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Web hosting is a special kind of computer that is always connected to the internet.
A website might seem like a simple collection of pictures and text, but in reality, the complex system of hardware and software can leave your head spinning.
Websites are combinations of several different languages of code, working together to make what you’re looking at pretty and nice. Check out our What Is Website and How Is It Made? article for a deeper dive, but for the purposes of explaining web hosting, all you need to know is that your website is a bunch of code that works together.
Now, in order for people to access your website, they type in your website’s name ( url/domain) into their browser (Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer). The browser then connects to the site’s website host.
When your browser connects to a website, what’s actually happening is you’re connecting to a server (computer) that’s always connected to the internet. If you were to store your website on your own computer, the website would go offline the minute your computer went to sleep, or if your internet or power were to fail.
Also, you don’t want people connecting to your office computer; hackers can be real jerks.
Web servers are special, high-powered computers that are designed to be online all the time.
Now that we’ve got the basics under our belt, we should explore the different types of hosting you can choose.
Shared hosting is exactly what it sounds like––the server is shared between multiple websites. Shared hosting is the most affordable hosting option.
How Much Does Shared Hosting Cost?
Shared hosting typically costs between $10 and $15 per month.
This small price tag does come with some potential risks though.
Potential Risks For Shared Hosting
Since other websites are sharing the same server, all the sites are sharing the server’s resources. The benefit of this is that everyone is sharing the cost of the server, but if one website’s traffic starts to spike, there’s a chance that the server’s resources will begin to be used up.
If the shared server is not prepared for spikes in traffic, the performance of all of the websites on that server could suffer.
Additionally, if one of the other websites starts spamming people, or gets infected with a virus, your website could be negatively affected. Actions taken against a website can sometimes affect every website on a shared server.
Pro: Very cost effective
Con: Other websites share the server’s resources
Virtual Private Server hosting, or VPS for short, is a step up from basic shared hosting. With a VPS server, the main server runs a special kind of software that creates multiple software-based versions of a dedicated server.
Benefits of Virtual Private Servers
If you think back to the main con with shared hosting (sharing resources), using a VPS more or less solves that problem because each instance of the virtual server has its own allocation of resources.
If one VPS uses up all of it’s allotted resources, the other instances are not affected.
One major benefit of using a VPS is that if your development team has specific needs for your website, a VPS gives you the freedom to configure your server exactly how you need it without having to go all in with a dedicated server (more on that in a bit).
The downside of VPS hosting is that they typically are more difficult to set up, and you’ll need a high-level computer wizard versed in the magic of “Shell.”
Pro: Dedicated server resources.
Con: Requires wizards.
You don’t need dedicated hosting. Unless you're expecting your website to receive over 100,000 visitors per month, need absolute control over the server, and are willing to spend over $1,000 per month on your hosting.
There are many benefits of dedicated hosting, however. Dedicated servers have extremely high security, don’t share resources with any other websites, and are built for maximum performance.
The downside is that it requires a ton of technical expertise to set up and maintain. You are responsible for every aspect of the server. Remember that wizard you need to help set up a VPS? Well you’ll need a bunch of them if you’re wanting to set up a dedicated server.
Pro: Blazing fast performance and complete control.
Con: The most expensive hosting option. Also requires wizards.
Probably the most nebulous type of web hosting out there is Cloud Hosting. If you’re not familiar with the concept, cloud hosting probably seems more like a magical land than a real technology.
The short explanation is that instead of a single server that powers your website, you’ve got a cluster of servers, all connected. This cluster of servers all share resources.
The huge benefit of this is that if one server fails, your website doesn’t go offline. The network works together to keep things running smoothly. Kind of like the Borg…except without assimilation.
Another benefit of cloud hosting is that if your website suddenly gets a huge surge of traffic, the server network shares the increased demand.
A potential downside of cloud hosting is that in many cases, you’re charged based on the resources you use, rather than for the server itself. So if you do get a huge burst of traffic, the network would respond and increase the resources your site needs–an extra charge that would get passed on to you.
Cloud hosting is definitely the future of web hosting, but depending on the size of your website and market, it might be overkill. Your best bet is to discuss hosting options with your developer.
Pro: Your website will always be online.
Cons Charged based on resources, not usually a flat fee
Hopefully, this deep dive hasn’t been too overwhelming. Exploring what type of server best meets your needs can be a bit daunting. With so many options available to you, it can be difficult to nail down what you need. But that’s actually a blessing in disguise; with so many server options, your development team can set up an environment that perfectly meets the needs of your website.