A Guide To Website Hosting
(Compare Different Types of Web Hosting)
What is a VPS?
If you’ve spent much time glancing around at the different types of website hosting on offer to you on the internet today then there’s a good chance you might have spotted an option called ‘VPS’. These three little letters stand for a type of website hosting that is powerful, reliable and typically more affordable than some of the rival hosting options, but before you can decide if it’s the right tool for your job it’s important to understand a little bit more about what a VPS is.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server and it does exactly what it says on the tin. Unlike a dedicated server where your hosting is the only thing that the server in question needs to worry about, a VPS is effectively a section of a server that is split neatly into different areas to allow each customer their own private space. Although your server is technically shared with other users you won’t be aware of it as your own little section will operate as if it was a standalone server, allowing you access to the operating system. It’s a bit of a stopgap between website hosting that is completely shared with other users, and a totally dedicated server just for you.
Not sure if a VPS would fulfil your hosting needs? Take a look at these pros and cons:
Virtual Private Server – The Pros
Price: A VPS is a lot cheaper than a physical dedicated server, while still offering many of the benefits.
Reliability: Unfortunately all technology is bit susceptible to mysterious gremlins determined to take your website down, however you might find a VPS to be more reliable than shared hosting as you won’t suffer from another user overloading a shared server space quite as much.
Security: Your VPS will also be more secure than some other options, as security measures tend to be a bit tighter to defend against online threats.
Scalability: The good thing with your server space being virtually handled is that it’s incredibly easy to upgrade. As your hosting requirements start to grow you can typically just expand your VPS to cope with the new demands.
Virtual Private Server – The Cons
Complexity: A VPS will give you a lot more control over what you can do with your hosting with root access allowing you to install additional scripts or interact with the operating system. While this extra control can be incredibly useful, it also means you will need a bit more technical expertise to manage it.
Support: It’s not always the case, but sometimes a problem with a VPS can take longer to resolve than one on shared website hosting as it may be harder for the support staff to track down the error.
Power: A VPS can offer you more power that is dedicated to your own hosting than many other options, however compared to a dedicated physical machine this option may still be lacking.
So there you have it, a Virtual Private Server is an affordable way for you to get your hands on some private server space, without being as powerful (or as expensive!) as a dedicated server. This option is perfect if you need some control over the environment of your website hosting, or if you’re just getting to the point of outgrowing your existing shared website hosting package due to increased demands. Some extra private resources could be just the thing your website needs to keep running smoothly.
What is Cloud Hosting?
Once upon a time, talking about The Cloud meant looking up at the sky and discussing the white and fluffy looking rain-bringing entities above us. The cloud today has a very different meaning with cloud computing now all the rage. It may even be something that you’ve already used in saving documents or photographs online for access anywhere, on any computer.
It’s unsurprising that this new and exciting technology has made its way into the realm of website hosting. Cloud hosting allows your website to basically use the space available on multiple website servers rather than just one as in more traditional hosting methods. Instead of having a set expense for your hosting, your bill with a cloud hosting agreement will depend on the amount of resources that you have used. Don’t have many visitors to your website? Your bill won’t be too high. Find yourself inundated with traffic? Expect a somewhat thicker envelope to land on your doorstep!
As with all relatively new technologies, there are both pros and cons to be had from cloud hosting.
Cloud Hosting – The Pros
Environmentally Friendly: If you’re looking for ways to make your business more sustainable then cloud computing could be a good solution. The cloud hosting system works on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ format, meaning you aren’t using unnecessary processing power that isn’t required for your website.
Reliability: Unlike any other option, cloud hosting could technically boast about 100% uptime for your website. Because your site will be hosted on any number of servers at any given time, if one of those servers were to crash then your website would still be live for the world to see. It’s possible for the cloud server itself to go down, however this is highly unlikely.
Cost: Cloud hosting can be a very cost effective solution for those businesses that have websites with a lot of traffic. Instead of paying for a lot of bandwidth for every second of every day, you can simply rent server space and pay more in your busy times, but less in those quiet moments such as the middle of the night.
Cloud Hosting – The Cons
Security: If your data is being shared around multiple servers is it really safe? Or are there more opportunities for it to be open to malicious entities? Security is the ongoing question that surrounds the cloud hosting debate. With proper processes in place your data should be secure when hosted in the cloud, but it’s something that you should look into from any provider that you are considering.
Cost: Wasn’t cost a pro, not a con? Yes and no. While cloud hosting can certainly create savings over dedicated or colocation options, it’s also possible for costs to quickly spiral out of control. If your website suddenly becomes popular then you could find yourself landed with a huge bill at the end of the month. Make sure you check the terms and conditions of your provider, and check to see if there are any alerts to warn you of a significant increase in cost.
Cloud Hosting Conclusion
It looks likely that cloud hosting could become a bigger technology in the future. As an option that’s still relatively new to the hosting market it can be difficult to calculate whether this is a financially viable option for your company. If security is a big concern to you then a dedicated server would be a better option, but for a business focussing on becoming carbon neutral there’s no better technology out there today.
What is a Dedicated Server?
The computer that you’re reading this on is, at this moment anyway, dedicated to the purpose of your internet browsing and whatever other tasks you might be undertaking. This is a similar concept to a dedicated server for housing your website. When you pay a company for a dedicated server there will literally be a computer running some server based software and stored in a secure data centre for your use, and your use alone.
If you have a big website with many visitors and a great deal of complexity in the form of frequent and multiple ecommerce transactions, large forums or some other high-demand web services then a dedicated server is likely to be the way forward. Having server space to yourself brings with it a whole host of benefits that can only be achieved in part with any other type of hosting.
As with any type of website hosting there are both advantages and disadvantages to dedicated servers, so let’s consider some of those now.
Dedicated Servers – The Pros
Flexibility: Because you are the only person with access to your individual server space you can have root access to it, allowing you to install any desired software and even manage things such as firewalls to prevent any malicious attacks on your website. Just as you can install and remove programs on your home computer, you can do the same on your dedicated server.
Reliability: No matter what restrictions a supplier of website hosting puts in place for shared hosting services, there’s something reassuring about knowing that high usage from another user can’t impact your own service. With a dedicated server you don’t need to worry about the resources you’re paying for going anywhere other than where you want them to be.
Management Options: Most providers of dedicated server space offer the option for either managed or self-managed servers. If you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing then a managed server could help, with technicians available to install your software and maintain your online space. If you’re comfortable with hosting and with the tasks that you need to complete then self-managed server space allows you complete freedom to do what you want.
Dedicated Servers – The Cons
Cost: There’s no real denying it; a dedicated server is the ideal solution when it comes to hosting. The big downside and the real reason why everyone with a website doesn’t take advantage of this option is the cost. Dedicated servers are typically the most expensive option when it comes to hosting, particularly if you choose a managed server.
Responsibility: Unless you do opt for a totally managed dedicated server you will find more responsibility resting on your shoulders. Not only will you need to set up your website through a nice simple control panel, but you will need the technical knowhow to manage the server itself.
Dedicated Server Conclusion
Dedicated servers are typically not an affordable solution for individuals or small business owners, however they are an option that can be grown into as time passes and the demands on a website grow. If your website needs a particularly high bandwidth, quick response time or large storage then this is an option to explore, otherwise you might want to consider something like a Virtual Private Server that provides you with the experience of having your own server, but without the cost of a completely dedicated machine.
What is a Colocation Server?
With so many different options for website hosting available you might be wondering why you couldn’t just set up a server in a spare room to run your website. Technically there is no reason why you couldn’t do this, but practically there are some drawbacks. Let’s say you have a power cut for example; not only do you lose power to the computers in your office, but your website would also be cut off from the World Wide Web. Likewise if you found yourself needing to move to a new address your website would be inaccessible while the server was in transit.
A colocation server provides a way for you to set up your own server with everything that you want on it, but to house it somewhere else. Some hosting providers offer colocation services which essentially allow you to use rack space in their data centres and therefore borrow their bandwidth. These services frequently have the option of management from the experts in the data centre as well, so once your server is set up you can leave the maintenance and management of it to the company.
Purchasing your own equipment and housing it elsewhere to share bandwidth is an idea that has picked up steam in recent years. If you think it might be useful for your own needs have a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages before making up your mind.
Colocation Server – The Pros
Bandwidth Price: Big businesses might be able to afford fast enough lines in to their buildings to run their own servers, but for a single server it’s likely to be far more affordable to put your own server in the rack of an existing company and just pay for the rent of that space.
Management: Unless you’re an expert in all things hosting, you might find that it’s more affordable to pay for colocation management costs than to hire a member of staff or a contractor to manage your server for you. The management deals on offer can help to reduce any outage time for your website.
Upgradability: The server that you install is your own equipment, so if it’s not up to scratch you always have the freedom to upgrade. This can be a lot faster than putting in a request for the equipment of another company to be upgraded.
Colocation Server – The Cons
Depreciation: On the flip side of being able to manage your own equipment is that of the depreciation of anything that you purchase. With dedicated servers cheaper than they once were you might find that the cost of depreciation makes colocation less financially viable. Using the equipment of another company can also eliminate big capital expenditures that could impact your budget.
Providers: Although colocation has grown more popular it can still be hard to find reputable providers nearby, unless you live in a particularly built up area of the country.
Colocation Server Conclusion
If you have one small website with limited traffic to it and no real need for anything out of the ordinary then chances are shared website hosting would be suitable for you. Colocation servers shine for those that want a dedicated server, without the hassle of having it in house or paying more money for the privilege from a dedicated server provider. If this is something that you are considering make sure you weigh up the cost of initial equipment outlay versus the saving that you could make in comparison to a dedicated server.
What is Reseller Hosting?
Imagine being able to provide website hosting for another company, without the need for a data centre complete with elaborate backup, cooling and internet systems. Could your own business benefit from the ability to offer website hosting packages? If so then reseller hosting could be just what you’re looking for.
Reseller hosting allows you, the customer, to rent server space from your hosting provider, only to sell that on using a simple control panel to your own customers. Your customers can typically have access to everything that they would normally receive through a shared hosting contract, and you can charge whatever rates you want without your hosting company having a say in it.
If you think that reseller hosting could work well for you then take a look at the following advantages and disadvantages.
Reseller Hosting – The Pros
Price: Reseller hosting today is incredibly well priced. A number of hosting companies will offer the service, sometimes for just a bit more than normal hosting would cost and often with great introductory deals. As you can charge whatever you want to your own customers it won’t take you long to recoup your monthly outgoings.
Unlimited Sites: Reseller hosting tends to come with no limits to the number of accounts and websites that you can create. No matter how many customers you’d like to provide hosting for, you can do so through your account. This can make it a lucrative way to make money; your expenses won’t change but your income will grow with the more shared hosting deals you sell.
Support: Every so often something goes wrong in the world of hosting. The good news is that when your customers come knocking at your door you’ll be able to go straight to the customer service team of your hosting company for help.
Reseller Hosting – The Cons
Technical Expertise: Although it’s true that you’ll be able to get help from the technical support team of your hosting company, you’ll still need a certain degree of knowhow to get your customers set up and to ensure they’re happy. If you’re something of a technophobe then selling on hosting might not be the best strategy.
Reputation: If you choose to take out reseller hosting with a particular provider who has serious issues with downtime then it will be your own reputation on the line. Your customers are buying their hosting from you, not from your provider even if it’s the provider causing the problems. It’s you who could end up with bad reviews and negative comments from disgruntled customers.
Escape Route: Once you start providing hosting you could find it very difficult to stop. If you decide that you’d rather stop selling on hosting you may need to assist your customers in removing their websites from your server space and transferring them on to another provider. This could be a laborious and time consuming process.
Reseller Hosting Conclusion
Think carefully before offering website hosting yourself as it will involve technical work in getting everything set up, and could take more hours of your time than anticipated. If the ability to offer website hosting could genuinely improve the service that you can offer to your customers however, or if you are looking to set up a new business selling website hosting, then this is a very affordable and relatively simple way to get started.
What is Shared Hosting?
Imagine sharing a house or a flat with another person. Instantly the costs are reduced. Together you can halve the amount that you are paying for rent, utilities and even food.
Shared hosting is a similar principle. By sharing server space with multiple users the costs are split between them all, and are therefore reduced. You won’t be able to install specific software or scripts that you want to run on the server, but a shared hosting provider will typically have installed some sort of control panel that is common to all users and effective at providing for the vast majority of your website hosting needs.
There are plenty of advantages to shared hosting, but also some drawbacks that you should consider while deciding if this is the best type of hosting for you.
Shared Hosting – The Pros
Cost: Shared website hosting is typically the cheapest type of hosting on the market today. Although prices can vary substantially from one provider to another and depending on the bandwidth and size limitations that you choose, the cost is very reasonable. This is perhaps the principle reason that most businesses or individuals with a need for a website start out with shared hosting.
Simplicity: The server software typically installed by a shared hosting provider is simple enough for all but the most technically illiterate to understand. Control panels allow for functionality such as loading and removing files, setting up email accounts and managing subdomains, usually with helpful guidance along the way.
Maintenance: Because the server space is shared between multiple recipients you are not responsible for any server maintenance at all. That’s all down to the provider, and given that their own reputation is on the line when it comes to server downtime they have a good reason to keep the shared server space well maintained.
Shared Hosting – The Cons
Performance: There’s no knowing exactly how many other users would be sharing your server with shared hosting space, however there could potentially be thousands of individual websites utilising the same hardware. Most of the time this won’t cause a problem, but if one of those sites were to suddenly get busy it could impact the performance of your own website.
Resources: You will always find your resources limited when it comes to shared website hosting. Providers might advertise catchy statements such as “unlimited bandwidth” but when it comes down to it there are still likely to be fair usage policies restricting your resources should your website get busy.
Security: Any good shared hosting provider will have security measures in place to keep you and your website safe, but there are inherently more risks associated with shared hosting compared to a more dedicated solution. If a hacker were able to find a weakness within another website on your server, that same weakness could potentially be exploited to allow access to your own website.
Shared Hosting Conclusion
Despite the drawbacks, shared website hosting is an excellent solution for the vast majority of small websites, particularly if the information they contain is non-critical. As a highly cost-effective solution, many websites will find this option perfectly adequate for their needs. The time to start looking for other hosting solutions is when you find yourself needing to install custom scripts onto your server, or if you find yourself suffering from bandwidth and disk space limitations or restrictions.
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