What is web hosting?
Web hosting is the service that makes your website available to be viewed by others on the Internet. Web hosting is a place to store your website, in much the same way as you may store your files on your hard drive on your computer.
A hosting server stores your web files (html files, images, PHP files, PDF files, audio, video, etc.) and allows other people to view your website.
What is a Server?
A computer that provides file sharing to other computers on the same network is called a server. The computer requesting files from the server is called a client.
What is a Data Centre?
A data centre is a large number of servers physically housed and at a single location. Most websites are served from a data centre although it is possible to host a website from a home computer.
Types of web hosting
Shared Web Hosting
Most common type of web hosting, and is also the easiest to start out on. You share the server with multiple websites. A good option if are expecting medium traffic and you don’t need total control of the server. Ideal for small business websites, personal sites.
Inexpensive, most economical option for hosting.
Easy to use.
Hosting provider manages hardware and OS-layer software.
It can be less flexible. Limited in features and space.
The hosting provider owns and manages the server hardware but leases the OS and software to you. Consideration when you are running a website that receives lot of web traffic. Consider dedicated hosting if you have a website with streaming audio or video downloads.
You do not share the server with anyone.
You have extensive configuration options.
It is easier to diagnose performance problems.
The hosting provider takes care of the hardware.
More expensive. The cost of the server isn’t shared with other customers.
Requires a much higher level of technical knowledge.
VPS (Virtual Private Servers)
Mid-way between shared and dedicated hosting. An allocation ('slice') of a server that functions it's own unique server. Virtualisation technology partitions the server so that each partition has its own dedicated resources. Consider this option if you have special software which isn't compatible with shared hosting plans, or you don't need the high levels of disk storage and bandwidth allotments of a dedicated server.
Less customers occupy the same server.
Your website has more resources at its disposal than shared web hosting.
Requires a higher level of technical experience.
You may be responsible for some server software maintenance yourself.
You own your server, placed in the data center of the service provider. The hosting company provides the internet connection, uninterruptible power, climate control and physical security.
You have total control over the choice of hardware.
You have a faster connection.
The most expensive hosting option.
Large upfront cost.
Requires high level of technical knowledge.
If something goes wrong, you might have to travel to site.
Here are some interesting facts:
- Google estimates the Internet today at about 5 million terabytes of data.
- You could fit the whole Internet on just 200 million Blu-Ray disks.
- There are approximately 234 million websites on the Internet.
Choosing a suitable web hosting provider can be a daunting task. This guide will help you research your options and understand what to look for to make an informed decision about a web hosting package that best suits your needs.
Relates to: web hosting, website design, web development
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7 Things to consider when choosing a web hosting provider
This guide to web hosting looks at seven things to consider when choosing a web hosting provider: price, technical requirements, tech support, features, scalability, customer feedback, and the control panel user interface.
Although price should not be the deciding factor, it certainly is an important consideration when making arrangements for web hosting. The cheapest solution is not always the best solution. In web hosting, as with anything, you get what you pay for. Take a closer look at the features and technical specs each hosting package provides; and then compare prices.
Take a good look at your website and identify what you want your website to do. Are you looking to host rich media content such as video and audio; do you offer lots of files for download; are you looking to host an eCommerce website; does your site need access to a MySQL database; or are you looking to set up a brochure style business website? Each purpose requires varying technical considerations for your web hosting.
- Bandwidth: Most small and medium-sized hosting plans set a limit on how much traffic or bandwidth you get per month, that is, how much information can be transferred to your visitors. Check whether the hosting provider gives you sufficient monthly bandwidth to ensure efficient data transfer.
- Disk Space: Be aware of the amount of disk space you get from your web hosting provider. Ensure that you have plenty of space for your website’s needs, and be sure to leave plenty of room to grow.
- Email Management: Look at the e-mail management solution your hosting provider offers. Not every hosting provider offers advanced features such as auto-responders, mail forwarding, junk mail filters or virus protection. Also check the number of mailboxes you are able to create within your domain.
- Platforms: Make sure your provider fully supports PHP or MySQL databases. You will most likely need these elements to run a professional website which needs advanced customisation and scripting. Consider the correct platform for your needs. If a site is written in ASP.NET, it should be hosted on a Windows platform, whereas a PHP site can be run on a Linux server.
Scalability and Flexibility
What you consider adequate hosting now might not meet your needs in the future. You might receive considerably more web traffic than you anticipated; you may wish to add some eCommerce functionality to your site at a later stage; or you may even require a dedicated server. Your hosting plan needs to grow with your site. Consider the upgrade and add-on options to make your hosting scalable in line with your requirements as you grow or as your needs may change over time.
Although uptime is not the only thing that matters, a reliable host should be able to guarantee at least 98% uptime. Also consider what security measures your web hosting provider takes against a site getting compromised or fall victim to hacking through DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service). Also, the hosting provider should back up all files in the event they need to be restored after a system outage.
Technical support is a critical aspect when selection a hosting provider. Evaluate what kinds of different ways you can contact your hosting provider should you need support - email, support tickets, telephone, chat should be available at all times. Web hosting companies should offer 24/7 support. Response times should be reasonable depending on the issue at hand.
The Control Panel User Interface
To manage your web hosting files you need a control panel. Your hosting provider should offer some sort of a control panel where you will be able to add your domains and configure settings such as upload files, scripts, set up email and FTP accounts. Take a look at the control panel’s user interface before making a decision on your hosting provider. Do they make updates easy for you, or do they use some clunky interface that seemingly only a true geek would be able to figure out how to use? The user interface should be clear for anyone, not just for geeks.
Finally, don’t forget to consider what other customers say about the hosting provider. Simply perform a Google search to read about customer feedback and comments. Sign up with a web hosting provider that has reputable credentials.