A Beginner’s Guide
Hosting services are basically companies that rent out their IT facilities and resources to customers for various purposes instead of the customers having to spend huge amounts of money on those facilities.
In the 90s computer revolution fueled by the internet and multimedia (not social media), everyone still believed in the idea of having their own information technology infrastructure. Small and big businesses alike, down to individuals had their own servers, hosted their own enterprise software, databases and websites. This was the old way of doing things which followed the mainframe and dumb terminal model, of the 60s, 70s and early 80s.
Types Of Web Hosting
Section #1 – 4 Main Types
1. Shared Hosting
2. VPS Hosting
3. Dedicated Hosting
4. Cloud Hosting
Section #2 – Managed WordPress Hosting
Section #3 – Website Builders With Hosting
This was then followed by the client-server model where the dumb terminals were replaced by fully-capable computers that requested and sent data to and from one or several servers that performed various functions, mostly hosting large databases. This still holds true today for large and medium corporations that invested and continues to maintain their networks of computers and servers for various reasons. This old model however demands huge amounts of overhead cost in terms of maintenance, upgrades and expansion that large corporations can only afford. There are even large corporations, mostly banks and even government agencies that still rely on old technologies simply in terms of reliability and are limited from upgrading due to concerns of cost and security.
This is no longer a problem for newer companies, or old ones that decide to shed the older computer paradigm of self-hosting their databases, their applications and their websites; thanks largely to advances of internet technologies and the advent of virtualization. Since the early 2000s, various types of hosting services have sprung up thanks to increasing internet speed and bandwidth. This began with website hosting and file storage services. Instead of people and companies hosting their own websites within their premises and spending huge amounts of cash on hardware and bandwidth, web hosting companies allow others to host their websites within large server farms. This significantly cuts the cost of companies and individuals in setting up and maintaining their own websites. Now, hosting services are no longer limited to websites, but can encompass the entire IT infrastructure. With hosting services like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, companies no longer need to spend a fortune on IT hardware. All they need is a set of computers and a strong internet connection and they’re in business. The money they would spend on their own server hardware would be routed to other matters.
The 4 main types
Shared Web Hosting – or Shared Hosting refers to several different websites residing on one web server of a hosting service. One web server allocates a certain amount of disk space, processing power and memory as well as bandwidth to run a certain website. Depending on how large and powerful the web server is, it can host dozens of websites at once. Shared Web Hosting is considered the most economical option for both parties wherein a company or individual would only pay a few dollars of annually to run a website. The hosting service only has to maintain one server for several customers wherein profit becomes exponential with more customers.
With shared hosting, server administration and maintenance is handled by the hosting service, freeing up the customer of the responsibilities and costs of having to do so. All the customers have to do is continue developing, customizing and maintaining their websites. Shared hosting services also offer email and web mail services, database hosting which is required for certain websites as well as file storage. Shared hosting services are also responsible for the server’s operating system, web platform, security updates and technical support.
As economical as this type of hosting is, customers get what they pay for. Shared hosting has certain limits depending on the package. In the early days, hosting services offer only a limited amount of bandwidth and data transfer for a certain period of time thus allowing websites to having only a certain number of visitors that period, say 100 visitors per day. Though the amount of storage and bandwidth has certainly grown, these limitations cannot apply to larger or fast-growing businesses. There’s also the concern about limited control for customers and in case they require something outside the purview of the hosting service. Shared web hosting is often used by blogs run by individuals or small businesses with landing pages.
VPS Hosting – is another type of hosting service. VPS stands for Virtual Private Server which is where virtualization technology comes in. Thanks to virtualization technology, one or more virtual computers (virtual machines) with their own operating systems and allocated resources can run on one computer, or in this case a server. This means several virtual servers can run simultaneously on one powerful server. This type of hosting service gives the customer greater freedom when it comes to choosing their preferred operating system and web platform. They can choose to have Windows, Linux or FreeBSD as the operating system for their web server and can choose between ASP, Java or PHP as their web platform. The customer has complete freedom (superuser access) on what they want to do with their virtual server (under the hosting service’s terms of course). The customer remains free from the responsibility of having to maintain physical hardware and internet connection as well as having to pay for the power. Customers have greater control, however certain limits such as allocated disk space, memory and bandwidth for the virtual server may hamper more demanding requirements. VPS hosting is for customers who want greater control over their websites and platforms and of course can support higher traffic.
Dedicated Hosting Service – as opposed to VPS Hosting, the dedicated hosting service, managed hosting service or dedicated server involves one server or one physical machine that is leased by the customer and is not shared to others. This means that all the server’s RAM, disk space and processing power is at the customer’s disposal. The customer has a say on the operating system, web development platform and whatever type of security will run on the server. The customer also can choose the server hardware within the limits allowed by the hosting service. The only thing the customer has no full control of is the bandwidth, which is still quite substantial given this high level of hosting service. There’s also the advantage of almost zero connection downtime as the connection is handled by the provider’s redundant internet connections.
The dedicated server of course is still maintained and administered by the hosting service. As a lease, the customer does not have to worry about the full overhead price of the server as well as the maintenance and manpower required for it. Customers need not worry about the technical aspects of owning their own servers, just to ensure that the provider is on top of things though there are levels on how much the provider does in the background. Though the customer is expected to be armed with knowledge about server technology depending on the package chosen.
Hosting services might offer different levels of dedicated hosting such as:
Fully-managed – monitoring, software and security updates, operating system installation and upgrades as well as reboots. Customers need only worry about their website or applications.
Managed – Customers are allowed to perform some tasks on their own while the hosting service can perform some monitoring and updates.
Self-Managed – Most of the tasks and operations on the server are done by the customer. The hosting service does the maintenance.
Unmanaged – The hosting service has little involvement. The customer is in charge of operating system upgrades, security patches and even maintenance.
Again, there are certain limits to these types of hosting services. With dedicated hosting, unless your plan comes with a redundant server, customers are at the mercy of their own downtimes and maintenance schedules or even unfortunate events involving the service provider. The dedicated server’s scalability also depends on the server itself and the costs of upgrade options the customer is willing to shell out. This is when we consider the last main type of hosting service.
Cloud Hosting – could be considered as similar to VPS hosting, where customers are given their own servers but in virtualized environments. The difference is that the virtual servers are much more scalable. With cloud hosting, individual servers can easily be configured to expand depending on the customer’s needs. Virtual servers can easily be created or taken down within minutes. Depending on the requirements, cloud hosting can be considered more affordable than VPS or dedicated servers.
Technically, cloud hosting services have farms of physical servers clustered together as one big resource. Customers can take what they need and use them as needed. Popular examples of cloud hosting are Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. Like the previous hosting types, the provider is in charge of physical maintenance of the hardware and the network. Cloud hosting packages are also very flexible in both scale and pricing. One can be a customer of a cloud hosting service for just a few minutes or technically forever. Customers are charged with the time and resources they actually use. There’s also the added benefit of added security and reliability as well as performance. In case the physical machines are down in one location, the server/s can live on in another. Customers can also choose the closest location depending on their demographic or company location thus benefiting speed and performance.
While cloud hosting sounds like the go-to solution for web hosting. One needs to keep in mind that all of the previously described hosting services continue to exist to provide for a certain need. One just needs to analyze the project before choosing the appropriate hosting service.
Managed WordPress Hosting
And then, there’s Managed WordPress Hosting. WordPress is the world’s most popular web development platform based on the PHP scripting language and is used by over 60 million websites thanks to its ease of use and high degree of customizability. Therefore, WordPress is offered and supported by most web hosting services. All the hosting options described above can be used to host WordPress-based websites. But since hosting services are limited to server-level maintenance, they are mostly hands-off when it comes to the customer’s applications and website itself. Unless the hosting provider offers, and the customer takes advantage of managed WordPress hosting.
Managed WordPress Hosting is an application-level management service. There are plenty of hosting services that offer Managed WordPress hosting for those who prefer WordPress as their web-development platform. The hosting service assists the customers manage, update, secure, backup, migrate and optimize WordPress websites. This includes the proper configuration of the type of hosting service the site is running on.
Sites that take advantage of Managed WordPress Hosting benefits from:
Automatic updates – WordPress websites are often vulnerable to attacks unless updated. Managed sites can be automatically updated or when permitted by the customer after the customer is given notice.
Automatic and manual backups – hosting providers can set up automatic backup schedules or run regular manual backups.
Automatic WordPress Setup – Managed sites can either set up a WordPress server from scratch or allow users to set up their websites within minutes.
WordPress Support – when customers run into WordPress-related problems, Managed WordPress services are prepared to help.
Staging and Production Environments – Customers are allowed to set up development and production instances of WordPress so customers can test site modifications prior to deployment.
Better WordPress website performance and security – Managed WordPress services can help customers configure their websites to run faster through proper caching. They also help secure their customers by automatically or through permission, update websites in case a new vulnerability in WordPress is discovered.
Managed WordPress can be an additional part of shared hosting, VPS or dedicated hosting or can be a package on its own with the type of hosting as options. This however can increase the costs of hosting packages but is a big plus if customers choose WordPress as their platform.
For those who want to build simpler websites but don’t want to learn WordPress or work on HTML websites from scratch, most hosting services come packaged with their own website builders. Websites made from these website builders are often made from sets of customizable templates where users can insert or remove website elements, customize background colors, text styles and layouts. Popular web hosting services like Hostgator have their own website builder called Gator Website Builder to complement their hosting packages.
There are services that put their website builders as the main focus of their hosting services. These include WordPress.com whose templates churn out websites based on WordPress, that are completely customizable and Google’s Blogger. Then, there are companies such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace that promote their website builders first, their hosting packages second. These companies are hosting services that focus on smaller customers like individuals who just want to create their personal websites or landing pages for their small businesses though depending on the patience and talent of the customer can be so much more.
As mentioned, websites built through website builders can be simple one-page sites to large online stores depending on the package purchased. The necessary web elements such as slideshows, social media links, storefronts and shopping carts and other e-commerce elements can be put together without much coding knowledge. Though the best looking sites can best be achieved by artists or professionals. Website Builder companies such as Weebly offer scalable hosting packages whose features differ at different prices. There is little concern for the type of hosting service behind the website. The problem with Website Builders is that options are limited with regards to flexibility. Such can be remedied by customers who know how to code and integrate other elements as long as those elements are allowed by the service.
So for people who need to have personal blogs, business pages or online stores, there needs to be a host. If you are one of those people, the website hosting options have been laid out. Just choose according to your needs.