Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Web Hosting
Last week we talked about domain names, hosting and websites. So as promised we are going to go into more detail on all of that over the next two weeks. Today we’ll address web hosting and what you need to know before choosing a web hosting solution that’s right for your needs. Did you know that web hosting comes in a million different flavors?
What web hosting does
Your website requires a web hosting provider in order to be visible on the Internet. Websites are sort of like pieces of real estate in that you have to pay to have a place for them to live. Web hosts are like landlords in that they provide and maintain that place to live for a fee. As we mentioned last week, web space is usually rented on a yearly, quarterly or monthly basis.
The powerful computer that provides the space for your site is called a server. When a user types in your web address (like www.gladworks.com), the Internet connects to the server that holds your website files. Next, it transfers your website information to the user’s computer. The user can then see the pages of your website.
When you subscribe to a hosting service, you can choose from different packages, just like you can choose what sort of space to rent to front your business. There are website storage packages on the host server, email services, domain registration, auto-responders, and ecommerce software. There are also different types of web hosting.
Web hosting in a variety of delicious flavors
Not all websites have the same needs. Some need to be fast, some need to be highly customizable and some don’t need to be very complicated at all. In order to meet these different needs, there four basic kinds of web hosting out there.
1. Shared web hosting: This is the most common type of web hosting and it’s the easiest to start out with. It’s called “shared” because it is a service where one server is shared between many customers. It’s kind of like living in an apartment building. Shared hosting offers the following:
- Less expensive
- Easier to use since the hosting company takes care of maintenance and security for you
- You share the server resources with your neighbors and thus the expense of keeping the server running.
2. Free website builder: Free website builders like godaddy or web.com offer easy ways to build a website. They are pre-designed templates that you can customize to suit your needs without having a lot of technical know how. Free website builders usually include a domain name and a web hosting account that is automatically set up.
Some benefits and disadvantages are:
- Fastest and easiest way to start a website and get it online
- Low cost
- Ecommerce can be tricky especially if you have many products.
- Highly customized functionality is not possible
- Often use shared web hosts
3. Dedicated hosting: With dedicated hosting you get your very own server. No sharing. It’s like owning your own house instead of an apartment building. With this option you get:
- All the flexibility and customization you want because you’re the only one using it
- All the resources since you’re the only one using it
- Most expensive option since you don’t have any neighbors to share the cost of the server with
- Requires quite a bit of technical knowledge for maintenance and management
4. Virtual Dedicated Hosting: With this type of hosting, you share one physical machine with other folks, so it's not dedicated physical hosting, but you have a guaranteed provision of resources available at all times. With virtual dedicated hosting you get:
- dedicated bandwidth and dedicated RAM for your site
- Ability to maintain your own web server. You will be only owner of your virtual dedicated server and will be able to install or uninstall any software
- a bit more of an expensive arrangement
5. Cloud hosting: Even though many customers share the same physical server hardware, virtualization technology splits up the physical hardware so that each cloud server has its own resources and can be configured almost like a dedicated server. This gives you the benefits of both shared hosting and dedicated hosting.
Cloud hosting offers:
- The most flexibility
- Even though you are sharing your physical machine with others, you have dedicated resources
- Requires a higher level of technical know how
Any of the mentioned tiers are focused on the server itself: the CPU (central processing unit) that will need to do the work, the RAM (random access memory) that stores pages and data in memory, and the storage array that houses the long term information and content. Shared hosting has the least “horsepower,” while dedicated servers have the most, with the other versions falling somewhere in between.
Finally, there is also the website bandwidth component to consider. Bandwidth has three primary metrics associated with it:
Upload speed: very important for hosting
Download speed: important if customers are storing data on your site
Total bandwidth cap: the total amount of traffic that you expect to see come and go on your site.
These metrics are usually attached to the server tiers we spoke of earlier, but if you have specific needs that fall between two plans, most providers can work out a custom hosting solution. For example, maybe you have a website that just holds backup data. You don’t care too much how slow the connection is, but you’re going to move a lot of data back and forth. You need a high cap and a lot of storage space, but moderate to low bandwidth speeds and minimal cpu/memory requirements.
Wait? Have we lost you? Sorry! We were getting our geek on again!
If all of this is overwhelming to you GLAD WORKS friends, have no fear. We will help you find your best choice and make sure you’re set up for success! We’ve got this!