When you’re setting up a new website, finding the right web hosting is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, but that can be a challenge. Depending on how web hosting is defined, there are between three and ten different kinds of hosting services to choose from—each with its own benefits and drawbacks. There’s a hosting option for every site, but the best web hosting services for your website depends on a multitude of factors including your budget, technical expertise, and plans for the future.
What Is Web Hosting?
Ever asked yourself, “What is web hosting?” If you own a domain and want to share it with the world, you need web hosting services. Every website needs an online “home,”—a place where data can be stored and a way to put that data online through a web hosting provider. With options ranging from free (or nearly so) up to hundreds per month, web hosts provide the essentials for getting websites of all kinds live on the internet. Building a website is within nearly everyone’s reach, so there are hosting options for users at all levels of skills and ambitions, from casual bloggers to dedicated developers working to build complex sites from scratch.
A number of different kinds of services can fall under the umbrella of “web hosting.” These can include fully hosted services like WordPress.com and various blog and portfolio hosting platforms, which provide users with a simple site based on the host’s templates and a domain name that’s a subdomain of the host. There’s also a type of hosting called reseller hosting, in which users set up a hosting account with a provider that allows them to sell hosting space to others. Cloud hosting, too, is often called a type of web hosting, with pay as you go services and access to all site data from multiple locations. But cloud architecture supports multiple types of web hosting, particularly the shared hosting that many people use to launch their first site.
What to Look for in a Web Host
More specialized kinds of web hosting may not be relevant to new entrepreneurs, creative professionals, and providers of businesses and services who are looking for long term online solutions for a self hosted website. For those purposes, we’ll take a look at the four types of web hosting that allow users to create and scale their company’s first website, or to expand an existing site that’s outgrowing its original hosting home.
The hosting you initially choose for your website may not be the hosting you need in the future. A new entrepreneur on a shoestring budget may simply need a basic, low-cost hosting plan in order to have an online presence of any kind, but as the site grows and attracts more traffic, it might be time to move on to more advanced types of web hosting that can accommodate those changing needs. Things to consider when you’re looking for web hosting can include your budget and the size and purpose of your site, of course. It’s also important to consider your site’s security needs, your technical skills, and the amount of time and effort you’ll have to devote to setting up and maintaining the site.
Shared hosting is the least expensive hosting option, and it’s generally the first and easiest type of hosting for new sites and small sites that don’t have large amounts of traffic. In shared hosting, many sites—hundreds or even thousands—share space on a server provided by the hosting company. This makes it possible for the host to offer hosting plans at very low prices—or even for free.
Shared hosting also has its downsides. Your site’s neighbors on the server can infect your site with viruses or malware, and because all the sites housed on a single server must share the resources of that server, if one site has a surge in traffic that ties up server resources, it can cause other sites to slow down or even crash. Shared hosting companies usually offer access to leading website building software, including WordPress, but site owners are largely on their own for getting their sites up and running.
Shared hosting providers may also offer other types of hosting alongside the basic shared variety so that users can access different kinds of storage and service as a site grows.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
One of the problems with shared hosting is having to occupy space on a host’s server with a multitude of other sites created with different kinds of site-building software and carrying the potential for unknown security risks. Virtual private server hosting solves that problem to an extent by offering users their own exclusive space on a shared server hosting far fewer sites than standard, low-cost shared hosting. Although a site on a VPS hosting account does share space with others, it’s separated from them by virtual partitioning, which allows users to control many more aspects of a site’s setup and maintenance.
VPS hosting combines some features of shared hosting with aspects of dedicated hosting, so that users have less competition for the shared resources of a single web server while maintaining more control over managing the site. VPS hosting costs more than simple shared hosting, but this kind of hosting can provide flexibility and space for evolving sites that are attracting more traffic.
Dedicated Server Hosting
Dedicated server hosting is a top tier kind of hosting in which clients can rent an entire web server for the exclusive use of a single site or a network of related sites. With a dedicated hosting package, the web host takes care of the server’s physical needs, providing things like space, power, security, and maintenance of the server hardware itself—but everything else is up to the client, who has the freedom to install software, set up site architecture, and maintain the site on an ongoing basis.
Dedicated hosting eliminates all concerns about sharing a server with other users, and this kind of hosting arrangement gives clients complete control over everything related to the site. Dedicated hosting can be expensive, costing up to hundreds per month, but for larger and more complex sites with large amounts of traffic or sensitive data that need high security, this kind of hosting provides full control.
Offering professional setup and ongoing site maintenance, managed hosting can be a cost-effective and trouble-free way to run a business or professional site, especially for users who don’t want to deal with the technical aspects of site management. Managed hosting is a form of shared hosting in which the hosting provider is responsible for site set up and ongoing maintenance.
With this kind of arrangement, the web host manages all updates, security fixes, and other technical issues related to the site, so that the site owner can focus on creating content and taking care of business. Managed hosting plans offer considerably more customer support and site setup services than standard shared hosting packages, and at a cost that can be similar to higher-end shared hosting options. Managed hosting providers are also available for specific platforms, such as WordPress. Managed hosting solutions can be a useful option for expanding businesses whose websites are becoming more complex and require more time and resources to run smoothly. For advanced customer support and storage space, consider switching to a managed hosting service.
As cloud-based technologies and other web hosting solutions continue to evolve, more new hosting alternatives may appear. Choosing the right kind of hosting from the many available alternatives depends on your budget, your skills, and your goals for the future of your site.