Web hosting is a service that makes it possible for your website to be accessible to visitors via the internet. To this end, hosting companies will provide web servers that are encumbered with the task of physically storing your website’s files and data. Web servers are high-powered computers housed by the hosting company in their data centers.
Apart from housing and providing these servers, web hosts also provide the bandwidth, security, software and support to ensure that your site can be viewed by your visitors on the internet.
Since there are a wide variety of websites with different storage space and bandwidth consumption requirements, hosting companies provide several hosting options to accommodate these various needs. Apart from storage and bandwidth, there are other factors to consider when selecting a hosting plan, namely the ease of use of the hosting services provided, the level of customization and flexibility allowed by the hosting solution, security features and other features that you might need depending on the particularities of your website.
The most common types of hosting you’ll come across are: shared hosting, VPS, dedicated, cloud and colocation hosting.
Let’s see what each of these mean and what type of websites they are used for.
Shared hosting can be defined as the type of hosting in which a single server’s resources are shared among multiple users. Users can manage their databases, domain names and email addresses separately, however, they share the storage, bandwidth, CPU and memory of the server.
Shared hosting has the advantage of being the most affordable type of hosting and users don’t need any technical skills to manage the server (in terms of security, updates, etc.), since this task is undertaken by the hosting provider itself.
This hosting solution is one of the most beginner and user-friendly hosting plans, but it’s not without its disadvantages. Performance problems are probably the biggest disadvantage of shared plans, since some neighboring websites may use up too many resources causing performance issues to other websites hosted on the same server. Hosting companies routinely monitor resource allocations and will suspend accounts that cause these types of disruptions.
Shared hosting is commonly chosen for static websites, small personal or professional blogs, and low to medium traffic websites. Shared hosting is also suitable for smaller eCommerce sites, which don’t process credit card payments, however, a VPS plan is better suited to accommodate the needs of a site with an eCommerce profile.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are a one-up compared to shared hosting. The main difference between shared hosting and VPS is that resources are no longer shared on a VPS account. Each account has a certain allocation of CPU, disk space, RAM and bandwidth that is guaranteed to the user.
Even though several VPS accounts reside on the same physical server, these are isolated from each other and don’t interfere with each other’s performance or security. VPS hosting has the advantage of providing dedicated resources, but at only a fraction of the cost of a dedicated hosting plan. VPS hosting, especially if it comes in an unmanaged form, demands more technical knowledge from the customer. Managed VPS plans provide server management support; however, these plans are costlier than their unmanaged versions.
VPS plans are suitable for those who need a hosting plan which can withstand a higher visitor load, users that want to run custom applications and software on their server, those who are looking to host an eCommerce site, or those who want to host files and data that may not be permitted on a shared hosting environment (e.g. video streaming).
Dedicated hosting is the top dog in web hosting in terms of power and resources. With a dedicated hosting plan, you get the resources of an entire physical server at your disposal to use and allocate to your website(s) as you see fit. You can customize the server as you wish, install the operating system, the scripts and apps you need, and implement custom security measures.
Dedicated servers are expensive and require a higher technical skillset from its users. These type of hosting solutions are used by large companies who have the financial resources and the technical know-how to manage these kinds of servers. A dedicated hosting plan is suitable for companies looking to store sensitive data in a bulletproof hosting environment, eCommerce sites that frequently process a high volume of financial transactions, websites with a high volume of daily visitors, individuals or companies that run resource intensive apps, etc.
Given that the complexities of setting up and maintaining a dedicated server requires extensive technical knowledge, this hosting solution is not suitable for those without technical expertise in the field.
While in the case of a dedicated server you have access to the resources of a single physical server, cloud hosting is a hosting solution which allows you to take advantage of the scalability and flexibility offered by the network of interconnected servers that make up the cloud.
With a cloud hosting plan, resources are available on-demand, high availability is ensured by load-balancing servers, storage is characterized by redundancy, and speed and performance are at the heart of this hosting service. Hosted in the cloud, your websites will experience better uptimes, better security, and better performance. Sudden traffic spikes pose no issues to the network’s resources and cloud hosting is less vulnerable to issues caused by datacenter outages.
Cloud hosting is used both by small and large companies thanks to its flexible nature. From data processing purposes to running complex applications, cloud hosting manages to deliver a reliable infrastructure with minimal management effort.
Colocation is a type of hosting whereby the colocation provider rents out space in its data center for customers to install their own equipment. In addition to providing space, they also provide the bandwidth, power, IP addresses, cooling systems and physical security for the customers to deploy their servers.
Colocation hosting provides the flexibility to choose servers with the software and hardware specs you require. Colocation providers undertake the task of providing internet connection, uninterruptible power supplies, fire controls and server security. However, your physical access to these severs are limited by the distance of the colocation datacenter from your business and the business hours of the datacenter. However, the flexibility to choose your own server equipment, the high-speed connections, the unrivaled power protection (redundant power lines, backup generators), and utmost protection against security threats are some of the biggest strengths of colocation hosting.
Businesses that don’t want to deal with the complexities of in-house web hosting or who believe that a dedicated IT department would not be feasible will usually opt for colocation hosting.
Web hosting is a multi-faceted industry that strives to meet the ever-changing hosting needs of customers. Traditional hosting solutions coexist with new hosting technologies offering a wide spectrum of solutions to make your website easily reachable for your customers. The profile of your website, its size, volume of visitors and other features you may require based on these parameters will help you determine which type of hosting is suitable for you.