Most people recognise the importance of having a well designed, functional website. But in our experience far less seem to appreciate the importance of good web hosting...
Furthermore not too many people seem to understand the different varieties of web hosting available and how they could benefit (or hurt) the performance of a website.
With this in mind we thought we’d take this opportunity to explain some different forms of web hosting using the simplest possible terms.
Your PC at home is a computer with an operating system (i.e. Windows XP or Windows 7 etc.) which hosts the applications you install on it (i.e. Microsoft Office, Photoshop etc.) and runs them for you.
A web server is also a computer with an operating system, albeit one geared towards networking (i.e. Windows Server 2008, Windows 2000, Unix, Linux etc.), which hosts static website files and/or runs dynamic websites and associated applications. Of course the major difference is that a web server is networked and its primary function is to make these website files available to (or run these applications for) multiple users over the internet.
The most important thing to remember here is that the term “web server” ultimately refers to the computer with your website files on it.
The term “shared hosting” refers to the practise of hosting multiple websites on the same web server.
However, unlike VPS hosting (which we’ll get to in a moment), all of the websites on a shared host usually have to compete for the same system resources.
In the same way, if one or two websites on a shared host server get huge volumes of web traffic they will potentially hog the server’s resources, slowing down access to all the other websites on the same server.
A “virtual private server” (or VPS) refers to the practise of hosting a website within a partitioned, virtualised environment.
In other words one physical server is split up into separate partitions, each with its own operating system and allocated system resources. It’s really a more sophisticated variation of shared hosting.
With a VPS you have more control over the server configuration and more control over the environment. A VPS can also offer better performance because you are usually guaranteed a certain level of access to system resources like CPU usage, memory and bandwidth.
On the downside you need far more technical know-how to run and administer the server. Unless of course you opt for a fully managed VPS plan which will inevitably incur additional expense.
A dedicated host server is fairly self-explanatory. It basically means that you have complete access to the web server with no other websites competing for system resources or bandwidth.
If you have a very large business servicing tens of thousands of customers or visitors each day, or you rely heavily on ecommerce or run resource intensive web applications then a dedicated server (or servers) is probably your best bet.
Like a VPS you need far more technical know-how to run and administer a dedicated server. Unless of course you opt for a fully managed plan which will inevitably incur additional expense.
Cloud hosting is one of the newest trends in hosting and involves spreading a website’s files and functionality around multiple servers. It’s relatively new and we’ll save a more detailed explanation for another blog post.