A Beginner's Guide to Web Hosting
What is web hosting?
Whenever you visit a website, what you see on your web browser is essentially just a web page that is downloaded from the web server onto your web browser.
In general, a website is made up of many web pages, and a web page is basically composed of texts and graphic images. All these web pages need to be stored on the web servers so that online users can visit your website.
Therefore, if you plan to own a new website, you will need to host your website on a web server. When your website goes live on the web server, online users can then browse your website on the internet. Companies that provide the web servers to host your website are called web hosting providers or web hosts.
A well-established web hosting provider sometimes hosts up to thousands of websites. A web hosting company needs many web servers (essentially, these are computers) to 'store' the website. And all these web servers are connected to the internet through a high speed internet connection and housed in a physical building called a 'data center'. In order to guarantee all the web servers are safe, secure, and fully operational all the time, a data center is a physically secure 24/7 environment with fire protection, HVAC temperature control, virus detections, computer data backup, redundant power backup, and complete disaster recovery capabilities.
There are different kinds of web hosting companies out there with different characteristics. The main types of web hosts can be organized into the following categories:
a. Shared Hosting
Shared hosting (also known as virtual web hosting) means that many websites are sharing the space on the same physical web servers. Depending on the web hosting provider, a physical web server can host a few hundred to even thousand of different websites at one time. You may wonder if a physical web server is shared by so many websites, will the performance of the web server deteriorate? In fact, web servers are usually equipped with high-end powerful computers, which can support up to a certain number of websites without any problem. But when the web server is overloaded and exceeds the reasonable number of websites that it can support, then you will begin to experience a slower response from the web server.
However, a reputable and experience web hosting provider will constantly monitor the performance of the web server and will add new web servers when deemed necessary without sacrificing the benefits of the website owners. Since a physical web server is shared (disk space, computer processing power, bandwidth, memory) by many websites, the web hosting provider can afford to offer a lower hosting price. For the same reason, websites on the shared hosting have to accept slower server response times. Typically, shared hosting plans through web hosts start at $5 - $20 per month.
b. Dedicated Hosting
In contrast to shared hosting, dedicated hosting assigns a specific web server to be used only by one customer. Since a dedicated web server is allocated to only a single customer, the customer has the option to host single/multiple websites, modify the software configuration, handle greater site traffic, and scale the bandwidth as necessary. Therefore, dedicated hosting commands a higher premium and typically starts at $50 per month, and can range up to $200 - $500 per month. As a result, dedicated hosting is regularly used by high traffic and extremely important websites.
c. Co-location hosting
In dedicated hosting, the web server belongs to the web hosting providers and customers only rent the web server during the hosting period. In co-location hosting, however, the customer own the web server hardware and only houses his/her web server within the web hosting provider's secure data center. This way, the customer has full control over his/her web server and simultaneously benefits from the 24/7 server monitoring and maintenance provided by the secure data center. Depending on the monthly bandwidth and rack space required, typically co-location hosting ranges from $500 - $1000 per month.
d. Reseller hosting
In reseller hosting, a web hosting provider offers web server storage to a third-party (i.e. reseller) at a discount price, who then resells the web server storage to their customers. Typically, resellers are web consultants including web designers, web developers, or system integration companies who resell the web hosting as an add-on service to complement their other range of services. Commonly, resellers can receive up to a 50 percent discount on the price of a hosting account from the web hosting provider. What’s more, resellers are allowed to decide their own pricing structure and even establish their own branding.
To the reseller’s customers, the reseller is the web host provider. In cases when technical problems arise such as server downtime or access problems, the reseller will have to correspond directly with the actual web host provider. Due to the communication process taking place between customer to reseller and from reseller to actual web hosting provider and back and forth, undoubtedly problems will take a longer time to be resolved. Unless you are running your own personal website or non-profit website and are willing to take the risks of poor support from the reseller, reseller hosting is generally not a good option.
However, the web hosting market today is filled with resellers that sell lowest price web hosting plans. So, how do you tell a genuine web hosting provider from a reseller? Well, don't judge by the availability of a toll-free number alone because some web hosting providers even offer their resellers their own toll-free number for co-branded technical support. When the reseller's customer calls the number for technical support, the web host uses the reseller's name so the customer thinks that the support is coming from the reseller directly. Likewise, don't be fooled by the professional designed website alone because it is extremely easy to create a professional looked business website nowadays.
In general, resellers can be distinguished from their hosting price and company information. In most cases, a genuine web hosting provider has solid company information such as iPowerWeb.com where they publish their financial background, offices, and data centers. By contrast, resellers usually do not have a solid company background. Moreover, the hosting price by resellers is generally below $5 per month. So, why settle for resellers when you can find genuine web hosting providers offering superb quality web hosting at prices ranging from $7 - $10?
Clearly, the bottom line of this Beginner’s Guide to Web Hosting is that you should not strive to find the lowest price web hosting companies without first considering the quality of the service and support provided. Don't expect to find any top-level support if you choose to pay only $2 or $3 per month for your web hosting plan. On the other hand, by paying just slightly more for your web hosting plan, you can discover a list of low cost yet high quality web hosting plans to host your important website.