What are the different types of web hosting?

Depending on your level of expertise, website hosting, which is the task of making websites and web pages available to many users, can be either very simple or daunting. In this article, we are going to explore the different types of hosting in plan English. While they all act as a storage place for your website, where they differ is the amount of storage capacity, control, technical knowledge requirement, server speed and reliability.  These are the six types of web hosting you will most often come across: 

1. Shared hosting

Perfect for entry-level website hosting. This is where your website will be stored on the same server as multiple other websites, that could be anywhere between hundreds or thousands of others.

All domains will share the same server resources, such as RAM (Random Access Memory – a type of computer memory) and CPU (Central Processing Unit – the “brains” of a computer). Costs of this type of hosting will be comparatively low.

If you’re a small business, community group or stay-at-home mum wanting to run your own blog, in most cases beginners will find shared the simplest method of hosting their website. This type of service often comes with the tools you need like website builders WordPress hosting, email clients etc.

The trade-off is that you’re sharing this with other users, so surges in usage can affect your website’s user experience.

2. Virtual private server (VPS) hosting

A VPS hosting service mimics a dedicated server, but is within a shared hosting environment. This one’s for website owners that need more control, but don’t want to invest in a dedicated server. They’re still not able to handle high traffic levels or spikes in usage and the site performance can still be affected by other sites on the server.

However, by dividing a server into virtual servers – each website is hosted on its own  dedicated server, though they still share a physical server with other users.

So, who uses VPS hosting? Users who want dedicated hosting but don’t have the technical knowledge needed. VPS offers the cost benefits of shared hosting with the control of dedicated hosting. A great choice for advanced users and those that want specific software and package installations.

3. Dedicated server hosting

This option gives website owners the most control over the server that their website is  stored on. The server is exclusively rented by you and your website is the only one  stored on the server. You have full root and admin access, which means control over everything from security to operating system. All that control comes with a price.

Dedicated servers – which some vendors call bare metal Servers – cost more than all of the other options and are really only worth it for those with high traffic that need high control levels and a better performing server. A high level of technical expertise is required for the installation and ongoing management of the server.

4. Cloud hosting

Cloud hosting is the current buzzword of the hosting industry. It’s just a marketing term and “Cloud” can mean different things in different contexts. With hosting, it means many computers working together, running applications using combined computing resources. It’s a hosting solution that works via a network, like the internet, and enables companies to consume the computing resource like a utility e.g. gas or electricity.

Using as much as they need without having to build and maintain their own computing infrastructure in-house. The resources required for maintaining your website are spread across more than one web server, reducing the chance of any downtime due to server malfunction.

Cloud-based hosting is scalable, meaning your site can grow over time, using as much resource as it requires and you only pay for what you need. 

5. Managed hosting

Most hosting packages you are likely to find online will be managed. Hosting companies provide technical services such as hardware and software setup and configuration, maintenance, hardware replacement, technical support, patching, updating and monitoring. Unlike standard dedicated hosting, the hosting provider looks after the day-to-day management of the hardware, operating systems and standardised applications.

A popular sub-category is WordPress managed hosting. For many businesses, the beauty of WordPress is in its simplicity. Its benefits are clear, it's easy to setup and it's straightforward to manage. Choosing a hosting provider for a WordPress site can be more of a task, however, especially for those without expert knowledge or experience of the market. Many web hosting companies now specialise solely in offering managed services for WordPress.

6. Colocation

Instead of keeping servers in-house or at a private data centre, you may choose to ”‘co-locate” your equipment by renting space in a colocation centre. The centre will provide the power, bandwidth, IP address and cooling systems that your server requires. Space is rented out in racks and cabinets.

Colocation gives access to higher levels of bandwidth than a normal office server room at a much lower cost. You’re left to your own devices (literally) and will be expected to take care of everything including the hardware, software and services.

  • This is an adapted excerpt from an eBook called “The ultimate guide to web hosting”, published by TechRadar Pro in association with Planet Hippo

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