Developing your first ever website can be a daunting task and choosing the best hosting is the worst part. If you are unfamiliar with the world of web servers, domain names, server-side scripting languages and HTML (the language of the web) then looking at the jargon provided by web hosting companies is going to be confusing. To help you on your journey to a perfectly set up website anf find the best hosting we have taken a look at the different types of web hosting available to the general consumer.
The very first steps – Free Blog Hosts
Ultimately the first port of call might be to avoid web hosting entirely – depending on your website or blogs requirements. For example if you are thinking about running a hobby blog then there are plenty of free blog hosts that make the process of hosting and running a blog really easy. The benefit of many of the free blogging platforms is the fact that they give free hosting to their users. So when testing the waters for a new content or blog theme or if you have never tried your hand at blogging then consider some of the free blogging platforms that offer hosting as part of their package. Some of the best and most popular platforms include wordpress.com, livejournal, typepad, blogger and the microblog tumblr.
One problem that you might have with setting up a free blog hosting account might be your requirements for your own domain name. A domain name is essentially the address for your website (e.g. example.com). Fortunately there are absolutely loads of free blog hosts out there that allow you to integrate a domain name with your blog account. Some free blog sites also offer paid solutions should you require additional features such as website theme editing.
Another problem with free blog hosting is that the space made available to you is fairly limited which can be a problem especially if your posts are very multi-media heavy – e.g. lots of images, video and other files. Finally the content that is put on to a free blog site is owned by the blog provider – they have the power to take down content when it suits them. This alone does not make this the best hosting choice, especially if you intend on build a money making website.
If you want a bit more control over your blog in terms of functionality (i.e. if you are not running a hobby blog..!) and design then the next step is likely to be a shared hosting option.
Shared Hosting – Best Hosting For First Time Websites
Shared hosting is the cheapest form of web server hosting available and one of the best hosting options for newbies. Simply put – a shared host is when multiple websites share one web server connected to the internet. Hosting companies often sell shared hosting as part of a domain+hosting deals and thus can represent some of the best value for money for those starting out with their first website.
Shared hosting can be an excellent first step in exposure to a server environment and really can be the best hosting choice. Whilst you do not specifically have to manage the performance of the server or perform server updates you can still have a huge amount of influence on the development of your site by adding, editing and removing files on the server through direct FTP (file transfer). This gives you a lot more control over your site from a code and website design perspective although it does require a bit of knowledge of the server language that powers your blogging software and html/css. Choosing a server language will undoubtedly effect your choice of server – for example if you are developing in a .NET framework then you will need a Windows based server. For a majority of people a linux based server that runs Apache is enough to run most blogging and content management system sites that rely on the server language PHP and are often a developer’s first choice.
But you do not have to worry about any technical stuff when you decide to build a WordPress website from scratch. Shared hosting and a WordPress website is the easiest way to get your first website up and running.
Shared Hosting still suffers from some of the same problems as free blog hosts – namely space restrictions, but only in special circumstances. Also the nature of a shared host means that resources are split across several different domains and thus the performance of the server can sometimes be slow and sluggish. Finally bandwidth (the rate or amount of permitted data transfer) is fairly restrictive. For example if you are expecting (or in fact hoping) for a site that generates a lot of traffic then you might need to think bigger than a shared hosting solution. Sites that get a lot of website traffic (excessive amount of data transfer) at once can cause the site to go offline. If you are looking to develop a site for the purposes of selling product or show cases any rich media (big file size) then your site will likely experience high bandwidth drains. There is the other option to speed up your website loading times by using Cloudflare. This website (or blog) uses this method.
Whether shared hosting is the right option for you entirely depends on the site you want to develop. If you are looking for a hosting solution that isn’t very costly but provides you with a workable web server then shared hosting might be for you. If you are thinking about developing a site that is going to be experiencing high or fluctuating traffic, or if you are thinking of developing a few sites, then perhaps considering a virtual hosting solution is more appropriate.
This website you are looking at now is on shared hosting and is classed as a large website. When it grows too large for shared hosting it will be moved to an appropriate server.
Virtualised Hosting and Cloud Hosting
A visualized server is functionally equivalent to an individual dedicated server that is used by one user rather than shared with other users. Virtual servers tend to be cheaper than a dedicated server because they require less hardware but can be as powerful because the resources (CPU, memory etc) that are running the virtual server can be similar.
Your visualized resources are dependent on your usage of the server, thus your blog tends to run a little bit faster depending on your content on a visualized server compared with a shared host. For this reason the logical step up from a shared host tends to be a VPS (virtual private server).
VPS tends to be better for smaller businesses that need to have their own web server with a static IP but might not be able to afford their own dedicated server. VPS are also better for handling bandwidth (data transfer) and offer better storage options.
If you are looking to develop your site into a web based app or an eCommerce site then VPS solutions are a good step forward. They can also give you access to the server itself giving you configuration options that shared hosting cannot offer. However the best factor of virtual servers is the fact that changing hardware is actually based on software – if you need a bigger server then your hosting company should be able accommodate extremely quickly. This freedom and flexibility is more closely aligned with cloud servers. Cloud servers (also known as cloud hosting) gives users the opportunity to increase or decrease the server resources such as storage, bandwidth and even CPU (how fast the server runs) on the fly giving it the ultimate flexibility. Cloud based hosting is extremely useful for sites that suffer from fluctuation and those developing web apps.
This is one of the best web hosting solutions but is more costly and is suited to business websites.
Finally the last piece of the hosting puzzle is dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting refers to a physical server that is owned by the hosting company that is maintained and managed. Usually very large sites with high traffic benefit from dedicated hosting due to the fact that all the computational resource of the server is dedicated to the website only. Usually they are sold with batch resources – bandwidth, memory, CPU, storage etc are set as part of the price. If you require additional resource then physical component needs to be bought for the machine. In this respect dedicated hosting falls short when compared with a virtualized cloud host. Nonetheless dedicated hosting remains popular amongst high traffic sites and those who need control over the server.
So there you have it! A pretty quick run through of some of the best hosting options available. For any new website, to get the best hosting, you should think about its purpose – if it is a personal site then shared hosting or a free blog space maybe far more suited than a dedicated server… and a lot cheaper! However if you are looking to run a business and need flexibility then you might need to consider a managed cloud hosting or virtual private server solution.
Jonathan is writing on behalf of ElasticHosts. Find out how ElasticHosts’ cloud server software provides flexible and scalable hosting solutions.
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