There is a wide variety of hosting services available on the Internet. Which type of hosting service you should go for would depend largely upon what type of applications you require to host and what functionalities your require. This article briefly explains the various types of hosting services that is available in the market today.
Let us understand each of the above.
A number of internet service providers and web portals are available on the internet where you can quickly build your own website and host it for free. They will even provide you with a domain name of the form yourChoiceName.theirName.com. Examples of such free hosts include AOL, Lycos, Tripod and Geocities. Some social networking sites such as facebook too allow you to build web pages and host them on their portal.
A free hosting service is thus a type of hosting service where you are allowed to host your website files for free. This is usually sustained by posting advertisements on your website pages. Some hosting service providers may provide a very elementary free hosting facility with the objective to grab customers at an early stage. They know fully well that eventually, the customer's requirements will grow and they would upgrade to a paid hosting service. Some hosting providers may provide a small sized elementary free hosting plan when you buy a domain name from them. This is again a marketing strategy to grab customers.
The drawbacks of free hosts are far too many.
Such free hosts are fine if you are building a personal website or a hobby site and would not like to spend any money. It is strongly advised not to opt for such free services for hosting your business website.
This is the most popular and most common type of hosting that most website owners opt for. A shared hosting service is quite suitable for personal websites and also business websites of small and medium sizes. In a shared hosting environment, the hosting provider would host multiple websites on one server - thus the server is shared by several users. All websites on the shared server share the server resources (hardware cost & software licensing cost) and the connected network resources. Thus the costs of a server and associated resources are divided amongst multiple users making it economical for each user. This is quite a viable and practical proposition for most websites that have a fairly standardized software and hardware requirements which are commonly available on a shared server.
However, in order to maintain a stable environment and ensure fair share of server resources, specifically CPU time, memory usage and network bandwidth, good web hosts impose certain restrictions on their usage in a shared environment. They have policies implemented that ensure that no single user completely hogs the server resources adversely affecting other users. This makes a shared hosting environment unsuitable for high hit websites. Also, shared hosts have standard hardware and software installed and they do not entertain installing specific hardware or software to meet specific requirement of one user. Therefore, shared hosting is not suitable for websites that require specialized applications to be installed on the server and customized settings to be done. They are also not suitable if you have a huge daily emailing requirement.
Some web hosts have a tendency to price their shared hosting plans too cheap and they oversell the available capacity to make profits. This risk is particularly there when you are buying cheap plans that claim to offer very high storage space (of the order of 100-500 GB or unlimited) and high bandwidth. They work on the law of averages as most website users would not consume all of the claimed allocation. So, they oversell, ignoring an important fact that having too many websites hosted on the same server would create a situation where several websites compete for the same CPU and memory space and frequent situations of resource starvation would occur causing the server to crash.
Yet another risk of secured servers is security. When several users are installing and running their own web programs/applications on the same server, the integrity of all the programs on that server are compromised. A faulty program with a security leak, written by one user may make all other user accounts vulnerable too. If your website stores or processes sensitive data such as credit card information, etc. it can be a great risk to host it on a shared server.
Businesses who can afford paying a higher price, therefore, usually prefer a semi-dedicated or a fully dedicated hosting service.
Reseller Hosting providers allow their clients to become web hosts themselves. Here the provider sells a bulk space with suitable software such as WHM and CPanel that help split the bulk space into mulitple small-sized plans as per your own choice, and resell them to end customers. The WHM/CPanel combination is available on Linux platform. Other standard reseller hosting control panels are - Plesk (for Windows as well as Linux plaform), DirectAdmin, Webmin (for Linux platform) and H-sphere.
Most reseller hosting plans are white labelled so that when you resell the small-sized plans to your end customers, you can provide each such customer with an independent control panel under your own brand name. Your end customers would never be able to find out who is your source provider.
Essentially, reseller hosting is also a shared hosting type, as the source provider may sell multiple reseller plans off the same server to different clients. So, here again the limitations of a shared hosting environment in terms of CPU and memory availability will apply.
The advantage of a shared hosting plan is that the source provider would provide full technical support for all of your users.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server or Semi-Dedicated Server. The term virtual is used to emphasize that the virtual machine, although running in software on the same physical computer as the virtual machines of other customers, is functionally equivalent to a separate physical computer, is dedicated to the individual customer's needs, has the privacy of a separate physical computer, and can be configured to run as a server computer (i.e. to run server software). Each virtual server runs its own full-fledged operating system and can be independently rebooted. Such a virtualization has become possible now due to the development of virtualization software and technologies for microcomputers.
VPS is essentially a trade-off between shared hosting and fully dedicated hosting. A VPS provider would sell multiple VPS accounts on the same server. However, in VPS hosting you get a fixed share of server resources which are always available for your websites. So, even if there are other users sharing the server, they will never hog your allocations. The resources in a VPS environment are so allocated and the server is so configured that each VPS account owner perceives it as a completely dedicated server. The virtual server is assigned a name as per your own brand name. Private name servers are allowed and you are also allocated a set of dedicated I.P. addresses that you use solely for your own websites. If any one tries to find out the ownership of the server from any of your IP addresses they will be presented your own branded server name. Hence the name virtual private server.
VPS is a good value-for-money proposition, as fully dedicated servers can be pretty expensive and you may not often need a full server dedicated to your website(s). Further, some providers even offer a managed VPS account so you are saved of the technical hassles of troubleshooting day to day server issues.
A VPS account provides you with root access to the server so you can configure it as per your own specific requirements and also install your own specific software. You have to only make sure that all software that you install are legitimate and you posses a valid license for the same. A VPS account will also allow you to send out any number of emails. Hence they are quite suitable for large size companies who have a high volume of daily email flow.
A dedicated hosting service or dedicated server is a type of hosting in which you lease an entire server, not shared with anyone. You get your own web server with root access and full administrative control. Though ownership of the server still rests with the data center and you can only lease it for as long as you continue to pay the monthly rent.
You have a wider choice of operating system and software that you can install and run on your server. You can also directly purchase software from various software vendors and install them yourself on the server. However, if you want your server to be managed by the provider, it would be advisable to select from the array of software options that your hosting provider gives you, unless if there is a particular software which you definitely need and is not provided by your hosting company. Server management can usually be provided by the hosting company as an add-on service. However, they usually restrict their support to the array of software that they provide. They may not support issues that may arise due to your third party software. You also have some choice of hardware in terms of CPU, RAM capacity, extra hard disks, etc.
You will need a dedicated hosting only if you have a very high hit website of the order of 1000+ unique visitors per day. You would also require dedicated hosting if you are running critical software and do not wish to risk hosting it in a shared environment. For instance if you need to run your e-Commerce or ERP system, it would always be advisable to opt for dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting can also be viable if you own several websites and would like to host them all together on a single server.
Server management is an important aspect. If you do not have a 24x7 team of server administrators with you it is better to outsource server management to your hosting provider. Various server management schemes are usually available:
Fully Managed: Includes monitoring, software updates, reboots, security patches and operating system upgrades. You are relieved of all hassles. This is the best option, if you can afford it.
Managed: Includes medium level of management, monitoring, updates, and a limited amount of support. You may need to perform specific tasks yourself.
Self Managed: Includes regular monitoring and some maintenance. Most of the day-to-day tasks on your server will have to be managed by you.
Unmanaged: In this scheme there is little or no involvement of your hosting provider. You have to yourself take care of all maintenance, upgrades, patches, and security.
Carefully review what server management scheme options are available with your choice hosting provider and what each of them entail. There is no industry standard to clearly define the management role of dedicated server providers. This creates lot of ambiguity and misunderstanding as each provider uses the same set of industry standard hosting terms when talking about their server specifications. However, they have their own interpretation which may be quite different from your own perception. For instance, the term Fully Managed may be interpreted by one hosting provider as merely providing a web based control panel. Another provider may interpret is as having an expert team available 24x7 to take care of all server and network issues and ensure smooth uptime of the server.
Web hosts can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for servers they do not own, to be located in their data center. This is called co-location. This service is very similar to dedicated hosting. The difference between co-located hosting and dedicated hosting is that in co-located hosting the customer owns the server hardware instead of renting it. In this service the server is housed in the provider's data center. The data center provides a network connection and a physical space to put the server, usually a lockable space. This service is far more expensive than dedicated hosting and is suitable only for very large companies housing mission critical servers. It is a popular choice for technology companies with the resources and sophisticated needs to keep a very high level of control.
In most cases, the co-location provider may provide little or no support directly for their client's machine. The only services they provide consists of the electrical connection, Internet access, physical storage facilities for the server that will take care of installing the server in their premises and utilizing the overall infrastructure such as air-conditioning, stand-by power, fire-protection system, security. The server owner would have to deploy his own administrator to visit the data center to carry out any hardware upgrades or changes.
Cloud Hosting is a new type of hosting platform that provides you with a powerful, scalable and reliable hosting paradigm that is based on clustered load-balanced servers. The hosting service is sold more like a billable utility such as electricity.
A website hosted in a cloud may be more reliable than others since other servers in the cloud can compensate when a single piece of hardware goes down. Also, since cloud hosting is decentralized, local power disruptions or even natural disasters do not pose a problem for cloud hosted websites.
Users of cloud hosting are charged on the basis of actual resource consumption and not a flat fixed fee. This can create conflict situations and some providers may take undue advantages. Also, you are never too sure of your monthly expense budget. Technically too, the lack of centralization may give users less control on where their data is located which could be a problem for users with data security or privacy concerns.
A Hosting Cluster is a group of servers that are connected and set up in a manner so as to appear as a single powerful server. This architecture provides failure protection for any of the individual servers in the group by sharing the workload. Clustered servers are a perfect solution for maintaining high-availability dedicated hosting, or for creating a scalable web hosting solution. A cluster may contain separate servers for specialized services, separating out web service, mail service, and database service, thereby distributing load and utilizing the different server resources efficiently.
Very high volume websites such as facebook, google, flipkart, would require such an arrangement.
Hosting Mirrors (also known as mirror sites) are essentially replicas of a website portal that has become very popular. The mirror sites are setup on multiple data centers spread across multiple geographical locations with the objective to distribute load and also provide a better and faster experience to the website visitors by providing them a mirrored server in close proximity.
Mirror sites are usually updated once a day.
This hosting classification entails servers which are specially customized to carry out very specific functions efficiently. These types of servers could be accordingly named as - file server, database server, multimedia server, gaming server, backup server, email server, DNS server, and so on.
CEO, Computer Solutions
Rajeev Kumar is the primary author of How2Lab. He is a B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur with several years of experience in IT education and Software development. He has taught a wide spectrum of people including fresh young talents, students of XLRI, industry professionals, and govt. officials.
Rajeev has founded Computer Solutions & WebServicesWorldwide.com, and has hands-on experience of building variety of web applications and portals, that include - SAAS based ERP & e-commerce systems, independent B2B, B2C, Matrimonial & Job portals, and many more.