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Sometimes you need to do something particular with your website. Regular shared hosting just won’t work for you.
Sometimes the technical requirements can’t be met by typical hosting plans. Sometimes your website will run afoul of the hosting company’s Terms of Service Agreement. Either way, if you’re doing something a bit unusual, be sure to check which companies support the features you need before making a decision.
If you need to set up a website for your small non-technical business, a typical shared hosting plan may work just fine for you. However, if the website is an integral part of your business, that probably won’t work very well for you.
If you are running a fully online business, such as an online store, you have particular needs. For one thing, you need to be able to support the amount of traffic you expect to get. Additionally, you need to ensure that your website is completely secure — your business cannot afford a breach of customer information.
Another business case require specialized hosting is enterprise software. Whether the business itself is online or not, you may need to host business productivity software — such as email, calendar, project management, knowledge management, and ERP systems — online.
Even if a shared hosting plan would provide the technical requirements you need, this may be against the Terms of Service of some web hosts. Additionally, since this system will be so integrated into your business, its important that you have high reliability and complete, regular backups.
Also see: eCommerce, Shopping Carts, Magento
Cheap web hosting is usually not what you want. If you are looking at a plan that is only a few dollars a month, chances are it isn’t going to be a very high-quality experience. However, there are legitimate business reasons to seek rock-bottom web hosting pricing.
If you are providing a Platform-as-a-Service product, and need to consume a great deal of cloud infrastructure in order to provide value-added services to your own customers, you’ll want to look for cheap hosting. Of course, this won’t be $4.95/mo web hosting plan, but rather commodity computing power bought for pennies-per-gigabyte.
Multiple domain hosting allows you to register and manage multiple domain names within a single hosting account. An Unlimited Sites plan will allow you to host multiple separate website from a single account.
This can be particularly useful if you are running multiple businesses, or are a single business that provides several different online products.
Other business cases for Multiple Domain Hosting and Unlimited Sites include domain speculators, web design companies that host their clients’ websites, and certain types of SEO content sites. You may also simply want to own multiple misspellings of your primary domain name.
Be warned, though: “unlimited” never really means unlimited. You can probably run a dozen sites from one of these plans, if you don’t have much traffic. But if you are getting a lot of traffic, eventually you are going to hit the unspoken limits and experience site throttling or a forced upgrade.
Offshore hosting refers to hosting your website in a data center in another country, specifically for the purpose of getting some particular legal or financial benefit.
The most common reason to offshore is protection from censorship, subpoena, or copyright-related takedown orders. The most common offshore hosting location for these concerns is Sweden, which has a very strong culture of protection for speech rights, especially concerning journalism.
Another reason would be running a business that is illegal in one location but not illegal in another. This type of offshoring frequently happens in particular industries: adult content, online gambling, and pharmaceuticals. Be careful, though. Offshoring your website will not always protect you from legal action in your home jurisdiction.
Hosting of adult content — pornography — has three major considerations.
The first issue is one of legality. Adult content has to be legal both in the jurisdiction your business is based in, and in the jurisdiction that your web hosting data center is in.
The second issue is closely related — terms of service. Many web hosting companies specifically disallow adult content on their servers, and will immediately remove any website that offers pornographic content.
The third issue, sometimes overlooked, is technical. Adult websites rely on a lot of graphics and streaming video, which can overload a low-budget web hosting plan very quickly. Moreover, adult websites draw a lot of traffic, which multiplies bandwidth usage and the stress on the server.
If you or your business are dedicated to reducing your carbon footprint, looking at the effect of your web hosting can be a low-cost, high-impact way to lowering your environmental impact. Web hosting data centers use massive amounts of electricity, which may be coming from non-renewable sources like coal power plants.
Green web hosts are committed to using renewable energy like wind, solar, or hydroelectric power.
Almost any web hosting plan will allow you to store and serve the typical number of images you might need for a blog or small business site. But if you are trying to set up a image-sharing service, an eCommerce site to sell your own photography, or even a photoblog, you might need to look at plans with larger storage and bandwidth limits.
Also see: File Hosting
If you plan to run a podcast or host your own videos, a regular shared hosting plan is not going to cut it for you. The bandwidth and storage limits are going to cause serious site throttling or forced upgrades as soon as you have any serious traffic.
Additionally, streaming requires specialized server-side software, which may not be available from all hosting providers. Also see: Podcast Hosting
Other popular niches:
Managed WordPress Hosting - Specialized services for WordPress users who want to outsource the management of updates and security to their web hosts.
Saas Hosting - If you don't know what it is, you probably don't need it.