What is Web Hosting?: A Complete Novice Guide

Website Hosting

What is a Website and a Web Server?

Before we can recognise what web hosting is, we should know what websites and web servers are.

Because, when we think of websites, most of us don’t actually understand what it exactly is or where they’re located.

To understand this better, websites can be broken into three categories:

  • Collection of Documents or Pages; the original type of website where every page is a file in a public-facing directory.
  • Web Applications; Google, email providers and online games are examples of web applications – your browser downloads some of these files and runs them.
  • Content Management Systems (CMS); a sort of hybrid and accounts for the majority of websites we see today. For example, blog posts are not usually individual files but instead the application pulls the content from a database.

To put it simply, when you visit a website your browser sends a request to the site’s server, which pulls together to deliver what you’ve requested – whether it be an existing file, web application or from a CMS.

Then, the web server responds to the request and your web browser shows you that content.

With this in mind, to run an optimised website you need a device that’s connected to the internet and can receive requests, take action and respond.

So, when people talk about servers, they’re referring to the computers that store the files needed to run the site.

Therefore, when you get a web hosting plan, you’re borrowing a bit of someone else’s computer to store the files needed to ensure your website works.

So in case you weren’t sure, websites are not just floating around in space or in the cloud, but they are actual computer files stored on a real computer.

Types of Web Hosting

Now, let’s take a look at the 5 types of web hosting so you can figure out which one is best for you.

1. Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is the most common form of web hosting because it is the least expensive but it’s also the least powerful.

Simply, with shared hosting, there are multiple people sharing the same server to store their information.

However, a downside to this, is that if you’re running a site that’s a complex application or CMS, it may require more power to deliver the content to the page – shared hosting slows this down as all the sites on the server are competing for the same resources.

2. Dedicated Server Hosting

With dedicated server hosting, you’re in complete control over the entire server.

Positively, when you have direct access to an entire server, you can install any kind of niche software, change the operating system and tweak configuration settings – extremely beneficial for those building custom software.

Moreover, hosting your site on a server solely for you means you will see a significant increase in loading speed and performance. Ideal for an e-commerce website selling products.

One downside though is by having complete control, you are responsible for keeping software up to date and debugging issues.

It’s also worth noting, that dedicated server hosting can become quite costly as you’re the only one using that server.

3. Virtual Private Server

Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting falls in between shared and dedicated hosting.

Basically, you have your own dedicated server but this is on a virtual machine instead of a physical computer.

Again, this is beneficial as you will have complete control over the environment, like a dedicated server whilst still having access to server resources, like in shared hosting.

But, unlike shared hosting, you will find fewer security issues with VPS, because they have their own IP address.

4. Cloud Based Hosting

With the above three types of hosting, there will eventually be some form of physical limitations, such as how much memory is used, how much storage it holds and many requests it can handle.

With cloud-based hosting though, you don’t have to worry about this!

In addition, a great benefit of this type of hosting is that you only pay for what you actually use – as your business begins to grow and your site needs more bandwidth, you can increase this accordingly to maintain performance as the site evolves.

5. Managed Hosting

The last type is managed hosting, whereby the hosting company provides technical support.

Simply, the hosting company assists with pre-installing software to ongoing monitoring.

And, some managed hosting plans are geared towards specific applications – WordPress being the most common.

As such, managed hosting gives you the flexibility to do what you want to, without needing to know everything about server administration.

Concluding Thoughts

Before deciding which type of hosting your site needs, you need to assess your business as it currently stands and establish what your goals are.

As you can see, shared hosting is great for smaller projects on a budget, whereas cloud hosting offers scalability.

This blog was produced in collaboration with:

Suppliers of Butane Gas Bottles: OTL Creations
Student Accommodation Leicester: Brink Riley

Tags: Website Hosting

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