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Introduction to Web Hosting

Web hosting, or website hosting is a service that allows you to have your very own website (as opposed to a sub-site domain or webpage on another website,  or other alternatives). The web hosting company provides the infrastructure (the “Server”) to run your website on, and with some web hosting plans it also includes the management and maintenance of the Server. A server is basically a very powerful computer with a large storage capacity. The web host’s server serves your website pages on the web, making them accessible to internet users throughout the world. Nearly every site on the web is being powered by one web hosting company or another.

Unless you are highly technical & have experience with using, updating and managing a web server I would strongly advise you not to try to manage a server yourself, you are much better off paying a bit more and having it managed by the web hosting firm (who can repair it at 3am if required…..). Most new or small businesses however will only usually require a “Shared Hosting” type plan, which will always include the server maintenance anyway.

Usually only very large websites or those with busy traffic will require a “Dedicated Server” type plan.

How Web Hosting Works

Once you have signed up with your chosen web hosting provider they will provide you with access to the Web Host’s Server control panel – usually called the  CPanel – and you will be allocated a certain amount of disk space on the server that you can use, and other resources. From the CPanel you can install or upload your website’s files, plus carry out other chores (such as accessing the website’s  database, accessing the website’s core files, etc).

Types of Web Hosting

There are many different types of web hosting available, each of which are geared towards the different needs of businesses, webmasters and developers at varying levels. Some of the most popular types of web hosting including the following:

Shared Hosting

The most common type of web hosting is “Shared Hosting“. Shared hosting is where you are literally sharing the server space and various resources with the other websites also installed on your allotted Server.  Shared Hosting is currently the cheapest form of web hosting that you can buy, and it is probably the easiest to use and maintain too because all of the server maintenance and server management is handled by the web host themselves – leaving you to better concentrate on your website.  The simplicity and cost-efficiency of Shared Hosting has made it quite popular among individuals and small businesses.

The downside of Shared Hosting is that it will usually be much slower than the more expensive alternatives, you are often also restricted with the amount of storage allowed and it is less secure than Dedicated Hosting. However, for the price and the ease of use, Shared Hosting  is probably the one I’d personally recommend for any new or small business (security and site speed can be improved using other methods).

Dedicated Hosting

Commonly termed as a “Dedicated Server“, Dedicated Hosting is where you have the entire Server dedicated solely to your website alone. Server space and all resources are made exclusive to you, plus you can  install scripts and other specialized software you might need, so Dedicated Servers provide the utmost in control and flexibility. A Dedicated Server will also provide your website with far greater speed than any other type of Web Hosting,  and greater security too because you will not have to worry about your site being hacked or infected because of another hacked or infected site which is sharing the same server. Another good point about Dedicated Hosting is that it also ensures that your website won’t be shut down just because an illegal website was found sharing your server, so there are many advantages to having a Dedicated Server.

If you have a very large website, or very large volumes of traffic, then you will probably need a Dedicated Server or similar options (such as VPS Hosting – “Virtual Private Server”)

If you are not technical or do not wish to manage the server yourself (…managing the configurations, doing the software upgrades, fixing it if it breaks, etc…) then you can usually pay a little bit more and get it managed for you (highly recommended….). Unless you are prepared to always be available 24 / 7 to fix it if anything goes wrong, then you will need to have a Managed Hosting plan instead.

Managed Hosting

Managed Hosting generally refers to the full managing and servicing of a Dedicated Server, which is undertaken by the Web Hosting provider for you.  This may include the server administration, software upgrades and database management among other services. Managed Hosting costs a little more but it is often well worth it when you consider the alternative. Unless you are highly technical or are experienced with managing a server (and willing to be available any time a problem should come up, day or night…) then you should probably stick to using Managed Hosting…

Reseller Hosting

Reseller hosting is whereby you purchase a larger amount of server space and associated resources from a web hosting provider, and then re-sell parts of it to your own customers, usually at a price you select. So basically a Reseller host is the middleman between the customer and the web hosting company. The billing and accounting etc is your responsibility. With most Reseller Hosting you are also expected to provide your customers with the support and service which is normally supplied by the web host provider, so unless you are reasonably technical or have experience with such matters then you may be better choosing a different plan (such as  “White Label Reseller Hosting” – whereby the support is provided to your customers from the web hosting company on your behalf. White Label Reseller hosting is much harder to find, and also much more expensive).

As you can see, web hosting comes in a variety of flavors and these are just a few of many which are now available. Each company will also have it’s own conditions or restrictions, so once you decide which type of plan you need, then you should take the time to check that it will cover all your essential requirements (for example, if you intend to have a large video-sharing website which requires special software scripts be installed on the server to operate & convert videos etc, then you probably cannot use Shared Hosting and would need some type of Dedicated Hosting). Narrowing them down and finding one that suits your needs isn’t always easy but one thing is for certain – with all the providers currently on the market, there is sure to be a host which is capable of meeting your needs.

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