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What is a Hosting Service?

Hosting service overview

Hosting Service refers to a service that provides hosting space, i.e. facilitates an individual or a company to make their website accessible to anyone connected to the Internet. The word website, here, refers to a website or any other web based application such as an online erp. Hosting service providers or web hosts, for short, maintain a set of computers, known as web servers, housed in a data center. The web host buys or rents the servers from a data center, sets up a web address for the servers, and charges their clients a monthly/yearly rental for using space on their servers. These web servers are connected to the internet 24x7 and are equipped with all necessary hardware and software that enable them to serve websites to internet users efficiently and securely.

A website that has to be made accessible to the internet community will essentially consist of a set of text files, scripts, and images that are stored in suitably configured directories on the web server. Dynamic and interactive websites may also have a backend database running, from which the website scripts would store and retrieve data.

To enable the website owner to utilize the complex hosting platform, web hosts usually provide a user-friendly interface known as control panel - such as cPanel, Plesk or Helm. These control panels are third party software that are installed on the web server and provide all required interfaces to enable website owners and developers to upload and install their web pages and applications, setup database, and also setup their email accounts. Web hosts also provide for an ftp server and grant you access to directly upload your website files onto your hosting space using any standard freely available ftp client such as filezilla, ace ftp, win scp, and many more.

Glimpse of a hosting Data Center

Extent of hosting service you require

The extent of hosting service you would need to procure will vary according to requirements of different types of websites. A website would comprise of 1 or several pages of information or content. A web page content could be static, dynamic or interactive. The most basic website would require you to host a few static web pages, where files can be uploaded via ftp or a browser-interfaced control panel. The files are usually delivered to the website visitors with little or no processing. The most advanced requirement, on the other hand, would be a requirement to host a fully functional ecommerce website, a specialized portal (eg. facebook, twitter) or high-end online applications such as an erp system.

Let us understand the 3 types of web content a little more...

Static Content: A static web page usually displays information that is fairly static in nature and do not change frequently. Examples are profile pages, contact info page, company's vision, mission and quality policy.

Dynamic Content: A dynamic page displays information that changes with time. For example, a stock broker's website may display values of various stocks. The displayed stock values would change as the value of the stocks rise or drop. To fetch the current values, a background script would be running which would periodically fetch data from the stock market database. Another example of dynamic content could be a company posting daily production report. Every morning a background script would fetch the last day's production data from the company's production database and display a nicely formatted report with tables and graphs.

Interactive Content: An interactive web page allows website visitors to interact with you. These are typically accomplished with the help of forms - example: a contact form, a survey form, a feedback form, etc. A vivid case of interactive page would be an online gaming site. The product pages of an ecommerce website with link to place order or send enquiry are examples of dynamic and interactive page. They are termed dynamic because the product information, pricing, discount, etc. are usually fetched from a database which may undergo updates from time to time. They are termed interactive because they provide for facilities to enable a website visitor or customer to place order online. A blog where readers can give their comments, is a typical example of an interactive web page.

The requirements for hosting various types of content as classified above, would vary depending upon which of the above types of pages you require. Further, if you require dynamic or interactive pages, to what extent you want them automated. Advanced website requirements call for a more comprehensive hosting package that provides a platform where complex application programs can run and access data stored in database. Typical programming languages that are used to develop web applications include - PHP, Java, ASP and .Net. Database applications that are popularly used on web servers are MySQL, MS SQL Server and Oracle.

As long as you have the budget, setting up a website on a hosting server can be pretty easy. There are plenty of service providers who can help you setup your website at a reasonable investment. Click here to see a checklist of items that are required to setup your website on the internet.


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About the Author

Rajeev Kumar
CEO, Computer Solutions
Jamshedpur, India

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.

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