Having a website is different from having it online. You can create a website and access it via a browser on your computer. But for others to access the same website, it needs to be on an online server. Simply put, web hosting is making sure websites are kept on the Web so that they are available to Internet users across the globe.
The definition of web hosting has become broader over time with web hosting companies offering multiple features such as providing the web space, email hosting, programming, web designing services, etc.
What is a web server?
A web server is a physical computer with software applications where a website and its database are stored and processed. When a visitor requests for your website on a web browser, the server is responsible for taking the request and providing them your website. Broadly speaking, a web server is a fast and efficient computer connected to the Internet round the clock and is capable of handling high traffic and load.
A web host is a company that owns a web server. It rents or sells the web server space to its clients. Your website is hosted on these web servers - making it available to Internet users. A Web host can have anywhere from one to several thousand computers that run web hosting software. A web host also manages its software, security, support, bandwidth, speed and a lot more.
Things to consider while planning for web hosting
Before you choose a service, estimate your present and potential hosting needs that may arise in future. Some factors you should consider while going for web hosting are listed here.
Types of servers:
Web hosting companies generally offer three different types of servers - shared, dedicated and VPS (Virtual Private Server). Multiple websites share common hardware and resources in a shared server and thus it is economical. This is ideal for personal or small business websites. Using a shared server is hassle-free as the maintenance and security issues are taken care of by the web host.
A VPS is recommended for businesses that look for more customized options in the server. Though the hardware is the same shared by multiple websites, site owners have independent control over the part of the server and the associated features. They can program their server section as per their wish and hence the data are protected.
A dedicated server is generally opted by businesses (often big businesses) that look for top quality resources. The owner has full control over the server but may require technical skills to manage a dedicated web server.
Types of operating system:
Windows and Linux are widely used by web servers. Each has advantages and limitations. If you have technical skills and if you are looking for something inexpensive, Linux based servers can be a good choice. A Windows based server is more suitable for you if you want an easy-to-use interface.
Uptime refers to the time span for which a server stays connected online. It's generally rated in percentage. The resources on the server can be accessed from anywhere in the world during the uptime. The time span when the server is not responding in the expected way is the downtime. A web hosting service with a high uptime percentage is a better one.
Bandwidth refers to the maximum traffic a server can handle for the website or the web space owned. High bandwidth means more number of people can access the website simultaneously and conveniently with good speed. A website with high traffic and heavy resources is recommended to go for unlimited bandwidth or at least for a good bandwidth.
Disk space is the amount of space you need on the server for keeping your website, database and files on the server. Disk space should be considered always much more than sufficient so as to accommodate the increasing needs of the business.
Locating your server in the same country or state where your business operates comes with some benefits.
Search engines like Google find the physical location of your country's website using the IP address and the domain name. Search engines give more priority to websites that originate from that particular country. If your website is hosted in Canada, you have better chances of ranking in Google.ca.
Customer service and grievance handling:
Customer service has to be a very important consideration before you opt for a choice. A good problem addressing leads to fewer downtimes and more service hours. Online reviews and feedback through existing customers is of great help in this.
The ratings and certifications from credible organizations like BBB (Better Business Bureau) are helpful in determining the quality of the services of the web host. A+ is the highest rating given by BBB. A web hosting company with A+ BBB rating would be a good choice.
In addition, you should consider the reliability of the service. You can consider schemes like 30 day money back guarantee while going for a web hosting service. This will help you in terminating the services if you are not satisfied with the performance of the host.