What is web hosting and what is the best plan for you?
, , , , , , , , , , , , Apr 17, 2013

What is Web Hosting?

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If you are looking to launch a website, for whatever reason, then you have probably heard of web hosting.  Those who are novices when it comes to online platforms might even have answered a question related to web hosting by saying, “Yes, I will be looking into web hosting as soon as I have launched my site.”  The knowledgeable ones amongst you will already know how ludicrous and ridiculous that is, but if you really do not know the first thing about web hosting, let us introduce you to what it is, as well as the main options available to you. Answering the Big Question Web hosting is what allows a website to happen.  Sorting out web hosting when you have launched a site is impossible to do; you need a web hosting service before you can get a site started.  Of course, you can ‘sort’ your web hosting if your servers are not doing what you want them to at a later date, but for all intents and purposes, it is the first thing you will do. What Does a Web Host Do? A web hosting company provides you with the space you need in order to put your website onto the internet.  You can have some great designs and killer SEO content, but without a top web hosting service, they mean little. A web host provides the platform, in the form of servers, for you to put your message out to the world across a powerful, and ideally fast, network. How Important is a Web Host? This sounds extreme, but a web host can help to make or break your website.  Whenever a search spider or a human visitor comes to your site, several aspects of their experiences are reliant on your web server being at the standard it needs to be. When a browser types your domain name into Internet Explorer or Google Chrome, your web host’s server springs into life to give the person looking for your site the best experience possible. A web host and your server will directly influence the appearance of your website, page loading times, and even the variety of content you can feature on your website. Web Hosting Features Web hosting companies will all offer a variety of different features and functions, so that they are as appealing as possible to individuals and businesses who might be seeking out their services. Common aspects of a web hosting service might include: •    The control panel – this will differ in appearance from one web host to another, but will house many similar functions related to updating or even building a website •    Email functions, where you can manage email addresses linked with your domain name •    Various reports regarding your hosting, including performance analysis in terms of your server, as well as figures such as visitor numbers and the average time spent on each page.  Again, the range of reports and their scope may differ from one host to another. The Range of Web Hosting Options While we have an outline of what web hosting is, we now need to look at the different types of web hosting, and understand how they can make a big difference to a website.  The different web hosting solutions are related to the servers they use.  While cloud and hybrid servers are starting to become popular, the three main options are these: •    Shared servers •    Virtual private servers (VPS) •    Dedicated servers So that you understand each one and start to get an idea of which option might be the best fit for your business, we have provided an outline of each. Shared Servers This is the cheapest and most basic option, that might be used by someone looking to build a small blog following, play around with web design, or who just wants to know what it is like to own a website. If you go for a shared server solution, your website will be housed on a server with several other – this could be hundreds – websites where the resources available, such as bandwidth and disk space, are shared between all of the sites.  A shared server can be the least flexible option, although most of the time your web host will look after maintenance and usage options. At face value, a shared server is cheaper and easier to use, but the downsides will often come home to roost later, especially when you are looking to grow your site. Virtual Private Servers VPS is the middle ground between a shared and a dedicated solution.  You will often see it sold as having the benefits of dedicated hosting for the price of a shared option.  That is true to some extent, but it needs exploring further.  If it were 100% accurate, we would render dedicated servers obsolete! While your site is still on a shared server, you get the resources you need for your site to run effectively when you have the traffic demand heading to your domain.  This is partly facilitated by fewer sites being featured on the same server, however the servers themselves are likely to be more powerful than those use in shared hosting. You will pay more for a virtual private server, but will feel much more in control of your site performance without having to pay the sum that you might have had you chosen a dedicated server. Dedicated Hosting This does what it says on the tin.  When you sign a dedicated hosting agreement, the whole server is yours, and the resources attached to it are solely focused on making your site as efficient and as high-performance as possible.If you are lacking in technical knowledge or expertise, we recommend paying a higher sum to enjoy a managed service, as doing it yourself can cause all manner of problems if you are unsure of what you are doing. Given the increased power and resources you will enjoy with a dedicated hosting service, you will pay more for such a solution.  However, you will quickly find that your service pays for itself, especially if you are running an ecommerce business or another site that attracts a high volume of visitors. What If You Use Hybrid or Cloud Services? Hybrid or cloud services are only slightly different to those we have explored so far, although they can have a range of benefits to website owners. Generally, hybrid hosting combines elements of VPS with dedicated hosting, further enhancing the power and functionality that is enjoyed by website that might have previously been on a VPS.  The cost of a hybrid solution will be higher than a VPS platform, but will ultimately depend on how many dedicated elements are built into a particular service plan. The biggest difference with cloud servers is that websites tend to be hosted across a number of servers rather than on just one physical server.  This can make cloud hosted websites more reliable, as if one server shuts down, a site can easily take resources from another until the original one is working again.  VPS and dedicated options are usually available on the cloud. Choosing a Server Choosing the correct server solution for your site is easy as long as you are realistic with what you need.  Now that you understand what web hosting is, ensure that you choose the server most able to meet the demands of your website.  Remember that the benefits of a more powerful platform will easily outweigh the costs if your site performs as you predict.  Focusing too much on cost will leave you, and your website visitors, well undersold.
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