A Guide to Web Hosting- Top 5 Questions Answered

A professional website is a necessity for business today. Most people prefer using the Internet to carry out business and also to determine the legitimacy of a company. All websites need a home. A web hosting is that home and as a service provider is crucial in creating and building your online presence, keeping your site accessible to visitors worldwide and in ensuring it is secure from cyber-attacks. There are many web hosting vendors, but to differentiate between the services of each, it is essential for businesses to understand basic aspects of web hosting. Here we answer the top 5 frequently asked questions on website hosting, as a guide for beginners.

1. What is Website Hosting?

Simply put, when you purchase web hosting, you are buying storage space for your website online. Web pages have text, images, audios, videos, PDF files and other content that must be stored on secured web servers owned and managed by the web hosting company so that it is available to the public worldwide. The company registering the space has to establish a domain name and lease a block of space on a webserver to upload and store their webpages for the website to become hosted and be seen by anyone with an internet connection.

A domain name is the server address that points to the hosting account on the rented server, in which the data for the website is stored. For example, www.HostLabs.com is our domain name.  The server delegates files to the web browser making the request. Not all servers are the same and server features offered will vary depending on the web host provider.

2. What Services are provided by Web Hosting Companies?

Web hosting providers don’t just sell space on their servers.  There are other essential services needed for website building and hosting, also provided by these companies, such as domain name registration, email hosting services, content management system, SSL certificates, website builder with free templates, setups for forums, guestbooks, social networking integration & eCommerce features, and choice of operating system including Windows, Linux and Java hosting.  Web server hosting can come with different infrastructures, such as dedicated and even cloud servers, for clients to choose from according to their specific needs. A good web hosting service will have advanced service packages available, with 24/7 technical support, database storage, email services, or scripting support.

3. What Features Should a Basic Web Hosting Plan Provide?

Look for these fundamental features in website hosting plans:

Disk Space
Disk space is essentially the storage space provided by your web hosting provider to store your web files including text, images, animations, files, video, audio, etc. Few websites actually need more than 100-500 megabytes but good web host providers will have packages with varying amounts of space to satisfy the needs of all sizes of sites; from smaller personal websites to larger company websites. Web hosts now offer numbers like 1GB to 2GB, though you may rarely need it. If error and access logs are provided by your web host, these too shall be hosted on your webspace. As your site grows and the number of visitors increases, you can upgrade to more storage space as needed.

Bandwidth refers to the total data that a website can transfer over a period of time. It determines the amount of traffic allowed on your site during a period of time and the speed of your website. More bandwidth equates to more speed. The less bandwidth your site has, the slower the load time. There are web hosts that provide unlimited bandwidth whereas some others charge different prices based upon the amount you use per month. A high traffic website with heavier pages containing many images, videos, etc. will need higher storage and greater bandwidth. Generally, 25-50 GB is sufficient for any average new website.

Uptime refers to the percentage of time that a hosting server stays up and running. It is absolutely essential for businesses, especially for those operating an e-commerce site or those transacting through their site, to have a 24×7 web host operating on a powerful server and robust network connections, in order to avoid losses from any downtime.   Having 99.99% uptime will ensure that your website goes down only for about 8 hours per year and anything less is unacceptable.

Site Backup
There may be times when a site crashes either because of hacker activity or from severe hard disk failure. Your web host should have facilities for regular site backups so that your site can be restored easily and quickly. Make sure you set up automated backups when you set up your hosting plan to avoid any costly losses.

Programming Services
You should be able to create web pages with programming languages including HTML, ASP as well as databases. The best web hosts also provide PHP language and MySQL database.

Customer Service
All businesses looking for web hosting services should pay special attention to the customer support options provided by a web hosting provider because it can be your server’s lifeline. We recommend that you look for 24/7 technical support. Customer support through live chat, phone and email, etc. prove to be extremely useful in the event of any urgent technical or other website related problems. Your web hosting company should also have comprehensive documentation for problem-solving by oneself, if necessary. Reaching out to web hosts should be easy, with a quick resolution for any type of problem you may have.

4. What are the Types of Web Server Hosting?

A good web hosting company offers different types of web hosting options catering to different business needs. As your company and site grow, you can migrate to a different hosting plan.

Shared Server Hosting
For many smaller businesses, a reliable web presence is essential but they often do not have the budget for expensive server systems and infrastructure, so it works better to share resources. Shared hosting comes at the cheapest price and it merely means you share a single web server with several webmasters.  In shared hosting services, an individual server caters to different hosting accounts, each with an allocated amount of storage and bandwidth. This type of hosting plan may be suitable for plain static websites with limited interactive features, small eCommerce sites, or a personal website, all of which require cost-effective hosting solutions. Because of the shared resources in a shared hosting system, any misuse by individual users can affect everybody else on the same server. There is less risk to your hosting account if the pool of resources is larger and there are more redundancies in place to mitigate such risk.

Dedicated Server Hosting
Dedicated hosting allows individuals and businesses to lease a wholly dedicated server and connectivity for your website from a web host, instead of sharing a virtual server.  Unlike shared server hosting you will remain unaffected by other websites.  You can select your operating system, customize software, and personalize settings for all your multimedia and e-commerce requirements. With dedicated server hosting, you can get advanced server control, without needing to make huge upfront investments in purchasing equipment and space to house your own server. Dedicated servers are more popular with high traffic websites, e-commerce sites or ones streaming video content on their site.

Cloud Server Hosting
With advances in cloud computing technologies, cloud hosting has emerged as a cost-effective web hosting solution. Unlike shared or dedicated server hosting, cloud hosting is done through multiple servers that act as a single system by interconnecting with each other.  Cloud server hosting is more stable because of load balancing, higher security features of multiple servers, non-reliance on a single server as a point of failure, and also the facility to increase or decrease server resources according to your needs.  Cloud hosting services are charged on the basis of usage and it is easy to scale your resources up or down, according to your traffic needs.

5. What is the difference between Linux and Windows Web Hosting?

With every web hosting plan, you have to choose the operating system on which the server will run. End users should be aware of the features of both Windows and Linux systems for web hosting, to pick the one best suited for your site.  Windows and Linux both allow FTP access to your files but only Linux Hosting permits telnet or ssh access, which enables opening a window on the webserver to edit them.  A dynamic website will need a database too. Access and MySQL are generally the preferred database choices. Linux servers generally offer MySQL; however, it can run on both Linux and Windows servers. Access, though, is only for Windows operating systems. Security is a key issue for any website and the general perception among webmasters is that Linux is more secure than Windows web server. Good web hosts will ensure your server remains secure whatever the OS may be.

You can select Linux or Windows web hosting according to your specific needs. Linux web hosting has advanced features for better web designing. Linux hosting is the optimal platform for PHP, Perl or Python scripting and for applications like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and other popular CMSs. Linux web hosting suits more interactive sites with inquiry forms, online purchasing and e-commerce features. Windows Hosting is a must if you want to develop your site using Microsoft’s ASP or ASP.NET, and also if you want to implement an MSSQL database.  Interestingly, Microsoft has just announced that users will get the choice of porting its windows based SQL server to a server running Linux. If you would rather experiment with both Linux and Windows hosting, you can opt for Java Hosting, where the same underlying code works for both Windows as well as Linux servers. There are no portability issues and it can be used by anyone of any skill level, from beginners to technical experts.

Web Hosting Made Easy
This covers just a few of the most important and basic questions regarding web hosting, but there are many more questions that still remain unanswered.  Our team at HostLabs would be happy to help you with any questions you may have via Live Chat. Discover the different Web Hosting Plans we have to offer.