Beginner’s Guide: Types Of Web Hosting And It’s Terminologies
While starting my first blog on WordPress, the most confusing part for me was to select the right host for my blog. I was confused because of the different types of web hosting each company offers.
I wasn’t sure if I should go for Windows Shared Hosting, Linux Shared Hosting or Managed WordPress Hosting. However, things started getting clearer as I studied Web Hosting Services in depth.
So, to help the newbies, in this article, I am going to explain to you Different Types Of Web Hosting and various terminologies used by web host.
For absolute beginners, let us first understand what is a web hosting server.
What Is A Web Hosting
Every website is made up of certain files which you must access to be able to view the website. A web hosting server is nothing but an advanced computer with internet connectivity which stores these website files and serves it to the visitors through internet whenever they request access to them.
Why Do We Need To Buy Web Hosting Services
Technically, every household computer with internet connectivity can be transformed into a Web Hosting server. However, in most cases, it is not the case due to certain limitations.
To be able to serve your website to the visitors, you need to make sure you website is always connected to the internet. If you are hosting your website on your computer, the moment you disconnect the internet or shut down your computer, people will no longer be able to access files stored on your computer and your website will be down.
For bloggers and small business owners, it is not economically feasible to have multiple internet connections and power backups to make sure you computer is up and running and connected to the internet 24×7. Also, you will have to secure your “server computer” from hackers and make arrangements for automatic backups which is again a costly affair.
That is the reason, most people prefer to buy services from Web Hosting Companies which have necessary infrastructure including high-speed internet connectivity and power backups to make sure your website is up almost all the time and is also secured from hackers.
Basic Web Hosting Terminologies
There are hundreds of technical terms used by a web hosting company. However, I am going to list here the important ones that you need to know to be able to choose the right web hosting plan.
1. Disk Storage
It’s the amount of web space you get to host your files on the server. Some hosting companies provide normal SATA storage while others provide SSD Storage. The latter is much faster to serve data to your visitors and hence the preferred storage type.
2. Physical Memory/ RAM
Its function is same as that on your computer or mobile phone. Files stored in RAM can be quickly accessed as compared to those stored a Hard Drive. With everything else being constant, more the RAM you get with your web hosting plan, more traffic it can handle.
Web Hosting companies will often restrict the number of CPU’s your website can use. More the number of CPU’s, the faster will be the computing and hence faster load times for your website.
Whenever a visitor views your website, he is using some amount of data from your web hosting company. Bandwidth is the total amount of data your website can use in a given amount of time.
Most of the hosts will provide you with monthly Bandwidth. If you exceed it, either your website will be restricted or you will be charged extra for the same as per the TOS.
Note: Many hosting companies claim to provide unlimited or unmetered bandwidth. However, there is nothing like unlimited Bandwidth. Every company has a fair usage policy. If your website uses too much of bandwidth, it may be restricted or suspended unless you upgrade your Bandwidth resources.
5. Monthly Traffic
Certain hosting plans also restrict the number of visitors to your website in a month. Monthly traffic determines the maximum traffic your website can get in a given month.
6. Number of Domains
Web hosting providers often restrict the total number of different websites you can host. Number of Domains will tell you the number of websites you can host with the said plan.
7. Number of Subdomains
It’s the maximum number of Subdomains you can use with your website.
8. Number of Parked Domain
Often people buy a domain name with multiple extension like .com, .org, .net etc. all pointing to the same website. Number of parked domains is the total number of such domains you can use with your hosting account.
9. MySQL Database
MySQL is the most popular database engine which is used to store database in WordPress and other major CMS. If you are going to use WordPress, you will need only one MySQL database for the same.
If you also want to host a forum, it is recommended to buy a hosting plan which offers multiple MySQL databases.
Server Uptime is the percentage of time your website is available to be viewed by visitors during a specified duration of time. Most hosting companies commit Uptime between 99 to 100%
Some hosting companies also provide Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Uptime. In such cases, if the total website uptime during a month is less than the committed uptime, you will be compensated for the same depending upon the TOS.
11. SSL Certificate
SSL certificates are used to secure connection between web server and browsers. They are necessary for E-commerce websites and other websites accepting credit card information and other personal details to secure the data.
Off late, Google is stressing more on SSL certificates even for normal websites and blogs and is part of Google’s algorithm for Website Ranking.
12. Dedicated IP
Generally, in the case of shared hosting (You can read about shared hosting in next section) a hosting company will provide you an IP address which is shared among all the users on the server.
A dedicated IP is an IP address just reserved for you and not shared with others. Few hosting plans provide you dedicated IP free of cost while others charge a small monthly fee for the same.
Whether or not dedicated IP is necessary is a controversial topic. I usually suggest my readers not to buy a dedicated IP unless they want to install SSL certificate . Though SSL certificate can be installed on shared IP too, but it may secure the connection for some of the older browsers.
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Types Of Hosting Services
Each of the above is further classified into Windows hosting and Linux hosting, depending upon the OS of the server. Linux is often the most preferred choice for hosting servers. A web hosting server is further classified into Managed and Unmanaged hosting.
Let us understand different types of hosting servers in detail
1. Shared Hosting
Imagine that you are a web hosting provider and have 100 clients who are bloggers and small business owners who do not require many resources to run their website. If you host each of these clients on a different server, you will have to manage and monitor 100 small servers which would be tedious and very costly.
For ease of management and bring down the hosting cost for users who do not need a lot of resources, shared hosting was started by web hosting companies.
In a shared hosting plan, depending upon the configuration of the server, multiple clients will be hosted on the same server. Each client will be sharing the server resources with other clients hosted on the same server.
Hosting companies will generally allocate a fixed storage for each of these clients. But some plans may provide unlimited storage. RAM and CPU usage are shared with no fixed allocations.
However, most hosting companies do have a fair usage limit for Storage, RAM, and CPU and if a client’s website is regularly crossing these limits, his account may be restricted or suspended.
Pros Of Shared Hosting
1. Shared hosting is very cheap and hence suitable for new bloggers and small business owners.
2. In shared hosting, servers are set up by the company. Hence, you do not need any knowledge about Linux commands to set up the server
3. Almost all shared hosting companies provide one-click installation of major CMS like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla etc. making things easier for you.
4. Most shared hosting plans come with a CPanel or other control panels which help you to manage your website, hosting, DNS, Nameservers, E-mails etc. with ease.
Cons Of Shared Hosting
1. If all the websites hosted on a server start getting lots of traffic at the same time, it may slow down your website considerably.
2. Shared hosting is less secure and often prone to hacking attacks.
3. If there is any malicious activity on a particular website on the server, all the websites on the server may suffer.
4. If you are an expert, you cannot fine-tune your server as per your need.
5. Number of websites hosted may be restricted as per the hosting plan. So if you want to start a new website, you will either have to upgrade your plan for which company may not offer any discounts or buy a separate hosting for the new website. Managing multiple hosting accounts can be a pain.
Note: Most people are confused between Linux Web Hosting and Windows Web hosting. Since most people are skeptical about Linux, they think of Windows Hosting to be a better option.
However, in the case of Web Hosting Servers, Linux servers are usually preferred over Windows server. So unless you know what you are doing, you must always go for Linux Hosting.
2. Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
In VPS Hosting, though a server is shared between multiple users, you do not share the resources. Each user is allocated a fixed amount of RAM, CPU cores, and Disk space according to their plan.
Most hosting companies will also provide dedicated IP Address and root access, thereby creating a “Virtual Dedicated Server” with no interference from other websites hosted on the server.
In the case of VPS, you have to set up and manage your own server. If you are a beginner and have no prior knowledge of Linux servers, it is going to be a huge learning curve for you to set-up and manage your own server.
Pros of VPS Hosting
1. It is faster, reliable and more secure than Shared Hosting.
2. You get root access and hence can install scripts which would otherwise be restricted on Shared Hosting.
3. It is a cheaper alternative to Dedicated Hosting for high traffic websites.
4. Generally, VPS hosting plans provide more customization than shared hosting. So, you pay for what you need.
5. Unlike dedicated hosting, with VPS, you can always start with a basic plan and upgrade your resources as your traffic goes up.
Cons of VPS Hosting
1. It is costlier than shared hosting and so not suitable for beginners.
2. There is a huge learning curve if you do not have prior knowledge about setting up and managing servers.
3. Some unethical hosting companies overload the server with too many users hoping that some of the websites do not use all their server resources. This may cause speed issues.
4. VPS is not fully scalable. Though you can upgrade resources, in some cases. it may be needed to move your blog to a different server which is time-consuming and may cause downtime.
3. Dedicated Server Hosting
As the name suggests, in this type hosting you get a Dedicated server which is reserved just for you. No other website is hosted on your server and you are free to use the server as you like, provided you are not hosting any prohibited content.
Dedicated server can be very costly and is generally recommended for websites with very high traffic or in cases where a user does not want to share the server due to security issues.
Pros of Dedicated Server Hosting
1. You have full control over the server.
2. It can manage a high amount of traffic.
3. Dedicated servers provide better security.
Cons of Dedicated Server
1. It is too pricey for most bloggers and small business owners.
2. It is not scalable i.e you cannot upgrade your server resources. So you have to buy a hosting plan with future traffic in mind.
4. Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting is similar to a VPS except that your website is not hosted on a single isolated server. Rather it is hosted on a network of servers in the cloud.
In the case of Cloud Hosting, websites can be transferred from one server to another server in the cloud with ease without any downtime. Since your website is not limited to a single server, if for some reason your server crashes, your website will be served from another server in the cloud. This reduces the downtimes considerably.
Also, Cloud Hosting is highly scalable and you can easily upgrade and downgrade your server resources with a single click. Some hosting companies allow you to manage your resources on a daily basis.
Since Cloud Hosting is very similar to VPS, you will be responsible for setting up and managing your own servers. However, many Cloud Hosting companies like Digital Ocean are now offering one-click installation of popular applications like WordPress.
However, if you want to transfer an existing website to a Cloud Host or if you want to install an SSL certificate, you still have to get your hands dirty with coding.
Pros of Cloud Hosting
1. Better uptime than other forms of hosting.
2. It is highly scalable. You can upgrade or downgrade your server resources at your will with just a single click.
3. Many companies provide Cloud Hosting at rates cheaper than a shared hosting. Also, payments are flexible and you can even choose to pay per hour.
4. Cloud hosting is ideal for developers as most cloud hosting companies allow you to create and destroy the “Cloud Server” at your own will. So you can create a server, test you website or app and destroy it. You pay for the time you use the server.
Cons of Cloud Hosting
1. For beginners, the whole process of creating the servers to configuring and managing it can be very difficult to understand.
2. Security of data on Cloud Servers is often debatable.
5. Managed Hosting
As I said earlier, setting up and managing a VPS and Dedicated server can be a pain for non-programmers. It is for this reason, most hosting companies provide Managed VPS and Dedicated servers.
For Cloud Hosting too, there are certain third party companies like Cloudways who offer you managed servers from various Cloud Hosting companie