Introduction to Web Hosting

Web hosting is nothing but a service that lets people across the globe access your website and It does so by providing you a web server and an interface that makes managing your web server easy. As part of the service, it allows you to purchase a domain name and link it to a web server. 

There is more to what a Web Hosting Service provides and we will discuss them at great length in future chapters.

For now, let’s focus on different types of web hosting.

If you recall from the previous chapters, I said a web server is nothing but a specially configured computer that accepts a request and sends a web page or sometimes a text file as a response.  Just like your personal computer, a Web server will also have hardware like hard disk, RAM, and a processor. 

Web Servers use the hard disk to store web pages and other files linked to those web pages. 

RAM and Processor determine how fast a Web Server can process the request and send back a response. They also decide how many simultaneous requests a web server can handle at the same time.

Do not fall for low Prices

Many of the new website owners fall for low pricing. Being on a budget is a good thing, but when it comes to web hosting, there are a lot of factors comes before pricing. Web Server uptime, Bandwidth, and Server Response time are the three things that you shouldn’t compromise on.

Server Uptime

Server Uptime is nothing but the amount of time the server is up and running. If your server is down, your visitors cannot view your website. 

Many of the web hosting companies offer cheap pricing claiming that they will provide 99.99% uptime. But, they do not. 

Server Bandwidth

Server Bandwidth in nothing the amount of data like images and text that server allows your website visitors to download. Server Bandwidth is measured just like Hard Disk space. Web Servers do not come with unlimited Bandwidth. Shared Web Servers are the only exception. 

Every time a visitor requests a web page from your web server, he is downloading the text, images, and few other text files. So, depending on your web page, he will be downloading anywhere between 10 KB to 10MB of data. Imagine thousands of visitors requesting your 10MB sized gallery web page. 

If you have a website with a lot of visitors or a poorly configured web server, you’ll soon run out of allocated server bandwidth. Once, you out of bandwidth, your web hosting company takes down your web server and does not turn it on until you upgrade your bandwidth by paying them more money.    

So, Based on how Hard Disk, RAM, Processor and server bandwidth put to use, Web Hosting Packages are divided into eight categories.

Server Response Time

Server Response time is nothing but how much time does it take for a server to send the response back to the web browser. The faster the server responds, the greater the user experience on your website will be. Shared Hosting and VPS hosting often has slow response time compared to dedicated server hosting and cloud hosting. 

Now let’s take a look at the five most important types of web hosting. 

Shared Web Hosting

As the name implies, your website will share a single web server and its hardware with hundreds of other sites. 

On the Upside, you will be sharing the cost with other websites. You’ll pay somewhere in between 2$ – 20$ for a premium quality web server.  

On the downside, if there is a popular website on your shared server, it will nick away all the resources giving you almost nothing, which makes your website inaccessible for your visitors. Also, if a hacker gets access to a single website on a shared server, all the other websites are in trouble too.

So, Shared web hosting is right for you, if you are just getting started. In the initials days of launching your website, you’re less likely to get tons of visitors, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money on purchasing a powerful server.

In my eight years of experience with web hosting, I have been hosting many of my client websites on MediaTemple’s Shared hosting server called Grid. I have never faced a single problem that I encountered with other shared hosting services. 

The best thing about MediaTemple Shared Server is, if suddenly a thousand people visited your website at the same second for an article that went viral, you’re site would stand rock solid, serving content to all of them at the same time. 

The only downside is additional pricing. You get charged for using extra server power like bandwidth and processing abilities. But that’s ok. Server scaling is an important feature that you should look for when choosing a shared web hosting.

Virtual Private Server Hosting ( VPS )

Once your website starts getting some consistent visitors or maybe once your website brings in some revenue, it is time to up your server game by moving your website to a Virtual Private Server. Just like Shared hosting, your site will get hosted along with other websites on a single web server. But there is one crucial difference.  

With VPS, you will get a dedicated slice hard-disk space, RAM, Processor and a Linux Operating System with full access. As the name implies, you will get a virtual (You can not touch me ) computer. It is a computer inside a computer. Because some portion of the server hardware is dedicated to your website, a popular site on your web server does not affect your website what-so-ever.

Since VPS gives you full control over the operating system, you can make your web server more secure and efficient by installing dozens of software. You do not get this feature on a shared web hosting.

Pricing: Virtual Private Server pricing is flexible. Based on the Processor, Disk space, RAM, and Server bandwidth, it costs between 30$ to 200$. 

Dedicated Web Server

Its all in the name. You will get a dedicated physical server. You’ll not share web server hardware with other websites. Just like a VPS, you’ll have full access to the underlying operating system. If your website is getting 100,000 visits per day, it is time to move your website to Dedicated Web Server.  

Pricing: Just like Virtual Private Server, Dedicated Web Server pricing is flexible too. Based on the Processor, Disk space, RAM, and Server bandwidth, it costs between 50$ to 10000$.

Cloud Hosting

By far, this is my favorite type of web hosting. It is cheap, powerful and flexible. It totally has a different infrastructure. Your website can be hosted by multiple servers. If one server goes down, your website will be still accessible from another server. This way cloud hosting ensures maximum availability of your website. 

According to my understanding, Clouding hosting infrastructures includes multiple Management Servers, Front-end Servers, and Data-Centers to keep your website up and running no matter what. Your website is stored in multiple Data-centers. Frontend Server will handle all the requests from the browser. Once it gets request, it will contact a Data-Center to get your website content. If a Data-Center or a Frontend-Server fails, Management-Server will get notified, and they will make sure that another Front-end Server to handle user requests. 

You’ll also get the choose the location of your web server. Location of the server has a noticeable impact on how fast your website is served to your visitors. For example, if you know that most of your site visitors are from India, choosing a server location in India is ideal. 

If you recall, most of the computers are connected to the internet via optical-fiber cables. If your server is located in India, an Indian visitor will get a faster response from your server compared to an Australian visitor. Since Australia is far away from India, the response from the Indian Server Location must go all the way to Australia through cables under the sea. That is a very long way to go, is it not? 

Pricing: Digital Ocean is my favorite cloud hosting service. Based on the Processor, Disk space, RAM, and Server bandwidth, they charge 5$ for their most basic server. Usually, most cloud hosting services charge you on per hour basis. So, you only get charged for what you have used. 

In my experience, a 5$ Cloud Hosting is equivalent to 20$ VPS server.

Managed WordPress Hosting

Managed WordPress hosting service provides a web server which is specially configured to serve WordPress websites. They take care of WordPress software updates, backups and Security. 

The Web Hosting provider will take off everything, leaving very little control to Individual WordPress Developers. Some Managed WordPress hosting do not even provide a File Manager and Database Manager for developers.

Pricing: Since the hosting provider takes care of everything, Managed WordPress Hosting is most expensive of all the hosting types mentioned above. They charge you based on the number of visitors, disk space and number of WordPress sites installed. It costs between 30$ – 900$. 

Managed WordPress Hosting is the only type of hosting that keeps restrictions on a number of WordPress installations. You can have unlimited WordPress installations on the rest of the hosting types.

Kinsta and Pantheon are the community favorite Managed WordPress Hosting services. They have a great customer support team.

Now that you understand various types of web hosting and what can be achieved with each of them, In the next lesson, you’ll learn how a web page works under the hood.