Ever wondered "What is web hosting?"

24th September 2013 Informative 107
Ever wondered

Being a web development company with vast experience in technology and the internet, one of the most common questions we are asked by people is "What is web hosting?". Now, as you can image we are full of technical terms and confusing jargon, which to be honest, can sound like we've just made it up in our sleep. Well, this isn't the case, and to help clear up any confusion we have put together this article to help explain what website hosting really is.

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting (also known as website hosting, hosting and webhosting) is, at its most basic, simply the storage of files for one or more Internet websites as well as the service of maintaining those files, serving the needs of the people who own the website being hosted and maintaining the immense computer servers that store the billions of bits of data that every website creates.

Two of the most important factors for web hosting are the actual computer space that’s allotted for website files and also the speed at which a person can access those files when they are trying to access them using the Internet. T – carrier system lines are the lines that most web hosting service companies use to offer their connections to customers because they are the most cost effective. If an individual business wanted to post their own site on the Internet, for example, and needed a similar connection, the cost would be strictly prohibitive for almost all but the biggest companies. Thus, by using a web hosting service, companies big and small can host their website (or websites) on the Internet and be available to take care of customers from around the world.

The Basic Functionality of a Web Hosting service.

The servers that web hosting service providers use are extremely powerful and have immense “hard drives” in order to hold the vast amount of information, in digital form, that is required to be able to host multiple websites on the Internet. The hard drives that these providers use (and they usually have more than one) can then be “rented” to anyone who wants to start their own website, for any reason, on the Internet.

Web hosting terminologyEvery single server on the Internet has a unique numerical address called their Internet Protocol (IP) address. You can think of servers as a type of online apartment building and thus each “address” is an apartment within that building that someone has rented in order to house the information that is used on their website, including written information, video files and image files. The IP address is the actual number of the “apartment building” and every single person using that web hosting service would have the same basic IP address that the “building” has as well as, like a real apartment building, their own “apartment number”.

Taking the apartment analogy one step further, when an individual or an organisation rents their particular space on a particular web hosting company’s server, what they are doing is basically “setting up shop” on the World Wide Web. Once they have everything set up, their particular website will have its own unique address and can be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world, who has an Internet connection. While most people actually type in a “domain name” to find a particular website (for example, www.yahoo.com) websites actually don’t use letters but only numbers as identifiers and thus each website has a specific number that is unique and is the only one that will lead Web surfers access their specific site.

What types of Web Hosting Services are there?

There are actually quite a few different types of web hosting services available today that will allow you to have your own domain name and host a website (or several) on the Internet. The type of web hosting that you need, including the amount of space and the specific functionality, will determine the amount of money that you’ll need to spend in order to be able to host your website.

For example, a typical commercial web hosting package would have certain capabilities available for users such as “scripts” that will allow for interactive functions, “forum” availability and also the capacity to use one or several email addresses. There are also “shared” web hosting services that, using a single system to store their data, provide access to the Internet for many different users at the same time.

Dedicated web hosting systems are more expensive than shared but, with that added expense, a user is given a computer server or computer drive that is dedicated exclusively to their company and their website. In most cases a dedicated host would provide a user with much greater speeds as far as how quickly their webpages load when accessed on a computer device. They would also provide the user with many other, more powerful, options that can’t be found with shared hosting.

Finally there are what is known as “virtual” dedicated web hosting systems. What these can do is mimic the speed and power of dedicated web hosting methods using specialised software and give users a more practical, as well as economical, shared web hosting system.

What is the typical price for Web Hosting?

serverWhen it comes to the cost of web hosting there are truly a wide variety of costs, packages and fees. These range from options that are absolutely free to host a personal website (one that would obviously not require a lot of specialised Internet tools and would expect very low traffic) to web hosting plans that can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month.

As far as getting web hosting services for free is concerned, it is certainly convenient for someone who wants to post a very basic website on the Internet but, as with most things in this life that are free, it does come with some drawbacks. One of the worst of these so-called drawbacks is the presence of Internet ads that are typically posted on any free web hosting platform. These include “banner ads” which can run at the top or bottom of a webpage as well as one of the most hated types of ads on the Internet today, the “pop-up” ad. Luckily one will find that most free web hosting service providers also offer a plan that will get rid of these types of advertisements but, of course, for a specific monthly fee.

If you are keen on hosting a larger, professional website, one that can handle “e-commerce” and allow you to sell your goods or services and also collect money from customers online, there are plenty of web hosting packages to be found. Most of these commercial web hosting packages come with “bundled” business tools and other features that allow the website to have much more functionality.

For example, one of these tools would be the ability to process credit cards and have an online “point-of-sale”. The amount of storage space is usually much greater with one of these web hosting packages and utilities like email addresses and domain names are usually included in the overall cost. Depending on the type of website that you’re going to be hosting and the amount of functionality that you want, you will definitely need to shop around for web hosting services to find one that can accommodate all of your needs at a price that meets your budget.

One of the most important features that a paid web hosting package includes is the ability to register a specific domain name for your website that will then be your unique “address” on the web. For example, if you’re using a free web hosting service, let’s say Host Gator, and your name is Bob Jones, your web address will typically be www.hostgator.com/bobjones. If you’re using a paid web hosting service however, you can have a domain name that’s your exact name, www.BobJones.com. For a medium or large company (and even a small one for that matter) the ability to have a specific and unique domain name can be quite valuable.

What are some additional concerns or questions about web hosting?

Web hosting offerAs with any type of service, whether online or off, there are many other considerations that need to be taken into account when you are looking for web hosting services and a web hosting provider. For example, if you are going to host a pornographic website there are some web hosting service companies that have restrictions that would not allow you to do that. These host companies would restrict your content, your scripting languages and possibly other functions and thus would be impractical for your needs.

As a webmaster you would also be smart to read the privacy policy that any web hosting service has (completely) in order to make sure that any personal or professional information that you give them, or use on your website, cannot also be used by the web hosting company.

Before signing a contract with any web hosting company you would also want to find out exactly what the cost of their monthly services are, if they are any fees that will need to be paid for features or capabilities that you would like your website to have and any guarantees that the servers hosting your website would not “go down” or “crash”.

Web hosting is a huge industry and is growing all the time. The fact is, thousands of websites are created every single day and every one of them needs to be hosted on a web hosting server. That’s a lot of servers, a lot of computer power and, in most cases, gives a person who wants to host their own website a lot of options.

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