Before selecting a web host it is paramount that you understand the various types of hosting options you have. Every website has different needs and meeting your site’s needs will help produce a satisfying end result. Hosting services available to you will likely fall into one of the following categories:
Free Web Hosting
Free web hosting is definitely the cheapest option available, however as we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch and this holds true with so called “free” hosting services as well. Free web hosts will often be advertisement supported and have very limited features, storage space, and bandwidth. Generally this is not a good option for any website which supports a business or needs to offer users a stable and efficient environment. Free hosting services are best for small web sites which are not intended to do much more than share a bit of info with a small group of friends.
Shared Web Hosting
With shared web hosting a single computer referred to as a box or a server will generally hold a large number of websites. The number will depend on the company, the cost, and the hardware that makes up the machine. Shared hosting is often a reliable hosting option for most websites including both small business and personal use. The overall quality, speed, and cost will fluctuate significantly from host to host so it is important to do your homework before selecting a shared hosting center. Often websites which abuse or use more resources including CPU time or bandwidth will be shut down. If your website requires heavy resource allotment you will likely need to look into another hosting option.
Reseller Web Hosting
This is a less common form of hosting but it allows clients to become web hosts themselves. Common examples of this would be web design firms who host their clients’ websites. In truth, the only difference between reseller web hosting and shared hosting is generally the size of the hosting company. The larger hosting companies such as Bluehost and HostMonster are just much larger versions of reseller web hosting.
Virtual Dedicated Server
Virtual dedicated servers are very similar to shared hosting except in how the allotment of resources is handled. Whereas with shared hosting all clients share the same CPU and bandwidth resources with virtual dedicated servers each client is guaranteed a set amount of CPU power and bandwidth. Virtual dedicated servers also offer their clients what is often referred to as “root” access to their virtual machine. This offers them more hands on control with how the machine runs including the ability to tinker with the operating system.
Dedicated Hosting Service
With dedicated hosting services the user has full control over the server and is the only client who uses the server. There are normally two types of dedicated hosting options which are managed and unmanaged. With managed hosting the client will have various support-personal or plans in place to assist them with managing the server and ensuring that things such as its security policies are up to date. Unmanaged will leave all the responsibility in the hands of the client which can be less expensive in some cases. In both cases having a dedicated server offers you much more control over what options are available on your server from mail programs to FTP services and so on. Naturally dedicated servers are much more expensive and therefore many webmasters opt for the cheaper shared or virtual private server options. With both types of dedicated hosting the servers are owned by the hosting company.
Colocation Web Hosting Service
Colocation is similar to dedicating hosting services, but in this case the user fully owns the server and the hosting center simply provides a physical space, power, and a connection to the internet for the client. In many cases there is little or no further support for the client beyond ensuring that there is power and the negotiated bandwidth available to the server. With this option in most cases the owner of the server will have an administrator who must visit to the facility or have another form of remote access to the machine.
In some cases it is not enough to have one server handling the needs of a website. For these cases clustered hosting becomes a viable solution. With clustered hosting multiple servers host the same information allowing a much larger base of users to access the information at one time.
Grid hosting is a form of distributed hosting where a server cluster acts like a grid and is composed of multiple nodes.
In some cases webmasters elect to manage their own web servers at home or at their place of business. This can be done on both a consumer-grade broadband connection or in some cases on something more capable. Home servers are much like colocation except for the loss of the expensive facilities which generally have backup power sources, industrial grade cooling systems, and various other benefits. Some ISPs do not allow their users to host their own websites so it is best to investigate this before attempting to setup your own web server.
Which Hosting Option Should I Choose?
If you’re reading this article you probably should be choosing shared hosting, or either virtual or fully dedicated hosting. For most small to medium sized websites these are perfectly adequate and viable options. If your web hosting needs are larger than this you will likely have an IT specialist who is part of your team who would be better equipped to assess your web hosting needs.
Hopefully by now you have a better idea about what type of hosting you need. Now it’s time for the real fun, choosing the best webhost!