As people increasingly carry out their daily lives online, ownership of a personal website is becoming a more common occurrence. Regardless of why you decide to build your own site, you first need to learn some important factors about the concept of hosting. Read on for some very useful advice on how website hosting works and how to choose the best company for your needs.
With all the different types of hosting available, it can be confusing as to which one is right for you. Do you choose shared, a VPS, or a Dedicated server? What is the difference? How can you know which type is right for your use?
Shared Hosting is very similar to living in an Apartment Complex. All residents are in the same location and must share the available resources with everyone – such as the pool, parking lot, and play ground. In shared hosting, all accounts (sites) must share the available resources with all the other accounts on the server – such as CPU time, memory, and disk space. you have very limited control on the server. For someone just starting out or someone with a small site that won’t be getting a whole lot of traffic shared hosting can do the job for the least amount of money.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. similar to owning a Condo. While you still share things on the property, you are ultimately responsible for maintaining your own property and repairs inside the condo. There is also significantly less residents per building and assigned parking. Your still sharing a server with other customers. With VPS however you are given a higher guaranteed amount of RAM and CPU limits as well as more control over the server itself (often times you will start with a clean operating system you can configure as you see fit). With it comes a heftier learning curve and price tag. In the case of the learning curve, while it might be nice to have a lot of extra control, making use of that control can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t know what you’re doing. Also, whereas prices for shared hosting are often less than $5 dollars per month, VPS hosting usually start around $15 to $20 per month and goes up depending on how many resources you will need.
Dedicated Hosting can be compared to owning a house. You are allowed and have access to all resources available on the machine. No one else’s account resides on the machine (your house) and would not be capable of tapping into your resources. Dedicated hosting is only for the heaviest of power users. The ability to control your own operating system often can mean your on your own when it comes to software support and by the nature of your own customizations, should the hardware fail it can take more time to recover your site. If however you have security sensitive data on your website or a very high traffic load a dedicated server may be for you as you alone have access to the system meaning that all RAM/CPU/disk space/etc is under your full control.
Cloud hosting, as used in services such as Amazon Web Services, is often hosting what to the customer seems like a full server without ever dealing with any of the hardware. That is you don’t know how many are using the same physical hardware, and you don’t care. If one piece of hardware fails another will just take over. With that transparency comes scalability. This is the ability to seamlessly add resources such as RAM and hard disk space (or reduce them) with little to no input on your behalf. If your 500mb server is too small due to a spike you can make it a 2gb server for a few hours to handle it and no one will know it but you.
Cloud hosting isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires a rather heavy knowledge of web server software to handle effectively. In addition, due to its scalable nature you have to be diligent when using cloud hosting as resources are often billed by the hour and can easily exceed your budget if you don’t pay attention.
On the positive, cloud hosting can be very cheap (currently hosting this site is free for the 1st year on Amazon AWS and will be about $15 a month after that), reliable, and very customizable. Cloud hosting essentially lets you scale the resources you need when you need them and only changes you for what you have used. For a site that is growing rapidly or subject to severe traffic fluctuations the cloud can be a very effective solution.
In the end the type of hosting you pick depends on both your experience level and the number of visitors you plan on seeing at your site. The higher either one of those variables gets the more it will cost you.