How to choose web hosting services | Digital Museums Canada

How to choose web hosting services

Where should you host?

  • The first option to contemplate is whether you can host the site on your organization’s existing server or hosting service. This can be added as an in-kind contribution to your project.
  • If you are working with partner organizations or with an external web development team, you can ask them if they would consider hosting the project on their servers for a period of 5 years. This can be included as an in-kind contribution from their part to your project.
  • If you need to acquire hosting specifically for your project, consult the tips below for guidance and recommendations. Please remember that this cost is not covered by the VMC and should be calculated as part of your organization’s contribution to the project.

What to look for in a service provider

  • Canadian hosting is required only if you are collecting personal information from users on your server. Please review the data sovereignty required by the Canadian Privacy Act and PIPEDA before making your decision. If all your content is public-facing and no personal information is stored, the server can be located anywhere.
  • In most cases your web product can be hosted on a managed web service with a fixed cost. These services can normally provide hosting on shared, private or dedicated servers or can offer managed cloud hosting (see “Type of Hosting” below for definitions).  This will save you a lot of technical and administrative work and will allow you to allocate a fixed cost to your hosting for a period of five years.
  • Be wary of introductory low costs offered by some providers. Inquire about their regular fees and about their yearly increases.
  • Because you are committing to host your product for a minimum of 5 years, signing up for a multi-year plan is recommended as it can be cost-effective.

Type of hosting

Most providers will offer shared, VPS, dedicated or cloud hosting. Following are some definitions and recommendations around each type of service.

  • Shared hosting: With shared hosting, many websites reside on a single machine sharing the same resources for processing, memory, storage and bandwidth. This is the most inexpensive service but usually provides the lowest performance and can not be customized. This can be considered for VMC products which do not include large immersive components or large numbers of hosted media files.
  • VPS hosting: VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. With VPS hosting, multiple independent virtual servers run simultaneously on the same machine.  This allows processing, memory, storage and bandwidth to be configured for your needs while remaining cost-efficient. A low to mid-range VPS service can meet the needs of the majority of VMC web products.
  • Dedicated hosting: A dedicated hosting service provides you with your own server to manage.  This type of hosting normally requires administration by a knowledgeable technical specialist, it very expensive and is recommended only if this is a solution used for multiple products with high traffic in the millions of users a day. This solution is not recommended for a VMC product.
  • Cloud hosting services can be similar to the previous services with the exception of being in the cloud rather than on a physical server. A cloud is a group of computers that are connected to each other over a network and that work together to provide hosting services. The biggest advantage of cloud services is that they are extensible and that your server can meet your needs in cases where you have large traffic surges.  When choosing a cloud service, it is recommended to choose one through a provider that will manage the hosting and provide you with technical support as required.  With a managed service, prices will be similar to shared or VPS services. Pay as you go options can seem advantageous but can sometimes end up costing more than fixed price services.

Useful tips:

  • Security: SSL (secured socket layer) should be included in your plan. Most shared or VPS hosting services provide a free SSL certificate option.  If it is not included in your plan, this could be costly and should be considered as an additional cost from the outset.
  • You can calculate your needs for selecting a plan by consulting your web development team to provide you with an estimate of the CPU or processor speedmemory (RAM)storage and bandwidth required for your final product.  You can also arrive at an estimate by using this calculator or by doing some calculations yourself based on tips available online.
  • For the majority of VMC products launched in 2020, the cost of hosting should not exceed $50.00 a month.