What Is A Web Host ?
A web host is a service provider that places your web site on a computer which is connected to the internet. This then gives people who surf the internet a way to access your website. The computer that the web hosting company uses is typically just like the computer you have at home, the only difference being that it is set up to serve up web sites and is therefore called a “server”.
A web host will typically have a fast connection to the Internet and they may host thousands of web sites on many servers. The web host essentially rents out space to you so that you can get your website up on the world wide web.
Some large web hosts own their own datacenter (collection of servers), some rent a server from a larger web hosting company and then resell the space under their own company name. In this case the web host will manage your account on the server, but they will be renting the actual web space from another much larger company.
|This is a picture of a datacenter. Which contains many PC’s all connected to the Internet It is very expensive to own and operate a datacenter. Datacenters have reliable and fast connections to the Internet and also have backup power and high security.Most web hosting companies do not own a datacenter, but rent web hosting space in a datacenter.|
There are literally thousands of web hosting companies available in the market, all with different types of plans and at different prices. It can be hard to wade through all the options, especially if you are completely new to web hosting and just want to get your website up on the web. All web hosting plans have some basic common features.
|Server Type||This is the type of server software that is running on the server. Windows 2000 server, Linux and Unix are common server types. If you have a basic website then the server type does not matter. If you have a more complex website that has database functions and serves up dynamic pages, then the server type will be more important|
|Disk Space||This is the amount of actual space available to you for storing your website on the web server harddrive|
|Bandwidth / Month||This is a measure of how much website traffic is available to you. Every time somebody looks at your website, data has to be passed over the Internet from the web server where your site is hosted to the browser of the person looking at your site. Bandwidth is a measure of how much transfer is available. High traffic sites like Yahoo for example have very high bandwidth requirements, but the average site does not|
|Email Accounts||How many email accounts you can have with the web hosting account.|
How Does My Website Get a Name ?
All websites typically have a name – just like we are called www.davisind.com – This is a name that points to the space on the web where your website is physically located. In reality, your website will have an address which is just a set of numbers. This is called an IP address and it looks something like this 126.96.36.199 An IP address is a unique address (just like a street address) for your website location. Domain names like www.davisind.com are really just a pointer to the real address. This makes it much easier to remember websites.
When you buy web hosting it can be easier to let the web host handle everything associated with this. You just tell them the name that you want (www.yoursite.com for example) and so long as that name is available, they will set up your web hosting space so that when people type in that www address, it will automatically go to your website. If you already have a domain name and need to transfer it to a web hosting account, then the domain records have to be pointed to your web hosting company. Most web hosts will handle this for you, but if you need to do it yourself then you will need to contact the company where you registered your domain name and provide the Nameserver address of your web hosting provider. Your web host will tell you what their Nameservers address is.You probably don’t want to buy your web hosting plan until your website is ready, but you might want to buy your website name early to prevent somebody else taking the name you want. Almost all companies that sell domain names will park your domain on their servers until you are ready to buy web hosting.
Different Kinds Of Web Hosting
There are different kinds of web hosting setups and dependent upon your website and budget, any of these may be the right type. This is not a discussion of the features a web hosting plan may offer – just a description general types of web hosting1. Free Web Hosting
It is possible to get free web hosting accounts. These are great for small websites, but normally you have to have a banner ad at the top of every page. Some free accounts let you use your domain name (free virtual hosting) and with some your website address is a subdomain of the free hosting company (www.yoursitename.freehosting.com). This second type is called Free Sub-domain hosting.
Hosting for small websites can be very cheap, but If you can answer yes to all of the following questions, then free web hosting may be right for you.
- I don’t care about having ads at the top of every page in my website
- I don’t care about the performance / reliability of the website
- I don’t expect any customer support
- My website is very small and will never grow
2. Shared Hosting
This is the most common type of web hosting account and can be very low cost. With paid shared (virtual) hosting you pay a monthly fee and get a share on a server. For very low cost plans you may only have a small amount of disk space and a low amount of bandwidth (although this will probably not be a problem for the vast majority of websites). With cheap virtual hosting plans you maybe one site amongst hundreds on the same server – in this case reliability may suffer. For slightly more expensive plans you will probably find better reliability.
3. Dedicated Hosting
With dedicated hosting you have a full server dedicated to your website. This gives you a lot more freedom and you can host potentially hundreds of your own websites. Typically you will have access to the server just like you have access to your PC at home. Dedicated servers are normally reserved for large ecommerce type websites, sites that get a lot of visitors (thousands a day), or for people that want to start their own hosting company and sell shared hosting accounts. A dedicated server is more reliable, but also much more expensive being at least $100 a month vs $1 – $20 range of a shared hosting plan.
4. Colocated Hosting
This is very similar to dedicated hosting, except that you own the server rather than rent it. Your server is placed in the datacenter and connected to the Internet through the web hosting providers fast Internet connection. You will then pay a fee for maintenance and bandwidth.
The 1st step before you start to look for a web hosting company is to determine what your needs are. It can be very tempting to look for plans that offer everything. There are many such deals available, even at a low price, but you will be storing up trouble for yourself. Make sure that you find a plan that matches at the right price from a web hosting company that you are comfortable with.
Web pages (html) are normally very small – on average 40 – 50KB. This means you can store a lot of web pages in a small amount of diskspace. Images take up more space, but unless you have a big database driven site – it is unlikely that you will need very much disk space. Below is terminology used to describe disk space. If you have a computer at home or the office, then you will be already very familiar with this.
|Disk Storage Space Terminology|
|1 Byte||1 character. This sentence is 25 bytes|
|1 KB||1000 Bytes|
|1 MB||1000 KB|
|1 GB||1000 MB|
This handy calculator provides a rough guide to how much disk space you might need for your site
You can see above that even a lot of pages doesn’t really create a big requirement for disk space. If you own a computer at home you will already know that harddrives are very cheap these days. Many web hosting plans will offer large amounts of disk space. This is fine, it doesn’t hurt to have the extra space – but unless you have a huge site – you will more than okay with 20MB.2. Bandwidth
Bandwidth is always stated as a monthly limit in either MB or GB. This is the amount of actual data that can be transferred from the web server that holds your website, to the browser of the person who is looking at your website. If you go over the limit, then either you will have to be an extra fee, or your website will not be available. The amount of bandwidth you use is obviously related to the amount of traffic (visitors) that you receive.
There are web hosting companies that offer Unlimited bandwidth. This sounds like a good deal. The truth is that this is nothing but a lie and you should steer clear of web hosting companies that offer unlimited bandwidth. Bandwidth is a commodity that costs the web hosting company money – unlimited bandwidth is not only impossible, but would cost an unlimited amount of money. When web hosts offer unlimited bandwidth they are trying to trick you. They know that you will probably not use very much bandwidth. The moment you try to use a lot of bandwidth – then you will find your website shutdown.
For most web sites you will not need much bandwidth. Probably 99% of all websites use less than 2 GB of bandwidth a month. If you intend to have a lot of downloads of software, audio or video, then you may end up using a lot more bandwidth, maybe 50 GB. Adult sites typically use a lot of bandwidth. Sites like mp3.com require an enormous amount of bandwidth, but for the average site – a low level will be enough in almost all cases.
The calculator below will help you determine what amount of bandwidth you might need. This assumes a simple web site with no audio or video downloads. Remember 1GB = 1000 MB (eg 0.75 GB = 750 MB)
For a more detailed secription of Bandwidth read the article What is Bandwidth?
3. Email Accounts
How many email accounts will you need? Normally 10 is enough, but if you think you might want more then you can use
You need to ask yourself questions like do you want phone support, or will email support be ok? Do you want support 24 hours a day? If you have a small website that is not critical (i.e you don’t pay your mortgage with website earnings) then you probably don’t need phone support or 24/7 support. It costs web hosting companies to provide this type of support, don’t pay more for a plan that offers this if you don’t need it.
5. Server Type
If you have a small website, then it is unlikely that you will need to select a particular type of server for your website. Windows 2000 server web hosting tends to be a little bit more expensive than Linux. If you need to run a Microsoft SQL server database, or use Microsoft Active Server pages then you should choose Windows2000. If you have no clue what these things even are – then you don’t need Windows2000 – you will almost certainly be fine with any type of server.6. Other Features like Databases, Server Side Scripting
Web hosting plans can offer a myriad of confusing features. For the small website it is unlikely that you will ever need to know about any of them. If you are a web designer creating complex database driven sites then you will already know what you need. If after creating your site you have never heard of ASP, ColdFusion, SQL Server, mySQL – then chances are that you don’t need to worry about any of these things. If you plan to add a message board to your website then you will need a mySQL database. This is the most common database used with discussion boards.
Remember to use the Glossary if there are any terms that are unfamiliar and also click on any search option to open a window that will give you an in-depth explanation of what that term means. If all else fails – then feel free to contact us – we will always be more than willing to explain something and help you out