Web Hosting Explained

Web Hosting Beginner Guides : Web Hosting Basic 101

Web Hosting Basics 101

What is web hosting?

In brief, web hosting is a place where you can store your web content (HTML files, PHP files, pdf files, etc) and allow others (web users) to access these files via Internet connection. Physically, a web host is nothing more than a computer server with high speed Internet connection; but in general when we talk about web hosting, we refer it as the ‘web hosting provider’.

The basic of World Wide Web, Web Servers, and Web Hosting

To have a better understanding on the relationship between a web hosting and a website, we recommend this educational video (World Wide Web in Plain English) produced by Common Craft.

Web hosting = a website domain name?

Web hosting shouldn’t be confused with domain name. A web hosting and a website domain are two totally different things. In layman’s term, a web host is like a house where the house owner can stores furniture (web contents) in it; whereas, a domain name is like the address of the house. Web hosting is the “storage space”; while a website domain name refers to the “location” of your website.

Subdomains, top level domains, and addon domains

Google.com is a domain name, the extension ‘.com’ is known as Top Level Domain (TLD). Some TLDs are opened and free to be registered by the publics, for instance: .com, .net, and .info; some TLDs, on the other hand, are governed strictly by government and cyber regulations, for example .gov can be only used by government organization and a country code TLD (ccTLD, like .co.jp and .co.uk) can be only used by websites located in that particular country. Some TLDs are intended for certain special purpose, for example .org is intended for organizations’ website (though it’s widely misused by personal websites).

Subdomain is the name in front of a domain name. For example ‘mail.google.com’, the word ‘mail’ is a subdomain. Subdomain is often confused with an addon domain. An addon domain is the second, third, fourth… independent domain name added in a single hosting account; a subdomain, on the other hand, is a secondary domain appears in front of a domain name.

Addon domain requires the owner to renew its registration; while creating subdomains require no cost at all.

Types of web hosting

Web hosting comes in different forms and shapes that can be categorized into five major groups, namely: shared hosting, virtual private server hosting, dedicated hosting, reseller hosting, and the cluster hosting.

Shared Web Hosting As the name refers, a shared hosting server is shared by multiple websites. Typically, websites on a shared hosting share the same server resources (such as CPU and RAM) and IP address.

Virtual Dedicated Hosting A virtual dedicated hosting is also known as Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting. Virtual dedicated hosting separates the server into several smaller independent servers. Each website hosted on VPS hosting will have its own isolated hosting environment (hence own root folder) and unique hosting features (such as firewalls and SSH access).

Dedicated Hosting The entire server is used by only single website (or customer) in a dedicated hosting. A dedicated hosted website enjoys better flexibility and web security. Users get full control over the server including bandwidth allocation, server operating system, and other custom web server features.

Reseller Hosting Reseller hosting services allow users to become a web host themselves. The server in reseller hosting is parted into smaller pieces (shared hosting) and can be sold to others.

Cluster Hosting Cluster hosting is also known as cloud hosting. A cluster hosting is the perfect solution for websites that require massive amount of processing power (such as complex web applications or huge web traffics) as a cluster-hosted website has access to a number of connected servers’ resources.

Unix Hosting vs Windows Hosting

Unix hosting normally refers to web host running on Linux or FreeBSD operating system; Windows hosting, on the other hand, runs on Windows OS like Windows Server 2003 or 2008. There are both pros and cons running a website on Unix or Windows hosting – Unix OS is open-source software, thus it’s free and tested widely; Windows OS on the other hand is critical if you need to run Microsoft web applications (such as asp.net).

Unix or Windows Hosting?

You should always go with Unix Hosting whenever it’s possible – mainly because Unix hosting is a lot more cheaper (as the OS is free of charge). Also, as Unix OS are normally tested by millions of open source developers, Unix Hosting is commonly perceived as the safer and more stable.

Deciding between free and paid web hosting

"Why pay when I can get web hosting for free?" – this is the number one frequent asked question by beginners.

A quick search online will produce wide range of hosting options available today ranging from dedicated server to specialized but profitable corner in the market such as Linux and Windows hosting.

However, for the majority of the people, the decision narrows down on whether to choose paid or free hosting. Yes, free hosting is for real and many are benefiting from it. Despite this fact, there are also other factors to consider before making a decision between paid and free. In this article, we will look at some of the factors.

Your Web Presence

The obvious benefit of free hosting is that you don’t have to spend a penny. Therefore, if you are in a tight budget then perhaps free hosting will be the best choice for you. Once you have registered for the service, you have to consider other factors as well. Firstly let’s look into the website URL. This unique URL allows visitors to look up your site over the internet. If you are using free website hosting, then your URL will be something like ‘freehostingservice.com/yourwebsite”. This is not a problem for most people but those who seriously wish to conduct business, it will tarnish their credibility tremendously. For customers, having ownership of your own business URL is crucial to establish trust.

Resources and Features

Besides that, free hosting service only gives limited access to crucial resources and features.

Before choosing this option, bear in your mind that this option only gives you very small storage space for your use. Again this would not be a hurdle for someone intending to use the site for personal use where it’s for viewing pleasure of family and friends. However if you intend to upload large number of files or pages the amount of disk space allocated for you would be insufficient. The same situation applies to bandwidth allocated. Bandwidth is one of the most important things for your website. This is because it supports the access and activities of your website visitors. You don’t want them to get a error message saying that “This site has exceeded its bandwidth allowance.” This will injure your customer’s trust in your business severely.

Basically paid hosting services come with tons of extra features and plugins…. think about usage of PHP, MySQL, Python, Perl, FrontPage plugins, Fantastico, SSL, shopping cart software, stats reporting, .htaccess rewrite, contorl panel (cPanel or Plesk), and the list goes on. Of course all these features are not provided to you under free hosting plan. These added features are very less or none given with free hosting service. This could have very bad effect on your business as you can add new functions such as shopping cart and sell you merchandises online to your customers.

Web Hosting: Free or Paid?

When you analyze it carefully, free hosting has many more shortcomings that are impossible to pen down in a single article. Thus, it is advisable for you to consider all your needs carefully before choosing the best hosting for you. In the highly competitive hosting market, it is very easy for you to get professional web hosting. To have a good company to back your site could prove to be a good investment in the future.


Back to Web Hosting Beginner Guides Index.