What Is Web Hosting and Why Do You Need It?

 

Web hosting is a service of providing a leased space on the internet to clients (you) that need a web site. Every web site needs a place to live, and that is what web hosting is.

Web hosts provide that living space for websites and take care of all the technical details: the network, the computers (servers) the data center, the server software installation and configuration, security, etc so all you need be concerned with is your website.

That is the basic overview. Now what about the details? That’s where it can get confusing. Between the jargon-filled marketing speak, nonsense doubletalk and IT’s default setting of “BWB” (baffle with BS) it’s hard to determine what is important and what is fluff.

In order to cut through the fog, we need some clear definitions of specific common web hosting terms to get us started. Many of these terms can be called other things by hosts that want to differentiate their service, but whatever they call their service, it is going to be one of these 4 things with slight flavor variations:

 

Shared Hosting

This is usually the first type of hosting new web-site owners encounter. Low price, least secure, least resources per account. This type of hosting is also the easiest to get started with. Almost everything is already set up for you, so the technical bar to entry is the lowest of all types of hosting. You don't have to do anything other than upload your files to the server and your website just starts working. This appeals to most people because you don't need to become a server engineer to set it up.

The reason for the low cost of shared web hosting is economy of scale. Hosts create a huge pool of low cost resources that are easy for them to manage and then split them up among thousands of customers who pay a small fee for their space. The overhead and maintenance are very low on these types of servers from the host’s perspective, and they can pass along those lower costs in the form of very low pricing on hosting plans.

The main problem with shared hosting is your neighbors on the server. If you happen to be on a server where another site (from another customer) suddenly gets extremely popular and thousands of visitors per minute, it can bring your site to a screeching halt. That’s right, there are usually no guaranteed resources on shared hosting, so your site can be negatively affected by other sites on the shared server.

While most reputable hosts have safeguards in place to throttle/limit the amount of resources each customer account can use, there are still setups that don’t provide these limits, and the only time you find this out is when your site is offline.

While this may seem to paint a dire picture for shared hosting, the truth is, for the price, even with the risks, it is still a good deal for most people. Since shared hosting usually puts resource caps on sites, shared web hosting is only suitable for relatively low traffic websites (Even if the plan you are on is "Unlimited" or "Unmetered"). If, on the other hand, you could lose a lot of income if your business/ecommerce website goes down, shared hosting is not really a viable option and you should be considering a few of the other options.

 

VPS Hosting

VPS is short for Virtual Private Server, and it is exactly that. What this hosting technology does is take a real physical server or a real pool of resources (that is all a server is anyway) and divide them up into independent virtual servers. These virtual servers simulate real physical servers in almost every way so that each VPS gets its own guaranteed pool of resources like CPU, RAM, and Disks, but the virtual servers do not physically exist anywhere as a separate discrete server.

The main difference from shared hosting is that a virtual private server does not share its resources with any other hosted customers. Your sites on your vps are guaranteed access to the full amount of RAM, Disk and CPU that you have purchased and no other sites can grab those resources.

VPS hosting is much more flexible than shared hosting, but it also costs more and there are a lot more administrative tasks involved with running a VPS. In fact, it has the same level of complexity as a Dedicated server.

A VPS is a great ecommerce platform for startups and small businesses that need the reliability of a dedicated server but don’t necessarily have the budget. These are also great for short term projects as they are quickly provisioned and you can quickly redeploy them, usually through a web based control panel provided by the host. Through the same control panel you can add or remove resources, reboot your server whenever necessary and check usage and other vital statistics.

Another advantage of a vps is that you can host multiple sites and domains on it if you wish and you can decide how your resources are used. Of course, the number of sites will be limited by how many visitors they get and how much each site taxes the server’s ram and cpus. The great thing is that it is in your control to decide.

 

Cloud Hosting

The term “Cloud” in its modern internet usage seems to date back to 1996. Who actually coined the term is in dispute, but everyone agrees it was a marketing term used to rebrand the internet. The cloud is simply a metaphor for the internet, and thus what it is can be open to wide ranging interpretation. That’s pretty much it. Cloud hosting is just a new term for networked computers connected and publicly available – the internet. These networked computer’s resources are pooled together in a virtual ‘cloud’ and then divvied up among separate end users. Sound familiar?

Because it is a marketing term, you’ll hear a lot of jargon filled claims about why “The Cloud” is better, but ultimately, "Cloud" is a new name for the same old thing - networked computers, pooled resources and virtualized servers. To the end user, there is pretty much no difference, the difference is on the management end of things for the hosting company. 

There are all kinds of flavors too. Private clouds, Public clouds, cloud vps servers, cotton candy clouds…ok I made that last one up. The important thing to remember is that they are just slices of resources out of a giant pool for you to use for your web site/network.

Cloud hosting is a bit pricier because it’s the hot property now, but it isn’t better than shared or vps, or dedicated, just slightly different in how you pay for it. For the average end user, it’s not much different than any other hosting type but it’s super convenient. You can have servers set up instantly in most cases, you can pay by the hour or monthly. You pick how much processing power, gpu, ram and storage you need.

 

Dedicated Hosting

This is a physical server on a rack, with its own cpu, ram and hard drives/SSDs and other installed hardware. When you get a dedicated server, you get the whole machine to yourself. Usually these are the most configurable/customizable of all options. The downside is they are pricier and if you do not pay extra to have the hosting company manage it, you are stuck with the entire management responsibility.

With a dedicated server, you get access to the root filesystem so you can usually install whatever OS you want on the server. You can use the server for whatever you like (if you abide by the host’s Terms of Service). You are fully responsible for security patches, updates, filesystem management, software configuration and everything else that is not hardware or network related.

For many, this is just too much responsibility and rules out using a dedicated server, but for the technically adept and those willing to learn, it can be a perfect setup where you can build exactly what you need.

 

Review

All web hosting services are a variation on a theme: You purchase a slice of resources for your website, software, and resources to be hosted. The technology, no matter what you call it, all does the same thing – makes your website appear on the internet when somebody visits it in a browser. Depending on your budget, site demands and requirements, you will have to decide which is the right fit for you.

Here is a short recap of what each is best suited for:

  • Shared Hosting - Small websites, lower visitor volume, low sales volume ecommerce sites
  • VPS - Small to medium websites, medium to high visitor volume, moderate sales volume ecommerce sites
  • Cloud Hosting - Small, medium or large complex sites or networks, low to high visitor volume, low to high volume sales ecommerce sites
  • Dedicated servers - multiple domain/site hosting, medium or large web sites, low to high visitor volume, sites requiring custom server setups, higher security needs, or any custom requirements

Hopefully, this has cleared up a lot of the questions about what hosting is and what type of service you need. If you have further questions about web hosting, please do contact us at sales@aabox.com and we will happily help answer any questions.


at 10/28/2019, 06:51am

Updated: at 10/28/2019, 08:40am

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