Online businesses, get ready to breathe a long sigh of relief. Web hosting companies have hit a critical step in their evolution - an age of vastly improved services available at multiple tiers of service. Even the lowest tiers are lining up to offer new features and promises. Case in point: In early 2014, the famously cheap web host GoDaddy started offering new features that included expanding WordPress support and a new service called Get Found, designed to help small businesses to maintain their profile data from one central hub.
The losers in this trend? Slow connections, dropped servers, hosts too slow to keep up, and cyber criminals. The winners? Everyone else.
The web hosting world has spent years as a fractured market, with widely varying levels of service and different features associated with different tiers. But now, the stratification is reversing. As commerce has continued to grow, personal online branding has become a must, and hosting services have found better uses for the latest technologies.
This means that managed server features and services are trickling down to dedicated hosting, and dedicated hosting advantages are trickling down to shared hosting. The market for hosts is growing more competitive, but it's also growing a lot more attractive to bloggers, small businesses and new online companies who backed away from the top services before because of concerns about price.
The Web Host Will See You Now
Part of the reason services are seeing such rapid growth is the increased number of challenges in the industry. According to an early January report by Cisco, web hosting centers have grown into one of the most popular origins for online criminals seeking to attack companies and government bodies. Other groups, like the Cloud Security Alliance, have agreed on the danger and need for increased security options.
Another powerful reason for the new age of service is simply the vast number of solutions now available through web hosting. Cloud hosting continues to reach additional customers across the world. Application-based hosting has changed the game for bloggers, content-focused companies and others who want a slice of the right services without any hosting headaches. Newer trends like green hosting and VPS hosting are giving businesses big ideas, too.
The result is more buyer power - a market where web hosting companies have become troubleshooters, enablers, and sometimes even consultants to their clients. As for old problems like downed servers, they will grow from black marks to dealbreakers as customers at all levels get used to near-100% reliability no matter what they're paying per month.
Make no mistake, reliability is a service. According to Accenture, which conducted a late-2013 survey, 51 percent of U.S. consumers switched service providers in 2013, creating what the company called a "switching economy" where clients are more willing than ever to seek out new providers if they are unsatisfied.
One Service, Two Service, Red Service, Blue Service
So what services will 2014 and the years beyond shower us with? In addition to reliability, high speeds will become a popular service for even the lowest tiers. If a client has to wait for a page on their site to load - any noticeable wait period at all - they'll start thinking about switching hosts. And yes, this applies to shared hosting as well as dedicated hosting, and will be one of the primary investment opportunities for hosts in the coming year. Maximum speeds, however, will still belong to dedicated servers that can offer uplinks of 1Gbps and 25TB bandwidth for the largest companies.
Security will also become big, as managed server security features will get passed down the tiers to even basic and shared hosting as the importance of advanced security and backup services continues to be underlined in the news.
Then there are the other services, the optionals and extras that are quickly becoming anything but.
Mobile Web Server Support: As mobile changes from a luxury to a necessity, hosts will start offering more and more features directed specifically at the mobile side and mobile optimization, including development tools and mobile-specific data reports. If you think we have a lot of Web apps and smartphone apps now, just wait until the market starts to mature.
Continued Cloud Innovation: Exchanging information between companies through the cloud is becoming standard practice for tech companies and the vast array of vendors across the web. The more that web hosts can support the latest uses for the cloud, the more attractive they'll be.
Hubs for Information: In the fast-paced Internet world, useful information equals value. Realizing this, web hosts will start offering more insights and advice for even their smallest clients. Already, companies are avoiding constant promotions in favor of publishing news, information, insights, infographics, trends and tips. Such approaches will grow more common in the future as companies work to establish themselves as trusted authorities within the industry.
Reseller Experimentation: Reseller hosting and reseller support will allow more businesses than ever to purchase hosting features - and then offer them to other users.
As the competitiveness of the web hosting industry continues to rise, consumers will continue to benefit. More services will become standard and included at existing prices, enabling and accelerating the flood of blogs, business websites, and SaaS software. The age of service has finally arrived, and this is a boon for everyone.