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Tips for choosing the right hosting provider for your company

 Do you understand the distinctions among shared, co-located, unmanaged dedicated and managed dedicated hosting? Our quick guide to the types of hosting will help you understand the key differences

  • Shared hosting (sometimes called virtual hosting) means that you are sharing a server with other users. The host manages the server almost completely (though you maintain your site and your account). This is usually the value option. However, companies other than yours use the resources of that server. That means heavy traffic to one of the other sites on the server can hammer the performance of your site. Also, you typically are unable to install special software programs on these types of machines because the host will need to keep a stable environment for all of the clients using the server.
  • Co-located hosting means that you buy a server from a hardware vendor, like Dell or HP, and you supply this server to the host. The Web host plugs your server into its network and its redundant power systems. The host is responsible for ensuring its network is available, and you are responsible for support and maintenance of your server. Good hosts offer management contracts to their co-location clients so that you can outsource much of the support to them and come to an arrangement similar to managed dedicated hosting. Most co-location hosts do not offer this service, however.
  • Unmanaged dedicated hosting is similar to co-location except that you lease a server from a host and do not own it yourself. Some very limited support (typically Web-based only) is included, but the level of support varies widely among unmanaged dedicated hosts. This type of server can be had for around GBP99/month. Support levels typically are provided only in general terms. Ask the host to go into specifics about what support it will provide — will it apply security patches to your server? — before signing up. This service is typically good for gaming servers (like Doom or Counterstrike servers) or hobbyist servers, but not for serious businesses that need responsive, expert-level service.
  • Managed dedicated hosting means leasing a server from a host and having that company provide a robust level of support and maintenance on the server that is backed by quality guarantees. This maintenance typically includes services such as server uptime monitoring, a hardware warranty and security patch updates. Ensure that your managed dedicated host is specific about its managed services so that it does not disguise an unmanaged dedicated offering as a managed dedicated server. This has been known to happen, which is why it is important to do your homework and ask the right questions.