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Web hosting is an Internet service that allows individuals, businesses, and organizations to host their websites and files on the hosting service's servers, where they are made accessible to the world through the World Wide Web.

Usually, hosting companies maintain data centers with multiple large servers, owned or leased, on which client's data is stored, and where they offer server space and connectivity to the Internet. Put simply, hosting servers provide a space on the Web, for a fee or for free. However, in order for the public to be able to access a website, it has to be hosted on a globally connected server.

The primary business of most hosting companies is to rent space on their servers, although most of them also offer domain name registration, email hosting services, SSL certificates, and content management platforms. Some of them even offer online website creation tools, sometimes for free with a hosting account.

Self-hosting is also an option, although it may not be the best choice for most people. Unless a company or business is already set up to do their own hosting, perhaps for security reasons, self-hosting can be an expensive project. Unless enough bandwidth and resources are allocated for peak traffic times, a sharp upward swing could cause downtime. Of course, this may occur with some hosting plans as well. Most significantly, in the absence of experienced IT personnel capable of handling problems that may come up, maintaining a self-hosted website can be hectic and troublesome. Self-hosting often includes a dynamic IP address that will change over time, and this may cause connectivity difficulties.

On the other hand, professional web hosting companies are generally reliable, and hosting plans may be performance-driven, scalable, and capable of meeting the needs of high traffic and demanding web applications. Professional web hosting companies have the IT personnel and technologies to offer solutions to the various web hosting needs of their clients, including the ability to meet cybersecurity threats. Web hosts can offer static IP addresses, which are more reliable because they do not change. There is also the fact that hosting companies usually have multiple telecommunications and Internet networks, and are able to offer faster connectivity, a balanced load time, and rapid processing speed.

Comparing lists of services and features offered by various web hosting companies can be complicated because, as they represent competitive businesses, they tend to be promotional in nature, and because the technical language is not intuitive to everyone. Basic types of web hosting plans include free web hosting, shared web hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated server hosting, cloud hosting, reseller web hosting, collocated web hosting, and clustered hosting. There are also questions of managed versus unmanaged hosting. The type of operating system (generally either Windows or Unix) may be important, depending on the applications required.

Other elements that might be important include network uptime, bandwidth, storage capacity, and matters of service level agreements, security, backups, and disaster recovery services.

Depending on a client's needs, other considerations might include the availability of website building tools or e-commerce features, access to an intuitive control panel, database management and support, support for frameworks and CMS, scalability of the hosting plans, and the number of domains or subdomains permitted by the plan.

The quality of a hosting company's customer and technical support is very important. Unfortunately, that can be difficult to ascertain from a list of features promised on a hosting company's website. Some hosting companies respond to technical support questions with little more than canned emails pointing the client to a wiki help file that may as well be written in a foreign language, while others will offer a live tech support person who will walk you through the problem, or even fix it for you.

Unfortunately, reputation can sometimes only be measured by trial and error. Many websites that purport to review or compare web hosting companies are actually affiliate marketing schemes intended to point people to hosts who will pay them an affiliate fee, while others may be more reliable or objective. Seeking opinions from knowledgeable friends, or through social media or tech forums that are not affiliated with a particular hosting company may be good sources of information.

The focus of this category is on web hosting. Most of the resources listed below, or in subcategories of this category, are to various web hosting companies, although other resources related to web hosting may have a place here, as well.


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Feature Article

Types of Web Hosting


When you are looking for a place to host your new website, you will find that there are several types of web hosting services. Most web hosts won't offer all of them, but many of them will offer a choice of more than one.

These include...

  1. Free web hosting - The services offered through free hosting plans usually come with severe limitations. Some free hosting companies will place ads on client's sites, while others offer a free hosting plan as an entry level to its premium plans.

  2. Shared web hosting - With shared web hosting, a client's website shares space on a server with those of other clients. Each server in a shared network hosts websites of multiple clients. Shared hosting plans are inexpensive and easy to set up through an intuitive administative panel. On the negative side, the amount of resources available to any one site on the server depends on the resources used by other sites on the same server. There may also be restrictions on the programs and modules that can be run.

  3. VPS hosting - VPS hosting is similar to shared hosting, in that a server hosts websites from multiple clients, except that the physical server is partitioned into multiple virtual servers. Costs are usually reasonable, and clients have full control over the virtual server they are leasing. As with shared hosting, resources are shared, and this can lead to performance issues during peak traffic times.

  4. Dedicated server hosting - A more expensive alternative is dedicated server hosting. Through this plan, a client leases the entire server, and has complete control over it, although it is owned and housed in the hosting company's facilities. The client can selected the operating system and hardware platform. A dedicated server offers faster performance, as resources are not shared by any other clients of the hosting company. However, clients who choose a dedicated hosting plan are responsible for the server management and troubleshooting, so technical expertise is required.

  5. Cloud hosting - With cloud hosting, the client is responsible on for the resources that are used by the client's website. Cloud hosting is similar to VPS hosting in some ways, except that the client pays more during peak traffic periods and less during slow periods; thus, a client can control his expenses by balancing his server needs.

  6. Reseller hosting - With a reseller account, a reseller enters into a dedicated server hosting plan or, in some cases, another type of hosting plan, then sublets the space to his own clients. A reseller hosting plan is similar to a shared hosting plan, except that the reseller acts like a middleman. Reseller accounts vary greatly depending on a number of variables.

  7. Collocated hosting - A collocated hosting plan is similar to a dedicated hosting plan except that the client owns the physical server, although it is located in a data center operated by the hosting company. In a collocated plan, the client can visit the data center and have physical access to the server.

  8. Clustered hosting - In a clustered hosting plan, the client's data is spread across multiple physical servers, which minimizes the chances that one service will have adverse effect on another. Large websites are sometimes spread across multiple servers. It is similar to cloud hosting, except that the client's fees are stable, regardless of web traffic.

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