What Types Of Hosting Are There?

Running a website necessitates the use of a server. The website itself is hosted on this server, similar to a powerful computer, and whenever a user opens your website or downloads files from one of your pages the server is called to return the appropriate page or the proper file. The server is a hugely important aspect of running a website and the proper care should always be taken to ensure that you have access to a powerful server providing you with all of the necessary needs. As such, there are a wide variety of hosting accounts available that fall into several categories.

Free Hosting

Free hosting is, quite simply, the wrong choice for a business website. It is often the wrong choice for any website because of the restrictions, potential poor performance, and forced advertising.

The premise of free website hosting can be one of several. It is possible to find paid hosting services that offer a free package. This is a function and feature limited version of a paid hosting account and generally uses advertising to link to the website of the host. Upgrades are generally readily available that will remove the advertising and give you access to many of the features that you have previously been missing.

If you are setting up a personal website that is not a mission critical business website and that you don’t intend to monetize through advertising then there is no major reason not to choose free hosting. However, be aware that because the service provider is offering the hosting for free it means that they invariably do not offer any kind of guarantees regarding network uptime or any other matter. The amount of disk space, bandwidth, emails, and functions are always limited with free accounts.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is the step up from free hosting and the most popular option with hosts and with clients. Tens or often hundreds of websites are hosted on a single server. This allows the host to profit from selling numerous packages on one machine and gives the client the advantage of not having to serve forced advertisements.

In many ways shared hosting offers the most from a hosting plan, presuming you don’t receive masses of traffic or your website isn’t excessively large. Because of the amount of competition hosts find themselves offering more and more in the way of features as well as lower and lower prices in a bid to attract customers away from their competition. Obviously, this means a massive benefit to you as a hosting customer. Free scripts and applications have become the norm, as have dynamic elements that you can add to your site or use to develop your site.

Shared hosting is available on both Windows and Unix servers. Unix is the most popular because it offers greater opportunity for development as well as reduced costs. However, if you want to run any Windows based applications on your website or on your server then you will need to opt for the less competitive Windows server packages.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting

Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is similar to shared hosting in many ways. A number of websites are hosted on one server but are partitioned accurately to ensure that you don’t suffer at the hands of high risk scripts or excessive bandwidth and disk space of other websites. Usually the number of websites hosted on a single machine is heavily restricted when compared to shared hosting and it is not uncommon to see a single server with ten or less VPS customers on.

Similar features and functions are offered with VPS when compared to shared hosting as well and while it costs a little more it does offer increased stability, greater disk space and bandwidth, and greater flexibility concerning what you can and can’t do with your account.

VPS hosting is relatively popular with hosting suppliers, although there are only a limited number of hosts that offer this service. If you find you have reached the confines of a VPS hosting account it may not be a simple process to upgrade and receive higher bandwidth or disk space. In some cases it is necessary for the host to change you to a different server. Managed badly this can cause interruption to your website.

Dedicated Server Hosting

Dedicated hosting is a powerful way to run your own website and other Internet based applications. A dedicated server is precisely that – a server that is dedicated entirely to your website. You do not share the server with any other websites but you pay a price accordingly.

In essence clients lease a dedicated server from a host, usually on an annual basis. The server is customized according to your needs and then handed over to you with the appropriate remote access and management capabilities. It is uncommon to receive the array of feature and functions that you would ordinarily receive with shared hosting or with VPS hosting but you can add and remove any software that you require or do not require.

Dedicated servers offer all the usual benefits of leasing as well. Regular maintenance is provided by the host and once your annual lease term expires you have the option to upgrade to a new, improved server. One advantage that server leasing in this way offers to standard leasing is that the server is usually kept in the data center that belongs to the host. This massively reduces the costs often associated with hosting your own server on your own premises.

Managed Hosting

Dedicated server hosting is also referred to as unmanaged dedicated hosting. This is because you, or somebody you choose, are still responsible for server administration and management. This is done via your remote online access but if you do not have the technical expertise or the financial resource to employ somebody with that expertise this makes unmanaged dedicated servers basically useless.

Managed hosting provides the advantages of dedicated hosting but does not require you to administer or manage your own server. Usually, managed hosting offers complete management of the server. This includes the installation and removal of software, administering of your server software, upgrades, and routine maintenance. This level of management can prevent your site from facing forced downtime and can prevent any problems with improper installation of software.

Because managed hosting is so powerful and offers many advantages it is also one of the most expensive options. If your site traffic or disk space requirements do not require the use of an entire server then it will likely prove cost ineffective to use this method.

Colocation Hosting

Data centers are extremely well equipped to look after the performance and climate of a server. Kept in anything less than perfectly optimized conditions a server can suffer from repeated and extended periods of downtime as well as general poor performance. Colocation avoids these issues completely.

It is difficult to state what exactly is required from you with collocation because each server hotel offers different levels of managed service plans. Some offer a reasonable level of management freely within the agreement because this offers you the advantages of not having to visit the data center for regular maintenance and it also allows the data center to ensure integrity and security.

Management level service plans do exist and while some collocation centers demand that you use their service plans others may allow authorized, regular access to one of your technicians. Also be aware that it is possible to “rent” an entire server room, an entire server rack, a single shelf, or even a portion of a single shelf. In most cases the data center owners will do what they can to accommodate your needs in this respect.

Choosing A Hosting Plan To Suit You

It is obvious that different levels of hosting offer varying advantages. Shared hosting is the most popular by far because it generally offers as much disk space and bandwidth as well as a good enough range of features and support for the huge majority of websites. However, more managed plans exist now because of the reduced price of purchasing a server.

There is of course one option we haven’t included and that is hosting your own server on your own premises. We haven’t included this because it is not essentially a hosting account. You are responsible for everything from the purchase and the housing of the server to the administration and even disposal of the server.

Your needs will dictate which option is best for you. We strongly advise against the use of free hosting for anything apart from very personal websites and web pages that will not receive commercial traffic of any description. If you have a traffic or memory intensive website then you should consider VPS, dedicated, or managed hosting and if you intend to run your own email server, messenger server, and other application server then look to managed or collocation hosting.