One of the common questions we get asked by new clients is whether their existing website hosting set-up is fit-for-purpose, or whether they should consider a different approach.
It’s a great question, mainly because there are several factors to take into consideration when making this call.
The majority of businesses opt for a shared hosting account when they’re starting out, which is usually perfectly adequate. It’s certainly a cheaper option than the alternatives, since the cost of the computing resource is distributed across multiple users. This option usually functions just fine for companies whose websites experience low volume traffic, which is quite often the case for new and small businesses.
As your business grows however, it’s likely there will come a point when it’s necessary to upgrade to a dedicated server, and not just because the success of your business means you can suddenly afford to do it. There are a host of other factors to consider.
But first, for the uninitiated it’s probably important to clarify what exactly a dedicated server is …
The clue is pretty much in the title. A dedicated server is dedicated to working for you and you alone. Your website will no longer be in competition for resources with the many (possibly hundreds!) of other websites hosted via your shared solution.
As a business grows, the risks and limitations associated with a shared hosting environment become more acute. Site crashes, security breaches, slow loading and a lack of control can all become major problems.
Before we explore the reasons to consider shifting from shared hosting to a dedicated server in depth, please note the existence of a third option – the virtual private server (VPS). This cloud-based set-up still beats a dedicated server on price, and enjoys the extra flexibility of the cloud, but falls somewhere between dedicated and shared options when it comes to performance, due to certain elements still being shared by multiple websites.
When it comes to making the decision to upgrade from your shared server, there are four main factors at play:
If your website is receiving one thousand or more visitors per day, you should consider a dedicated server (or perhaps a cloud VPS) for your web hosting. Even if you haven’t hit that figure yet, it could still be time to make the switch — because you want to avoid the problems that come with an overloaded server before they impact user experience and, worse, sales!
To be prepared for spikes in traffic — which can be driven by promotions, viral marketing content or special events — your site should have capacity to handle traffic up to 30 times your usual volume. So if you’re expecting your business to grow, it’s best to get ahead of the game and make the necessary improvements to your website infrastructure before you actually need it.
2. Page load times
We can all relate to the impatience we feel when waiting for a slow page to load. These days, most people won’t wait. It’s estimated we tend only to linger for around three seconds, before moving on and hoping the competitor’s website will be faster. It’s worth noting that load times have become so important that they’re now used as a metric by Google in search engine optimisation (SEO). So a slow site could end up being the least of your worries if you’re not showing up in searches!
A shared hosting service ‘shares’ computational power, like RAM and CPU, with the other websites using the server. When these become overloaded, your page slows down. The drain on this hardware may therefore come from other websites experiencing high traffic rather than your own. The result for your website, however, will be the same … slow load times, high bounce rates, poor engagement metrics and frustrated customers.
Shared hosting can leave your website vulnerable to hacks, viruses and other threats. This would be a problem for any business, but the risk is especially serious for those that handle and store large amounts of sensitive information like customer emails, credit card details, medical data or home addresses.
Often, shared server providers don’t keep users informed about updates to firewalls or antivirus installations. As a result, it can take weeks before you realise your website has been compromised, creating a disconnect between the security your customers expect and what you can truthfully offer.
With a dedicated hosting solution, you remain in control of your website security and can optimise security features to meet your own needs. If this sounds like a tech role you’re not sure you’re ready for, don’t worry! There are plenty of dedicated server hosts offering fully- or semi-managed security options, so you can choose what you’re responsible for and what you’re not, while also ensuring sensitive data remains secure.
4. Custom server control
As touched on under security, a dedicated option gives you absolute control over your server management, meaning you can install your own operating system and use whatever software you prefer. You can also adjust hardware specifications to suit your own needs. This is a great solution for creating an optimised online environment that’s fully responsive to the specific requirements of your website and customers.
In conclusion, if your website is struggling under the demands of your growing business, it’s time to consider moving on from your shared platform. Websites have firmly established themselves as a measure by which new customers will judge a business. It’s often the first touch point they will have with your organisation, and as we all know first impressions count. So don’t let your website let your business down!