What is web hosting anyway? What do I get when I buy a web hosting solution?
To make thing clear from start let’s just say how it all works.
Web pages basically consist of text and images. Generically, the information contained by these files is called content. The look of the web page is called design.
In order to be accessible to online users, all these files must be stored on a web server. You can think of web servers as computers storing the files of tens or hundreds of web sites. These computers are all connected to the Internet through high-speed connection.
When you access a web page, your browser connects to the web server that stores that page and downloads it to your computer.
So a web server is a must when you plan to share your web site content with online users via the Internet.
There are thousands of web servers in the world, and there are companies that own them. Such a company is called web-hosting provider.
A web-hosting provider can have dozens of web servers hosting thousands of web sites. The web server computers are found usually in large numbers and are all housed in special buildings or sections of buildings called data center.
Apart from the high-speed Internet connection, these locations are set up to ensure the optimum operational conditions and security for the web servers. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning) control, fire protection, virus protection, data backup facility, power backup, even autonomy in case of disaster. Another term for the web servers in the data center is a web farm.
To be able to run your site properly you need a space on the web server to store your data and an Internet connection to it. The amount of data available to you on a web server is simply referred as space and is usually quantified in MB.
The Internet connection needed so that your web site can be accessed online is referred as bandwidth and is also measured in MB or even GB.
Having the glimpse of the basics, it must be said that different web-hosting providers offer different space and bandwidth. Space and bandwidth are usually the main characteristics of a web-hosting plan.
The terminology associated with web hosting can be quite dazzling: virtual web hosting, dedicated hosting; co-locating hosting, shared hosting reseller hosting.
Shared Web Hosting
Shared web hosting or virtual web hosting are two terms for the same thing.
Shared web hosting means that on a web server are hosted many web sites that all have a defined quota of HDD space and bandwidth. They all run simultaneously and there can be from hundreds to thousands of web sites on the same web server.
Given the high number of web sites should you worry about exceeding the performance of the web server, issue better known as slow server response, meaning that your visitors will have to wait too long for your web pages to load.
That is usually not a real problem when dealing with serious web hosting providers, because the operational parameters of the web servers are monitored and appropriate actions will be taken in order to maintain the level of service contracted.
The greater number of web sites sharing the resources of a web server (HDD space, bandwidth, memory, CPU time), the web hosting provider can afford to offer its services at a lower cost. A minus would be that, even with high level of service, you will have to accept a slower server response time when choosing shared web hosting.
Reseller Web Hosting
When web-hosting providers offer their services, typically with a discount, to a third-party (a reseller that will thus become a web-hosting provider itself) and the latter subsequently offers web-hosting services under his branding.
Indeed technically the reseller web hosting is very similar to shared web hosting, as many web sites end up sharing space and bandwidth on the same web server.
The resellers usually are web designers or web developers who offer web hosting services as part of their integrated services. As the web-hosting provider offers resellers important discounts, the price they can offer is among the smallest in the industry.
Compared with the shared web hosting, this system has technical support problem. It takes time and communication problems may occur on the course of your problem from the reseller to the web-hosting provider.
Unless your site is a personal web site or non-commercial one, this poor support issue is enough to not consider this your primary option.
Continuing this line of thought, how can you distinguish a reseller from a real web-hosting provider? It’s not the professional design of the web site, not even the support contact facilities offered as may resellers might have contracts with the provider on the technical support and the person taking your calls might be working for the provider and identify himself to you as an employee of the reseller.
Solid company information is made available usually only by serious providers. The price, that can get as low as under 5$/month is another hint, but you should consider it carefully with prices dropping through the industry.
Dedicated Web Hosting
In dedicated web hosting one single web server is rented to a single customer.
Although this is the common belief, web-hosting providers usually divide a single web server computer between up to three customers.
On the other hand there are web-hosting providers that actually give an entire web server to a customer. Even with three customers sharing the web server, the dedicated web hosting option offers the customers the option to host more than one web site, configure the software to best meet the needs of his site or scale the available bandwidth.
The high prices combined with the availability of resources recommend this type of web hosting for highly important web sites such as e-commerce sites.
Co-location Web Hosting
Co-locating web hosting is similar with dedicated web hosting. The main difference is that while in dedicated web hosting the web server computer belongs to the web-hosting provider and is only rented by the customer, in co-locating web hosting the customer owns the web server computer.
The web-hosting provider only houses the web server computer and sells bandwidth to the customer. This gives the customer using co-locating web hosting full control of the web server combined with the security of the data center.
Now you should be equipped with the necessary information to decide on you web hosting.
You shouldn’t try and find the lowest price possible, but give some extra thought to the quality of service you are buying and to the support offered by a web host provider.
About the Author:
Calin Indre is editor at HostPinPin (www.hostpinpin.com), a Cheap Web Hosting Directory.
HostPinPin.com is a resource for webmasters and consumers looking to find a web hosting company. Providing web hosting articles, tips, web hosting reviews and more.