The amount of space allocated on a server to a website depends on the type of hosting. The main types of hosting are shared, dedicated, VPS and reseller. They are differentiated by the kind of technology used for the server, the level of management provided and the additional services on offer.
How Does Web Hosting Work?
Web hosting and domain hosting
How to pick a web host
Types of web hosting
In a nutshell, web hosting is the process of renting or buying space to house a website on the World Wide Web. Website content such as HTML, CSS, and images has to be housed on a server to be viewable online.
What exactly is a server? A server is a computer that connects other web users to your site from anywhere in the world. As the name implies, web hosting service providers have the servers, connectivity, and associated services to host websites. By offering a variety of hosting plans, they cover the spectrum of hosting needs, from small blogs and large organizations.
If you’re planning on creating an online presence, reliable web hosting is essential. There are literally hundreds of web hosts available today providing thousands of varieties of web hosting services. Plans range from free with limited options to expensive web hosting services specialized for business. The plan you choose will depend primarily on how you plan to use your website and how much you have budgeted for hosting.
Choosing the right hosting plan will mean having access to the right allocation of resources to keep your website loading quickly and reliably for your visitors. Think about how many businesses these days operate primarily online; their sales and business leads come from their website. If someone lands on a website and there’s a problem — it takes too long to load or doesn’t appear at all — potential customers won’t wait around. They’ll bounce off that site in search of a one that works correctly and can deliver what they are looking for, seamlessly.
If you’re new to operating a website, web hosting and related lingo can be a puzzling topic. Many a novice website owner has used the cheapest option or anything bundled with their domain name purchase under the mistaken belief that all hosting options are essentially the same.
This can be a costly mistake.
This article includes everything you need to know about web hosting and how choosing the right one is important to the success of your website, all in simplified manner you will understand.
How does web hosting work
Web hosting happens when the files that make up a website are uploaded from a local computer on to a web server. The server’s resources, (RAM, hard drive space, and bandwidth) are allocated to the websites using it.
The division of server resources varies depending on the type of hosting plan chosen. To choose the appropriate hosting plan, you first need to differentiate between the plans available. This doesn’t have to be complicated. For the non-technical readers, let’s use a simple analogy: Choosing web hosting is similar to searching for office space:
How do you decide which type of office space is right for your needs? Is a workstation in an open co-working space enough, or the next best thing; an office within a business center. Do you have intentions to expand quickly or expect a lot of people coming and going? Would you consider renting an entire building or would building your own space appeal?
Aside from the style of office you use there are other considerations. How easy the rooms are to access, which functions they offer (extras such as a whiteboard, high-speed internet, and other facilities), and where are they located and the overall cost. These considerations will determine your needs and help decide which type of office is right for you. Let’s compare this selection process to deciding which web hosting fits.
Shared hosting is similar to renting a workstation in a busy, noisy, open plan office or co-working space. You have all the modern conveniences: a desk, internet connection and some stationary and you share the space with other co-workers including the kitchen, printer, and restroom. You can’t do any makeovers to the space such as installing whiteboards etc. This is a popular option for launching small websites and not appropriate for large-scale commercial projects.
A virtual private server (VPS) is a nice step up from shared hosting. Medium sized business will benefit from renting an office within a business park. With a VPS, users are isolated from each other. You have neighbors, but you are less dependant on them, and you can carry out any makeovers (customizations) as you like and organize your workstation on your own.
ing an entire office building is comparable to hosting on a dedicated server. It’s a more expensive option and best for websites who value reliability and high performance. Since you control the entire space, you have more say over configurations and plenty of space, but it’s not worth investing in if you won’t use the space included.
We’ll discuss each type of hosting in greater detail later in the article.
Web hosting and domain hosting
Once you’ve purchased a domain name, the files that hold your website’s content (HTML, CSS, images, databases, etc.) need to be stored together in a location connected to the internet — a web server. Once the website’s files are uploaded to a hosting company’s web server, the host is then responsible for delivering the files to users.
We’ve mentioned that hosting makes websites available for people to visit through their web browser, but how does that work exactly? The domain name system (DNS) makes sure that website browser connects to the right computer (server) that stores your website files.
Recommended reading: What is DNS? →
In other words: when someone types in your web address into their browsers, their computer connects through the internet to the web server holding your website files. It locates your domain’s IP address (where it’s stored on the domain name system) and directs the users to the right website. Their browser will then show your website information (all the data that makes your pages) so that they can browse your web pages anytime.
How to pick a web host
Your selection of an appropriate and reliable web hosting service provider is an important step in coming online, especially if you are launching a business website. Hosts not only make your site available to others, but they also offer services related to managing these servers and its software, support, bandwidth, speed and so on.
Free web hosting comes with a cost
Bandwidth allowance (sometimes loosely referred to as “traffic” or “data transfer”) is the number of bytes required to transfer your site to all of your visitors when they browse your content. Does the hosting provide enough space for your needs? To give you a rough idea of the typical traffic requirements of a website, most new sites that don’t provide video or music on their site use less than 3 gigabytes of bandwidth per month. If you anticipate quick future expansion or your needs include sound, video, etc., then consider the extra space offered by a paid hosting provider.
If you’re thinking about going for a free host, think first about the size of your site and how many visitors you expect on a daily basis. Many free web hosts impose daily or monthly limits on the amount of traffic your website can use. If your content includes lots of images or videos that attract over the “agreed” amount of visitors (traffic) per day/ week/ month, the host is within its rights to disable your website for breach of contract – or send you a bill.
Another consideration before using free hosting providers is that they frequently impose a maximum size on the files you upload. If you wish to distribute software or high-resolution imagery, a paid host offers you the ability to load the larger file sizes you’ll need.
Many, but not all free hosts impose advertising on your website to cover the costs of providing your site with free web space. Most people are put off by commercial banners and pop-ups. Sites littered with adverts are generally considered low quality and even spammy, which is an immediate put-off. To be on the safe side, check the fine print to see if adverts are expected in exchange for free hosting before you sign-up.
Look out for is whether a host gives your site room to grow. Most new sites start on shared hosting which is pretty powerful these days. However, as you expect a website to grow over the years, you might need to consider a more powerful server (virtual private or dedicated for example). Check the host has suitable plans to upgrade to and that the process is as straightforward as possible.