Web hosting and email hosting are similar sounding names for two very different services. As a business, you’ll very likely need both. In this article, we’ll explain what each type of hosting is, why you’ll need it, and the pros and cons of buying them together as a bundle, or separately.
What are web and email hosting?
Web hosting refers to publishing your website online, i.e. making it accessible to other people, via a web server. The server is owned and managed by the hosting company and physically located in one of their data centres. Depending on the choices you make when you set up your web hosting, the server might be shared with other people’s websites (this is usually cheaper) or dedicated solely to your site. The second option is more costly, but more secure and great if you need a lot of space, for example for a lot of multimedia content such as videos.
You can also have your site hosted on a virtual private server, which means that while your site might be on the same physical hardware as other people’s, it’s virtually walled off so it isn’t affected by what happens on or to other websites. Cloud hosting is also becoming common. This could merit a whole article in its own right but, in essence, it means the data for your website is stored over a lot of different locations, instead of all sitting on one server.
Email hosting refers to a service that handles your email. You rent a server (or part of a server) just to receive, send, and store your email. The big advantage of hosted email over a webmail service such as Gmail is that you can customise your email addresses. All your staff will be assigned unique email addresses along the lines of “firstname.lastname@example.org.” This immediately gives clients and customers the impression of a professional organisation.
In addition to paying for either or both types of hosting, you’ll need to buy a domain (your website address, for example www.my-company.com). Otherwise people will only be able to access your website using its IP address, which is a string of numbers and not at all customer friendly! Similarly, if you don’t have a domain you won’t be able to send or receive email. The good news is, many hosting providers include a domain with their hosting at a very affordable price so do your research before you buy.
Together or separate?
It’s becoming increasingly common for a single company to offer both web and email hosting as part of a package. This has pros and cons, and there are a few key things you need to know when you’re deciding whether you’re better served by a package, or two separate services.
Buying both types of hosting in one package is cheaper because you’re only paying the administrative costs of one company. For a small business or start-up, that can be a big deal. Having fewer suppliers can also be more convenient. Just as importantly, it can make the process of getting technical support easier and faster, since there’s only one company to interact with. Updating both services (for example, if there’s a need for a security update) can also be easier this way. Last but not least, if you find you need to change service providers, you only have one contract to deal with.
If you have not only separate hosting but dedicated servers, you’ll have more space which means not having to worry about how much multimedia content is on your website, or how often employees need to archive or delete email. Separate servers can also provide security benefits: simply put, if your website is hacked, your email is still secure, and vice versa.
The major drawback is cost. It’s more expensive to buy and maintain two separate services than one. Each supplier has overheads that they need to charge for, so you’re paying for those twice. If your organisation is large or growing fast, it may be worth the extra spend for the larger amount of space.
In summary, web hosting refers to where and how your website is stored and managed, and email hosting is where your company emails are stored and sent from. You can buy them together or separately, and the major drivers of your decision are likely to be cost and convenience (bundling together is cheaper and more convenient) versus security and storage needs (separate can lead on both).