Web hosting is a business that has many different plans for many classes of customer from the personal blog to the SME or conglomerate. Sometimes for security reasons a company will run their own servers, manage their own systems and keep everything internal. However, this ties up a considerable amount of working capital and can be inefficient for many businesses.
Web hosts often invest millions of pounds into state-of-the-art data centers with no expense spared or corner cut, knowing that doing so will impair the performance of their servers, web sites and operations.
For most buyers of hosting, they are choosing between a handful of hosting products designed to cover most requirements. These are known as:
- Shared Hosting
- VPS Hosting
- Dedicated Hosting
- Cloud-based Hosting
- Co-location Hosting
Shared Web Hosting
Shared hosting is the most basic form of web hosting. A web server is used to host hundreds of web sites at the same time. Each site is expected to use a modest amount of bandwidth, disk space and system resources.
Plans are sold as “unlimited” in many cases, but in reality they usually come with “fair use” restrictions where those sites which consume too many resources or eat too much bandwidth find their accounts sometimes suspended.
This type of hosting is suitable for small web sites with perhaps 1,000 or fewer visitors per day. Once a site scales up to be more successful than this, receiving several thousand visitors per day, the shared server will start to have difficulty handling this level of activity as well as host all the other sites too. At this point, it’s time to trade up to a VPS hosting plan.
VPS Web Hosting
A virtual private server is a virtual environment where each VPS plan is allocated a portion of the resources of the web server, networked disk storage and bandwidth.
Bandwidth is not usually unlimited outside of a shared hosting plan. As such, a VPS hosting plan will offer a few GB’s of data transfer but after that each megabyte has to be separately paid for.
The advantages of a VPS server is that it’s faster, greater resources are allocated which can sustain a busier web site, and there is usually root access. Root access lends the webmaster or site owner more control over how their virtual server is run.
VPS plans are usually managed which means the web host takes care of the operational side of running the web server software to ensure everything performs as it should. With unmanaged accounts, more responsibility for the good running of the virtual hosting falls on the customer.
Dedicated hosting is for site owners who need the resources of a single, high-powered web server at their disposal. This type of server is not hampered by what resources other web sites hosted on the same server equipment are requiring which could impact the performance for all sites hosted on that hardware.
The downside of dedicated hosting is the single point of failure problem. If the server runs into difficulty, any and all sites hosted on that server may develop a problem too. As a web site is not hosted on multiple web servers, which may be the case with cloud-based hosting, one serious server fault can take an entire site out of action.
Cloud-based hosting is quite new, but is becoming popular with web hosting customers because of its distributed nature and flexibility. Multiple web servers are connected together, sometimes in different data centres around the world, and these can each take responsibility to host part of the traffic for a web site. In this way, a compete failure at one data centre will not necessary bring down a site.
Another benefit of cloud hosting is that it is far easier to expand the resources needed when they are required. More access can be provided on short notice within the cloud of connected web servers, email servers and database servers. Then those resources can be dialed back again, as needed at the time.
Think: Big sales launch and a burst of additional traffic to the web site and you begin to get the idea. Even a single dedicated server may not be enough if a marketing push was too successful whereas a cloud-based hosting plan can adapt to the increased traffic much faster. As a result, fewer sales leads are lost.
Co-location is where a company owns their own web server hardware, but would like it housed in a professionally-run data centre. Server cage housing, cooling, power and internet connectivity are all provided for a monthly cost. In some cases the server is managed by the web host, in other words the company manages their own server (they just lack a necessary data centre).