An Introduction to Website Hosting

When an internet user requests a page from your website, a request is sent to your website’s “host” asking for that page and all its contents.  Website hosting refers to the computer (or collection of computers with cloud hosting) that administer your website, often referred to as a Web Server.  A Web Server is a computer that runs Web Server software that responds to requests for web pages from internet users.  The individual files that constitute your website typically reside on that computer’s file system and can include text files, image files, scripts and multimedia files.

While there are many different web host hardware implementations, they all essentially perform the same task: sending your web pages to those that request them over the internet.

Web Server Software

Web Server Software receives HTTP Requests (the request from a user’s browser) for a web page and responds by “serving” a page to the user that requested it.  There are several Web Server applications available, but the two most commonly used  Web Server software is Apache and Microsoft IIS.  These two combine to hold more than 80% of the marketplace.  Apache is the recommended choice because it allows the use of an “htaccess” file which provides functionality that simply isn’t available with the Microsoft IIS product.

Host Operating Systems

Like your PC or MAC, a web hosting server uses an operating system.  Microsoft Windows and Linux are by far the most common operating systems for Web Servers.  The choice of operating system depends on the applications and languages that your website will support.  If your website application is written using a language called ASP, you’re better off running under Microsoft Windows. Otherwise, choose the Linux operating system.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting, as the name suggests, allows several websites to be hosted on the same Web Server.  This is the most economical option available with monthly fees as low as $3/month.  The disadvantage of Shared Hosting is that you share an IP address with the other sites being hosted on the server.  If one of those sites gets blacklisted (perhaps because it is a source of SPAM), then your site may find itself blacklisted too.  Still, this is the preferred choice if budget is a concern.

Virtual Dedicated Hosting

A Virtual Dedicated Server allows a single host to be partitioned such that it appears to be several independent servers.  Each partition has its own resources and can be rebooted independently of the other partitions.

The advantages of a Virtual Dedicated Server are that the server administrator has complete control over the server, including what software is run, while being considerably less expensive than a real Dedicated Server.  The Virtual Server also has its own IP address eliminating any issues associated with a shared IP address. Consider this option if you have some custom software that you need to run that is not supported in a Shared Hosting package.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated Hosting uses a completely independent server to host a site.  All of the resources of the server, including software, hard drives and RAM, are reserved exclusively for the hosted website and are not shared with anyone else.

This option is useful if you need a custom server configuration and expect high traffic volumes.  You would also want someone available to administer the server.

Cloud Hosting

One of the more popular hosting options these days is called Cloud Hosting. In computer architectures, the “cloud” refers to a collection of computers configured to act as one. They share resources amongst each other including RAM, hard disk and processor bandwidth. From a user’s point of view, it appears as one server, with one IP address and so on. But the reality is that the server “image” as it is referred to, is spread amongst many servers.

So Cloud Hosting is simply a matter of running web server software on a Cloud based server. This has many advantages, not the least of which is redundancy. If one of the servers in the cloud experiences a fault (like a hard drive crash), the cloud simply reconfigures itself to not use that server. As a user, you don’t even know the fault has occurred and your website keeps chugging along.

Cloud Hosting can be very cost-effective, especially when compared to a dedicated server. While it is a cheaper solution than most Dedicated Hosting offerings, it is more expensive than a Shared Hosting service. Checkout Rackspace and Amazon for some of the most popular Cloud Hosting offerings.

Hosting Add-ons

Many hosting packages come with free or fee-based add-ons.  These add-ons can provide a real value depending on your application and may present a key decision point when selecting a Hosting Provider.  Some of the more common add-ons include support for languages such as PHP, ASP, Perl, MySQL and more.  Beyond language support, many hosting packages include free applications such as WordPress (for blogging), shopping carts, photo galleries and more. Checkout Techeffex Hosting offerings to find out more.