The other day I was talking with a friend. She wants to start a blog. We quickly arrived to the topic of web hosting and I was explaining her how it was one of the most critical factors in her success (besides a good domain name).

Paying for web hosting can be a significant expense depending on what your needs are. Many times, as a Web site is developed, it is developed in a different place than on a live Web site to ensure that no information is leaked before it is intended. Many Web site developers develop on a pre-production server hosted on their personal computer or on an old computer they have set up as a development server. If development takes place on your own server, why wouldn’t you just host your production server as well? Consider the following items when asking yourself this question.

Server Maintenance

A web server is similar to a personal desktop or laptop in that the computer will need to be maintained. Hardware will need to be replaced if it breaks, hardware will need to be upgraded when you need additional storage space or memory, and new hardware will need to be added as your Web site becomes more popular.

Software Updates

Software updates are released on a regular basis for security fixes, bug fixes, and additional features. Many times updates will go smoothly, but sometimes there are problems. Some updates intended for one application cause problems with a related application and can create down time for you Web site. You will need to have a machine to test updates and upgrades on prior to performing them on your live web server.

Security

Security is one of the most important areas of concern for web hosts. No one wants to submit his or her information to a Web site without knowing that his or her data is secure. Security has more to do with web sites than verifying the data that is entered into a form. The web server software that runs the Web site has to be secure, including the FTP server, apache or IIS server, and operating system. All software on the host machine has to be 100% secure. There are many hacking attempts every day on popular Web sites, and I can’t stress the importance of guaranteeing a safe and secure Web site for your customers.

Power Redundancy

Ensuring that your Web site is available starts with providing power to your hardware. When you pay for a web host, their servers are located in a data center that has a redundant power supply. If a power outage was to occur to the data center, their backup generators would be able to power the necessary equipment to keep your Web site online. At home, with your own web server, it would cost money to have a battery or generator backup system. Generators would cost extra for the price of the gasoline needed to power them. Power redundancy is another feature included in the price of most web host plans.

Data Backup

Data backup is a no-brainer. When you pay for a web host, the majority of the hosting companies are backing up your data both on site and off site. This protection is included in the price of your hosting plan. However, when hosting your own Web site, you will need to take the appropriate measures to guarantee that you have a safe and secure copy of your data in case of an emergency. Onsite backup will require at least twice the amount of space your data consumes, and offsite backup will often require a monetary solution.

24/7 Support

There are no specified hours of operation on the Web. Your Web site will be online 24/7 with customers around the clock; therefore, you will need to be able to provide 24/7 customer and technical support. If your Web site is experiencing any issues, no matter what time of the day or night it is, you will have to take care of the problem right away. Not being able to provide this kind of around the clock support could cost you a loss of sales, or worse yet, a loss of customers.
There are many items that need to be researched and understood when considering moving from paying for a web host to hosting your own Web site. Though it is not impossible, and in some cases may be more economical to do so, most webmasters are better of paying for a web host.