Are you thinking of creating a website? It can be a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time and you have no prior experience. If the answer is yes, then answering the question what is web hosting is vital for your success.
In order to find a suitable web hosting provider, you need to gain some insight and understanding of the web hosting industry. This article discusses some important things that you must know about web hosting so that you can make the best decision for you and your business.
What is Web Hosting
In simple terms, web hosting describes a service that allows an organisation or individual to upload/post websites on the internet. It’s an internet hosting service that is used by the website owner to make their site visible to the public on the world wide web.
The companies and organisations that provide web hosting services are handling the technologies and tools that a website needs. Clients’ websites are stored and hosted on special systems that are called servers.
A server is often made up of a large network of specialised computers that work in unison to store and deliver your website files as quickly as possible.
When you sign up for a web hosting service, you are essentially paying to rent a space on such a specialised server where you can store your important files and data.
Though, these computers aren’t your ordinary computers that we’re familiar with in everyday life. We’re talking about huge warehouses filled with row after row of specialised networking and hardware equipment.
These datacentres have strict security practices, conditioned environments (controlled air temperature, etc) and multiple power & network failsafes (for example, backup generators in case of a power cut).
How Web Hosting Works
Web hosting works in a similar way as house rentals do: you keep paying your rent on a regular basis and you can stay in the house.
Similarly, you keep paying the charges for your web host and you get to keep the space on the server, thereby your website and services keep running without any hassle.
When an internet user requests to access your website (ie, when they enter www.yoursite.com into their internet browser), there is a very clear and precise system working in the background.
As you type the website name or click on its link, your computer connects your system to the server that stores and powers that particular website and the page is displayed on your browser.
Often, web hosting will include related services too. For instance, your business email accounts might be powered by your web hosting company. It’s also typical to have access to some sort of website building tool, file uploads, and access to your website database.
Because many important aspects of your online business activities are handled by your web hosting provider, it’s important to make a good decision when it comes to picking a web host.
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Types of Web Hosting
It’s important to understand there are different kinds of web hosting products available. Each general type of hosting has advantages and disadvantages. Which you should pick depends on your business and website requirements.
Shared hosting is entry-level web hosting. It’s very common as it doesn’t cost much and it provides a modest amount of space for small businesses. It can be acquired and operated without much technical knowledge and the performance is variable. The website owner will have a moderate amount of control on the server as the server is pre-configured.
Shared hosting is exactly as it sounds – your website will exist on a server that also powers other websites. Your site will share server resources with these other sites. This means that it’s very cost-effective because the expense of powering a server is diluted among many customers.
WordPress hosting is a hosting service which is specifically provided to site owners that wish to build their website with WordPress. The servers involved are specifically tuned to power WordPress, and it means that WordPress sites perform very well on these servers.
However, do keep in mind that some unscrupulous providers simply relabel their standard shared hosting plans as “WordPress hosting” without any special configuration adjustments. Their justification is that their standard shared plans can run WordPress so it’s not really a lie.
Before purchasing WordPress hosting, make sure the provider actually offers specifically tuned servers design to make WordPress run fast and securely – and that these servers actually offer a point of difference when compared to their standard shared plans.
VPS means Virtual Private Server hosting. This is similar in principle to shared hosting, as you will still be sharing the server with other users. However, the host allocates a private partition and private resources to each customer that are separated from other users. Hence, you get a dedicated server space that is ideal for busy or mission-critical websites.
Because you have a private partition and a guaranteed amount of system resources, this will generally result in faster website load times and more stability under high user loads.
Usually, the server is scalable and highly customisable with root access. Though, this means that VPS servers are usually only available to people with a strong background in server administration, or you will have to pay an ongoing specialist to manage the server for you.
Are you interested in a VPS service? Let our expert team manage your hardware for you, so you can enjoy the unparalleled performance without the hassle of hardware and network maintenance.
Dedicated Server Hosting
Dedicated web hosting is where you rent or own your own physical server. This gives you maximum flexibility, as the owner gets to configure the server as they wish, choose the operating system and software as per their requirements. The entire environment of the server is under the control of the website owner and entirely dedicated to the owner’s website(s).
As with a VPS service, you will need access to specialised server administration expertise to take advantage of a dedicated server.
One of the newest types of web hosting is cloud hosting. The first thing we should say about this is that the word “cloud” can have different meanings, and there is no fixed agreement on what cloud actually means.
Often, cloud hosting is thrown around as a marketing buzz word. Don’t fall into this trap – there is nothing inherently special about “cloud hosting” in and of itself. Often, a provider might simply be selling a general VPS package and relabeling it as cloud hosting in order to take advantage of people without much web server knowledge.
We will create a blog post in the future that expands on what cloud hosting is (and isn’t). Stay tuned for further updates.
Be Careful of Fraud
The moment you require a website for your business or project, finding a web hosting service is the first thing you’ll need to do.
The web hosting industry is huge and extremely competitive. This means that you have plenty of options to choose from. This makes it possible for you as a business owner to find the features that you might need for your website.
Though, the sheer amount of hosting options available is also a double-edged sword. There are thousands of web hosting companies that are set up with the intention of defrauding customers.
Unfortunately, it’s fairly common practice for malicious individuals to rent a web server from a large company, then divide that server up into smaller segments and then resell those segments to the end-users at a very low rate.
Their goal is to sell as many cut-up segments as quickly as possible, and then simply take the money and run rather than providing any form of ongoing service.
For example, in December 2019, 19 unscrupulous web hosts (probably owned by the same person/team) pulled the plug, taking their profits and leaving their customers high and dry.
Unfortunately, these stories occur fairly frequently in the industry, including a New Zealand example where, in 2014 the owner of 24/7 Hosting up and walked away out of the blue, leaving more than 6000 customers high and dry.
This means you have to do some research about your potential web host. Ideally, they should have been in business for at least a couple of years. Also, if you’re considering a larger host, then check out what kind of reputation they have within the industry.
You may be surprised to learn that the world’s largest hosting companies actually have a bad reputation among people in the know. For example, BlueHost, HostGator, GoDaddy and many other well-known hosts are loathed by people within the industry. The specific reasons why deserve an entire blog post, which we will tackle in the future.
When looking for a new web host, we recommend staying away from the largest industry juggernauts. We also recommend staying away from cheap ($1/m etc) ‘too good to be true’ hosting options.
Final thoughts: there are a variety of web hosting options available, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. In addition, there are many companies & organisations offering web hosting, and many of them don’t have their customers in their best interest. Make sure to do your research before purchasing web hosting!