Web Hosting, Defined
Web hosting may be defined as renting space on a web server in its simplest form. One should keep in mind that a website is a collection of files linked together by HTML code to display text and graphics on a computer. However website is not complete here until and unless it is displayed on the net. To make it visible for the world it has to be housed on a computer somewhere that has access to the Internet. This is not possible by just a computer rather special device is required termed as web server. A web server may be defined as a computer set up with special software that allows it to receive requests from the internet for the website files it has stored on it and to send those files out over the internet so that the requesting computer can display them.
Web server in addition to making site visible performs several other functions as well like it provides the ability to create email addresses based on one’s domain name and even helps in sending and receiving emails with them. There are several types of software installed on the web server that allows one’s website to run programs, create and manage databases, display video, etc. One must note that almost any type of computer can function as a web server, but it’s the software that’s on it that makes it a server.
When one goes buying a web hosting, the monthly fees to be paid includes cost for maintenance and upgrading of the server’s hardware and software, the cost of keeping it online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a secure data center with a fast and powerful internet connection, and cost of professional proving these services. It is surprising to know that it is possible to turn one’s home or office computer into a web server if one really desires, but it is just not economical. Therefore it is better to outsource it. There are several kinds of web hosting available which are discussed below:
Kinds of web hosting:
Shared Hosting – Through a shared server one can save a high amount. If one talks about the drawbacks then Spamming and blacklisting from different search engines are the key problems. Such problems arise due to the reason that several sites are assign to one particular IP address. One should demand for a separate IP address for his/her website (on additional monthly charges) to secure the user from such problems.
Dedicated Hosting –Dedicated servers are best for big, highly trafficked websites, which will require large amounts of server resources to run. One of the downsides to shared hosting is that the server’s resources are divided across all the sites it’s hosting and answering page requests for. If you are in a dedicated environment you can better monitor your server resources. The downside is that dedicated servers will run you generally per month or more. Shared hosting can be purchased for as little as 5$ a month. Most small or medium sized businesses will have neither the website size or bandwidth requirements to make dedicated servers cost effective.
Server Co-Location – If one wants to have full control over every aspect of his/her web server, he/she might very well choose to buy one and maintain it himself/herself if he/she is having sufficient knowledge. Still there are possibilities that one is not having enough resources to keep his/her server completely safe from power outages, roof leaks, thieves, unwary employees and other problems and in addition it is not possible for him/her to keep it on the internet on a fast, high-bandwidth connection through out. Thus he/she needs a data center to provide those services for him/her.
Co-location is the center providing facilities like physical security on rental, continuous electrical power and a fast, reliable Internet connection for a server that one owns. However, the data center is not responsible for any of the hardware or software maintenance of a co-located server, rather user his/her self. Thus it is a cheaper alternative to dedicated hosting if one is having the necessary expertise and time to run a web server by own.
There are several web hosts offering UNIX hosting and Windows hosting.
There are several web servers in the world running mostly on UNIX. UNIX is an operating system originally developed for servers and networking. Till now many different versions of UNIX have been written by programmers around the world under the open-source protocol, which means that the code for the operating system is openly available so as to enable programmers to customize and make improvements when and where necessary. The two most popular forms of UNIX are Linux and BSD that comes in several varieties, like Red Hat Linux, Debian, SuSE, and FreeBSD. The best part of UNIX is most of above mentioned versions can be obtained free of cost, making UNIX hosting cheaper for a web host in comparison to other operating systems. Other plus points of UNIX are that UNIX hosting platforms are generally considered to be stable, secure, powerful and fast. That is the reason why most web programming applications can be performed by software that is available for a UNIX platform.
Another very popular operating system developed by Microsoft is Windows operating system, Windows Server 2003. Like every thing useful it is having price and can be obtained by purchasing a license, which in turn increases the cost of operation for the web host and usually results in higher hosting prices. This is considered a negative point as compared to UNIX. Plus points of Windows include it is mainly user friendly however it is generally considered to be less powerful and secure than UNIX for operating in a network environment. There are several scripting languages like ASP, ASP.NET, and Cold Fusion, which will only run on a Windows server, as will the Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Access database programs. Thus the above are some of the most popular scripts for certain web programming applications, and if one is thinking of using them while building his/her site, he/she will first definitely need to find a Windows host.
Before searching for a web host, it is essential to know some important terms used in hosting. They are discussed as under:
Storage or Disk space –As one’s website is a collection of files being offered on the Internet for viewing, it is necessary for storing them somewhere for retrieval and take up space. For each and every web server there is a limited amount of hard disk memory, which is divided up and offered to hosting customers. Different package levels are there, so as to enable to pay more for more space and vice versa divide specifically that space up. If one’s website expands its space then the user needs to buy extra space from the web host.
Bandwidth or Data Transfer –One of the crucial parts to verify is bandwidth. There are several sites, which loose their host due to excessive downloads causing budget going beyond their expectations. Occasionally, host even charges in hundreds of dollars for the additional bandwidth. One should confirm about this before dealing with any of the host. Usually, ideal-hosting providers deliver initial bandwidth of 25 to 50 GB to the users.
Uptime –It is a universal truth that if one talks about perfect web servers then they are the one, which would be up, and running and offering web pages to the world round the clock, whole year. But, it is also true that web servers are mere computers, and like any other computer, they may fail or needs repairing or updating. Often web hosts gives 99% uptime guarantee, and if they fail they refund a certain portion of user’s money depending on the amount of excess downtime they experienced.
Traffic Statistics – By traffic statistics we mean those programs that track visitors to one’s website. These programs are capable of telling how many times a user visited one site, how many visitors were unique and how many came back more than once, which pages were most popular, from where the visitors came to one’s site, what search terms they used in the search engines etc. In addition they offer several types of information which are useful for marketing one’s website to a target audience. There are several web hosts offering some sort of traffic statistics software with their hosting packages.
CGI Scripts – There are several web hosts offering a variety of free CGI scripts with their packages. CGI Scripts are the things like hit counters, guest books, form mail programs, message boards, and other programs that enable one website to perform commonly desired functions. Most CGI scripts are written in common programming languages like Perl, PHP or ASP.
Thus one should take care and keep all the above points in mind while selecting a web host.