Web Hosting 101 – Part I: Hosting providers.

Part I will be about what is web hosting and the types of web hosting, and local hosting. Later we’ll continue with things like bandwidth, key resources, questions to ask before choosing a host and finally the best hosting plan for your website.

Web Hosting Definitions

Web hosting or web host is the place where a website resides. A web hosting company will provide you with the hardware to run your website and the internet to serve it to the world. It’s just a computer, nothing else nothing more and we call it a web server or just a server. You will usually rent that server and in some cases even buy it. The amount of resources that you want from the server is what determine your hosting plan:

  • Shared Server
  • Virtual Private Server
  • Dedicated Private Server
  • Cloud Server

Shared Server or Shared Web Hosting

In a shared server environment your website will be placed on the same computer as many other websites, meaning that all the websites on that computer (server) will be sharing the resources available to them: memory, disc space, bandwidth, CPU, etc.

As you can imagine your website will be affected for this and that’s not the only problem, some shady companies will be overselling their resources and that make the situation even worse. The logic behind overselling is that most users and personal websites will not demand too many resources, nevertheless you should, if you can, stay way from companies like these.

Virtual Private Server

In the case of a virtual private server you will still share the server with other websites, the difference however is that you will be assigned a “virtual space” and pool of resources, and no other website will be allowed to take anything from you. However due to the nature of sharing, you still will be affected by other users on the server, but at least you will have a minimum amount of resources for your website. Knowing exactly what is available to you gives you a great deal of flexibility and the choice of planning ahead.

Dedicated Server

You rent the server for yourself!, no more sharing, no more annoying neighbors and no more limits between the limits. All the hardware is for your website only. This is the plan that we all want but as you can imagine it’s expensive as hell. You are also responsible of everything on that server including it’s configuration. Sure you can pay for support or even request a managed dedicate server, but of course the price will be even higher.

Cloud Web Hosting

The latest trend about web hosting, everything is flying these days. When using cloud hosting, your website is distributed to a network of servers. This have some advantages: your website will be always served from the closest location to the person requesting it, meaning that it will be loaded much faster. If one of the servers go offline, your website will still be available. You won’t need to worry about bandwidth and stuff like that and even less about pesky neighbors. One of the downside of cloud web hosting is that your content will be distributed in so many places that it may be impossible for you to have total control over it, in other words if you have concerns about privacy then cloud hosting may not be for you.

Remember that a server is just a computer, this means that there will be a lot of variations and customizations regardless the type of hosting. You can for example rent a VPS where you will have 25% of CPU power or you can also rent a different VPS where the CPU is more powerful therefore with more computer power for you. The same principle goes for every other piece of hardware or resource. The thing is, when discussing a hosting plan don’t just go with percentages, or meaningful numbers, ask your web hosting provider the specifics.

Local Hosting

Wait, if a web hosting is just a remote computer that i rent, maybe i can host my website on my own local PC?. Sure you can, the problem is that there are some issues that most people are not willing to deal with or the hassle is not worth the money.

To host your website on your local PC the first thing that you need is a static IP address so that it will be easy for the rest of the world to locate your website (read domain 101 if you need to refresh some concepts) you may still be able to do so with a dynamic IP but it will be a little more complex. Your PC, if used only for serving your website, don’t really need to be all that powerful, remember that at least now you won’t be sharing your resources, however much depend on the content of your website. Finally, and this is the major obstacle, you really really need good internet, specially for the upload speed. Other things to consider are your electricity bill, your computer will be on 24/7!,  The reliability of your internet and the terms of services of your ISP. If you have what it takes, if you have the time and like to experiment and learn then go for it, do it for fun… fun not business!.

That’s it for the first part of web hosting 101, stay tuned for part II.

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