Hosting, or To Host is the method of storing data in one place accessible via the internet. Leading Hosts provide this service for millions of different websites from personal use to the Global Enterprise. They will usually have hundreds / thousands of computers (commonly referred to as servers), stored in buildings / warehouses (commonly referred to as Data Centres). Data centres will be permanently connected to the internet, normally using multiple different types of connectivity to ensure maximum Service up Time.
Hosting Providers normally offer various types of Hosting Solutions; dedicated hosting, co-location hosting, shared hosting, & VDS hosting to name a few. Your requirements will dictate the type of Hosting Solution you will require.
We have detailed some of the most common types of Hosting Solutions below to try and better explain the differences.
The simplest form of Hosting is Shared Hosting; this will consist of 1 Server configured to store multiple websites in individual containers (folders). The Server will be permanently connected to the internet so when someone looks for your website, DNS Servers will direct them to this server which in turn will direct them to your folder.
There are no limits as to the amount of websites which can be hosted using Shared Hosting, however the more websites hosted the more work the server will have to do which can have a negative effect on website performance. Many hosting providers often overload servers using shared hosting so make yourself aware of their policies on the number of websites / clients / % of server load before you decide on your Host of choice.
Shared Hosting is not as flexible as other forms of hosting so if you require some unique applications or configuration then shared hosting may not be suitable for you. Also Shared Hosting normally has more restrictions on the amount of storage space you have and the amount of bandwidth you can use each month. If you expect high volumes of traffic then Shared Hosting is definately not the hosting solution for you.
If you’re just starting out with a website and its main use is for information, a sales tool or marketing (not internet shopping etc), then Shared Hosting is probably your best choice.
Although we should always try to make the right choice when deciding which Hosting Solution to use, you can always change to a different solution, server or even hosting provider at any time (subject to your existing contract terms). Despite what some people may say, moving your website from one server to another, or from one hosting provider to another is common practice and if done correctly will have no detrimental effect on your internet strategy or website rankings.
Virtual Dedicated Server / Virtual Private Server is similar to shared hosting in the sense that you are sharing the resources of a server with other users. The difference though is instead of just having a container to store your files, image, data etc. You will have your own fully functioning virtual server.
A Virtual Server is basically software which is installed onto an actual server. The software when installed acts as though it is an actual server you can install applications, you can create files, folders, start and stop services and even turn it off all without having any effect on other websites hosted on the actual server.
This extra flexibility enables you to have a more complex websites or other forms of sharing information over the internet. You could actually host multiple websites on your own virtual server, just like you can with shared hosting; you will have more flexibility over databases and more control over the virtual resources you use.
Like shared hosting other people will be sharing the actual server (there will be more VDS’s installed) but these will have a lesser impact on your website performance.
The servers themselves are generally of a much higher spec than those used for shared hosting, and are normally operated within 50-75% of their capacity to ensure you get optimum performance. You will also find that many hosting providers actually use multiple servers for VDS solutions, which will give you the extra piece of mind that if something on the server was to break your website would continue to operate without any interruptions.
With this added flexibility comes additional responsibility. Although you don’t need a degree in computer science to manage / maintain a VDS, it will require a little more skill than a shared solution. Many Hosting companies will offer to support you with this for an additional fee, but if you have the time to research this yourself you will find lots of different forms of training, many of them free.
VDS / VPS hosting solutions are a great step for the more complicated website, or for the company who prefers to have more control over their own website. Although much improved when compared to shared hosting, you will still have restrictions on disk space & bandwidth but for most users the amount supplied with VDS solutions will be more than enough.
Dedicated Hosting is really designed for the digital business - On line shops, file sharing websites, corporate businesses which will share information with their other offices or websites with very high traffic volume etc.
As with VDS Hosting you will have full control over your server the difference being that you are the only person using it. A dedicated hosting solution is as it sounds a server solely for your use.
Most dedicated servers come with the option of being fully managed, which means you don’t need to employ your own technical genius to mange it for you. Of course you can manage it yourself, after all it is your dedicated server to do with as you wish.
Dedicated Hosting really is for the serious business and will come with the price tag to match. Anything up to 400% more expensive for the basic dedicated hosting solution when compared to VDS Hosting, it can easily run into thousands of pounds per month rental for the big players.
Co-Location Hosting offers all the same benefits as Dedicated Hosting with one difference. With all the other hosting solutions you are using a server provided to you by the Hosting Company. Co-Location Hosting allows you to buy your own server and have it installed into a hosting providers Data Centre.
Once installed it effectively operates as a dedicated server with the exception of how it is managed. It is your responsibility to mange your Co-Location Server; from patches, hardware & security it is your responsibility to keep it running smoothly.
Again as with dedicated hosting Co-Location Hosting it is very expensive, not as expensive as dedicated per month but you do have the initial expense of purchasing your server and the extra cost of maintenance.
Co-Location Hosting is often used by businesses that have their own in house technical support team. or businesses forced into the co-location route because they require a certain spec hardware, or a specialist operating system not offered by hosting providers. Some larger corporate organizations find they have to use certain brands of hardware because of polices within the business. Co-Location is perfectly geared towards this sort of hosting requirement.