Web hosting – a beginner’s guide
When you want to build a website, one of the first requirements is that you get web hosting. A web host is a company that provides you with the technology and resources for managing your website. Most importantly, your web host provides the servers and storage space where all of the data of your website pages are stored. When people visit your website, they must download this data in a way that’s efficient and secure. A web hosting company makes this possible for a reasonable fee.
There are several major types of web hosting and many thousands of companies offering this service. The most common varieties of web hosting are shared hosting, VPS (Virtual Private Server), cloud hosting and dedicated server hosting. For new users, the most important type to be familiar with is shared hosting, but it’s good to know about all of them for future reference. In this article we’ll be looking at some of the most important aspects of web hosting with which you should be familiar if you’re going to start a website.
Shared hosting is by far the most common type of web hosting. It’s the cheapest and sufficient for the majority website owners. When you see advertisements for web hosting that costs between $5 and $10 per month (or even less in some cases), this is for a shared hosting plan. This simply means that your website will be sharing a server with other customers of the web host.
The downside to shared hosting is that you don’t have the flexibility or control over the server that you have with more advanced plans. This, however, is not a concern for people who just want a simple website, a blog or even a new online store. It’s only when your site becomes very large, gets a huge amount of traffic or you have multiple sites then you might want to think of upgrading to another type of hosting.
This website (which you are reading now) is hosted on a shared web hosting account on iPage. Read why I host my websites on iPage.
Virtual Private Server hosting is usually considered the next step up from shared hosting. The term refers to the fact that each website has a “virtually” private area that can be treated as its own server. In reality, websites are hosted on the same server, but unlike shared hosting, VPS hosting gives each website owner a great deal of control over his own settings. Since each site is allocated its own resources, problems with one site will not usually affect others.
VPS hosting is appropriate for high traffic sites or for businesses that run a large number of sites and shared hosting doesn’t provide the resources you need. This type of hosting also gives you an added layer of security, which is good if your site stores sensitive data such as customers’ personal information.
VPS hosting provides many of the advantages of a dedicated server, but at a more affordable price. This makes it an attractive upgrade from shared hosting. Web hosts that offer VPS plans usually have a variety of plans that charge you based on the size of your site and how much traffic you get.
With a dedicated server, your website has its own separate server. This provides you with the maximum amount of control and security. It also provides you with all of the resources your site requires – though the more resources you consume, the more you’ll have to pay. As with VPS hosting, you will choose a plan that reflects the size of your site and amount of traffic.
Dedicated servers are good when you want hosting that’s as fast, reliable and secure as possible. This is the costliest type of hosting, and it mainly is used by larger commercial websites.
Cloud hosting is one of the newer types of hosting, and is becoming popular as an alternative to VPS hosting and dedicated servers. “The cloud” is an expression that refers to data being stored on many different servers.
This approach is used by some of the world’s largest sites, including Google. The advantage is that cloud hosting ensures that problems affecting one server will not interrupt service, as responsibilities can be taken up by other servers. There is also added flexibility. For example, if for some reason your site suddenly receives a huge spike in traffic, a cloud environment can accommodate this by allocating more resources to your site almost immediately!
There are many varieties of cloud hosting, and the cost will depend on what kind of resources you need. This is another type of hosting that’s mainly used by larger sites and businesses. Although more web hosts are now offering cloud hosting, it’s still relatively new so not everyone has it yet.
What to look for in web hosting
When choosing a web host, there are some qualities and features you should be looking at. Some of the features discussed below (such as web building tools and number of domains allowed) are mainly relevant to shared hosting, while others (such as customer service) are important for any type of hosting you will be using.
Does the hosting plan allow unlimited storage and domains? Some inexpensive shared hosting plans limit the number of domains (or sub-domains and add-on domains) you can have. If you want to build more websites later, this can be an issue.
If you’re new to building websites, you should look for a web host with a user-friendly and feature-rich website builder. This allows you to build a website quickly, choosing among templates, without having to do any programming!
What kind of support does the web host offer? Ideally, you want a company that is available 24/7 and that can be reached by phone, email or live chat. If you have a problem over the weekend, you don’t want to have to wait until Monday morning to get help!
Many web hosts offer a variety of free scripts and applications that allow you to create blogs, online stores, forums, surveys and more. For example, if you want to use an application such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, you should choose a web host that makes it easy to install these.
Needless to say, you have to consider the cost when signing up for web hosting. Many companies offer special deals that are temptingly cheap. Before signing up, though, make sure you understand the conditions. To get the lowest price, you might have to sign up for 2 or 3 years. You should also look at what kind of money back guarantee (if any) the company offers.
It’s wise to research the experience and reputation of a web hosting company before signing up. You can find out how long it’s been in business and what its customers are saying. You can read online reviews and ratings of the company to get an idea of how well regarded it is by both customers and industry professionals.
Finding the Right Web Hosting
There are quite a few factors to consider when it comes to web hosting. You want to choose a company that provides you with all of the features you need and that suits your budget.
You also have to choose the right type of hosting. While shared hosting is enough for most beginners, it’s good to choose a company that also provides some good alternatives, such as VPS, cloud or dedicated hosting. This is because when your website grows and gets a lot of traffic, you can then upgrade to a higher hosting plan easily, as opposed to having to switch to another web host.
Web hosting might seem confusing at first, but once you start a website and get familiar with the procedures and terminology, it eventually becomes clear. The important thing is to choose a web host that you can work with for many years to come!