I want to shed some light on things important to you when you are looking for a good web hosting company. I have been asked about some of the things I am going to share today over and over by different people at different times.
Some of the technical terms confuse a lot of people while they are looking to find a good hosting company and I know how confused I was when I was starting out. Today, my goal is bring some clarity and define some web hosting terms for you.
If you have made a decision to establish your brand identity online, you are probably now considering to launch your brand new website. This is where you need to understand a few basics, right?
So, I am assuming that you know all about domains and you already have reserved one for your website. If you are not yet sure, I highly encourage you to sign up for the Free Website Setup Course I am offering right now to help you learn about domains and much more.
Now, let’s discuss some of the things you need to know before you go ahead and start your work on hosting your first self-hosted website:
1. Web Hosting
While setting up your website, you will need to create content on your website such as your blog posts, your “About” page, your video, podcasts, images etc.
All of these objects need a space on a server that can be accessed over the internet. The process of allocating an appropriate space on such a server and then hosting of these various website components in the allocated space, is usually known as web hosting.
There are hundreds of companies (if not thousands) offering web hosting solutions to you and me. They all offer various options and for you to be able to make an informed decision. You need to know about those offerings.
By the time you are done with this post, you will understand many things about web hosting and this will help you make an informed qualified decision about your web hosting needs.
For more information (and proper technical definitions) on web hosting, I encourage you to check out Wikipedia's page.
2. Shared Hosting
If you are just starting out, this is where you are probably going to start. This is a web hosting environment where you lease space on a server which also hosts websites for other people. That is why it is called as ‘shared hosting’.
Most small business owners, bloggers who do not have huge hosting budgets get started with a shared hosting where they don’t need to host huge data or huge bandwidth either.
The only problem is, for no fault of yours, any other website hosted on the same server (which may be a large site consuming much higher resources than your website), can bring the web server down thus taking your website down along with it. This happens often in shared hosting environments and that is why it’s important to check reputation of the hosting company before you make a commitment to one.
3. VPS Hosting
VPS hosting is a type of web hosting where Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are used. In this case, although there may be one physical server holding multiple VPS accounts, each account has its own space, RAM and resources independently as if each were on its own separate machine.
VPS hosting gives you the freedom to install your own set of software on your server (it feels like your own physical machine). You can shut down and restart your server independently. Therefore, since you have control of resources, you can have a much better control on how the CPU and its resources are used on your server.
VPS hosting is recommended if you have a good amount of traffic or your website is resource intensive because it is a costly option when compared with shared hosting.
4. Dedicated Server Hosting
This is really a physical server dedicated to one account with a lot more CPU, resources, memory and hosting space. This type of hosting costs way more than a VPS but also, it has way more power than a VPS. This is an ideal hosting environment for large websites with a lot of traffic, a lot of images and videos attached.
As a starter, this may not be an ideal environment for you to choose because of associated costs and maintenance tasks associated if you lease a dedicated server. People who have this kind of hosting also have at least a system administrator who is responsible for managing the operating system, security and software updates on the server on a regular basis.
5. Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting is the latest form of hosting leveraging the computing power of distributed computing over the internet. Cloud computing has become extremely popular over the last several years and it continues to grow.
In cloud hosting, the actual website data (such as HTML/CSS files, images, etc.) is spread out on cloud over a cluster of hard drives connected together making it available at multiple locations to be invoked based on the location of your website visitor. Not just that, because of the distributed nature, the reliability and scalability of cloud hosting is much better than a VPS or a dedicated server.
Cloud hosting is the costliest option at this moment. But, with cost of space and computing coming down rapidly, very soon, this is becoming a more affordable option for website owners.
6. Linux Vs Windows Hosting
Speaking of hosting options, one of the choices you will be faced with, will be to choose a server with a Linux operating system or Windows operating system. Now, there are clear cut differences between these two and you should be able to choose based on the following factors:
- Windows and Linux, both are reliable and scalable.
- Windows based hosting will cost you more than Linux hosting simply because Linux is an open source while Windows licenses cost money. Naturally your hosting company has to pay for it, so it passes the cost on to you.
- You don’t need Windows hosting unless you are going to need ASP and .NET support on your server. For everything else Linux hosting does a great job.
- Most WordPress websites are hosted in the Linux Hosting environment. So, you are not alone if you choose Linux hosting as your hosting option.
- Security on both operating systems are comparable. Both have vulnerabilities, both have strengths. Both are good!
7. Domain Registrar
This refers to the company you use to register your domain name (your .com, .net, .org etc.). Essentially this is the first thing you will need to have when you are setting up your website.
I need to discuss about this a little here because of the confusion most people get into when it comes to differentiating their domain from their hosting. I have many people ask me if their hosting company will cancel their domain also if they cancel their hosting (or move their hosting to somewhere else.) This confusion is because of a lack of knowledge.
Companies like GoDaddy.com and NameCheap.com are very popular domain registrars while many hosting companies give you an option to get a domain free for the first year when you host with them.
So, what that means is, you can buy your domain separately and then buy hosting. That also means that you can buy your domain with one company and host it with another company. Hosting and a domain are two separate things and cancelling one doesn’t cancel the other.
8. Hosting Uptime
This simply means the duration for which the web server is up and running. This is usually indicated in percentages. Most hosting companies will give you a promise of 99.9% of uptime guarantee.
However, that still means you need to know that your website can come down. Very rarely a web host can give you a 100% uptime guarantee and if they do, they charge you heavy because it takes a lot of infrastructure and care to achieve such a goal.
In shared environments, some companies are better than others. But, you will see downtime in spite of you making every effort that you don’t cause a downtime. You should check the reputation of the hosting company on this aspect before making a decision.
9. Dedicated IP address
Your domain name essentially points to an IP address behind the scene. The IP address is the real address of your website while your domain name is only an alias for the complicated IP address which usually looks like XXX.YYY.ZZZ.1234 in reality.
The IP address points to the location where your website is hosted and that is how browsers are able to fetch your content and render it for your website visitors.
Every hosting server has its own IP address and that means, when you host a website on any server, you do, by default, get the IP of the server. However, if you are on a shared hosting server, your website will share the IP address with many other websites hosted on the same server. On the other hand, when you have a dedicated server, you have your own dedicated IP address.
But, it is also possible for you to buy your own dedicated IP address when you are still hosted in a shared environment (most hosting companies give you this option).
However, when do you really need a dedicated IP address? Here are the situations in which you will need one:
- When you are building an e-commerce site and you expect your customers to enter their credit card to make their purchases, you will need to have SSL protection. You must have a dedicated IP in order to get an SSL certificate on your site.
- When you expect high traffic volume, you will be better off having a dedicated IP address from the perspective of website speed. You don’t want your website to share the IP with others when you know you have a busy website.
- Although it’s a controversial theory, some SEO experts say that a dedicated IP address helps a website rank higher on search engines.
10. Content Management System (CMS)
Content Management System (CMS) is a bundled or stand-alone computer application to create, manage, store and deploy content on web pages from one central location. Web content includes text and embedded graphics, photos, video, audio, etc.
CMS platforms are often used as blogging software. Some of the most popular CMS tools are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal etc.
Most hosting companies support all of them although most of them do not have expertise in any of these tools unless they specifically mention that the hosting you are going to buy is ‘managed hosting’.
11. Email Hosting
When you are hosting a website, don’t you want to have an email address of your own with your own domain instead of @gmail.com or @yahoo.com?
Email hosting is the process of setting up your email address with your domain name and it is facilitated by any email hosting service.
When you are buying a hosting space, you will notice that most of the shared hosting service providers give you email hosting for free. But the problem is, having your email hosted at the same location as your website, is not such a good idea.
Why? Because, if your web server goes down for any reason (which happens, although hosting companies will promise you a 99.9% up time,) it brings down your email along with your website. Imagine you can neither be contacted through your website nor by email. How frustrating an experience can that be for your customers?
Instead, you should find a separate email hosting service such as Google, Zoho or any other and go with them. At least you will not have all your eggs in one basket.
12. MySql Databases
MySQL is a popular open source relational database used by content management systems such as WordPress and other programs to manage metadata of the websites.
Usually, hosting companies offer a fixed number of MySQL databases for each hosting account and that eventually dictates how many websites you can host or how many different functionalities you can have on that server.
13. Website Backup
Backup is not a new concept and it’s just common sense that you keep a pristine daily backup of your website handy so it can help you restore your website in case there is a problem with the server.
Backing up your websites just ensures that your data is safe and maintained at a safe place where you can get to it in case of any system failures or if your site is infected or when you are under a cyber-attack.
Only some hosting companies (especially in a shared environment) offer a daily backup service as part of their hosting offer. And, among all who offer a daily backup, most of them also recommend that you should take your own backup because they don’t take responsibility for a corrupt backup or loss of data for any reason.
Obviously, you should pay close attention to who you give the responsibility of hosting your website and this could be an important aspect of your decision making aspect.
14. Unlimited Hosting
This term is mostly used in shared hosting atmospheres. Basically, the hosting company wants to tell you that the hosting fees you will pay will cover unlimited data, disk usage, CPU resource usage, etc.
However, this term is very misleading because hosting cannot be unlimited in nature. It’s just like Vonage claiming to give you “unlimited” international calling but the moment you cross 3000 minutes of international calling minutes (well, I have tested that limit for calling to India many times), they will start troubling you with emails and threaten to automatically upgrade you to a higher paying plan with less features.
Unlimited hosting cannot possibly be a reality considering the fact that the resources on the server are limited, space is limited and data transfer itself has its own limit. You should never fall for this trap and always look for a service that gives you an idea of how much usage really you are allowed to have without any trouble.
15. DDoS Attack
This is an acronym which stands for Distributed Denial-of-Service attack, a type of cyber-attack where hackers attempt to bring a website down or severely slow it down.
In such cases, the hackers use a network of zombie computers to sabotage a specific Web site or server’s operations. Basically, a hacker instructs a large botnet to contact a specific server repeatedly until the web server gets overloaded. The sudden rise in web traffic causes an unprepared server to slow down significantly for its normal users. Sometimes, this kind of attack is enough to shut the site down completely.
Many hosting companies have started to offer this service as part of the package since the havoc DDoS attacks created especially for WordPress websites in 2013. While buying your hosting service, you should pay attention to see if your hosting company offers DDoS protection.
Questions: What are some of the most important things that you consider when you are shopping for a web hosting company for website? Is there anything else that should be included in this list in addition?
Please share your thoughts in your comments by clicking here. Thank you kindly!
Wow! Awesome list indeed 🙂
I think you covered up ALL the technical things about web hosting. Honestly speaking, I hadn’t even heard about a few of these, so that was a lot of education for me for sure.
Yes, we all need to see our budget and funds, and it’s only when you get loads of traffic would you go ahead and find something better. Last year I had an issue with mine where the resources were concerned, as many were being used up, so one keeps finding ways to clear up those off and on to not be caught again.
I think what we all look for in our hosting services is how quick their customer service is, especially when there are issues that we can’t handle on our own, and if it’s good, then a lot can be managed in the down-times, isn’t it?
Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead 🙂
Absolutely, a lot can be managed in a downtime for sure. And I think a good customer service is definitely the first thing to consider, even before looking for technical details of the infrastructure. A bad customer service can ruin everything no matter how great is everything else.
I am glad you found something of value in this post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and you have a great week ahead!
Hi Kumar and happy Monday!
I have to say that I’ve never heard of VPS hosting and Cloud hosting, and I’m so glad you gave all such details about different hosting options, because all I was able to find so far, is either shared hosting or dedicated hosting.
My blogs are still on shared hosting like many of the bloggers I know, but I have to say that getting the next upgraded option is something that I’ve thought about.
Thank you for this and I will check on these options.
Glad to hear from you and to know that I added some value to your knowledge base as well through this post.
Yes, we all start with shared hosting plan and then graduate as our sites grow. That is a great and practical strategy.
Have a great day!
Thank you for explaining these terms in a friendly fashion. I always get confused, but this helped me understand it well. I usually leave this up to my better half…David to deal with. But, it is important for me to have some knowledge about it too. You have made it much more easier for me to understand.
Because of all the “stuff” I’m going through right now with my membership site not working, I do need new hosting.
Rumor has it that “Hostgator” has been sold and since then, I’ve been going through such a hard time. No one answers when we call. It’s the most frustrating thing because I want to get my site connected. Even JVZoo has no clue what is going on.
What I have learned from all of this is to have a different host because there is too much confusion going on with “those big guys” at this time. Yes, it is worth paying more for me because I cannot run a business successfully waiting for a response from Hostgator.
Thanks Kumar and will be talking to you soon lol!
I didn’t know if Hostgator was to be sold. May be there is some truth in it. Well we will know soon if that is going to happen.
Big guys are good when we don’t need a personalized service. But, when it comes to having custom solutions, small is big 🙂
Anyways, I look forward to serving you. And thank you for sharing your issues and experience with us.
Hi Kumar! Excellent breakdown of the hosting options available. I spent a lot of time researching this several years ago.
It was (is) incredibly important to me to have hosting that is reliable, responsive, and most of all, dedicated to maintaining a fast and secure platform.
Thanks for your amazing amount of insight! I love my hosting company, but always like to know what all of my options are.
Thank you for stopping by and glad to know you are happy with your host. It is hard to find a company that can sever you well enough and for long enough for you to come out and say, “I’m happy” 🙂
Happy New Week!
Hi Kumar, a great post sharing everything you need to know about hosting. I have a VPS but started on shared hosting. No one ever explained to me that as my site got busier that I’d actually need more space, more memory and all other things! Good support from your host is essential, and my hosts have the patience of a saint!
Patience of a saint, is an awesome way to put it and more than that, I think you also have a lot of patience to test theirs, isn’t it? 🙂
Thank you for sharing and glad to know that you are happy with your VPS hosting after graduating through the phases of shares hosting.
Have a great week!
Bravo, great explanation of all of this and I know that as new site owners a lot of this is over our heads. I wish I could say I’m not familiar with any of what you’ve just shared but I’d be lying. I’m all too familiar now with all the hosting problems I’m still having.
What I really get ticked about is the unlimited promises. I learned back in December of 2012 just how misleading that really is. After speaking with someone on the phone late last month about hosting he explained to me that most companies do put that down to entice people in without explaining to them that it’s unlimited “up to a certain point”. Jeez, they just conveniently leave that part out but also people don’t quite understand a lot of the behind the scenes things that are going on with their sites either.
I’m still not sold on the cloud services because I still hear a lot of people complaining that they’re not what they’re made out to be. I just am not sure if that’s the route I want to take but I did give CloudFlare a run last year and it was horrible. It could have also been because of database issues I was still having so it’s hard to really know.
I’m still searching for another home as you already are aware. Was offline on and off for the past five days with no help from my host at all. They loved to play the blame game until they finally learned exactly what the issue was and hopefully resolved it today.
Thanks again for this great explanation. This is something everyone needs to be aware of although most hosting services will still lie to you. 🙁
Of course I don’t expect you to know all these terms Adrienne! If you didn’t know any if these, that will be a surprise 🙂 for me.
But then, there are so many people who aren’t able to move forward because they get intimidated by these terms and so I wanted to put this together to probably give some insights into these things from their perspective.
Hosting companies lie flat out the moment they say “unlimited” and for that matter, anybody who offers unlimited, essentially, is lying. Isn’t that almost a fact?
I hope you find your solution soon as I know hosting issues can be frustrating sometimes. Wish you all the best.
What a list! I think anyone thinking about hosting will now know everything they need to know for sure.
I am also considering new hosting at the moment, but when I hear how hard it can be to find a better one that does not cost a bomb, then I kinda just give up!
have a great day
I really wish I had such a great glossary of technical web hosting terms when I started out. Believe me, everything needed to be explained (and in detail too) to me back then.
Fast forward some few years after and I can discuss any of those terms out there with ease. However, most of these terms still have to be construed in the light of the integrity of the particular host. Take up time guarantee and bandwidth allocation for instance. Every hosting company out there offers ‘unlimited hosting space’ and guarantees you ‘99% up time’. While this sounds good to the ear, the reality often leaves much to be desired.
This entry would sure serve as a great resource for any newbie starting out and even some ‘old timers’ who are less tech inclined.
Do have a great day!
Yeah, you are right about the lies hosting companies tell us all the time. I hate that 99.9% uptime guarantee when your website can go down for 4 hours on any day and it does go down every few weeks. It’s amazing how people fall for it.
Thank you for your words of appreciation. Have a great week ahead!
I tip my hat off to you. Thanks for the break down of web hosting. It can definitely be confusing, and it was pretty confusing for me and I’m in IT LOL… yet it doesn’t matter for the most post.
I was confused in the difference between VPS, Dedicated Server, Cloud Hosting, and shared hosting. Since I have set up dedicated servers and virtual machine servers, the way you described each hosting gave me a really great understand on the difference for each one.
I was always skeptical of when hosting companies say they have 99.9% uptime. I knew there’s no way in hell that’s even possible LOL… especially for the fact that I have to deal with servers going down at my job. But I guess I should be more open minded, right?
I definitely appreciate the information and the time you went through to put this all together. I hope you have a great week!
I honestly didn’t know the actual definition of some of these terms. I have heard of all of them, especially VPS and dedicated web hosting. And for the most part, I just guessed definitions from context..seems like I was wrong on some aspects (especially with the differences in VPS and dedicated web hosting..I thought VPS was more advanced than dedicated).
I have dedicated IP address (I don’t really need it, but it came with the package), although I didn’t really know what it meant (I just took the term literally – an ip address dedicated to my blog….guess I was right there :D).
Anyways, thank you for sharing this, Kumar 🙂 I do appreciate it!
Kumar, excellent explanation, this is a great post to share with those looking for a new web host or those just starting a new blog. It’s a definite share! I learned from the beginning not to go with a smaller reseller and go with the bigger companies that can provide 24/7 service. I’ve been very happy with Hostgator for almost 4 years now. I love their 24/7 chat support and 24/7 phone service. I’ve used both and they have always answered all my questions and guided me through things. I’ve had very little downtime as well. I see other bloggers with days of downtime with other servers and hosts.
Thanks for putting this informative piece together Kumar, one never knows when they will need it again.
I see a lot of people happy at Hostgator and that is a good achievement for them for sure. But the same isn’t true with similar large companies. For example, people don’t seem to get any good feeling about GoDaddy which is larger in size.
Anyways, I am happy that you are happy with Hostgator and that you don’t have to worry about a lot of things that others seem to struggle with 🙂
Thank you for dropping by and sharing!
Thanks for an excellent rundown on web hosting, Kumar. I have used several hosting companies in the past, and have found one other aspect that, for me at least, is important, and that is the CPanel.
As you know, the CPanel is the means for accessing informaion stored on your site. It’s not something you need very often, but when you do it’s invaluable.
Some hosting companies give you only one CPanel. This makes it more difficult to manage more than one site, and also means that if one site gets hacked there is a strong likelihood they all will be. Having a separate CPanel for each of my sites was one of the main reasons I migrated all my sites to GVO.
Thanks again for a very helpful post – I shall bookmark as a reference source for people who need a clearer understanding of web hosting and its relationship to registration. Why reinvent the wheel?
Hi Alan, cPanel is definitely a miss and I thank you for the mention! I will include this in this post when I get to revise this post one more time with a few more components in near future!
Regarding separate cPanels, it is also a reason why sometimes your server can slow down. Having too many cPanels means adding more task for your server and I see why some companies do not allow many cPanels per account. But then, I see your point and it is an excellent one! Thank you!
Really a great article to explain the terminologies used in web hosting. Although I know all these terms except DDoS Attack but there were many things which got cleared from your article. You very well explained the difference in VPS & dedicated server.
You are very welcome Pritam! Glad to know you found it useful and I look forward to learning more about you!
Keep in touch!
Till date I am using Google Blogger free hosting, not started self hosted blog but now I want to migrate my blog from blogger to WordPress. But little confused about hosting because My blog getting daily 10k to 20k visits daily. Because my friend told me get vps hosting. Can you tell me which hosting services and which type of hosting can I use.?
This is an excellent overview of web hosting, Kumar.
I am just a marketing person, and have very little technical knowledge. I like to just imagine that all hosting is the same so I don’t have to think about it, but as you’ve shown here… that’s really just avoiding the responsibility of finding the right hosting for your situation.
I’ve learned a lot of the basics, here, so that I feel a bit more competent to choose hosting more wisely. In my case, some of my sites are okay with shared hosting, but some require a managed hosting solution. Thanks for helping me reach this solution, Kumar.
You are very welcome David. Glad to be of service to you. I am excited about your new membership and I wish you all the success!
My business depends on my sites being up and I can say for sure that excellent tech support is imperative in order to keep a business up and running. So many times I have been saved by my tech people and I appreciate them more each time they help me out of a jam.
Hi gauraw, I noticed go daddy has a unique IP I’ve been considering getting one. I’ve heard if I do this my sending e-mails into junk mail may stop as I wont’ be associated with others on the same partial IP. Does it work that way for dedicated servers or do I already have a unique IP address?
When you signed up for a dedicated server, they would have ideally given you a dedicated IP or two. But you need to confirm it with them.
And you are right. Having your own IP even helps in SPAM control just like the issue you pointed out.
I think most people put their priority in cost and up time when they are looking for hosting. But clearly there’s so much more that you should be looking at and you’ve gave us a ton of good information here.
One thing I wasn’t aware of is that if you are on a shared hosting server, your website will share the IP address with other websites hosted on the same server. Which brings me to one question. If a website bans an IP address that many sites share, do all the sites get banned who have that IP address?
That is definitely a very thoughtful question. I am amazed that you had this question instantly after reading my post 🙂
Well, it’s very simple. If I block an IP address on my firewall, all websites that share that IP will be blocked. If it happens to be the IP your website shares, yes, you will blocked along with everybody else using that IP. That is another important reason why it is a good idea to have your own dedicated IP address.
Thank you for dropping by and asking this very interesting question.