Ok, so now that you are here I assume you are either someone looking to start your own blog or website or looking for a place to put up some software or online tool you have built or simply here, because some told you to (err…. that was kinda mean 😀 ). But no, on a more serious note – you want to know about web hosting and which is great, because a lot people I come across are not so much focused on web hosting as they are with other things about blogging like tools to use, name to use, what to write etc., which by the way are very important but web hosting is crucial. You cannot ignore web hosting and so, let me just get to what is web hosting.
What is Web Hosting?
Ok, so before we get into what is web hosting firstly let us understand how websites work, and in the process we will get to know what web hosting really means.. Also I will attempt explain it in the simplest possible manner…
When you access a website, for instance, when you opened this article; you actually accessed a page I had written and stored on a computer / machine somewhere. Now this text, layout and images and other elements that you see over here are actually being transmitted from this machine / computer to your browser. These machines or computers that are basically connected to and accessible via internet, 24/7 and 365 days a year are called a server. So technically, any such computer which can stay online 24/7 – 365 days a year can be a potential server and you can put up your sites on them. This becomes your web host or website’s host. Now your link / URL / domain is kind of an address pointing to this server and hence when someone accesses it the files from the server are loaded.
But often the case is, that we are not able to have access to such machines or computers which can stay online all the time due to various reasons like lack of expertise, lack of knowledge or maintaining them or simply because they are way to expensive and require some professional management. For this reason we have companies who offer these services to us and help us put up our websites. They manage the servers for us so that we do not have to worry about the technicalities and plus don’t have to spend a lot on server maintenance and management. These companies are basically our website hosts or simply web hosts.
History of Web Hosting:
Here we are talking about companies offering web hosting, but imagine back in the early 90’s people had to have their own servers. As I said above, to keep a server live 24/7 for 365 days a year is a big ask. Try keeping your laptop on for a week with a steady connection and keep accessing data from it constantly – it will slow down, heat up, lag and definitely start to have issues. Agreed laptops are not designed to do that, but now imagine the cost of such a machine plus the maintenance required!
This was the case in the 90’s till companies like GeoCities, Angelfire, Tripod started offering web hosting services FREE upto a certain limit and then they charged.
The storage space they gave were staggering:
- GeoCities offered 1MB
- Angelfire offered 35Kb
- Tripod gave 2MB
Obviously the rise of these companies (and the storage space offered 🙂 ) resulted in more and more companies joining in this ever growing market space of being web hosting service providers. Those who want a share of this market space but didn’t want to get into it themselves, acquired companies which did it. Like GeoCities was acquired by Yahoo! in 1999 – A time when the Dot Com boom was going strong.
That day and this one, we have seen web hosting evolve and become more and more affordable and easier. Getting a web host costs you nothing more than an evening out with friends for a coffee. Yes! Also the above scenario explains why it was difficult to start a website back then and why is it getting so easy these days. Of course there are tools like WordPress and others which have made the creation and building a website part much easier, but the ease of getting your website hosted is another reason.
Types of Web Hosting:
I hope by now I have been able to explain What is Web Hosting and also given a brief of the history of web hosting. Now is a good time to understand the type of web hosting options you have. Yes, there are different kind of plans that you can choose from when it comes to web hosting. These are based on your requirements of the website, budget and service provider.
Free Web Hosting:
This one is something which is only recommended if you want to have a website only for fun and are not serious about it. As there are lot of limitations when using a free web host. You check a detailed post on Why Free Hosting is something which is NOT recommended.
What it is:
Let’s say you stay on rent in a fully furnished house shared by other room mates. Now while you have access to all the resources in the house, you have to share those resources with your room mates. The benefits of this is obvious that it is affordable as the rent on the whole place is shared between you and your room mates. However the disadvantage is that you have also share the resources like kitchen, bathroom, water, storage space, for your stuff and so on.
Similar to the example above, in case of shared hosting, you have similar benefits wherein your site is hosted on a server which also hosts sites of others. In this case the overall cost of service for these kind of servers is lower as you only pay what is due to you and not for the entire server.
So it is affordable, hassle free and ready to use for you.
Now, if you start using more resources like using more water or stuffing more of your stuff and consuming more electricity etc, your room mates will object or your landlord would.
Same is the case with shared hosting. If you website grows in terms of traffic or constantly hogs the resources of the server like RAM and CPU or is simply your files are taking up too much of the storage space allocated or permissible for you; your web host will soon suggest you lower the consumption or move to a higher plan, like you would have to do in case of your rented apartment – move out or tone down.
Whom is it recommended for:
Anyone who is just starting off a website or a blog and has limited amount of traffic or has a website which requires lesser RAM, CPU and storage space. In most cases if you have a website which has just started or is a few months old, you should be going for a shared hosting.
Web Hosts like SiteGround have awesome starter plans which are excellent to handle even moderately high traffic sites.
What it is:
Now that same example from above, with a slight difference that you are the owner of that apartment in a building. You have the entire house to your self, you can use all the resources of that house and do whatever you want to it, provided you are not invading the property or resources of you neighbors.
You are the king of your house and you get more resources to use and are free to make changes, call friends over and have a party when you want.
Similarly, in case of a VPS or a Virtual Private Server, you can have a high traffic website which requires more RAM, CPU and storage run on it with ease and enjoy the benefits. You have a vortual machine given to you with a decent amount of RAM, HDD space and CPU performance, just like an entire apartment in a building.
It costs more than paying your rent, obviously. Also now, lets say your family grows and you need more space, you cannot expand beyond the walls of your house, right? Further more the parties you throw or the friends you call shouldn’t be consuming all the resources of the building like using up more water or disturbing the neighbours by invading their space, others will object and ask you to look for a new house of be in those limits.
Similarly, if your site has some stellar traffic or requires high RAM or CPU usage or even storage space, beyond what is allotted to your virtual machine, you will eventually have to change you web hosting plan. Plus it costs more than shared hosting.
Whom is it recommended for:
Mainly sites with moderate to high traffic which requires decent RAM and CPU performance. Most websites run on it fine.
What it is:
Now imagine you buy a plot and then build a house on it. You have your own large area and you can do whatever you want with it, as long as it is legally permissible and not worry about neighbours or other issues, which you have to in a building or apartment.
Exclusivity, freedom to whatever you want and throw as many parties as you want to for you friends as long as you home can accommodate it and is legally permissible.
Similarly you have host insanely high traffic websites and run them till the resources of the server can handle it.
You will have to bear the cost of such a home and ofcourse to an extent are responsible for its maintenance if you have made changes to the original plan or layout. Again you are limited by the applicable laws in your area and the limits of your plot.
Similarly, you have to shell out a good amount of money to have a dedicated server and adhere to the web hosts policies on resource utilization. Plus you will have to have more technical know how to manage the server unless your web host provides it, but again it will be at an extra cost.
Whom is it recommended for:
Insanely high traffic websites which require a lot of data to be processed and stored and good amount RAM and CPU performance.
This is fairly new technology which is quickly gaining popularity. In simple terms cloud hosting is something wherein a network of computers or servers are interconnected and in a way can draw resources from one another. This sounds confusing and kind of odd, yes. Let me explain further.
It is a setup wherein 100s or even more servers are arranged in such a way that they operate like one giant server. As and when the need arises the hosting companies can simply add more hardware resources and continue running their services. This means that the clients don’t have to move from one server to another and it thus saves the time and effort required in migrating.
Pros and Cons:
Well it is relatively new and hence not all web hosting companies offer it just yet. Plus the plans are very few and some on the expensive side.
Apart from that, there is still the issue with managing a cloud based hosting as I mentioned earlier, not many companies offer these plans and hence the web masters have to sometimes get involved in it.
This is however improving will only get more and more mainstream and streamlined as it becomes more widely used.
Colocation Web Hosting:
Colocation hosting is when you buy your own server but keep it with the hosting company. You are responsible for managing it and looking after everything and the company only gives you kind of a ‘rack space’.
It is like parking for your car. You pay for parking, but you purchase your own car and ensure it is well maintained and serviced well.
It is expensive and as a blogger or a web master, chances are you will never need it.
This is the type of hosting which will come WordPress ready. In other words while setting up your hosing plan this type of hosting will also takecare of the WordPress installation and will often have dedicated options and tools to enhance your WordPress website’s overall performance and experience.
Often times such hosting will take care of essential updates and come pre-installed with plugins and tools required for better WordPress performance.
While a lot of web hosts offer WordPress Hosting, I personally recommend and also use the services of SiteGround
You can even refer to a complete Step-by-Step guide to setting up your blog or website with WordPress Hosting in 5 minutes [with Video Tutorials], over here
So now that you know what is web hosting and what are the different type of web hosting options available, I recommend you also read Why you need Web Hosting in the first place, over here.
As a parting note, here is an Infographic by HostGeeks which explains the different types of web hosting:
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