Below we explore the basics of hosting and discuss the four main types, including shared, virtual private servers (VPS), dedicated servers, and cloud hosting.
It is possible to host a website on an average home or office computer, but it’s not for the faint-hearted, and we wouldn’t recommend it.
What about domain names?
Domain names are separate from web hosting, but they usually go hand in hand. A domain name points to the web hosting when someone types it in their web browser, making users see your website. You can even have your domain with one company and web hosting with another.
Different types of website hosting
Shared web hosting
As the name suggests, with shared web hosting, you’re buying a small share of a web server set up to host many websites. It’s usually the most cost-effective solution as the hardware cost is being spread across many customers. In addition, the webserver will probably have been configured in a generic way to work with most website types. You’ll have limited control over the configuration, and its ease of use makes it an attractive option to those with limited technical knowledge. However, while it’s a cheaper option because it’s a shared resource, shared web hosting tends to be slower than higher-priced alternatives.
Virtual private servers (VPS)
A virtual private server or VPS is a cost-effective middle ground between shared hosting and a dedicated server. Like shared hosting, you’re paying for a share of a larger web server. Only this time, you’re getting an isolated ‘virtual’ instance of a server – this means, as the owner, you’ll have more control over the configuration but at a fraction of the cost of buying the physical hardware.
At the top end of the scale are dedicated servers. Here you’re paying for the actual hardware itself. This means you get the control and security of having a dedicated web server with none of the downsides of sharing it with others. This privilege comes at a cost, so be prepared to pay a hefty price.
Traditional web hosting is restricted by the physical hardware it sits on. Cloud web hosting utilises an array or ‘cloud’ of interconnected computers. This means hosting can be scaled up and down depending on usage, which gives a level of flexibility and reliability that traditional hosting cannot match. With cloud hosting, if one resource fails, there’s no downtime as the connection is re-routed to another resource, and if more resources are needed, the supply is scaled up. The flexibility of cloud hosting means that it usually works on a ‘pay as you use’ basis. Unfortunately, this means it can be challenging to estimate how much you’ll spend a month in comparison to fixed-cost traditional website hosting.
Managed web hosting
Hosting can be complicated and somewhat time-consuming, especially when things go wrong. With managed web hosting, you pay an additional fee to the web hosting company to manage your hosting for you. Managed web hosting doesn’t usually apply to shared web hosting as the web servers are managed by default. But, if you’re considering a VPS or dedicated server and don’t have the time or knowledge to manage it yourself, it’s probably a good strategy to invest in managed web hosting.