An SME has many decisions to make in the embryonic stages of its development, from marketing to distribution, and from staffing to product choice. Unless it genuinely doesn’t need an online presence or a need to carry out tasks electronically, there will need to be a consideration of how it stores, retrieves and holds information – and what happens when that information balloons as the business starts to grow.
There is no single correct answer simply because there are so many alternatives, but one of the most popular is a Virtual Private Server (VPS) – a way of hosting information remotely, that will allow a website to function. As a new business you would sign up to use the server, in another location, and use this server to hold files, media, forms, data, or anything else required for your business to function. The alternative would be to hold information in a physical location on your premises – meaning that you run the risk of losing everything in the event of a fire or theft.
VPS sites are generally quick (potentially operating at up to 100,000 input/output operations per second) and because they are administered by a hosting company, technical help is available at all times of day, often even through the middle of the night (some hosts allow you to choose which location your VPS is located). Servers are either shared with other clients, or dedicated meaning that only one client uses that server. The latter option is more expensive, but allows greater control.
A smaller website might only require 15gb of space and 512mb of ram, costing just a few pounds a month, while a more complex web app or a company that requires multiple sites or shops and extensive maintenance will require several hundred gb of space, a large bandwidth and perhaps multiple cores. The good news is that VPS server hosts such as VPS.net allow one to scale upwards quickly, so you could start at the lower band and move upwards quickly if necessary.
There are a number of forms of VPS hosting, and one of the most popular is via the SSD – a Solid State Drive. A simple way of describing these drives would be to compare them to a large flash drive, with no moving parts, as opposed to the Hard Disk Drive option which has a rotating and audible magnetic platter.
The more-sexy sounding cloud VPS is an interesting alternative for the 21st Century, and has an advantage over SSD. We’ll all be familiar with a message such as ‘our server is undergoing maintenance across the weekend’ and this downtime can be incredibly frustrating for customer and site owner alike. If several sites are using one server and problems arise, potentially all of them could be down at the same time.
However, with a cloud-based server you are renting virtual space consisting of multiple servers, so that if issues affect one server resources are simply shifted to some of the others. This is easy to perform and allows immense scalability in size and cost.
Overall, the advice is simple: consult the company that owns the server. There is little point for them to try to sell you a package that doesn’t fit, simply because you’ll soon realise if you’ve picked the wrong option, and then you’ll transfer to the correct one.