• United States

Where your Web site lives

Sep 11, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Should you host your own site or hand it off?

Last time we discussed three ways to make Web pages more easily (see editorial link below). The obvious next step? Where to host them.

You have three options: Host your site yourself on your own server hardware and Internet connection; use a Web hosting service; or rent server space at a hosting service under a co-location agreement.

The first choice, self-hosting, seems easy. Every server you buy lately, including Windows, Linux and even NetWare, includes Web server software. The all-in-one server appliances I recently tested from Emergecore and Procom Technologies also include it. You already have an Internet connection. Why not host your own servers?

Here’s why. I used to use an all-in-one appliance for Web hosting and another appliance for my e-mail server. My DSL connection was fast enough to handle the traffic loads I had. But when my DSL line went down, so did my Internet presence. When your Internet connection drops out overnight and you’re just surfing, you don’t care. But when you host Web services, e-mails bounce and Web site queries go unanswered. That’s not fun.

Appliances also don’t include the troubleshooting and configuration tools necessary to handle problems. When I had a problem, often my only choice was to delete everything (e-mail boxes, misbehaving Web pages) and try again.

And if you use your own servers, you are responsible for all security configuration changes and virus protection steps. Keeping up to date on security patches for publicly available servers may take more time than you want to spend.

Even so, some of you will never feel comfortable having your e-commerce data sitting on someone else’s remote hard disk. Understood. But for the rest of you, hosting is a smart way to go.

Hosting services charge anywhere from nothing (free is a bad idea unless you’re posting a “vanity” Web page or two) up to hundreds of dollars per month. Charges follow a sliding scale of disk storage space and Internet traffic loads, along with fees for e-commerce modules and other extras. You can find an amazing amount of storage space and traffic allowance for $15 per month or less. If you don’t need bells and whistles, you can find many options for between $5 and $10 per month. Start by checking out the three URLs at the end of the column.

When you use the hosting service servers, often called shared or virtual hosting, the service is responsible for security patches, virus updates and 24-7 monitoring. Every service I’ve checked touts redundant Internet access connections, so there’s little or no downtime. I think those alone makes hosting a compelling choice.

A final option, aimed more toward high-volume sites, is co-location. A hosting company rents you rack space at its site for your own servers. It provides electricity, cooling and Internet access; you provide the hardware and software. Most will also perform some level of hardware support, such as rebooting, but often at extra cost.

Three starting places for finding a hosting partner:

* The List of Web Hosts