As of October 2020, a whopping 4.66 billion people — around 60 percent of the world’s population — were online. Internet users are expected to reach 6 billion, or 75 percent of the projected global population, as early as 2022.
That’s good news for web hosting providers. As more people go online, an ever-growing number of entrepreneurs will be looking to build websites and other apps for their businesses. As a result, the demand for hosting services, servers, and domains will only increase.
The figures speak for themselves. Industry analysts predict that the global web hosting market will exceed $216 billion by 2025. That would represent an impressive 15 percent growth rate from 2018. Back then, the market size was a “mere” $90.6 billion.
All that means one thing. Whether you are a web hosting provider or a website owner, keeping up with current hosting trends and ensuring your infrastructure is in line with the latest technological innovations will be critical for the success of your business going forward.
With that in mind, here are the most important trends in web hosting to look out for in 2021:
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#1. Security is king
Cybersecurity has become everyone’s number-one concern. In 2020 only, a staggering 37 billion records were compromised, in what was one of the largest data breaches in internet history to date. The coronavirus pandemic has complicated things even further with the onslaught of Covid-19-related scams.
It’s no wonder, then, that hosting providers have been putting more emphasis on improving their security protocols. Hosting companies across the board have been embracing two-step authentication, data encryption, SSL certification, and compliance checks for CMS.
Website owners, too, have shown an increased interest in domain privacy. Normally, when customers register a domain name, their personal data is stored on WHOIS, a public database. Domain privacy is an additional service offered by a growing number of hosting providers to ensure customer data remains anonymous.
#2. Offshore is not just for tax
The growing consumer concerns about data security, coupled with the rise of authoritarian governments and censorship worldwide, have prompted many website owners to relocate their content offshore.
In much the same way that high-net-worth individuals have been flocking to tax-friendly jurisdictions like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Cyprus, and Malta, website owners have started relocating their sites to so-called “hosting havens.”
The main selling points of these up-and-coming hosting hubs are not their tax regimes but rather their stringent privacy laws and liberal freedom of speech regulations. Hosting in offshore havens like The Netherlands, Iceland, or Switzerland gives both service providers and website owners some much-needed peace of mind and the assurance that their data and content are in safe hands.
#3. The future is green
In recent years, the web hosting industry has been a somewhat unlikely advocate of the green movement. More and more hosting providers have been joining the global effort to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint.
To that end, many have switched to using renewable energy derived from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, or water.
In addition, hosting businesses have been at the forefront of investing in innovative eco-friendly technologies, including:
Solid-state drives tend to be more energy-efficient than their spinning-disk counterparts (HDD drives) because there is no motor to turn.
To reduce energy usage, hosting providers are investing in resource-optimized servers and operating systems, such as ENERGY STAR-rated servers.
The ENERGY STAR label is a U.S. government certification for servers that use at least 30 percent less energy than conventional models. Some ways to achieve that include using more efficient components and power supplies, as well as installing smart sensor-operated fans that only provide cooling when and as needed.
Intelligent Load Balancing
Unfortunately, most data centers still run their equipment well below capacity. The result? They use up high amounts of energy to power machines whose full potential will never get used.
Intelligent load balancing offers a way to fix that. By harnessing the power of smart technology and cloud-based services, hosting providers can now balance the load across a network of connected servers. That helps reduce the overall number of physical machines needed at any one time and, by extension, saves energy.
Traditionally, hosting providers needed a lot of energy to cool their servers via artificial means. That has changed, however, as more and more data centers are starting to incorporate some form of natural cooling. It can be as simple as building a data center near a river. This way, the water can be used as a natural coolant.
Other businesses use more sophisticated methods, such as sinking geothermal heat-exchange loops or locating the entire data center in a sub-Arctic region to take advantage of the naturally colder temperatures.
In 2013, Facebook opened its first-ever naturally cooled data center in northern Sweden. Apple and Google have followed suit and are currently working on building their own data centers in the Nordics. Such developments have been well-received in Reykjavik, for one, as they have resulted in a massive boom in the Iceland data center industry, which now contributes 1 percent to the country’s GDP.
The components of computer hardware contain various substances that are harmful to the environment. While, for the time being, there’s no getting around that, hosting providers have started to implement protocols for intelligent disposal and recycling of electronic components. A2 Hosting, for instance, breathes new life into its retired hardware by repurposing it as internal servers and dedicated servers for clients with lower resource requirements.
In addition to reducing carbon footprint, green hosting has been good for marketing. By rebranding themselves as eco-friendly companies, hosting providers can improve their image and increase sales. A recent survey of 543 U.S. adults found that over 60 percent of people are more likely to buy from an online shop if the website explicitly states it uses green energy.
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#4. Up in the clouds
There’s no two ways about it: cloud hosting is growing in popularity and may soon surpass physical hosting.
Unlike conventional hosting, cloud solutions are not deployed on a single physical server. Instead, websites and applications are hosted on an entire network of connected virtual and physical cloud servers.
As customers rent virtual space in the cloud and not physical space on the server, they pay for the resources they actually use — and not a penny more. That allows for greater scalability and helps cut back on costs and energy use. In addition, if a server malfunctions, other connected servers will step in and perform the task with no data loss. This way, cloud hosting provides better redundancy and, by extension, higher uptime.
The move away from brick-and-mortar data centers and toward an increasing reliance on cloud computing centers has been a steady trend in the past few years. The Covid-19 pandemic has added even more fuel to the fire. In 2020, KPMG reported that at least 38 percent of tech executives worldwide planned to increase their cloud technology spending in the next year. According to another study by Flexera, as many as 93 percent of businesses plan to shift to a multi-cloud architecture.
Tech giants such as Google and AliBaba already offer cloud hosting, and their customers can even get started with these solutions for free. By the end of 2021, the world’s public cloud service market is projected to reach $338.8 billion.
#5. Data centers are becoming a rare breed
Slowly but surely, the ranks of data centers worldwide have been shrinking. After their numbers peaked at 8.55 million back in 2015, they started dropping and are projected to plunge to a mere 7.2 million in 2021.
We have the growing need for ever-more flexible, reliable, and faster technology to blame for that trend. Understandably, that has resulted in a shift from numerous smaller to a few larger and more powerful data centers.
When you throw virtualization, cloud computing, and the increasing complexity of hosting technology into the mix, it becomes clear that the future of the industry belongs to a few larger stakeholders. Most small service providers will find themselves ill equipped to compete with the big guns in a dynamic market that seems to be changing by the day.
#6. DIY website builders
One, perhaps unintended, consequence of the growing popularity of cloud technology is the rise in competition not just from traditional tech giants such as Google and AliBaba but also from other industries like the website builder market. Think WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, and the likes.
That should come as no surprise, really. DIY site builders offer intuitive, easy-to-use tools that make it possible for customers with little to no coding or web design experience to create websites from scratch. Not only does that save users time and money, but it also results in beautiful, professionally looking, and fully customized sites.
According to the latest data, the website builder market should reach some $13.6 billion by 2026 — which explains why more and more web hosting platforms now offer website builders as part of their package deals.
#7. Spicing it up with add-ons
The web hosting market is notoriously competitive. To stand out from the noise and draw in more paying customers, most service providers have started offering a wide array of add-ons on top of their basic packages. These extra features include data protection services, improved website security, and enhanced performance. Some examples include:
- SSL certificates
- DDoS attack prevention
- CloudFlare CDN
- SEO and marketing tools
- E-commerce support
- Free domains
- Anti-phishing protection
- Frequent backups
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited storage
- DIY features such as website and page builders
- User training
The future of web hosting: Final thoughts
Web hosting is a dynamic industry. As the field evolves, it is crucial for entrepreneurs, website owners, and hosting providers to be on top of current trends and adjust to the ever-changing realities of the market. To stay relevant and get ahead of the competition, you need to keep a close eye on the most recent innovations and advancements in technology — not to mention the ups and downs of the global economy and black swan events like the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Dylan Brown, Marketing Manager, Vicetemple