Web hosting is something every individual comes across at one point in time. Whether you are creating your online presence (as you should), or coordinating a website or blog for someone, you should have a clear idea of the various types of web hosting available, and the differences between them. This is a brief guide to the different kinds that will help you decide on which one is the most suitable for you.
The internet essentially connects millions of servers worldwide allowing sending and retrieving data between them. If you want to create a website for yourself or your organization, you’ll need a space on one of those servers that is made publicly available. Thus, when someone visits www.yourwebsite.com, he or she is directed to the public folder on that particular server, and views the web pages created via the browser. You need a server with the basic components found in any computer. More importantly, you need to have constant power supplied to it without interruption (otherwise your website wouldn’t be accessible), and constant high-speed internet access. It is also crucial that there is an advanced cooling system, or else your server will die off after running non-stop for months on end. Purchasing your own server and hosting it at your home or office is ideal for testing and learning purposes. However, for a production site, you are bound to offloading that responsibility to those who are professionals and will take the burden for a monthly fee.
Shared Web Hosting
This is by far the most common of the lot. Any company with a bit of cash to spare purchases a handful of servers and places them in a data center. After that, they attract thousands of subscribers by mind-blowing prices as low as $4 a month. Shared hosting providers are very aware that 95% of their subscribers will only receive visits from their mammys and best friends the first few days, and then close to nothing till Christmas the following year. This is where the risk factor comes in.
A standard server that is designed to carry five or so medium-sized websites and online applications, is used for about a hundred. The majority are pleased with the server because they never notice when it’s down or under-performing. The exact number of clients on a given server is never revealed publicly, but suffice to say that if you are expecting high daily traffic, you’ll inevitably suffer from the dubiously legal under performance.
Shared web hosting is the traditional entrance to cyber space. If this is your first time to deal with hosting, and if your website is more of a “microsite”, you can explore the various providers and make your choice. The following are the characteristics that are common between the majority of shared web hosting providers:
- Cheap: Less than $12 monthly
- Limited space: Even if they claim that you have unlimited space, you’d be extremely lucky to get away with 10GB (more than the average person would need, but significantly less than what the providers promise)
- Poor performance: Uploading and downloading video files is a no-no. But you won’ face problems exchanging documents and basic media files
- 90% uptime: Almost every single provider will promise you 99% uptime (meaning that your website will be unreachable only 1% of the time), but if you are to read the fine print, you’ll find many-a-loopholes that gives them the legal backing to leave you stranded substantially more
- Control panel: A simple administration panel that makes it easy to create email accounts, add databases, etc. You never need to worry about the actual server
Decent options include Blue Host, Dream Host and Yahoo!. There are many candidates to try out, but whatever you do, do not go with IXWebHosting. Also, stay away from lists of the best shared hosting providers – the majority charge fees to give providers high rankings.
Dedicated Web Hosting
For large websites that attract thousands of visitors and are mainly for profit, a dedicated server is the wise choice. If slow performance or downtime means your company or organization will lose money, then shared hosting just doesn’t cut it. Dedicated server means that there is an actual server that only you are using. It’s kept in the provider’s data center, meaning you’re covered as far as cooling, power, and high-speed internet connection is concerned.The price depends on the hardware specs of the server that you are purchasing, but don’t expect to pay less than $300 dollars a month. While that might seem excessive, e-commerce websites wouldn’t mind shelling out a relatively small fee to ensure their clients’ experience is uninterrupted and perhaps encourages investment.
With dedicated hosting, you are given the choice of managed or unmanaged plans. Managed means the provider handles everything technical related to the server, including updates and maintenance, leaving you to focus on the website itself. Unmanaged means that besides the basic needs for the server to survive, you’re on your own. You’d need to install the technologies you will be using, and spend time updating and maintaing the operating system and web server running.
Commonly found in dedicated server hosting:
- Price: Expensive, but it’s all relative. Large businesses would pay anything for quality service
- Performance: Normally, you’d purchase a computer with a strong CPU, plenty of memory RAM, and a couple of spacious hard disks. It’s a powerful computer, all for you to use
- Control: whether it is managed or unmanaged, no one tells you what to do. You have complete freedom and control of your server
There are many candidates for dedicated web hosting, and generally speaking, they are far more credible than shared web hosting providers simply because it costs more, and they are dealing with demanding professionals.
This is relatively new, especially because cloud technology has only picked up in the last three years or so. It is based on the idea that the resources are shared, and whenever a website requires more, it is automatically granted its needs. This results in accounts automatically expending and spreading across a number of servers to maintain the same level of performance, and to ensure that it stays online (as oppose to going down). On the other hand, resources are not given to those who aren’t using them, meaning nothing’s gone to waste.
The following video does a very good job in illustrating how cloud computers work:
It’s more like a genius piece of art! Beautiful and informative.
With the economic crises on the rise, many companies and organizations are keen on saving money on hosting, without sacrifising performance and quality. At about $100 monthly, you’re guaranteed to have a website that is not short of its needs, and is constantly expanding to accomodate for the increasing number of visitors. As a small to medium company, this solution is probably your best bet.
Here’s what’s on the table from the cloud hosting providers:
- Price: mid-range. Usually starts at around $100 and only increases if your consuming more bandwidth and space
- Performance: It’s no dedicated server, but it’s close enough. It always depends on the provider, but you shouldn’t be facing any issues
- Control: Depending on your package, you might be granted access to run your “virtual” account just as if you were to control a dedicated server. In many cases, you access an advanced control panel providing you with many features
Cloud hosting is becoming more and more popular. And the big guns to pay attention to are Rack Space Cloud and Amazon Web Services. The former of which is used for this website, along with a couple of dozen more. Personally, Rack Space had given me lots of problems, and I was on the verge of moving away. But they have apologized and have recently significantly improved their service. It turns out that their client-base was growing much faster than they had expected, and their infrastructure couldn’t handle it. They have seemed to have expanded appropriatly to maintain their level of service.
There are a couple of other options that you are unlikely to come across, but should be aware of nevertheless:
- Collocation Hosting: This is when you buy your own server (you can even assemble one just like you would with a desktop computer) but store it in a data center where it is being monitored, but not controlled
- Free Hosting: Remember the Geocities days? Those might be over, but there are more and more Web 2.0 applications that grant users a subdmain using their service
- Home Hosting: As mentioned earlier, you can buy a computer, place it in a cool room with and AC and fans for cooling, and rely on the electricity coming into the house, and the ADSL used at home
In conclusion, no two types are the same. Depending on how important the content of your website is, and how much traffic you attract, there is a kind of web hosting that is appropriate for your needs. Within a particular type, there are various providers to choose from, something that you should not take lightly. Nothing’s as tedious and frsutrating as having problems with your web host and having to migrate to someone else. Therefore, take the time to examine the different options and reviews written by fellow users before investing.
Remember, your space on the world wide web is your right as a member of the internet community – passing up on your opporrunity is sacrificing a priviledge that no generation in history was granted.