Types of Web Hosting
There are a few different options when it comes to selecting which specific type of hosting package you want, some of which are best for certain situations, and less so with others. The most common types are:
- Shared Hosting: As its name would suggest, this method involves your website being hosted on the same server as other websites. These are typically the most inexpensive of all options, many times available for under $10 per month. Your website, however, is at the mercy of the other sites contained on the server, with high-traffic sites potentially slowing down access to your site, or making it unavailable altogether. These factors make it usually best for those just starting out, or websites that do not get many visitors, such as informational sites.
- Dedicated Server: This allows you to rent an entire server for your website alone. While this a more expensive way to go, it keeps any other site for competing for resources, or causing potential instability.
- Virtual Private Server: Known as a VPS, this also shares the actual server with other websites; however, the server is software partitioned into several smaller servers. The amount of resources you have is fixed, and cannot be used by any other site on the server. This is usually the middle ground between shared and dedicated, in terms of both cost and capability.
- Cloud-based Hosting: A relatively new technology, cloud-based web hosting takes a multitude of individual servers, and configures them to appear and operate as one giant server. This is similar to shared hosting, with one major difference. If you receive a surge in traffic, generally a shared hosting plan will cause your site to get shut down, since it exceeds bandwidth availability and allocation. With cloud-based hosting, these surges are handled with ease, and your site goes nowhere.
What to Look for in Website Hosting
There are more than one qualities and capabilities to look for when selecting which hosting company you will use, and which specific package to select. While some are more important than others, all should be taken into consideration.
Having a website go down can be costly in terms of lost sales and decreased productivity. Hosting companies offer a specific percentage of time that your website will be available, so pay special attention to those with the highest uptime rates.
Bandwidth Speed and Limits
The nicest website possible is tarnished greatly if accessing it is slow and difficult, so check the speeds the hosting company offers. If you expect higher traffic, make sure you do not shell out exorbitant rates for traffic that exceeds your usage limits.
At times, depending on what type of hosting you are using, your website can be shut down completely if the traffic to it spikes considerably. Having enough bandwidth to handle even these peak times is important in keeping your website constantly available to visitors.
Important Specs to Consider When Choosing a Server
As you may imagine, not all servers are equal in terms of power and capabilities. Choosing a server with hardware specs that can handle your website and traffic needs is important in avoiding costly problems and service delays for your customers. The most important specs to consider are:
- CPU: The server’s CPU (central processing unit) is the brains behind the server and greatly affects how fast your website loads and operates. If your CPU is not powerful enough, customers may repeatedly receive notifications that the server is busy. This can easily led to frustration, and their frequenting another vendor. The two primary factors to consider for the processor are the processing speed itself (measured in gigahertz), and how large the internal cache is.
- RAM: Random Access Memory, or RAM, is a temporary storage used when your processor is handling multiple processes at the same time, which is pretty much all the time. RAM is accessed much quicker than a hard drive, so the more information that can be stored in RAM translates into quicker site response times and smoother handling of website features. The more complex your website is, the more RAM you should have on the server you choose.
- Disk Space: The server’s hard disk is where all of the actual data and files for your website is stored. Given how much storage and operational space is now available from the lion’s share of hosting companies, it is unlikely you will run short. However, if you have a large and complicated website, chock full of graphics, videos, or files, it is best to make sure the plan you select will accommodate it both now, and in the future.
- Software Platforms and Add-ons: There are many different operating systems that are used to drive websites. Make sure the company you host with has the option to use an operating system that is compatible with your site’s coding language or software add-ons. Some of the most popular operating systems you can use are Windows, Linux, Mac, and Ubuntu.
How Does Web Hosting Work?
While the specific operation of the technology behind web hosting can be pretty complicated, the basic way it works is simple to understand. Web hosting starts out with a company renting or leasing server hardware to third parties who need a place to park their online presence. These servers, which are basically very powerful stationary computers, store the files that define what your website looks like and how it operates. Everything that is needed to allow your website to operate as intended is stored on the server.
A domain name is the second part of the website, and is the instrument that allows potential visitors to actually find and connect with your site. Once registered, this domain name is tied to the specific, unique number every device on the internet is assigned, called the IP address. The association between URL and IP address is recorded on a DNS (domain name system) server, also called a nameserver.
Users type the domain’s URL (Universal Resource Locator) into their web browser, and your computer checks with the nameserver to see which IP address it is associated with. Once this information is received by your computer, your connection is routed to the proper destination, and the desired website can be used.
Steps to Take After Hosting Purchase
Once you have selected the perfect hosting package, and signed up and paid for it, there are a few steps you need to take in order to get your site up and available to potential patrons. Understanding each step is important, and all must be completed for a successful site launch.
Acquire a Domain Name
If you have not already selected and purchased a domain name, now is the time to do so. Many times, this can be done right with the company you purchased hosting from, and is usually one of the least costly steps to the process. Start out by searching to make sure your pick is available, and then select the extension (.com, .net, etc.) you want to use. Domain names are restricted to 70 characters, and may include letters, numbers, and hyphens.
Configure Your DNS Server
When you first buy your domain name, it is associated with the nameserver of the company that registered it, called the registrar. Typically, a visitor will receive a temporary, “under construction” page until it is tied to the nameserver of where your website is hosted. Even if the registrar and hosting company are the same, the individual nameserver your site will be configured through may be different than the one it rests at before it is configured.
Check the email you received when you purchased your hosting package, which usually contains detailed instructions on where in your hosting control panel you need to go to be able to change your nameserver, and how to do it. Your domain is hosted on a primary and secondary nameserver, and requires both the URL of the nameserver and its IP address. The exact URL and IP address are provided by your hosting company.
Upload Site Files
The final step is to actually get the files that define and make up your website onto the hosting server. The most common method is using FTP, which stands for File Transfer Protocol. The welcome email you received from your hosting company details how to connect to their FTP server via the internal control panel, or specific FTP software, such as FileZilla. The web address for your hosting FTP server is usually ftp.domainname.extension.
An easier method that is offered by most reputable hosting companies is a File Manager built directly into the into the control panel for your website. These allow you to select one or more files to upload, and handles the transfer in its entirety.
Hosting your website is one of the final steps in expanding your business into the online arena. Some careful consideration, tons of research, and frank assessment are all important in making sure it goes smoothly and successfully.