What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is an arrangement that delivers users with online provisions for storage of data, images, videos, or any content available via the web. Web hosts are corporations that offer space on a server they own for usage by their consumers. Once the website is hosted on the server, it can be accessed by other users anytime.
How does Web Hosting work?
There a few elements which make web hosting possible. Let us briefly have a look at each of them to understand how Web hosting works.
In order to have a live website, you must start with the purchase of a domain name from any of the Domain registrars. Domain name is like the identity of the website. Just like you have a name, your web property also needs to have a name. People can access your website using this name.
For example: ‘Proquotient.com’ is the domain name of our website. Similarly, you can find thousands of examples like Google.com, Microsoft.com etc. There are different types of domain names and they end with extensions like ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.in’ and so on. Depending on your requirement you can choose anyone.
DNS Server or Nameserver
This is a technical topic and I will try to explain in simple terms. Whenever someone visits your website by typing the domain name, there should be something which points them to the right computer where all the information is stored. This is done by associating your domain name with an IP address. So that each time someone visits your website, it directs to the connected IP and the information is served.
This is why ‘Setting the DNS or Nameserver’ is a very important step without which you cannot host your website. Once you have done this you can go to the final step of hosting.
This is the server where all the files like images, videos, content etc related to your website or web property will be stored. In layman terms, it is just a computer with a certain amount of disk space and bandwidth. There are different types of hosting. The system configuration, sharing of the resources depends on the type of hosting you go for. Depending on your requirement, you can opt for a suitable hosting plan. We have explained all the types of hosting in a separate article so that you get a clear idea, below is a brief of the most important types of hosting.
Once you have configured the above the three, your website can be accessed by anyone on the internet just by typing the domain name. Here is a small illustration explain the above the setup.
How to host your website?
Follow the steps given below to understand the process of web hosting and the steps required to successfully host a website on the internet:
- Registering a domain: The first step is to obtain a custom address for the site, called a domain, through which people will find the site. Registering a national domain (for eg – .co.in) can be done either by the organization itself or through a web host, whereas, registering an international domain (for eg – .com) is only possible through a hosting company.
- Choosing a website hosting: Next, it is necessary to decide whether the site will be in free or paid hosting, depending on the capital and the needs of the organization. Along with that, also evaluate the correct type of hosting required for the site. Free hosting allows testing of ideas and requires an only personal time investment. So, it is the best option for newbies on the internet with little to no experience in this field. The only disadvantages are that it has various restrictions as compared to professional websites. Support is restricted and the excellence of hosting is less. For a professional website, hire a website hosting.
- Create a website and publish it: An organization can create the website on their own, via a site creator or with the assistance of a professional or an agency, depending on the amount of technical knowledge. Once the content and features of the website are created offline, the organization can upload and publish the website on the internet. Also, this website can be changed, overhauled or updated at a later date.
Through this article, the complete basics of web hosting and its working have been shared, which will allow any and every individual new to this field to successfully host a website for their requirement.
Types of Web Hosting
- Shared Hosting
- Cloud Hosting
- Reseller Hosting
- Linux Hosting
- Virtual Private Server (VPS)
- Dedicated Web Hosting
- Co-location Web Hosting
Hosting is like a location wherein all your data is stored. Anything related to your website is stored on this server. Shared hosting is a type of hosting in which you will be sharing the space with other users. It simply means that a server will have data related to several domains in one place.
While this is the best way to get started, it has some disadvantages which I will cover at a later stage. Let us understand some of the factors to look for when choosing a shared hosting.
- Bandwidth and Disk Space: This probably is the most important feature you need to look into before making a choice. In layman terms, it is the amount of space you get for your website. The larger the bandwidth and the disk space, better it is for you. You must also load at the overall space and the total load on the server. If the server is burdened with too many shared websites, it may slow down your website.
- Robustness of Support: Shared hosting comes with its own set of problems. This is why it is critical to have robust support. Just having a ‘contact us’ button on the provider’s website isn’t the sign you must be looking for. See if they have teams dedicated to instant chat to resolve your queries immediately.
- Additional Domains: Ensure that the hosting provider provides you with the flexibility of adding at least 3 unique domains. You may always want to start new projects; this is why it is important to check for the domains add-on clause of the hosting providers. Hosting different websites on multiple hosts can be cumbersome.
- Pricing: It all boils down to how much dollars you plan to spend. While there are many providers who promise the best hosting at even $1-5/ month, I’d advise you to do a thorough check before you opt for these services. If you are serious about your website, spending $10/mo should be the type of pricing you must be looking at.
- Reputation check: There are hundreds of companies providing shared hosting services. They offer very low pricing which may lure you towards buying their service. Just before you hit the buy button, ensure you have checked for the reputation of the company online. There various websites and forums which provide information on scammy companies and differentiate them from the rest.
Pros of Shared hosting
- Cost Friendly: The competition in this space is cut throat which results in cheap prices for the consumers. Even the best of hosting companies provide good plans in the range of $5-10/ month. This is a very reasonable price range for a small scale website.
- Easily Customizable: There is ample room for customization even though the server is shared with many. Each user will have access to the control panel. Through the control panel, you make a majority of the changes as a webmaster.
- Flexibility: This can host all types of websites. It supports WordPress, PHP and MySQL websites. Anytime you feel like migrating from a WordPress website to a custom coded one, you will not face any issues.
Cons of Shared Hosting
- Security: The most common issue plaguing shared hosting is that of security. It is vulnerable to hacking attempts. Also, any attack on one of the shred websites can have an effect on the whole network.
- Overall Website Performance: There is no consistency in terms of website performance. The changes in other shared networks can end up affecting the performance of your site.
- Crashes: This is a major issue related to shared hosting irrespective of the hosting provider. The idea of having all the websites at one place causes frequent failures leading to unstable up times.
I am sure you have come across the term called ‘Cloud’. Cloud hosting is the newest form of hosting in which the load of one website is divided across multiple servers. This results in the effective balancing of the resources while providing almost 100% uptime. Big players like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are in this space.
The concept of depending on just one server makes the web property vulnerable to breakdowns due to issues in the server. The fact that a network of servers is now hosting the site makes it a very promising method of hosting.
Factors to look for when choosing Cloud hosting
- Security: The biggest threat posing cloud hosting is the possible data breach threat. Before you go ahead and host your web property, ensure you ask all the right questions with the cloud hosting providers. There are certain regulatory frameworks you need to abide by. The increase in data breach makes it very important that you into this feature with the highest priority.
- Compliance: When you are storing public data in the cloud you become responsible for that data. You have to make sure that you have all the checks in place and have passed the necessary compliances related to your industry.
- Architecture: The three main players in this space are Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. It is sensible to go with a provider whose services you use the most. The feasibility of those services will be the best of the respective cloud architecture. For e.g.: Microsoft services can be easily integrated into Microsoft Azure. However, all the cloud providers ensure cross-platform feasibility.
Pros of Cloud Hosting
- Flexibility: Cloud hosting services are highly flexible. You can have a custom setup as per your needs. It can align with your business performance and you can change it anytime. This is very helpful in case you see sudden growth and need quick changes within the span of a few hours.
- Instant Set up: You are good to go as soon as you buy the service. There is absolutely no waiting time nor any further set up to be done. This makes it very easy even for beginners who do not have the technical aptitude.
- Economical: As this requires minimum to no technical intervention, you do need a dedicated staff maintains this as you would need in the case of a dedicated server.
Cons of Cloud Hosting
- Downtime: The chances of downtime are very low when you host on a cloud server. However, there are instances when they have failed. When this happens, there is nothing you can do until it is fixed. A similar issue was faced by websites like Twitter and Facebook.
Accessibility: The networks used for cloud storage are all connected using the internet. In order for you to access the files you will have to be connected to the internet, there is no way of accessing the data when you are offline.
- Getting the plan right: While cloud hosting offers you great flexibility in terms of configuration. There are high chances that you may end up miscalculating your requirements. You may add certain features even though they are not critical to your business.
As the name suggests, this is a type of hosting in which a company buys a medium to large sized hosting packages from the main hosting provider, rebrands it and sells it as their own service. This is a thriving industry and has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let me explain how Reseller hosting works with an example.
Scenario: Steve owns a digital marketing company called ‘Webright’. As the company offers web development service, it is quite obvious that all their clients need web hosting. Instead of referring them to a hosting provider, Steve plans to provide his own hosting services under his company’s brand name.
He goes to a main hosting provider like ‘Hostgator’ or ‘Bluehost’, buys a suitable package from them and then re-brands it as his own service. This is a win-win for both Steve and his customers. Customers will have a single point of contact and Steve can make some additional revenue with this service.
Pros of Reseller Hosting
- Create your business: You can create your own hosting brand as most companies allow to use their hosting plans to be customized and re-branded. In case you are already into a business which is into website building for which hosting is mandatory, you could easily get into reseller hosting business. This allows you to add an extra stream of service to offer.
- Direct contact: As a consumer, you will be in direct contact with the reseller companies. Dealing with big hosting companies may not get you the quickest of responses. Whereas, your requests may be solved relatively quickly through a reseller.
- Extra Revenue stream: As explained above, by offering a hosting service as a supplement to your main business, you can create a fresh revenue stream. You can further expand this by targeting more clients who are in need of web hosting or bundle your services along with web hosting. This will also help you in having a recurring business.
- Kickstart your first venture: It is not necessary that you should be working in a related field to offer this as a service. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, this is one of the easiest business to start. Everything will be provided by the main hosting provider, all you have to manage is the sales and marketing part of your business.
Cons of Reseller Hosting
- Time demanding business: Be ready to take up late night calls as something can go wrong any time. Customers can face issues at any instant and they expect you to fix it as soon as possible. You cannot have an ‘I will fix it soon’ attitude. This will surely drive away the customers from you. So, get into this only if you are willing to sacrifice the weekends and holidays.
- Higher price: As a reseller is a middleman, there will surely be a difference in pricing. You could get the plan at a cheaper price if you would directly go with the host. If you do not want the hassle of dealing with the main host, then you will have to pay this extra price.
- Dependency on the Main host provider: You may be the business owner but you are dependent on the main host for the resolution of issues, as much as your client is dependent on you. Ensure you have a clear line of communication with your clients as they may seek quick updates. Delayed or lack of responses leads to customer dissatisfaction.
The hosting services discussed up to this point use windows as the operating system on their servers. Linux hosting services use a Linux operating system on the servers. This has many advantages as Linux is an open source operating system. This means that the code to publicly available to everyone which leads to greater customization. These hosting services are comparatively cheaper mainly because the OS is free and open source. Here some pros and cons of Linux hosting.
Pros of Linux Hosting
- Open source: The biggest advantage of this type of hosting is the fact that it is open source. You do not need to pay a dime to experiment with various software and tools. There is no authority which controls/ restricts your actions. This is not the case when it comes to windows hosting. This adds to the flexibility and personalization Linux hosting can offer. You may take some time to get adapted to the OS.
- Reputation: Linux has been in operation since 1991 and enjoys a great reputation. As this type of hosting is integrated with Linux you can enjoy high levels of stability. Linux overpowers windows in some aspects of the operation. The service providers can provide better support as this operating system is open source.
- Security: It is not among the easiest of OS to be hacked. This Operating system is less vulnerable than windows. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that it is unhackable. Linux provides with ample options to have security settings as per your needs which is not possible in windows.
- Cost: For many reasons, Linux hosting turns out to be cheaper than windows hosting. Hosting companies entirely depend on Microsoft for any major fixes. In the case of Linux hosting, the fixes are immediate as the hosting company team itself can work on the code. Linux as an OS is free, these two aspects make it a cheaper alternative.
Cons of Linux Hosting
- Learning Curve: When compared to Windows, Linux is not the most user-friendly OS. There is a learning curve but it is not difficult to get a grasp of it. There are enough free guides online which you can refer. If you do not have the time to get a hang of a new OS then this is definitely not for you.
- Compatibility: Because of different architecture and as most of the website platforms and software’s are designed for windows, you may face some compatibility issues with Linux. There is a fix for this issue, you can use VMWare virtualization software to load windows on Linux. Hence, considering these options you can take a decision.
- Development space: As windows are developed and maintained by an organization you can expect regular updates for features and security. However, this is not the same for Linux, the security patches may take some time to be updated which poses a threat to the security of your assets.
Virtual Private Server[VPS]
A Virtual private server will have a network of systems located in a location different than yours. Which is why the name ‘Virtual’. While the resources of the servers may be shared among multiple users, it is quite different than shared hosting.
It allocates a set of processing power (RAM and CPU) to each user using the Hypervisor technology. This ensures that your assets will not be affected just because the load on other user website increases. Let me explain this will a simple example.
Scenario: Let assume the server has a total RAM capacity of 100 GB. In a VPS system, the number of users is limited and set to a specific number. In our case, let us assume the server is shared between 10 users. So, each user which have a dedicated virtual system with 10GB RAM. If a load of other shared System increases, your processing power will not be used. The other user has to either upgrade his system or the website will not be stable.
As you have will have access to the system, you have greater flexibility to make changes and set it as you need. This is not the case in shared hosting because changes will affect all the users in the shared network.
Pros of VPS Hosting
- Privacy: As explained earlier, you will have a dedicated system. All your files and applications can be stored in that system. You do not have to worry about privacy as others in the server cannot access these files. This acts more like a dedicated server.
- Performance: The changing search dynamics makes it necessary to have good load and page speed. Not having these can lead to lower rankings on SERPs. This is where VPS hosting stands out from shared hosting, as each user gets a dedicated set of processing power and RAM, there is no reason to be worried about the overall load on the server. If you see a sudden a rise in traffic, you can always opt for better CPU and RAM.
- Setup: It is quite easy to set up VPS hosting. When compared to dedicated hosting, you can save a lot of time as this doesn’t require you to assemble and set up the rig. You could easily have the VPS hosted within a matter of hours.
- Easy to Upgrade: Every business would be confused about the configuration of the server that would be ideal for them. In the case of VPS hosting, you could start with a low tier plan and can easily upgrade the server when the demand picks up. This helps you save quite some money.
Cons of VPS Hosting
- Technical Know-how: It is not easy to run your applications and tasks on a VPS server. While the set-up is quick, you may have to spend some time running updates, security patches and keep the server up to date. If you are willing to spend some time figuring this out, it is not a major con.
- Limited Power: While VPS Hosting offers a wide range of features and do offer great performance. They fall short when compared to dedicated hosting. Even though resources allocated are isolated from every user, sometimes the overall load on the server can slow down some processes.
- Pricing: The pricing for VPS hosting falls in between shared hosting and dedicated hosting. It is a bit costlier than shared hosting but cheaper than dedicated hosting. If you are not a huge enterprise running thousands of applications, VPS hosting can provide decent performance for small-medium scale needs at a competitive price.
Dedicated Web Hosting
Dedicated web hosting is a special type of hosting service in which the server is configured only to one user/ organization. Which means that all the resources like disk space, bandwidth, RAM, processing power is dedicated to one user. This type of hosting is suited for companies that have multiple large applications or websites to be hosted.
Scenario: Let’s say John runs a SaaS company which has a very good user base of 1000 plus customers. This means that all the app data and user data has to be stored safely and securely. Making using a shared hosting would make the data vulnerable to security threats. This is why dedicated hosting would be the best choice for John.
This provides the highest form of privacy and security when compared to other types of hosting. John has two options, he can set the dedicated server himself or go for service providers who can do it for him.
Pros of Dedicated Hosting
- Easily customizable: As you are the owner of the server, you have all the right to do all the changes so that it is tailor-made for your business needs. You can use any number of applications and software. Your actions will not affect the server as it would in the case of a shared server.
- Minimum Downtime: Dedicated servers enjoy the best of uptimes (upwards of 99.6%), this is very important because unstable websites/ Apps drive away the customers to your competitors. Ensure that your hosting provider facilitates constant server monitoring and back up.
- No Server Congestion: In the case of a dedicated server, there is no question of server being overloaded with various requests. This is a common problem in shared hosting and you may have to face the consequence of a sudden increase in traffic on others websites. Dedicated servers already come with the best of processing power and storage which are capable of taking a high amount of load.
- Best of Security: With a dedicated server, you are free to use the desired set of security configuration. You can set up anti-virus and firewall settings as per your need. As this is isolated from other servers, you are not affected by the security threats faced by those servers.
Cons of Dedicated Hosting
- Maintenance: If you go to a dedicated hosting service provider, then they will take care of the set-up and maintenance. However, you may need dedicated personnel to keep track of the server health. As most of the critical operations would run on this server, it becomes necessary for you to have a dedicated person to monitor all the activities.
- Cost: When you compare dedicated hosting with all other hosting plans then this turns out to be the most expensive option. The configurations of these servers are high end and maintaining them is not an easy task. Depending on the configuration, they are priced between $100-500/ month and even goes up to $1000/ month for some super servers.
- Technical Factor: Hosting your asset (website/app/SaaS) on a dedicated server demands you to have some technical knowledge. You need to have a fair idea about IP routing and server mechanisms. You can always hire a server administrator to this task for you. However, if you are willing to take up the task, please be ready for a steep learning curve. You cannot take a chance and experiment because some critical data may be stored on these servers.
Co-Location Web Hosting
Colocation Web hosting is a new form of web hosting which is gaining popularity among small businesses. It is similar to dedicated hosting but the difference is that your hardware is placed in a shared location. So, a colocation hosting provider would provide space for similar dedicated hardware’s. Do not confuse this for shared hosting, you will not be sharing your systems configurations with anyone. This will help in saving up on physical maintenance cost.
You can either look for a provider who offers both rack space and technical maintenance or only opt for physical space to keep your server. This brings down the cost and makes it cheaper than dedicated hosting while the performance will more or less remain the same.
Pros of Colocation Web Hosting
- Cost: You can get similar performance as dedicated hosting at a much lesser price. Dedicated hosting with minimum configuration would cost you $200-400/month. Whereas for the same specs you can get Colocation hosting at a 30-40% lesser cost.
- Secure: You do not have to be worried about the physical maintenance of the server. When you pay for the service, the maintenance cost is included. The colocation provider ensures that all servers in the location are well protected and is even responsible for the same. This also means minimum chances of outage due to unexpected calamities.
- You’re the owner: Unlike shared hosting, you do not share the hardware resources with others. You are the owner of the machine and have complete control over its configuration. This allows you to make any changes to the server without having to worry about other users. This also means that the data is secure and no one other than you will have access to it.
- Support: There are some service providers who offer you with server management and maintenance. If you do not have a dedicated staff or if you are located very far from the server location, you can opt for this service.
Cons of colocation Web Hosting
- Limited companies: I am sure you can find hundreds of companies which offer shared, Cloud, VPS hosting. It is very difficult to find someone who is offering colocation web hosting. You have to keep in mind the location of the server, there is no point in going with a colocation hosting provider who is located far away from your workplace.
- High Server Cost: This type of hosting will be costlier than shared and cloud hosting. However, the capabilities and flexibility will be much superior. Also, keep in mind that you have to buy your own system, the colocation provider offers you the location where the server can safely be kept and managed.
- Accessibility: As the server will not be in-house, you will have to travel to a particular location in order to get physical access. If the company needs constant monitoring of the server then this option is not the ideal one for you.