The Beginner’s Guide To Web Hosting

8th April, 2014 by

Can’t tell your web hosting from your VPS or dedicated servers? Hayden Smith lays the basics terms of web hosting bare… Phew.

If you are new to to web hosting there’s a lot of terminology to take in. If you’re looking for options to put your first website online then the array of options can be baffling. As with other things in life, prices between products can vary wildly, and you could come to question whether buying cheap means buying twice.

Here, we’ll try to give a breakdown of the three most common hosting options on the market and hopefully clarify some of those questions.

Firstly, What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting, also called shared hosting by some providers, is an allocation of storage space on a server designed and configured to make your web pages accessible to the world.

As the ‘shared’ implies, you’ll be purchasing a bit of space on a server that can be shared with anywhere from hundreds to thousands of other people.

Many new and smaller websites can start and operate through shared web hosting quite comfortably.

The limitation on shared web hosting is the amount of computing resources that your site will take up. If your site becomes so busy that it begins to use up a lot of memory or central processing resources – aka CPU – on a shared web hosting server, you’ll need to either move up to a VPS or a dedicated server package.

For the majority of users, though, unless you manage to make a very popular website you’ll be unlikely to find yourself in that position.

Another limitation of shared hosting is that the software installed on the server is limited to what your host decides. This may limit you as to what website software you can use on the server.

With these limitations in mind, shared web hosting can bring a number of benefits to the table.  Firstly, you don’t need to worry about how the server is set up or stress about having to manage the software installed.

If you have little knowledge of managing computers, let alone servers, this can take a large chunk out of the learning curve of getting set up and save you a lot of time in the future. With UK2’s shared hosting, we offer you 1-click installers for many of the most popular website software packages, meaning that setting up a WordPress blog, a Joomla site or even a wiki, is a simple process.

So What is a VPS?

A Virtual Private Server or VPS is a virtualised server.  It’s a hybrid of sorts. It gives you the same power and set-up control as a dedicated server. But it also makes you reliant on shared hardware resources, as with shared web hosting, with potentially dozens of virtual servers on one hardware server.

VPSs are usually specified by the amount of hard disk space, RAM and CPU resources allocated to them and we offer the ability to modify the RAM and CPU allocation to your VPS without even needing to reboot the server.

The hard disk space you purchase is allocated to the full filesystem for your server, so you aren’t sharing that file system with any other users, allowing you to install whatever software or tools you desire to the system. This reduces some of the ease of use from that which comes with shared web hosting, but we do offer a number of options to set up a VPS with common website software such as WordPress and Joomla pre-installed and ready for you to use.

Our VPSs are also part of a cloud meaning that your server runs independent of the hardware it sits atop, so should one of the hardware servers fail, your virtual server can start running on another hardware server, minimizing any downtime you may face.

If you are unfamiliar with operating a server, then the main downside of a virtual private server is the need to manage the underlying server operating system. Whether it is Linux-based or Windows-based there are a number of things to learn compared to using a desktop PC.

These are things that can be easily learnt, though, and there are a heaps of resources online on how to do this, and something we’ll be adding more to through this blog.

Other than that, you are limited by the resources you assign to the server. If your website becomes very popular you may want to look into moving to a dedicated server as VPS servers generally don’t perform as well as a similarly specified dedicated server.

Finally, What is a Dedicated Server?

A dedicated server is a server that is dedicated to you. Once you choose this option, you are handed over the log-in details to a server with a plain operating system installed, and then left to set it up to your preferences and install any software you require.

For a beginner this can be a daunting prospect and something that can stop you dead in your tracks. As well as the set-up, you are responsible for monitoring and managing the server’s software and security. If that sounds altogether too much, then there’s the option of paying for managed support where a team of experts does the complicated work for you, leaving you to get on with the task of just running your website.

While you have full use of all the resources the server has and therefore more power and performance over the other options, the cloud VPS does offer one advantage in that in the event of a hardware failure, the VPS can be more resilient, as your server can be running on another piece of hardware far faster than a repair can be performed on a dedicated server. If you need performance and resilience, you’d need to look into the option of having a second or even a third or fourth dedicated server and running in a high availability setup, something we shall touch on in a later blog post.

In Summary…

As you can see, despite their differences there aren’t really any negatives to the various options that makes an option worse than the others.

The main thing you gain is performance at the cost of ease of use, but with our managed support that ease of use can be brought back.


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