If you’re establishing any type of website, then you need to know some of the basics surrounding web hosting. And we’ve found that not many people understand a great deal about this topic.
So, we’re here to guide you through some of the key terms and concepts you are likely to encounter when you visit a web hosting company’s website. Armed with a basic understanding, you’ll find it much easier to figure out which company and hosting plan is best for you.
In this article we discussed the following subjects:
1) What Is Web Hosting?
First, let’s clarify what exactly web hosting is and a little known but key fact. A website cannot be viewed on the internet unless it is stored on a web server.
Web hosting is the term used when a company who owns a server stores the website (and its content) on said server. Hence the term hosting.
It is the server that can be accessed by consumers. When they enter your URL or click a link to your site, they are directed and connected to the server hosting your site. This then presents the data (your website and content) that they are storing on that server, on the user’s device.
2) Is There Only One Type Of Web Hosting in 2019?
In a simple world every server and every hosting service would be exactly the same. However, different websites have different needs. Obviously a 10-page brochure site needs nothing like the server speed and performance a site such as Facebook or the BBC requires.
As such, different forms of hosting are available to site owners. The main 3 are:
1. Shared Hosting
Shared Hosting plans see multiple websites all stored on the same server. Small to medium sized websites don’t experience the traffic to justify the expense of a server to themselves. With the costs of renting a whole server running into several thousands of pounds annually – sharing a server allows site owners to share the costs too.
Shared hosting is also uncomplicated to set up and requires no technical knowledge from the customer to maintain. The hosting provider takes care of performance and security for you.
The main drawback of Shared Hosting plans is that issues can arise with performance. As multiple websites are stored on one server, when large volumes of traffic visit those sites simultaneously, there is a risk of all those sites experiencing slow page loading speeds.
Another growing concern for customers choosing a Shared Hosting plan is security. Every webmaster/site owner using the server will have access to it’s Control Panel. If one misuses their access it can lead to huge issues, in extreme cases even data theft. However, most reputable hosts have procedures and back ups in place to prevent this.
The old adage, you get what you pay for, applies. Shared is the least costly hosting method and is adequate for most needs. But it is limited in its performance compared to the more expensive options.
Bricks & Mortar Comparison:
Imagine a block of flats or apartments. Different homes share the resources of the building.
2. VPS Hosting
Virtual Private Server hosting sees your site allocated its own private virtual server that is connected to a real physical one. This physical server can provide for multiple virtual servers, and each individual website is stored on its own Virtual server.
This method differs from Shared Hosting as the separate Virtual Private Servers host individual sites. This means that the software requirements and traffic levels of other websites are less likely to impact performance.
As the Virtual Server is supporting only one website the facility exists to customise its performance to best serve unique needs. The costs of VPS hosting are greater than that for a Shared plan, yet less than renting a whole physical server.
Bricks & Mortar Comparison:
Think of a semi-detached or terraced home. Each homes services are provided by an individual link (pipe, cable) that all run through a central, shared point.
3. Dedicated Hosting
Websites hosted on a dedicated server have an entire server to themselves. It is ‘dedicated’ to one site.
The advantages are considerable. No other sites or webmasters are connected to it, nor can they access it. This reduces the risks of any disruptions or impairment of performance. You can also customise the server for the specific needs of your website.
The costs of a dedicated server are prohibitive though. Costs can run into several thousand pounds per annum, putting this option beyond the budget of smaller businesses. Dedicated servers also require significantly more technical knowledge, although most hosting providers do offer assistance with this.
Bricks & Mortar Comparison:
Visualise a detached house or cottage with acres of land. The pipes and cables that supply utilities run from the mains to the property. This direct link ensures neighbouring properties usage doesn’t affect supply.
3) Web Hosting Jargon
A specialist, technical topic like web hosting comes accompanied by numerous terms that fall into the jargon category. Anyone hoping to make head or tail of a web hosting service will find the following list essential.
A hosting providers uptime describes the percentage of time over a given period that their servers (and their contents) could be accessed by internet users. All hosting providers conduct maintenance which causes downtime. Therefore, delivering 100% uptime is a fallacy.
However, providers offering below 99.5% uptime are well below the industry standard.
Disk Storage Space
Your website is composed of different files containing its content. This includes text, images and multimedia. Disk Space is used to detail the amount of storage space your website can occupy on a server.
Most hosting packages are labelled as offering ‘Unlimited’ space – yet buried in the terms and conditions is a figure. So, ensure you double check the package you purchase does offer enough space.
Likewise, if your website contains a blog or Latest News section consider the fact you will be regularly adding content. Ergo, increasing the size of the site. It’s important to account for space you will need as you grow.
In the web hosting world bandwidth describes the amount of data that can be transferred between your site, it’s users and the internet. Data is transferred as content is uploaded and downloaded on a user’s screen.
Again, many hosting providers state they offer ‘Unlimited’ bandwidth – but this is subject to a fair usage policy. This said, only sites offering streaming or large media files are likely to fall foul of the common limits.
Bandwidth is a term also used to describe the speed at which data is transferred. The faster the bandwidth, the quicker a web page will load on a user’s screen. However, said user’s device specifications and internet connection affect these load speeds too.
4) In A Nutshell
Now that you understand every website in existence is stored on a server, you can understand why yours will be no different. Which type of hosting is most appropriate depends on your content, likely volumes of traffic and, of course, your budget.
Yet by understanding the key concepts and performance indicators (high uptime, low page speed times) you can assess this crowded market with confidence.
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