Last updated: February 12, 2019
Specialty and Niche Web Services: The Best Hosting Choices
Find hosting with these features in Specialty and Niche Web Services: The Best Hosting Choices
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Why would you consider niche hosting? There are several driving factors.
The way in which you use your website or app and your business objectives may mean that you have technical requirements that aren’t satisfied by generic shared hosting.
Or your personal preferences may point you in the direction of a niche like “green hosting.”
What these cases have in common is that generic shared hosting just won’t work for you.
Either your technical requirements can’t be met by typical hosting plans. Or your website may 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. You’ll need business hosting.
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. To avoid loss of revenue you’ll want to focus on your web host’s track record for uptime, protection against cyber attacks, and speed of site loading.
You need to ensure that your website is completely secure — your business cannot afford a breach of customer information.
Another business case that requires 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.
Since this system will be so integrated into your business, it’s important that you have high reliability and complete, regular backups.
As more medical records are digitized, more people are wanting to build web apps that deal with these records.
The U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) governs how health providers handle the release of information to protect patient privacy.
Why Use HIPAA-compliant Hosting?
To comply with these regulations, a number of hosting providers offer HIPAA-compliant hosting.
If you’re building a web app using health data, it’s imperative that you use one of these providers.
If you’re caught not following HIPAA guidelines, the penalties can be severe.
You risk fines and lawsuits if you don’t have a HIPAA-compliant host.
HIPAA Hosting Tools
HIPAA-compliant hosts use:
- Advanced encryption
- Intrusion detection systems
- Firewalls and other security tools.
The best ones stay current on shifting requirements and ensure that you, by extension, are compliant.
These plans are not cheap, but they’re worth the peace of mind for both you and patients.
HIPAA hosting could be considered a specialized form of secure hosting customized for the medical industry.
Preventing Security Breaches
It seems that every day that there’s another major security breach, with electronic bandits making off with customer data.
It’s not only embarrassing for companies, the data can be used for identity theft.
One of the most high-profile breaches was Equifax, a credit reporting agency. The data of 145 million people was stolen in 2017.
Secure Hosting Features
How can you prevent this from happening to you?
You should consider a host that focuses on security.
These types of hosts have sophisticated security tools, including:
- SSL certificates
- Spam filtering
- VPS or Dedicated Servers
- Regular software updates
The antivirus and firewalls protect your site against intruders.
SSL certificates identify the authenticity of your site (important for e-commerce), spam filtering eliminates phishing threats, and VPS or dedicated servers minimize the risk that shared sites can be attacked.
These hosts employ trained staff to monitor servers and apply updates.
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.
Cheap Web Hosting for PAAS
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.
Computing Power for Pennies
Of course, this won’t be $4.95/mo web hosting plan, but rather commodity computing power bought for pennies-per-gigabyte.
Another specialized hosting feature is DDoS protection.
DDoS attacks, or Distributed Denial of Service attacks, employ “botnets”, thousands of unwitting computers around the world that try to take down websites by overwhelming them with requests.
How does a DDoS Attack Happen?
- An unprotected user visits an infected site
- Or a user might run a “Trojan horse.”
- The computer is now part of a botnet
- The botnet makes many hits on a website
- The site goes offline
DDoS protection hosts can detect and mitigate these attacks to keep your site up and running, blocking bots while allowing legitimate users to access your content.
Unlimited Sites / Multiple Domain hosting
|Multiple domain name hosting||Multiple domain names on a single account|
|Unlimited sites||Multiple websites on one account|
Multiple domain hosting allows you to register and manage multiple domain names within a single hosting account.
Unlimited Sites Plans
An Unlimited Sites plan will allow you to host multiple separate websites 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 datacenter in another country, specifically for the purpose of getting some particular legal or financial benefit.
Uses for Offshore Hosting
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.
Legality of Adult Content
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 datacenter is in.
Terms of Service
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.
Bandwidth and Traffic
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.
Datacenters Are Electricity Hogs
Web hosting datacenters use massive amounts of electricity, which may be coming from non-renewable sources like coal power plants.
Alternative Power Sources
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 an image-sharing service, an e-commerce 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.
Media Bandwidth and Storage
The bandwidth and storage limits are going to cause serious site throttling or forced upgrades as soon as you have any serious traffic.
You’ll need a host that can handle streaming media.
Additionally, streaming requires specialized server-side software, which may not be available from all hosting providers. Also see: Podcast Hosting
After a long day of building websites, you might be tempted to blow off some steam by playing games.
Even though games are meant to be fun, they can also have some serious hosting needs.
Popular multiplayer games like Minecraft and Counter-Strike require servers to host players.
You could run one on your home PC — if your internet connection can handle the traffic.
If it’s a standard residential broadband connection, it likely won’t.
Your players might experience “lag,” or a slight delay in game action.
If you’re at all serious about gaming, you should host a game server with one of the growing number of hosting companies catering to this niche.
If you’re in a gaming group, guild, or clan, you can also get a nice web presence as well as a game server.
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.