What is Web Hosting? Web Hosting – Beginner’s Guide
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is a service that allows organizations and individuals to post a website or web page onto the Internet. A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed in the Internet. Websites are hosted, or stored, on special computers called servers.
When Internet users want to view your website, all they need to do is type your website address or domain into their browser. Their computer will then connect to your server and your webpages will be delivered to them through the browser.
Most hosting companies require that you own your domain in order to host with them. If you do not have a domain, the hosting companies will help you purchase one.
What Different Types of Web Hosting Exist?
Web hosting is more than one thing. First of all, most hosts offer multiple service packages which may be wildly different in terms of price and what you get for it.
However, one of the first and most basic decisions you have to make is to decide for one the different types of hosting.
While there are different ways to distinguish web hosting offers (features, level of management), the most basic ways is to look at the technology used for the server.
This makes sense because, as you will see below, that part also determines a lot of other factors like performance, security, scalability and level of effort on your side.
Because this makes such a difference, instead of looking at companies and prices first, you are better off focusing first on figuring out which of the different types of web hosting is the right kind for you. After that, you can still look at what’s available.
In the following we will closely examine four of the most common types of hosting: shared, VPS, dedicated and cloud hosting. So you know how to make the decision for yourself.
1. Shared Hosting – Best for Beginners
Shared hosting is exactly what it sounds like. With a shared hosting account, your site is located on the same server as a bunch of other websites.
How many are a bunch? That really depends on your setup and hosting provider. However, it’s not uncommon for a site to room with hundreds and even thousands of others.
The biggest advantage of this option is that you also share the cost of server with many people. If the hosting provider can put several hundred or thousand clients all on one server, it allows them to spread the operating cost among many parties.
That’s also why shared hosting is the most affordable. Great for people with limited funds and those just starting out.
Aside from that, with a shared hosting account you are usually completely taken care of in terms of setup. There is very little to configure so you can concentrate completely on building your website.
Sharing the server with many parties, however, is also the biggest downside of this arrangement. As mentioned, a server is a computer with resources like hard drive space, CPU speed and RAM.
These resources are finite. Just like your laptop slows down when you run too many programs at once, so do these machines when they have too much to do.
Since all websites on a shared host put demand on the server’s resources, you can run into problems if one of them is hogging all the processing power through increased traffic or faulty code. This leaves everyone else to compete for the rest, leading to downtime (meaning your website is not reachable) or reduced loading speed.
It’s a phenomenon called the “bad neighbor effect” and one of the main reasons shared hosting is the most problematic of the different types of web hosting. While many hosts actively try to avoid this scenario, it’s a risk you take with this particular setup.
Who is it for?
So is shared hosting ever a good idea? Yes! It can be great for housing sites that don’t get a lot of traffic (yet), static brochure sites, development and test sites, personal sites or other websites where uptime is not a huge bother.
Shared hosting is also a great option if you are on a very tight budget. It allows businesses to create a web presence even if they are not in the best position to do so. As such shared hosting is an extremely important tool for equality on the web.
2. VPS Hosting – Next-level Shared Hosting
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. It is among the most well-balanced among the different types of web hosting. A VPS server is still a shared environment, but the way it is set up is very dissimilar.
While all sites on VPS share one physical server, it houses multiple, separate virtual machines. This makes it sort of a middle ground between shared hosting and getting your own dedicated server.
VPS is a lot more reliable and stable than shared hosting. First of all, is usually limited to 10-20 websites per server. This decreases the demand on the server in itself.
However, the real improvement is that all resources are split evenly and no website allowed to exceed its lot. Once you hit the limit of what is assigned to you, your site may go down but the others will remain stable.
This is achieved via virtual machines that create a separation within the server. This simple addition mitigates most of the bad neighbor effect.
Another big benefit of VPS servers is that they provide more flexibility and allow you to customize your environment. On shared hosts this isn’t possible because it would change everyone else’s setup as well. Since your account is contained within a virtual machine you can make changes without affecting others.
Lastly, VPS is scalable. Since you are running a virtual machine which takes some percentage of the resources available on the server, increasing what is available to you is no problem at all. This is a great comfort to business owners who expect their sites to grow and flourish.
There aren’t too many downsides for this type of hosting. The biggest thing is, of course, that it costs more than your lower-tier solutions. So, if you are on a tight budget, you need to find a solution that works for you monetarily.
However, while the average VPS costs around $50/month (and can scale all the way up to $200) it is possible to get VPS from around $30/month. Plus, once you hit the higher echelons of this type of web hosting, you are probably making enough money to easily cover the costs.
A second thing about VPS hosting is that with more configuration power also comes more responsibility. If you don’t know what you are doing, it’s possible to remove crucial files or software without knowing it. So, to really take advantage of it, you need to get educated.
Who is It For?
If you have the money, I recommend you update to VPS as soon as possible. While it’s more expensive, even the lowest tier is usually a lot better than any shared hosting solution.
At the latest when you start getting decent amounts of traffic should you make the move. However, be sure to check the details of what you are getting (setup fees, CPU power, memory, storage space, bandwidth) so you know it’s what you need.
3. Dedicated Hosting – For the Big Leagues
AS the name already suggests, dedicated hosting simply means this: you have a server all for yourself. This provides a host of benefits but also comes with quite a few downsides.
Of course, this kind of setup comes with a cost. Renting a dedicated server isn’t cheap. Prices start at $60/month and go all the way up to $350+/month. However, at the point that your business needs a dedicated server, you should probably be able to shoulder the costs.
In addition to that, you actually need to know quite a bit about computers and server technology. While there are managed dedicated hosting solutions you’ll still need to do a lot on your own.
On the extreme side of things, you could get a completely unmanaged service where you would need to install the OS yourself, let alone all the tools needed to run a web server, provide security scanning, malware removal and so on. Alternatively, you can also hire a server admin. However, that brings additional costs with it.
Also, with a dedicated server you are putting all your eggs in one basket. If its hardware fails, your site is out. In other arrangements, other modules can take over in case of failure or be replaced automatically. With dedicated servers, especially if you are monitoring them yourself, this could take longer.
Who is It For?
Does anyone ever need dedicated hosting? That’s debatable. In today’s world with cloud VPS catching on, the need for having your own server is declining. Sure, it can take a lot more hits than a traditional VPS, however, in terms of scalability it’s nowhere near anything a cloud-based system could provide (more on that below).
Aside from that, a high end VPS can be a lot cheaper than a low end dedicated server and also a lot more powerful. Don’t be fooled into thinking that dedicated is a more advanced option just because you are the only person on the server. Look at the resources available to you instead, that’s what really matters.
So, among the different types of web hosting discussed here, this one is the least likely for you to need. The only two times I would say you definitely should go for a dedicated server is if you have highly specialized needs in terms of hardware or you want a lot more control over your data’s privacy than anywhere else.
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