Many new businesses don’t have a clue about how to get a website, let alone build one, which is why the TV adverts that offer the prospect of a professional site in minutes are so appealing. We are not going to knock these providers; over the years, their services have evolved and for some businesses, they offer the right choice. However, for many others, there are better solutions that are less expensive and which provide more advanced technologies and greater freedoms. Here, we’ll look at the options.
An overview of a website builder
While no website builder provider offers exactly the same services, they all have things in common. They usually provide a free domain (website name), an easy to use, no coding required platform to build your website, and web hosting (putting your website on the internet). You’ll have quite a few website themes to choose from and a range of tools to add features to your website, like checkouts and online payments. You can even add a professional email address with some.
The key advantage is that making a website is easy with these website builders. However, many of the additional features you require may come at additional cost. You may have to pay extra for a proper professional domain name and email address that doesn’t include the service provider’s name as well; the best themes and tools might come at a premium rather than being free; and if you use their online payment methods, you might be charged a percentage from the provider as well as the standard fee to the payment merchant. Additionally, the basic cost of hosting on one of these platforms is considerably higher, sometimes ten times as much as the average cost of a similar standard of web hosting. With margins being extremely tight in online retail, this can all have a long-term impact on your business’ profitability.
The one thing you rarely see mentioned on a website builder website is the type of hosting. This is odd because the type of hosting plays a huge role in the success of your online venture. To keep costs to a minimum, most website builder platforms provide their customers with shared hosting. However, this is only one, and the most basic, of four different hosting types. The others are VPS (virtual private server), dedicated server and cloud hosting.
Shared hosting, where hundreds of different websites share the storage, bandwidth, CPU and RAM of a single server, is the best solution for small websites with a limited number of visitors. However, if your business starts to have a lot of visitors on the site at the same time, those shared resources might mean your website struggles to handle them. It could perform slowly or even crash, causing shoppers to abandon your site and pushing your website down the Google rankings so it doesn’t get as many visitors.
The chief difficulty, if you need to upgrade to a hosting solution that offers more storage, CPU and RAM, is that you probably won’t be able to do this with a website builder service. Most don’t offer alternative forms of hosting. The only solution is to migrate your website to another host. What makes it doubly difficult is that some website builders use their own proprietary software that can’t be migrated, and this leaves you needing to build a new site from scratch using completely different software. This is known as vendor lock-in: you’re stuck with the host you have, and their limitations, because you are completely reliant on their services.
The alternative and by far the most popular option is to opt for traditional web hosting. Here you choose a hosting provider, like WHUK, and we supply the server space you need to store all your website files, emails and databases. With us, however, you have the freedom to choose shared hosting, VPS, dedicated server or cloud hosting and if you grow and need a bigger solution, we’ll migrate your site to it on your behalf.
Of course, we also provide tools to make it easy to build your website. The world’s most popular website building platform, WordPress (used on 41% of all websites), is free, just as easy to use as most website builders, comes with tens of thousands of free tools (plugins) and thousands of free responsive themes and, at WHUK, you can install it with a single click and start building your website in minutes.
These plugins enable you to build any kind of website, including online stores, and provide far more functionality than is available with a website builder. Effectively, you can do far more with your website and not have to pay anything for additional features. What’s more, as WordPress is universally used, you can easily migrate your site to a different host or hosting plan if you need to. There’s no vendor lock-in.
Web hosts also provide services for you to find the right professional domain name for your business (e.g., yoursite.com) which is charged annually at a cost of between £7 and £20 on average. However, what you do get included for free is professional email hosting, with webmail, calendars, autoresponders, Outlook integration, etc. included, and all using your professional email addresses (e.g., [email protected]).
To help you manage your website and hosting, you’ll also have an industry-leading control panel, like cPanel, which provides a comprehensive suite of easy-to-use tools all within a user-friendly interface. This lets you add new websites and email addresses, change passwords, monitor visitor analytics and do a multitude of other useful things.
Security is another vital requirement for websites today. With the number of cyberattacks continually increasing in number and growing in sophistication, you need a host that puts security at the top of its priorities. A good host, whether a traditional web host or a website builder provider should have an arsenal of security tools in place for your protection. At WHUK, for example, we have advanced firewalls, intrusion and malware detection and prevention tools, DDoS prevention, data encryption and email filtering. We also provide free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates that you need to stop your customers’ financial data from being stolen during purchases and which also gets your website the much-needed secure padlock icon displayed on browsers. Without this icon, many visitors won’t buy from you.
24/7 support is essential for any website owner, however, there’s a big difference between customer support and technical support. At WHUK, you have round the clock access to technical support so that if you have an issue with your website, you know there will be an expert on hand to help you sort out your issues.
Finally, there’s the very important issue of uptime. That’s the amount of time your website stays online. If your site goes offline because of hosting or hardware issues, you’ll lose business and your reputation will be damaged. You need hosting that guarantees high uptime. At WHUK, we guarantee a minimum of 99.9% uptime on shared hosting.
As you can see, there are clear similarities and differences between website builders and web hosting services. Website builders are suitable for complete novices who want to get up and running quickly. While web hosting makes it probably just as easy to get your website up and running, it offers greater freedom, especially in the long run as your website grows, while offing more professional tools, email, security and technical support. The other chief difference is price. A basic shared hosting solution with a website builder can cost around £20 a month, a starter cPanel hosting plan at WHUK is just £2.49 (plus VAT).
If you are looking for great starter hosting, visit our Shared cPanel Hosting page.