Red Giant Design Studio whose passion lies in business and entrepreneurship - more specifically the branding and marketing thereof. Mark enjoys helping other small business owners grow and market their businesses.

You can follow Mark on Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn and

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