Most of the people are not aware of what is happening when accessing their Facebook account or doing a search on Google or just watching a Youtube video. Everything you do on the internet day by day is actually related to websites and web hosting. In this article we will explain the basics of web hosting, the different types that exist, how a website works and how to build one and how to buy hosting.
When we are talking about a website, we are actually referring to a collection of files and folders that are connected and work together to render a web-page. Depending on the complexity and the functionality of the website, this can be built from one to thousands of files. A simple website built with HTML, can be rendered on your computer, but a complex site built with PHP or ASP can only be viewed on a web server or with a use of software that will create the necessary environment on your computer. If you are new to website building, at the start you may find this complicated, but in fact it is very easy to create your own website; keep reading to learn about all the parts that are needed to publish a website online.
To create a website or a web application, it is required the use of a programming language. For a very simple and basic website the most common used programming languages are HTML and CSS. These two languages are used to build a static website. For a dynamic web-page that uses also database, a more advanced language such as PHP or ASP is required.
If you are not familiar with these programming languages, it is possible to use software, so called website builder, which comes with a user-friendly interface to help you create the website structure, website design, upload images, text and even videos to your website. These software, however have certain limitations, and can only be used to create simple, static websites, with limited functionality.
There are however other ways to create a website, for instance, a content management system (CMS) is one of the trendiest ways these days to build a blog, forum, news portal or almost any type of website. The most popular content management system is WordPress. Here you can find out more info about WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, the three leading CMS software in the world.
Most web hosting providers allows you to install your chosen CMS to your domain name and start building your website right away.
The domain name is actually the address that you type into the web browser while trying to access a certain website. A domain name is composed by 3 parts: the word, the dot, the extension. For instance, if you want to access Google’s website you will have to type in google.com in your browser. You could also access Google typing in the IP address of the website; however it is much easier to refer to a domain name instead of an IP address.
A domain name can only be registered by one individual or company at a time. So if the domain name you are looking to buy is already registered, you can either wait until the current owner leaves it to expire (this most likely will take years or it will never happen), or you can contact the current owner and acquire that particular name. Do keep in mind that the domain name market is a very huge business and companies are ready to spend millions on a good domain name. So probably the best choice is to just keep searching for a good domain and register the one that is available. There is no limit on how many domains you can register, however once registered there is a renewal fee very year, which have to be paid, otherwise you will lose the ownership.
So how does your computer know which website to render, when you type in a certain domain name? When you access a domain name from your computer through the web browser, this initiates a connection to the web server (web hosting server) via the IP address that is published in the DNS (Domain Name Servers – these keep all the information about domains such as IP addresses). The DNS information can be edited by the domain owner and can update the IP address where the browser should connect. So if you change your hosting provider (the IP address will also change), and you can easily update the information.
Where to search for available domain names and how to buy them? The process is easy, most hosting providers will also offer domain name registration, but if you want to keep your domain names separate from your hosting company, you can check out GoDaddy and NameCheap for a very quick domain name check and cheap prices.
A web hosting server is a high end computer, which is specially built and optimized for storing websites and web applications. These servers are located in a datacenter, which is actually a building where hundreds of servers are physically stored. The building will provide the necessary protection against fire, unauthorized access of the servers, it is equipped with power generators that will prevent power outages, and it is also connected to a high speed internet through one or more bandwidth providers.
What are you actually getting when buying web hosting? When you are buying a shared hosting account, you will get access to a part of the server, where you can upload and store your website’s files and database. Beside this you will also get support from the hosting company whose service you bought. Please keep in mind that some companies do not own their data-center, but they are renting some servers and reselling hosting accounts to their own customers. This is a very common practice; however it is proven to fail very often. To keep your website safe, always go with a company that has its own datacenter.
You can get overwhelmed very fast when you start looking for a hosting plan. It is obvious that there are hundreds of hosting companies offering different hosting plans at different prices. Instead of comparing the features of the different plans you should rather focus on figuring out what hosting plan you need. In the following I will present you the five different hosting types and for what are the used for:
Shared hosting: is the most basic hosting type that used by most of the customers. This type of hosting is very affordable, offers all the basic features that is needed to set up a simple website and can support hundreds of unique visitors a day. However it has some limitations to it, such as limited number of websites you can add, limited email accounts, limitations on usage and bandwidth and it is less secure. A shared hosting account is created by splitting up a web server in hundreds or thousands of small accounts which are sharing the server’s resources, bandwidth and storage.
VPS Hosting: a virtual private server is similar to a shared account, but with lots of extra features. In case of a VPS a web server is partitioned in only couple of accounts, where these accounts are sharing the same server, but have their own allocated resources. Each VPS account can have different software and can be configured independently from the other accounts hosted on the same server.
Dedicated hosting: in the case when purchasing a dedicated hosting account, we are actually talking about renting the whole web server with all the resources, bandwidth and storage. The cost of a dedicated server can start from $120 per month and this excludes the setup and other software licensing fees. Although the cost of a dedicated server is very expensive, it gives its users to fully customize and optimize the server for its own needs. It also provides the highest security, performance and flexibility.
Cloud hosting: is kind of “new” type of hosting, which has become very popular in the last few years. In the case when we are uploading our website or files into the cloud, we actually clustering those files to different servers located all over the world. We can than access those files from anywhere by connecting to our cloud hosting account. This type of hosting is mostly used to store non-sensitive information.
Managed hosting: is often chosen by webmasters who don’t have the time or the technical knowledge for system or server administration. In case of managed web hosting, besides renting the server, you will also get support from the hosting provider, and they will also take care about software upgrades as well the security of the web server. Most web hosting accounts, which come with pre-installed software such as cPanel are managed, so you don’t have to specially look for this type of service, when searching for a hosting plan.
At this point probably you are already overwhelmed with all the information you have read above. You may think that choosing a hosting plan is difficulty, but in fact it is very easy if you know what you are looking for. Here are some very easy questions to answer, which will guide you to the right hosting plan:
In most of the cases, if you are building a simple personal or commercial website, a simple blog or small ecommerce site, you will only need a shared account. Shared hosting is able to support a low to medium traffic website and can also provide you with a great security, however the stability of a shared plan is not as good, and it can happen that your website slows down time to time. For the start I think a shared account is enough for every beginner.
When your website’s traffic exceeds a certain number of daily visits, probably you will need to upgrade to VPS hosting. If you are running an ecommerce site, and your business relies entirely on this website, probably you should consider choosing VPS from the start and avoid shared hosting. For an online community website, such as a forum it is also recommended to use a VPS account.
If you are a small to medium sized business, employing couple of people and running a busy website, probably you don’t need a dedicated server yet, but if you are planning to invest in website traffic and expect to get a lot of page loads in the following period, probably a VPS will not stand and you will need to upgrade to a dedicated server. This hosting type is also used by websites or web applications that require high server resource, have high bandwidth usage and need a high security (for credit card processing and client information storage).
If your website has a worldwide audience, and you want to provide user experience for those customers who are using your website outside from the country the server is located, probably you should consider using a cloud hosting service. Uploading your website to the cloud, you basically cluster the files over a network of servers, all over the world, and when a user access your site, will connect to the nearest server to its location. So this way, your site will run much faster for foreign users as well. Do consider that cloud hosting is not for storing sensitive information, so probably you don’t want to store your customer’s personal data in the cloud.
As I mentioned above, when you purchase a hosting account that already has some sort of control panel or operation system installed, it is a managed hosting. So if you are purchasing a shared or vps account with cPanel, you are buying managed hosting. Do you need it? In my opinion, it is easier and faster to work with managed hosting account and you get the extra support that you may need.