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In Web Site Strategy and Planning, Jen Kramer shows that there's more to building a web site than just implementation. She describes how to create a plan that will ensure the end product meets the client's needs and is as efficient and scalable as possible. Jen explains how to identify the right technology for the design, whether it is CMS-driven or static, and how to organize content and graphics. She shows how to create a project proposal that includes pricing and milestones that demonstrate to the client that work is being done. She also discusses how to measure the success of the design through analytics and user feedback.
Now that you've chosen a Content Management System, in this case Joomla!, it does have specific requirements for hosting. You'll also need to think about how upgrades and backups are going to happen with Joomla!. Upgrades and backups are generally going to be your responsibility as the web developer. First, upgrades. If upgrades aren't done, the site is going to go out-of-date and become more vulnerable to hackers. Some Content Management Systems offer a very easy way to get upgrades done. For example, with Joomla!, there's an extension called the Joomla! Updater, which offers a very easy way to upgrade your site from, say, Joomla 1.5.14 to Joomla 1.5.15, a security release.
Using Joomla! Updater is actually simple enough that your client could do it on their own, but could you trust your client to do it? Unfortunately, you usually can't. Doing these types of upgrades are not very high on your client's priority list. So, I recommend that you take responsibility for doing the upgrades for Joomla for all of your clients. Fold the cost of doing those upgrades into your hosting fee, rather than billing the client individually every time an upgrade happens. Another thing you need to be concerned with are backups.
Make sure you find out about your host backup procedures. How long are backups kept? How are they accessible? How long would it take the host to roll back to the backed-up version of your site? It is very wise to have two backups available to you that you, as the end-user, can access, not just backups for the hosting company. Look for a weekly backup, which is frequently made on Sunday and kept until the following Sunday, as well as a daily backup. The daily backup may get overwritten each day.
You may want to make your own more frequent backups and download them to your hard drive as well. Your Control panel software for the web hosting company usually offers some type of utility for making those backups and you could use that, or there may be an extension that your Content Management System offers. For example, in Joomla!, there's a great third-party extension called JoomlaPack that will back up your Joomla! website, both the database and PHP files, into a single package that you can download to your hard drive.
When picking out your web hosting, you'll have several choices of types of hosting to choose from. Typically, you will encounter Shared Hosting, Dedicated Hosting, a Virtual Private Server or a Reseller Plan, and you are probably wondering which one is right for you. So first of all you have to understand what each of those terms mean. Shared Hosting means that there is hundreds or even thousands of websites all on the same web server, and this is web server in the hardware sense. It typically has very cheap pricing, so anytime you see web hosting for five or six dollars a month, you can almost bet your money on the fact that that is Shared Hosting.
The big advantage with Shared Hosting is it is very inexpensive. But the downside is when you share your web server with so many other websites, your website may crawl, in other words it may not go very quickly because there is other websites that are competing for the server's resources. It is also potentially more vulnerable to being hacked because if there is thousands of websites on one server, you have no guarantee that all of those sites are being upgraded in a timely manner. Dedicated Hosting means that your one website is the only one on that piece of server hardware.
The positive side is that your website is the only one drawing on the server's resources. It doesn't have to share with anyone. However, Dedicated Hosting is very expensive, usually prohibitively expensive for a small business website. A great compromise between Shared Hosting, which is cheap but very crowded, and Dedicated Hosting, which is very expensive, is the virtual Private Server. In this case, you are sharing the server hardware with other customers, but you have your own virtual environment with access to the root of that web server.
You are walled off from the other clients on the machine and you have some dedicated time for the server CPU. Other clients on that web server don't make your site run slowly. Only the sites that are within your particular VPS affect the website times. Finally, you may encounter a Reseller Plan. A Reseller Plan means you buy a chunk of disk space that you can resell pieces of it to your various clients. You can combine the word reseller with any of the above terms so there are resellers of Shared Hosting, resellers of Dedicated Hosting, and resellers of Virtual Private Servers.
If you become a reseller of a Virtual Private Server, that is a great way to go. You know your content management system will run under you are Virtual Private Server or VPS, and you can resell space to your clients from there. The host is always configured the same way so you don't have to fight with it to get your Content Management System installed. Make sure you have enough clients and that you charge them enough to have hosting to at least pay for itself when you sign up. That way, your own website you can host for free.
In this case, I sold some hosting space to Hansel and Petal. I have my own Virtual Private Server, and I am reseller so I sold them a piece of my disk space. Having all of my clients together on my own Virtual Private Server means that I can run through all of my accounts quickly to get upgrades done and that my backups are all centralized in one location. Remember that static websites can generally be hosted anywhere while a Content Management System has very specific technological requirements.
Make sure you have a plan for upgrades and backups of your client's website and make sure you understand what you are looking at when you go shopping for web hosting.
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