What is web hosting? and how to choose the right type

Every website you visit while browsing the web is hosted on some form on web hosting, web servers are specialised computer systems that leverage cloud computing and are set up with one purpose in mind – to host websites. This means that all aspects of the server have been created with websites in mind, generally speaking any computer is capable of running as a web server but using a dedicated web host over your own computer has some big advantages.

The first is if you host the website yourself you would need to leave the computer running all day everyday because if you turned it off – over night for example – your website would no longer be accessible meaning you would miss out on visitors, the second big reason is hosting a website that receives a decent number of visitors requires a very fast internet connection so that users do not need to wait for pages to be sent from your computer to theirs – it can also take up allot of bandwidth as files are constantly going backwards and forwards when people visit your website.

Now we know we need web hosting for our website the next question is what sort of hosting? There are a few different types of website hosting available and each has its benefits and costs, the trick is to choose one that meets your needs and does not cost you more then it should.

Type 1 Shared hosting

This type of website hosing is by far the most popular and will meet the needs of 99% of websites out there, this type of hosting is essentially a large group of websites all hosted on a single web server. The benefits of this hosting is the price, by sharing the web server with other websites you share the costs the downside is you are also sharing the resources of the server. The majority of websites will run perfectly happy on this type of hosting and going for anything more costly is a waste of money as its not likely to make a difference.

This type of hosting is also looked after by the service provider which means that its very hands off – you don’t need to worry about keeping the server software up to date for example.

There are a few other things to watch out for with this type of hosting, the first is that if another website on your shared server was to experience a large number of visitors or a programming bug that consumed large amounts of resources it would slow the server down which in turn would slow your website down.

The other thing to watch out for is emails, with shared hosting your emails will also be sent using a shared mail server – this means that if another user is sending out spam it may also cause your emails to be reported as such meaning they may not get through to your end users. If you opt for a decent host such as Heart Internet they will be good at monitoring things like this and act before it becomes an issue, they will also be there to help if things to become problematic – that kind of support is worth paying a little extra for!

Type 2 virtual private server

The next time of hosting is a virtual private server, this type of hosting is effectively a web server running a few virtual web servers with each one being configured independently of the others. While you will still share the physical server with other users you have a much larger share of the resources because each server will only host a handful of sites. This means that your website will perform better when experiencing large number of visitors and is less likely to be affected by other websites.

The down side of this type of hosting is the fact that you will be paying more then the shared hosting option and if you website is not going to benefit from the additional resources it is a waste of money, other issues to watch out for is that you will be responsible for the maintenance of the server operating system – installing updates etc or your website developer will be which will increase the cost further.

Type 3

The 3rd type of hosting is a dedicated server, this type of website hosting is a single website hosted on a single website server, the benefits of this solution is your website will be able to use all of the resources of the server and will not need to share it with any other websites. This means that if your website receives large amounts of visitors the full resources of the web server will be at your disposal reducing the possibility of the website slowing down.

This is the most expensive option as you are the only one using the web server, the servers hardware will be maintained by the hosting company but you (or your web developer) will need to maintain the software and make sure everything is ticking along nicely.

Which hosting type do I need?

This is a difficult question to answer without looking at the website you will be hosting but essentially most standard size websites will be ok on shared hosting – if your website becomes popular and receives more visitors the resources assigned to it on the shared hosting will be exceeded and the outcome will be your website will slow down. The virtual server will provide your website with more resources to help cope with the number of visitors the same principle applies with this type of server if you get sufficient visitors you will need a dedicated server to keep up with the demands of the website.

For the majority of websites shared website hosting will be sufficient, if your unsure talk to your website developer who will be able to help and while transferring websites from one server to another will take time it is possible so start of small and upgrade if and when you find you need it.

Blog post by Alex Wells

Blog post by: Alex Wells

Based in Saffron Walden, Essex, I have over 10 years experience in crafting bespoke websites for a wide range of clients, I love helping businesses and individuals achieve their digital goals through smart deployment of modern web technologies.

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