Beginner’s Guide to Web Hosting

Beginner’s Guide to Web Hosting

So you want to start your very own website? Are you confused about domains, DNS, VPS and a dozen other abbreviations? Then you’ll like this page!

In this post I am going to walk you through the basics of web hosting, how to start your website the right way and how to move forward promoting your brand new site.

You’ve probably heard of web hosting from time to time and have a very good idea of what web hosting is. Some on the other hand do not and that’s where this guide will come in handy. We’re going to cover what a domain registrar and web host is, the different types of web hosts out there, ways to check out if a host is reputable or not, how to choose domain names, different aspects of a host and a whole lot more.

We’ll start with the basics. If we were to search for the term “web host” on Google, we’d return over 31 Million results. That’s far too many for me to go through. I’m not too sure about you guys. With web hosting being so saturated, meaning there are so many web hosting companies to choose from, it’s hard to determine which are reliable and which aren’t.

Before we get into how to choose a web host or what to look out for, let’s talk about web hosting and try to understand it a bit more. There are several types of website hosting out there and determining which one to pay for can be a bit daunting for some. We’ll start by first understanding what web hosting is, then we’ll talk about each type of web hosting so we can better decide which is best for our needs.

What is a Domain Registrar?

Your domain registrar takes care of actually registering your domain name with ICANN. It’s not free for them to create domain names either. They have to pay an ICANN fee.

There are two types of domain registrars really: ICANN accredited and non ICANN accredited domain registrars. An ICANN accredited registrar is in direct contract with ICANN, while a non-ICANN accredited registrar only resells domains provided by an ICANN accredited registrar.

There are not so many ICANN accredited registrars. One of the biggest retail registrars, Namecheap is also a reseller and not ICANN accredited.

Your web host can be your domain registrar at the same time. I do not recommend that. Your domain name will pile up a lot of branding and authority. You want to have full control of it without a web hosting company requiring you to buy additional services to keep your domain active. It’s much simpler to change a web host later on if necessary.

It’s usually also a lot cheaper to go with a third-party domain registrar. I am in the process of writing a post about the cheapest domain registrars and I will update this post with that reference.

What is Web Hosting?

Web Hosting is a service that enables storage and access of data typically associated with websites on a server or group of servers. That’s a complicated way of saying you can store your website on a web server and your visitors can access it, thanks to your web host.

Another definition is web hosting is the act of hosting HTML documents, PHP documents, ASP and so on, on a dedicated computer that will serve them to anyone that is interested in viewing them. They can do much more than this, but this is just a basic understand so we can move forward into the different kinds of web hosting.

Anyone with an internet connection and the right tools can (theoretically) become a web hosting company. Since the barier for entry is so low, we should be aware of companies that would pose a risk to our website’s long term growth. So if you have an internet connection and you can serve any type of web file for download to the general public, then you could consider yourself a web hosting company.

Now we all know this isn’t a good way to do business. There are millions of companies that pay big bucks to house their servers and equipment in DC’s (Data Centers) that can provide the type of service to those servers that they need to actually be considered worthy of hosting something for web use.

So now we have a basic understanding about what a web host is, let’s take a look at the different types of web hosting services out there today. Many of us will only need one of them, but a few may opt for something more expensive as it will tailor to their needs better then something less expensive.

The Main Types of Web Hosting

There are quite a few different types of web hosts out there today that we can choose from, we’ll explain each one in the order of importance or should I say the needed experience level. We’ll start with the most basic and move up to the most advanced.

  • Free Web Hosting
  • Shared Web Hosting
  • Reseller Web Hosting
  • VPS (Virtual Private Server) Managed
  • VPS (Virtual Private Server) Unmanaged
  • Dedicated Server Managed
  • Cloud
  • Dedicated Server Unmanaged
  • Colocation

There are probably a few that we may be missing, but this is most if not all of them. Now let’s go over each one so we can better understand which would be right for our needs.

If you are just starting out you will probably go for shared web hosting. Imagine a big server with hundreds of small websites put on it. That’s shared hosting: your website shares the resources of a server with a bunch of other clients.

Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are usually used when a website has grown out shared hosting. This time that big server is divided into bigger chunks. Like instead of a couple hundred, let’s say 4 or 8. You get the idea. The setup is quite different than shared hosting. Usually some kind of virtualization technology is used to create a VPS.

A VPS is a virtual server, so if your website hits heavy traffic, the other sites hosted on that physical server are not affected, and vice-versa.

Dedicated Servers are usually used by enterprises when they are dealing with heavy traffic or in need of heavy computing power. A full server is at the disposal of the client and they can do whatever they want with it.

The newest buzzword is Cloud. The most basic way of looking at cloud is: it’s multiple machines connected together into a big pile of resources (like CPU power, storage space, memory). They are seamlessly connected so you can scale your hosting environment at will and virtually without limit.

This post is a work in progress.