If you are thinking about building a website, then you have likely come across the terms “hosting” and “domain”. But what exactly is hosting and domain, and why are they important? In this two-part ultimate guide, we will explore everything you need to know about hosting and domain which are prerequisites to having a website, including what they are, how they work, and why they are important irrespective of the framework or technology you intend to use in building your website.
What is Hosting?
Hosting is a service that allows individuals and organizations to make their websites available on the Internet. Hosting providers offer the infrastructure ( servers ) needed to host your website to make it available to the world. Put differently, hosting is like renting a server, whether in whole or part, to store your website files, such as images, text, and code. You can think of Hosting providers as landlords who rent out their buildings (servers) for your website to live in.
Types of Hosting
There are different types of hosting, and choosing the right type of hosting for your website is important. Here are some of the most popular types of hosting:
1. Shared Hosting:
Shared hosting is a type of web hosting arrangement where multiple hosting accounts are allocated hosting space on the same server. These hosting accounts, which can individually comprise one or more websites, share the same resources such as CPU, RAM, and disk space from the totality of resources available on the shared hosting server.
It can be likened to living in an apartment building, where each tenant has their unit, but share the same building amenities like the parking space, the stairs, or the elevator.
In most cases, in shared hosting, each hosting account is provided with a control panel for managing that account’s website(s) files, databases, email accounts, and other things related to web administration. It is however important to mention that a shared hosting plan implies that if any website associated with an account on the server experiences a sudden spike in traffic or uses too many resources, it can affect the performance of other websites hosted on the same server whether or not they belong to the same account. It is also the case that a security exploit or attack on one of the websites can affect the entire server and consequently every other website.
Hosting companies often take measures to ensure that usage on one account, does not adversely affect another on the same server. One such measure is to enforce a fair usage restriction on resources such as disk space, bandwidth, etc thereby putting a cap on server resources that can be used by each hosting account associated with that server. This is to ensure that server resources are allocated equally and once the limit for an account is reached, a notification is usually sent to the owner of that account to consider upgrading their plan to get more resources.
In conclusion, Shared hosting is a good option for small websites that don’t require a lot of resources or heavy traffic. It’s also a good option for those who are just starting and don’t want to invest a lot of money upfront. While it has its limitations, it can be a good starting point. However, as your website grows and attracts more traffic, you may need to upgrade to a VPS or dedicated hosting plan to ensure better performance and more resources. Popular shared hosting providers include Namecheap, Hostinger, Hostgator, Bluehost, Godaddy etc
2. Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting :
VPS hosting is a type of hosting where a single server is divided into multiple virtual servers, each with its own operating system, resources, and storage. VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting, but it offers better performance, security, and control. The significant difference between VPS hosting and shared hosting is that in VPS hosting, users have their own virtual machine (VM) with dedicated resources such as CPU, RAM, and disk space, while in shared hosting, multiple hosting accounts share the same resources on a single physical server.
VPS hosting offers more resources and flexibility than shared hosting, while still being more affordable than dedicated hosting. When using VPS hosting, users have more control over their hosting environment and can customize their server settings and install their own software, which is not possible in shared hosting.
Additionally, VPS hosting offers better performance and security compared to shared hosting because each VM is isolated from other VMs on the same server. This consequently means that issues with one VPS typically do not affect the others on the same physical server. For example, if one website experiences a sudden spike in traffic or is hacked, it does not affect other websites on the same server.
3. Dedicated Hosting:
Dedicated hosting is a type of web hosting where a user or organization leases an entire physical server from a hosting provider. This server is dedicated solely to their website or application. Unlike shared hosting or VPS hosting, where resources are shared among multiple users, dedicated hosting offers complete control over the server and its resources.
In dedicated hosting, the user has full access to the server’s hardware and software resources, including CPU, RAM, storage, and network bandwidth. This means that the user can customize the server’s configuration to meet their specific needs and can install any software or applications they require. Additionally, dedicated hosting provides higher levels of security, as the user has complete control over the server’s security settings and can implement advanced security measures to protect their website or application.
Dedicated hosting is often used by large websites or businesses that require high levels of performance and reliability. For example, Gaming servers that require low latency and high performance to provide a seamless gaming experience for users or Media streaming services that require high bandwidth and storage resources to stream large volumes of content to users.
4. Cloud Hosting:
Cloud hosting is a type of web hosting that uses a network of interconnected servers to host websites and applications. Unlike traditional hosting options, such as shared, VPS, or dedicated hosting, cloud hosting provides a scalable and flexible solution that can adapt to changing resource requirements.
In cloud hosting, websites and applications are hosted on a network of virtual servers that are connected to each other through the Internet. These servers are often located in different data centers around the world, which allows for redundancy and high availability. Resources, such as CPU, RAM, and storage, are dynamically allocated based on demand, which means that websites and applications can quickly scale up or down to meet changing traffic or resource requirements. Popular cloud hosting providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, etc.
5. WordPress Hosting:
WordPress hosting is a specialized type of web hosting that is specifically designed to host WordPress websites. WordPress hosting offers a range of features and services that are optimized for WordPress websites to ensure efficient performance, security, and ease of use. While you can host any website, irrespective of the technology that was used to build it, on the other hosting types we have explored, WordPress hosting is strictly for WordPress websites.
What the last sentence in the above paragraph means is that if you intend to build a WordPress website, you actually have a choice between using a shared hosting plan ( which in most cases would have a control panel), and using a WordPress Hosting Plan.
The choice of which to use ultimately depends on your specific project needs and a host of other factors. Some of these factors are considered below:
- Technical Expertise: WordPress hosting is recommended for users with less technical experience with hosting environment administration. It provides an easier environment to work with WordPress as it is supposed to help you better manage your site while taking away technicalities that are present in regular shared web hosting. WordPress hosting usually comes pre-installed with plugins to help you better handle aspects of WordPress website management such as speed, security, updates of plugins, and even the WordPress core software. With all these aspects taken care of, a user can focus on actually making content for their website. It however may not be suitable for users who have experience with how their hosting environments work and can handle overall general maintenance of their WordPress Website.
- Budget: The perks available in WordPress hosting mean that it is more expensive that a regular shared hosting plan. Therefore if you are willing to splash a little extra on hosting, you can consider purchasing WordPress Hosting. If you are however tight on budget, shared hosting might be a better option.
6. Reseller Hosting:
Reseller hosting is technically not a type of hosting but is a Web hosting business model that allows an individual or an organization to purchase hosting space or infrastructure from a web hosting provider, for a specific period, with the intention to divide this space into smaller packages and resell them to their own clients at a profit. In most cases the arrangement also allows the purchasing individual or organisation to package, rebrand and sell under their brand name. This is a very perfect model for persons who want to get started with selling hosting services to clients as it eliminates the need to invest in expensive server hardware and infrastructure. It can also be suitable for web designers or design agencies who have a large number of clients and want to add web hosting to the services they offer clients.
In a reseller hosting arrangement, the purchasing entity usually relies on the hosting provider for quality of service and all of the technical aspects of hosting, such as server maintenance and security and this can save resellers time and money.
If you are thinking of getting started with reseller hosting, it is highly recommended that you do thorough research on the quality of service rendered by the provider you intend to partner with as your business will be affected by the quality of service provided by your hosting partner.
In this article, we have explored the most common types of hosting, and the choice of which type of hosting to use for your project will depend on the needs of your project. However, with this article, you are more than equipped with the information you need to make an informed decision on how to host your website. Our next article in this two-part series will cover all you need to know about Domain names which is another pre-requisite for having a website.
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