a blog post on hosted vs self-hosted sites

“What is the difference between a fully hosted and a self- hosted website?” is one of the most common questions I get. With a lot of different options on the market it can get very overwhelming to choose the right solution, especially if technology is not your strong suit.

Today I am going to explain what each of these platforms means so you could make an informed decision when creating your small business website.

1. What is a hosted platform?

A hosted platform is an all-in-one solution. It includes a domain name, a software package and a storage space on a server owned and maintained by the host. Some popular hosted platforms include Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and website builders like GoDaddy site builder. Since all the work and maintenance is performed by the host, this solution offers a relatively hands-free experience. You are responsible for selecting a design template and writing content for your website (unless you pay for an add-on design service), but all the technical maintenance is taken care of. This is a major advantage of choosing this type of website for your small business.

When you sign up for this type of package you will be able to choose a theme or design template offered by the platform, and any additional applications provided by the host. The choice of pre-made templates and apps is, although substantial, limited and you may not be able to make your site look and function exactly as you had envisioned.
This may not be a problem for a really small business not anticipating a significant growth. However, should your company reach a point when you need to incorporate new features to your website to grow leads, engage with potential customers, or integrate 3rd party tools, you may not be able to do so with the hosted platform. For example, if you reach that level in your business , or when you for one reason or another decide that this particular hosting company is not the best fit for you, switching from a hosted platform to a self-hosted one will essentially require starting from scratch and building a new website as there is no “switch” to move from the one platform to the other. I talked about this scenario in my previous post about using a Facebook page as a business website.

2. What is a self-hosted website?

Owning a self -hosted website means that you rent storage space on a server that belongs to a company whose primary business is just that – rent out server storage space. What software package to use to run your website is entirely up to you. One of the most popular software used to create small business website is WordPress. It is used by  33% of all websites world-wide.

Once you choose which software you’d like to use to build your site, you also determine all the design and functionality of your site and are not limited by the host requirements. You get ultimate flexibility and unlimited customization options.

Since you (or a web designer you hire) are responsible for building and maintaining the website, this is not a hands-free experience. You will need to make sure to perform required software updates and ensure security measures are implemented. Hosting companies provide tech support services and are available to answer questions but they will not perform website maintenance tasks for you.  If you decide to move the website to a different hosting provider, you can move all your website files and databases and it will not affect the integrity of your website.

3. Which should I choose?

The answer to this question depends on what your ultimate goal is regarding growing your business, as well as how much control over your website you are comfortable with.

The best metaphor I like to use to illustrate this scenario is renting a house. There is an option to rent a house and let the landlord worry about any repairs and maintenance. You will have to comply with the rental agreement and won’t be able to make any significant changes to your rental house. And if the time comes that your family outgrows the space, you’ll need to pack and move to a bigger house and start at the new location from scratch.

The other option is to invest in a property that will be yours. You’ll be leasing the land from your city or county but all the structures are yours to do what you please and to make it fit your needs. If the house needs repairs or you plan to remodel, you can either learn to do it yourself or hire a professional to help you.

 

If you need help choosing the best platform for your website, please feel to reach out  to me and we can discuss your long- term business goals and figure out the best solution.

 

Photo by Lance Grandahl on Unsplash

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