Deciding where you're going to host your Web site is almost more important than deciding what HTML editor to use to build your site. But there are so many different types of Web hosting options, it can be overwhelming making the choice. If you know what the different types of hosting options are, you can make a more informed choice about what you need.
Free Web Hosting
Free Web hosting is free. Many free hosting providers support the hosting costs through advertising added automatically to Web pages through pop-ups, frames, and scripts. Free Web hosting is typically limited in some way compared to paid hosting. For example, you may not get as much space, bandwidth, or software.
Free Web hosting can be done through a hosting service like GeoCities or through your ISP. There are many free Web hosts to choose from.
Standard Web Hosting
This is the most common form of paid Web hosting. You pay for a specific amount of server space on a Web hosting system, and they provide you with high-speed servers, software, and other amenities. Most standard Web hosting providers use a shared system where you are granted say 5GB of space on a 100GB server. Your files are hosted there along with 15-20 other Web sites. You may or may not have your own domain name.
Some things to look for in a standard Web hosting package:
- Bandwidth charges - if you expect your site to get a lot of page views, make sure that there aren't limits or extra charges.
- Server software - most paid hosting services offer some types of software for you to use including CGI, PHP, and Weblogs.
- Administrative access - some hosts provide you with a Web-based console, and others allow you to telnet in to the server. Both work fine, but make sure if you want one style in particular that your host provides it.
- Operating system - the OS your Web site is on can affect what software can run. It's a good idea to know what you're on and learn the difference between Windows and Linux hosting.
Standard Web hosting is good for most businesses and personal sites that are behind a domain name. Paying for the service gives you more features and security than a free service, and you can find standard Web hosts for as little as $1 per month or less.
Dedicated, Virtual, and Shared Hosting
Dedicated Web hosting is where you get your own server machine for your site's exclusive use. In most dedicated hosting situations, the site owner will get root access to the server to make changes and control the site, but that depends upon the host. Some hosts provide an admin console or access through their helpdesk technicians.
Technically, unless you're paying for a "dedicated" connection or colocation, your Web site is almost certainly stored on a shared server. But, in the hosting business, most companies refer to "Shared" and "Virtual" hosting as a form of dedicated hosting where the site is on a server machine with only 1 or 2 other Web sites.
Dedicated Web hosting is good for businesses that need more space or more control over the Web site. When you're on a machine that isn't being used by any other Web site, you know what is happening on the machine - standard hosts run the risk of having one site get hacked which provides access to all the other sites on that server.
Colocation is the next step up from dedicated hosting. It is just like dedicated where the server machine is dedicated to your site's exclusive use. But in this case, you own the hardware - not the hosting company. Instead, what you are renting is the physical space in their facility and the high-speed Internet connection.
Colocation comes in two flavors: managed and unmanaged. With managed colocation, you pay for the server space and a team from your hosting company to manage your server for you. This is great for companies that want the control of colocation but don't have an IT department to manage the server. Unmanaged is where you handle all the administration and management of the server yourself, including software updates, the Web server, and the site itself.
Colocation is perfect for companies who want something unusual in their Web software configuration or need the extra security that total control provides.
Ecommerce Web Hosting
Ecommerce Web hosting can be any of the above types of Web hosting, but it adds in another dimension: SSL or secure socket layer. If you're going to sell something on the Web you'll need to have a secure server to protect your customers.
Many hosting providers will authorize your domains to use their SSL certificates for an additional fee. Ecommerce hosting often includes shopping carts and other additional features useful to online stores. Ecommerce hosting is important for any business selling goods on the Web.
Other Web Hosting Alternatives
There are a couple of other Web hosting alternatives that you might come across:
- Reseller Web Hosting - this is for companies that wish to set up Web hosting businesses of their own.
- Clustered Web Hosting - multiple servers hosting the same content that are then load-balanced to provide better access. This is for companies that have extremely popular sites.
- File and Image Hosting - some hosting services offer file and image storage, but not Web sites. These are great for file access and image storage, but you can't put a Web site up on them.
- Weblog Hosting - Many companies offer Weblogs and blog hosting rather than a Web site specifically. These are typically less expensive than Standard Web hosting, but you're limited to a Web site that can be built with their blog software.