The Basics of Hosting
Every website needs to be “hosted” somewhere. What does that mean exactly? Well, websites are made up of a number of files including code files, images and other media, and in some cases, one or more databases. For all of that to come together and be a website, those files must reside on a web server that has an operating system capable of processing and serving the code and files. That server must have a perpetual connection to the internet in order for the public to be able to view and use the website at any moment.
In purchasing hosting, you are essentially renting disk space on a server and paying for the bandwidth (the data transmissions to and from your website) that your website utilizes. Depending on the amount of traffic and the nature of your website, you generally have several options to consider for hosting your site.
By far the most popular hosting available is called shared hosting. In a shared hosting environment, your website resides on a server with several other websites each sharing the resources of that server. The biggest advantage of this set up is cost…shared hosting is the most affordable option. The downside is that if another website on your server eats up the processing power of that server, it could cause a lag in the performance of your website. Hosts typically monitor for abnormal usage, however, so hopefully the problem would be short-lived.
With shared hosting plans you are also limited to the server configuration set forth by the host company. If your website needs a special configuration to operate that extends beyond those limitations, you won’t be able to take advantage of shared hosting.
All that said, shared hosting is a viable option for the majority of websites.
Private server hosting gives your website its own dedicated server that you can configure to your liking. All of the processing power of the server is dedicated for your usage. You have complete control and all the resources of that server at your disposal. Private servers are generally priced based on the processor type and power, the amount of RAM, and the disk space size and configuration. Typical plans have a monthly charge and include a set amount of bandwidth…exceeding that bandwidth leads to additional costs. Usually your monthly fee includes some level of server maintenance and data backup but plans vary by provider.
Since private servers give you the most control, they also are the most expensive option. There is, however, an added level of assurance and security that comes to having your own dedicated resources.
Cloud Hosting and Virtual Private Servers
The newest kid on the block in the world of hosting. Although they go by a variety of names, plans utilizing Cloud Hosting or Virtual Private Servers refer to utilizing the resources of several connected servers to provide you with the processing power and storage to serve your website. Because your website has access to the power of multiple servers, the resources are scalable. VPS plans allow you purchase (on a monthly basis) a dedicated amount of disk space and bandwidth and be guaranteed the processing power you need. Additionally, most of these plans allow you to establish your own server configuration without the cost of having your own private server. You also do not need to worry about hardware issues creating downtime since your site is being served by multiple servers.
Cloud Hosting and VPS hosting is typically metered for usage and you pay as you go. The uncertain pricing can be a disadvantage, but rest assured that your monthly bill will certainly be less that if you had your own private server. It is a great option for those who need the configuration flexibility that they cannot get from shared hosting without the expense of a private server.