Introduction to web hosting - part 2
Inpart one, we explored the technological infrastructure that underpins the Internet and allows for the seamless communication between computers on it. This includes the Domain Name System and its use of name servers to translate IP addresses into domain names and vice versa.
We have also explained what web hosting is and why is it's essential for anyone who wants to create a website and have it accessible to the public. This is because it will be prohibitively costly to run your own web server and personally serve each request made for your website.
In this article, we will focus on two types of web hosting solutions - free and shared hosting - that cater to customers with lighter web hosting needs that see little to mild monthly web traffic.
What is free web hosting?
A free web hosting service like its namesake suggests, allows you to host your website on the web host's servers without needing to pay for anything. Free web hosts will usually provide its users with a predetermined subdomain (e.g. yoursite.freehost.com) or a separate directory under their primary domain (e.g. freehost.com/~yoursite). They are able to provide free hosting by placing ads on your website.
In contrast, paid web hosts are able to offer its customer a proper domain along with the hosting without any reference to the web host (e.g. yoursite.com).
Many free web hosting providers also discourage the use of their services for the purpose of only hosting files or images without establishing a proper website. This is because such a setup does not result in any revenue for the web host from the lack of advertising-supported services displayed on the hosted website. Other common restrictions include limits on file size that can be uploaded into their servers.
What is shared web hosting?
Inpart oneof our starter guide, we explained what a web server is, namely a server in which the files of websites are stored in order to be accessible to the public when requested.
A shared web hosting service is a solution where many websites are hosted on a single web server connected to the Internet. Each individual website within the web host's server, for example site-A.com and site-B.com, are separated by its own partition so it is does not overlap with the files of other web sites.
Shared hosting is an economical and popular option for beginners or users who do not anticipate high-traffic websites. This is because the overall costs of operating the web server are shared between many accounts being hosted on the same server.
The cost of shared hosting plans are typically much lower than other more comprehensive web hosting solutions that are targeted at higher traffic websites. For example, the costs of operating a standard web server may be $1000 per month but since this is shared between 250 accounts hosted on it, each website owner only pays $4 per month.
The chief benefit of shared hosting is its affordability but its performance can be unstable as many sites are sharing the resources of a single server.
The benefits of a shared web hosting service include :
Because the cost of operating the web server is shared between many websites, the web host can provide this services at a much lower price compared to other more powerful hosting solutions.
Shared hosting plans are the typically the cheapest web hosting solutions available in the market.
You can usually get affordable shared hosting plans for as little as $3.00 a month. Be mindful though that these promotional rates usually come with longer sign-up periods of at least 24 months to 36 months.
Many web hosts also automatically renew a customer's registered hosting plan upon expiry as a courtesy so be sure to check a web host's terms of service to see how you can opt out of this automatic renewal option.
Shared hosting plans usually offer many value-added services that do not require a user to setup manually. Examples of these include the installation and administration of server software, upkeep of server security as well as the provision of web-based control panels like cPanel.
Shared hosting plans usually come with many useful features from control panels to important web security software.
A control panel enables the website owners to maintain their sites without the use of a command line interface that are used in the operating systems of servers such as Linux.
Most web hosts also have active partnerships with third-party service providers to offer other value-added benefits including content distribution network integration such as CloudFlare as well as enhanced internet security features to prevent hacker attacks and malware infections.
An important feature that is provided by most reputable web hosting companies is responsive and helpful technical support. This is essential because most customers who opt for shared hosting are either beginners or do not require the flexibility of maintaining their own web servers.
Good web hosts offer superior customer support and are able to address customer concerns promptly.
As such, reliable technical support is essential when problems on any aspect of your website arises. Without a solid technical support team and a comprehensive knowledge guide on the web host's site, you may be stuck while waiting for the web host to respond if your website is not functioning as expected.
Some web hosts likeWebHostingHubinclude a helpful onboard process call where a staff member will available to guide you through the setting up of your website when you register a plan with them.
There are of course certain disadvantages that come with a shared hosting service including :
For a large proportion of website owners, shared hosting will be an affordable and adequate solution with which to host their websites.
Shared hosting can have unreliable and unpredictable uptime.
When you have a growing high-traffic website with many thousands of visitors each month, shared hosting may often no longer be appropriate. This is because a shared hosting server's resouces are shared between a large number of other websites hosted on it which may or may not also be websites with similarly growing traffic.
This can put a strain on the server's ability to serve web pages quickly enough when each website is competing for the same resources during a simultaneous period of high web traffic. When too many websites are making requests for the same limited resources at the same time, the server may not be able to respond and consequently, all websites on that server will be down regardless if some did not experience any surge in traffic.
Shared hosting plans also have a pre-determined memory allocated to each account which may impact a website's performance especially when it includes resource-heavy features like flash and video.
Because of this limitation, certain resource-intensive websites might stop loading altogether when the web server cannot cope with excessive usage of its shared resources. This might then cause a website to time out constantly because there is not enough CPU left to process a request.
Limited flexibility in customization
One of the benefits of shared hosting mentioned earlier is that the administration of the server is managed by the web hosting provider. But a limitation that comes with this benefit is that a customer is not be able to install his or her own software or modify the server's core settings to improve the performance of the related website.
Shared hosting plans will not allow a customer to customize the web server that is hosting his or her website.
This is a reasonable restriction as the web server is being shared by a number of other websites and a change in the server's configuration may consequently affect the performance of other websites hosted on it.
In the next article, we will look atvirtual private server (VPS)plans, a powerful web hosting solution that is great for websites that have outgrown the benefits offered by conventional shared hosting solutions.
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