Having a presence on the internet is important for any business nowadays, whether it be a website or a blog. However if you’re just getting started, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the different options that are out there. This article will cover the blog-publishing services and various hosting plans for setting up a website that will mark your business on the virtual map.
Setting up a blog
When it comes to free blogging services, there are two sites that stand head and shoulders above the rest: Blogger and WordPress. With free hosting, easy-to-use dashboards, built-in search engine optimisation, and a range of plug-ins and widgets for customising your blog, they’re both a great way to get your toes wet in the online world without jumping into the deep-end. Blogger is Google’s blog-publishing service and links in with your Google account, so you can get your blog up and running in seconds. WordPress boasts an impressive client list including BBC, Metro, CNN, and MSNBC (http://vip.wordpress.com/clients/), however it differs from Blogger in that you have to pay to unlock extra features. Many of these come for free with Blogger such as enabling the CSS editor, uploading custom themes, removing ads, or redirecting your blog to a different domain.
If you’re looking to set up a blog for business purposes, free blogging services may not be the best option. First of all, both Blogger and WordPress raise questions about the ownership of content. By uploading your content to their servers, you hand over the license to Google and WordPress to do with it as they please (http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/, http://en.wordpress.com/tos/). They also reserve the right to stop providing their services at any time, which could be potentially risky if your business is going to rely heavily on the blog. The other reason is that you may reach a point when you hit the limitations of what you can do with both services. You might, for instance, want fuller control over the design of the blog and want to integrate it with a pre-existing web store. This is where WordPress.org steps in. The open source software on which the WordPress.com platform runs can be downloaded for free, installed onto a web server, and customised to how you see fit which is perfect for many businesses looking for more control over their installation.
Choosing a hosting plan
If you’ve decided to set up your own website or install your own blog, you’ll first need to select which type of server to use.
A shared hosting plan is the cheapest and simplest option that leases a website on a server shared with many other users. The host service handles the day-to-day maintenance and security of the server, so little to no technical expertise is required. Shared hosting plans are a good place to start as you can get your head around how a server control panel works while testing out ideas to customise your blog or website. However, there are usually limits to the amounts of resources you have access to or can use. If a large number of people are trying to access another site on the server, performance to visitors of your site may be affected. You may actually be sharing your server with hundreds of other sites.
Virtual hosting is a mix between shared hosting and a dedicated server. A host computer is shared with other websites, but each is configured to run as if it’s the only server on the computer. Therefore you have much more control than a shared hosting plan and often have much higher guaranteed performance.
Dedicated hosting, on the other hand, leases a private server from a hosting company that does not share resources with other websites. This is ideal for high-demand websites that require a large amount of storage space, bandwidth, and processing power that can’t afford to have their performance affected by other sites on a shared computer or server. However, the cost is much higher and there is less support; you’ll have to maintain the server yourself or pay someone to do it for you!
Cloud hosting is a rather different approach. Instead of having one computer either dedicated to your server or sharing resources amongst other websites, your server is hosted by a cloud. Various computers each run different parts of the server so that it appears as one server. The massive advantage of cloud hosting is its flexibility. Cloud server hosting runs on a surprisingly cheap pay-as-you-go system, so rather than being locked into one server with a physical limit to how much resources are available to you, you can now chose to scale up or down according to how much you really need. If you suddenly need to upgrade to deal with a traffic spike, you can. Risk is also more spread out; if there is a failure on one partition of the server, another partition can step in.
When deciding on which option for your business, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Blog-publishing services like Blogger and WordPress are free and easy-to-use but come with limitations. Shared hosting plans are cheap, however you can find yourself at the whim of the other websites you’re sharing the server with. For many, cloud hosting is a better option than dedicated hosting. You can pick and choose how much power you want, when you want. Potential risks to server downtime are spread out over multiple computers. Cloud hosting can also be very cheap because you pay only for how many resources you’re really going to use.