If you are a beginner who’s considering setting up a website and are searching for web hosting, you probably are feeling a little overwhelmed by all the choices and information you have encountered. Don’t worry, it’s normal. Even “seasoned” web owners feel the same.
One way to help you make better decisions is to understand what web hosting (and all its jargons) is all about. Ever wonder what goes on behind your hosting plan? It’s more than just setting up a bunch of computers (they are called a network of servers, by the way) where your website is hosted.
What Is Web Hosting
Click on the image above to view a bigger size of the infographic in higher resolution!
First of all, let’s understand a few basic terms. Contrary to what is commonly believed, “Internet” and the “World Wide Web” (also known as web) are not the same. The Internet is an enormous and global interconnection of private, public, academic, business and government computer networks that stores and transport contents. The web on the other hand, is a collection of these contents in the form of websites.
Let’s refer to the web hosting infographic above.
Websites are interactive pages on which information and products or services are being presented for general public to view and access. As the Internet becomes more advance, websites are fast becoming a need rather than a want. People share ideas, sell and purchase products or services as well as creating a brand’s image.
In order to publish your website, i.e. to make it available to users, you will need web hosting. In order to provide web hosting service, a web host has many computers (servers) which are used to store and serve various information.
A web host offers to host your website on a server and to have it accessible 24 hours 7 days a week. A web browser is needed to view these websites. When potential visitors click on your website’s link, their browsers will then send a request to your host server which will then serve the webpage being requested for.
Types of Web Hosting
There are many types of web hosting to cater to the different needs of various websites. Here is a rundown of some common types of web hosting together with their pros and cons. You can read a more detailed discussion on these web hosting types in our infographic article, Web hosting types comparison Infographic.
This is the most popular type of the hosting, with many new websites opting to sign up on this plan. What a shared hosting means is your website shares the same server’s resources with hundreds of other customers.
- Cheap and easy to use
Because many websites are sharing one server, the cost of running the server is spread out among all these users and thus, making shared hosting the most cost-effective. This is the cheapest type of web hosting… next to free hosting, of course.
- Maintained and secured by hosting provider
The website owner need not be concerned with the maintenance and security aspects. Thus it is important to find a hosting provider who’s reliable like Bluehost and WebhostingHub.
- Technical support by hosting provider
If you come across any issues or problems with your hosting account or even your scripts, you can always refer to the hosting provider’s support team.
- Limited resources
This is obvious when one website suddenly experience a traffic surge thus slowing down the rest of the users sharing the same server.
- Less flexibility and options
There are many options that are not available for shared hosting users, partly because of security issues.
- Cheap and easy to use
Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
VPS is an in-between of shared hosting and dedicated server. A VPS has a partitioned server (as opposed to a whole server in a dedicated server plan) with its own bandwidth, disk space and operating system. Users have more control than a shared hosting plan e.g. installing your own software or components. This is especially useful if you need to install some components which you need to use on your website.
- Cost effective
It provides similar features to a dedicated server but not as expensive.
- Faster setup
Because you have full control, you can get things installed at your pace without waiting for hosting company’s support.
- Easily upgradable
When your website usage requires more resources, you can easily upgrade to a dedicated server.
- Requires technical knowledge
You should have a better knowledge on server management because you are ultimately responsible for your server’s maintenance and security.
- Slower technical support
Because you have full control over your account, technical support can be comparatively slower since it requires thorough understanding over your hosting history.
- Cost effective
Those who chose dedicated server are generally those who require resource-intensive hosting or are experiencing very high traffic. Or perhaps when security is of utmost importance and you do not wish to be compromised, thus the choice of not sharing the server with other users.
- Large disk space and bandwidth
The entire server’s resources is made available for your websites. You will have very hard disk space for storing website files, emails and etc.
As you have the resources and freedom to use the server, it is more flexible to install applications compared to a shared hosting plan
- Dedicated IP address
You will need this for certain applications e.g. security software such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Having a dedicated IP address is also good for SEO.
- Complete administration access
You get full access to the server. You can even have remote access to the server.
With all these features and resources within your reach, the cost of renting a dedicated server is of course, much higher.
- Technical knowledge
Unless you have the appropriate technical knowledge to manage a server, you may need to outsource, which in turn will cost you more.
- Large disk space and bandwidth
Things to Consider in Getting a Web Hosting
I have always advised that we choose a web host that’s located in the same country or geographical location as your main audience, in order to provide a speedier loading of your website. In other words, it is not necessary to choose a local host unless your visitors are mostly locals.
More and more web hosts are providing 24×7 support through live chats, email ticketing as well as phone calls. Ensure that yours does too, especially if it’s not a local web hosting company. Trust me, you would want to be able to reach the support team at your convenience, rather than theirs.
Research on the features offered by the web host e.g. disk space & bandwidth, number of emails accounts allowed, the programming languages supported (whether it’s PHP, ASP.net, Java or ColdFusion), which and how much databases are given (MySQL, MS SQL or Access) and also the CPU & RAM allocations.
Some web hosts include many extra features in their plan while others don’t or would charge you for these extras. Features to look out for are like 1-click installer (e.g. SimpleScripts Installer), free domain name (for first year or for life or none at all), free advertising credits and anytime money back guarantee. If you are planning an online store, then you should identify a web host which provides e-commerce solutions.
An easy to use control panel is essential to ensure a fast and effective overall hosting and website management. Remember that you are going to be working on it so give the control panel a test drive and see if you are able to figure it out… without having to call support. A popular control panel is the cPanel.
While it is advisable for you to conduct your own backups, you should look for a web host which performs backups of your databases and site files regularly, preferably daily or at least every 2-3 days.
Price is always an important determination upon deciding which web host to sign up for. However, do not compromise stability, support and infrastructure for a cheap hosting plan. Quality infrastructure and professional support requires money and a free / cheap hosting plan is pretty unlikely to offer them. Do consider the resources that your website needs and will need in the future.
Terms and Conditions
Last but definitely not last, you need to read (not scan through) the Terms of Service (TOS) before signing up for a service. Learn about what “unlimited bandwidth / disk space” really means and whether your website will be shut down if you have a sudden traffic surge. Are there any catches?
I do hope this article and the infographic has provided you with some insights as to what web hosting is all about. Being well-informed is one way to ensure that you are getting the best out of a web hosting deal. It is essentially a factor in determining your website’s reputation and a stress-free hosting experience.
Do feel free to share your comments or opinions on the web hosting infographic above.