Web Hosting – A Guide for Beginners
By James Swainston
So you’re looking to learn about web hosting and what it has to offer or you may not know much about web hosting? There is no shame in not knowing this information. Everyone has to start at the beginning at some point. On that note, lets begin learning about web hosting.
First off, what is web hosting and how does it work?
Web hosting is the business practice of providing space and bandwidth on a high-powered computer server that is connected to the Internet at very high speeds. Hosting companies maintain large networks of high-powered web server computers in a physical location known as a data center. These computer servers are connected to a very fast, and generally redundant, Internet connection. The data centers have primary and backup power, a fast connection to the Internet, and a security monitoring staff.
The web hosting companies provide a share of disk space and available bandwidth to a customer for a monthly fee. Once the customer is signed up, they can upload files to their personal space on the web server and the information is then viewable to anyone interested on the Internet. The monthly fee the web hosting company charges is much less than what it would cost to run a server out of your own home or data center. This is the reason these companies exist. They take care of all the hardware, software, and other technical needs for you.
Types of web hosting
There are many different types of web hosting offers, but the main three are shared, reseller, and dedicated. Each type of hosting is for a different purpose.
Shared Web Hosting
Shared web hosting is the most popular form of hosting. Shared hosting is a portion of disk space and bandwidth provided to you by the web hosting company on a high-powered server. There are many other web sites hosted on this server, and the hosting company is likely to have quite a few of these servers in a large data center. The resources of the server are shared by as many other websites as are allocated to that computer.
Shared web hosting is the best form of web hosting if you are looking for a great price and don’t have more than a couple thousand daily visitors to your site.
Reseller Web Hosting
Reseller web hosting is a popular, low-cost solution to starting your own web hosting business. There are two types of reseller hosting, private-label and a reseller of services.
The private-label is the best type of reseller plan because it allows you to retain full control over your customer’s websites. A private-label plan allows the reseller to keep the full monthly payment of the web-hosting customer, but the reseller must pay a monthly fee to the larger hosting company for the reseller space. The more hosting accounts a private-label reseller can sell, the higher the profit for them. Private-label hosting allows you to host many more websites than if you were using shared hosting for each. This is a great solution for someone who has many sites they need to host in one location to save money.
The reseller of services plans resell the regular web hosting plans of a larger web hosting company, but you get a discounted price for providing the customer and earn a monthly fee for as long as they remain a customer. This plan does not allow control over customer web sites and you only keep a portion of the potentially monthly revenue.
Dedicated Web Hosting
Dedicated web hosting is the most powerful and cost effective solution of hosting a busy web site without resorting to buying your own equipment and paying hundreds of dollars per month for a fast Internet connection. Dedicated hosting consists of single server with no one else hosting on that computer. This allows for the greatest of configuration options. Anyone who has a busy website will find dedicated hosting is the necessary choice.
Web Hosting Considerations
Wondering about all the other information listed in web hosting plans? In this section, I will explain the most important considerations in choosing a good web host.
The price of web hosting services is one of the most important. There are many hosting companies out there with cheap hosting packages, but they may be lacking in other areas. Don’t let the price of a hosting package fool you. There are some hosting companies out there who have great prices and the other features are just as good. Price may be one of the most important decisions of a web hosting plan, but there is much more to consider in choosing a quality web host.
Disk Space / Storage Space
Disk space is the amount of physical storage space a web host gives to you to store your web files. Hosting companies these days have plans with disk space being measured mostly in terms of gigabytes, but some are still offering plans in the megabytes for storage space. Depending on your needs for file storage space, you may need more or less. Generally the more disk space offered, the better.
Bandwidth / Data Transfer
The amount of bandwidth available can make a big difference in choosing a quality hosting plan. In general, the more bandwidth a hosting company makes available to you, the better. This means you can support more traffic to your web site as your business grows. Be wary of web hosting companies that offer unlimited or unmetered bandwidth. While many of these are legitimate offers, there are some out there who are overselling their bandwidth in hopes the average user won’t use much.
In any business, it is very important to provide exception customer service. Web hosting is no exception to this. Many of the hosting companies are available all day and night in case you have a problem with your web site, but there are some who are just available specific hours of the day. If your web site goes down in the middle of the night when they’re not available, this means lost revenue for a business. You should make sure the web host you select is always available for support.
Money Back Guarantee
Most web hosting companies will provide a thirty-day money back guarantee. Some will provide one even long, but be wary of the ones who offer no money back guarantee. I would not purchase web hosting services from a company who does not offer at least a 30 day money back guarantee, unless they have proven themselves to be a leader in the industry and have an excellent reputation.
An operating system is a piece of software that controls the interaction between the computer user and the physical hardware of the machine. A vast majority of all web sites on the Internet run on the Linux operation system. Linux is generally much more stable than Windows. Stability is critical in running a web site. For this reason, I prefer to host my web sites on the Linux operating system. Some sites have specific requirements that only the Windows operating system can satisfy, but there are always alternatives to those requirements.
A good web hosting company will have a regular schedule to backup the data on all the web servers. The more often the data is backed up, the better. At the very least, a web hosting company should backup web site files daily.
The control panel is the point of contact the web site administrator will have between the host server and their own machine connected via the Internet. It is essential to have a well organized and easy to use control panel interface. My favorite control panel is cPanel, which is one of the leading web hosting control panels out there today. Plesk is another good one, and many companies will create their own control panel for you to use. Most web hosting companies will provide a link to a demo of the control panel they use with their hosting plans. The control panel used is a matter of preference, but it should be user friendly.
Email is essential part of communication on the Internet. Most web hosting companies out there will give you more email addresses and more space to hold email messages than you will ever need. What you need to watch out for is the companies that have decided to be a little strict on their email accounts and only offer a small number or a small amount of message space.
Uptime is a term used to describe how often the average web site hosted by a company is available online. No company should be expected to provide an exact 100% uptime. This is impossible due to things such as hardware, software, and power failures. A vast majority of the companies are very good with uptime, and they guarantee it. It is still a good idea to be conscious of the uptimes posted by the company. If it is not at least 99.5%, it is probably not worth hosting with that company.
As a webmaster, it is nice to know how many visitors you’ve had, where they came from, how long they stay on your site, and how much bandwidth they’ve used. This information is collected by the web server and is placed in a log file. A statistics software package can read this data and provide meaningful information to the webmaster. The information gathered from these logs can be very valuable in improved services to the viewers of the web site.
FTP stands for file transfer protocol. It is a way of quickly uploading or downloading many files to and from a web server. Most web hosting companies will allow their customers access to their web hosting accounts via FTP. FTP is very useful and is a great feature to have when paying for a web hosting account.
A database is a place to store data that can be used in a large variety of ways. Databases are used on the Internet for applications such as shopping carts, message boards, and product catalogues. The more databases the web hosting provider allows you to create, the most applications you can deploy on your web server. Databases are used by the more advanced web master, but information is freely available online should you be interested.
Web hosting can be a very difficult decision with the many thousands of hosting companies out there. It is critical to find a plan that fits your needs and to have a good hosting company. I hope this article was useful in making your decision about which company to host with. Happy Hosting!
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