Web Hosting Demystified
To be able to display your website on the Internet you need to have it hosted on a web server. A web server is a computer programmed to publish websites.
There are an abundance of hosting providers, offering different web hosting services and packages.
It can be very confusing to choose the right hosting plan. More expensive is not always better.
There are several types of web-hosting services offered by various web-hosting providers.
I like to give you a list of the most common ones:
1. Shared Web Hosting
Shared hosting is the cheapest and most common type web-hosting.
Prices usually range from $10 -$20 a month. Some provider are offering plans from less than $5 a month when you sign up for a 2 year term.
The reason shared hosting is so cheap, you share a space on a web-server with several others, maybe more than 1000 websites. You also usually don’t get a fixed IP address.
Shared hosting is suitable for small websites with low to moderate traffic.
- Fully managed by the hosting provider.
- Convenient control panel (cpanel).
- Usually has features like Site Builder, WordPress and Joomla one-click installs.
- Email included.
- Can be slow at times.
- Shared IP address.
- not suitable for e-commerce sites.
- No root access.
2. VPS Web Hosting
VPS web hosting is the next step up from shared web hosting. With VPS web hosting you get a complete virtual machine for your website. You also get a fixed allocation of processing power, memory and disk-space. Prices usually range from $30 to over $300 per month depending of computing allocation and features. With VPS you can start with a cheaper plan and as your website traffic increases you can upgrade without affecting your website. VPS hosting is suitable for websites with moderate to high traffic and e-commerce websites.
- Cheap at the low-end.
- Plans can be upgraded easily.
- Fixed allocation of computing resources.
- Fixed IP address.
- Root access to virtual server.
- Server has to be managed in most cases.
- Management optional at a cost.
- Email optional.
- Setup cost.
3. Dedicated Web Hosting
This is the most expensive but also the most powerful and flexible method of web-hosting. You get a complete server. Usually you get a choice of operating systems. Prices start from $100 to over $3000 per month. Dedicated hosting is suitable for corporate, high traffic and busy e-commerce websites.
- You have a complete physical server allocated.
- You have full control over that server.
- You get one or more fixed IP addresses.
- It is the most powerful hosting solution.
- Your hosting provider can support your server, but at a (high)cost.
- Email not included, needs to be set up or purchased separately.
- To upgrade your hosting plan, your website has to move to another server. You will have downtime.
4. On Premises Web Hosting
You can host your website on your premises. However you are not only responsible for the server but also for the routers ,switches, UPS, network, Internet connection ,firewall and security.
A hosting provider usually offers most these services part of their hosting package.
In most cases it is not practical or economical to host your own website.
There are other hosting packages available but they are usually based on shared or VPS hosting.
Most hosting providers offer different types of operating system on their servers.
The most common ones are Microsoft Windows and Linux.
Linux hosting is usually cheaper than Windows hosting. The reason for this, Windows has higher hardware requirements and licence costs. Most Linux versions are free.
It is important to know what technology is being used for your website. Before you sign up for a hosting plan find out what technology your website is based on and what server type is required.
If your website uses ASP, ASPX, .NET your website should be hosted on a Windows server.
If your website is based on PHP, WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal your website should be hosted on a Linux server.
Regardless of the technology being used, your website should be accessible on various devices and operating systems.
Fixed vs Shared IP Address
It is important to know if you have a fixed or shared IP address. Unless you have a small website or personal blog, I would always pay the extra for a fixed IP address. Fixed IP addresses are standard on VPS and dedicated hosting and optional on some shared hosting.
You need a fixed IP address if you plan to install SSL certificates. Shared SSL certificates are available but I would not recommend them.
Since one shared IP address can be shared by thousands websites. Your site could be banned because of one malicious website that happen to share the same IP address as yours.
It is your responsibility to keep your site backed up. Your hosting may offer you a backup facility, but takes no responsibility if your website gets wiped out because of a server failure.
I also recommend you backup your site including databases and pictures to another location like Dropbox, Google Drive or your own computer. There are various website backup tools available.