Every business needs a digital presence. If you have an app or if you’re doing e-commerce you’ll have to deal with getting the proper software, and running it on the proper hardware configuration.
But what level of service is right for your business? Keep reading for your quick guide to servers for small business.
Servers for Small Business
There are as many configurations and types of servers as there are companies that use them. But we can separate them into three broad categories.
Managed hosting refers to the type of hosting where the hosting company takes almost full responsibility for setting up and running the servers.
This is the most expensive category of hosting, but it’s also the easiest to deal with. There are many typical activities that fully managed hosting companies deal with that would generally fall beyond the scope of what a small business wants to deal with.
The most important aspects of server maintenance are handled for you in managed hosting. Did you know that email is actually the most complicated aspect of setting up a domain? Managed hosts usually handle setting up an SMTP email server for you.
Managed hosting is great, but there is a price to be paid. Managed hosting is generally the most expensive of the three options listed here. You can do shared hosting or you can have your own server, or a combination there of in managed cloud hosting. Over 60% of global CMS users use WordPress. So it’s only natural that you should be looking into WordPress hosting options as well.
A Virtual Private Server or VPS
A server is a machine that is connected to the internet. It has an Internet Protocol [IP] address. The concept of a server is often associated with a single physical machine on the network. Well, a virtual server is a server run by software. One physical machine can host multiple virtual servers.
A VPS system enables a hosting company to run many – sometimes even thousands of websites – from one single machine. VPS systems use software to virtualize a complete environment. From your perspective, it’s exactly like having your own full-blown cloud instance. The directory structure looks like an individual machine.
The DNS, or Domain Name System is a system of computers that turn a human-readable domain name, like “google.com”, into a machine-readable IP address like 188.8.131.52. DNS management, like email, is an ancillary but important aspect of hosting.
In a VPS, the hosting company generally handles the main DNS activities. From the point of view of the user, the system acts like a fully qualified hosting server automatically.
In a Virtual Private Server setup, there is one machine running many instances. The hosting company generally provides the DNS configuration for all of them.
One of the biggest innovations of the early 21st century is the rise and dominance of cloud computing. Cloud computing refers to the ability of businesses and individuals to control servers that they have no physical access to.
A cloud hosting company, for instance, Google, will rent out access to their servers over the internet. All you need is a laptop and a credit card and you can spin up a virtually unlimited number of servers almost instantly.
With great power though, comes great responsibility. The general principle of cloud computing is little or no customer support. If you’re renting out cloud instances you’re expected to understand all the technical vagaries of what you’re doing, no one is going to help you.
Not only will you have to set up things like email, and DNS, you’ll also have to deal with SSL, making backups on your own, security and preventative maintenance.
The benefit of using cloud hosting services is that it’s the cheapest way to get a server hands down. It’s so cheap in fact, that many providers will even offer it to you for free on a limited basis.
But you get what you pay for in life, and you had better be an expert system administrator if you want to use cloud computers in a business or production environment.
You can use any of these server configurations to do standard e-commerce. AS long as you have basic encrypt with SSL, you’ll be able to perform PCI compliant E-commerce.
Modern pay systems like Stripe or PayPal remain PCI compliant by never allowing the credit card numbers to hit the server.
Instead, the transaction really happens in the user’s browser and with their servers, you just get a token or an identifier. This allows the payment processors to maintain highly secure servers while allowing you to use a secure payment system.
So which option is the best choice for your business? It depends on your needs.