Before selecting a web host it is paramount that you understand the various types of hosting options you have. Every website has different needs and meeting your site’s needs will help produce a satisfying end result. Hosting services available to you will likely fall into one of the following categories:
Free Web Hosting
Free web hosts will be advertisement supported and have very limited feature sets and can be slow. Generally this is not a good option for any website which supports a business or needs to offer users a stable and efficient environment. Free hosting services are best for small web sites which are not intended to do much more than share a bit of info with a small group of users.
Shared Web Hosting
With shared web hosting a single computer referred to as a server will generally hold a large number of websites in the same way that the free webHosts would, however the number will depend on the company policy.
Shared hosting is the default option for most startup websites including both small business and personal use. The overall quality, speed, and cost will fluctuate from host to host and often the geo location will be a single point or one data center.
With these limitations websites which abuse or use more resources including CPU time or bandwidth will be throttled, so if your website requires heavy resource allotment you will likely need to look elsewhere.
Reseller Web Hosting
This is a less common form of hosting but it allows clients to become web hosts themselves using shared servers as above. Common examples of this would be web design firms who host their clients’ websites. In truth, the only difference between reseller web hosting and shared hosting is generally the size of the hosting company. The larger hosting companies such as Bluehost and HostMonster are just much larger versions of reseller web hosting.
Virtual Dedicated Server
Virtual dedicated servers are very similar to shared hosting except in how the allotment of resources is handled. Whereas with shared hosting all clients share the same CPU and bandwidth resources with virtual dedicated servers each client is guaranteed a set amount of CPU power and bandwidth. Virtual dedicated servers also offer their clients what is often referred to as “root” access to their virtual machine. This offers them more hands on control with how the machine runs including the ability to tinker with the operating system, furthermore security is tighter as a compromised ‘virtual neighbour’ cannot affect your virtual system (ringfencing).
Dedicated Hosting Service
With dedicated hosting services the user has full control over the server hardware and is the only client who is authenticated for it. There are normally two types of dedicated hosting options which are managed and unmanaged. With managed hosting the client will have various support-personal or plans in place to assist them with managing the server and ensuring that things such as its security policies are up to date. Unmanaged will leave all the responsibility in the hands of the client which can be less expensive in some cases but data security and control of sensitive information such as user lists and access logs can be guaranteed confidential in that even the data center operators cant get inside your hardware.
Dedicated servers are much more expensive as you will have to invest time to setup the software yourself (usually a LAMP stack will suffice) and therefore many webmasters opt for the cheaper shared or virtual private server options. With both types of dedicated hosting the servers are owned by the hosting company.
Colocation Web Hosting Service
Colocation is similar to dedicating hosting services, but in this case the user fully owns the server hardware and the hosting center simply provides a physical space, power, and a connection to the internet backbone for the client. In many cases there is little or no further support for the client beyond ensuring that there is power and the negotiated bandwidth available to the server as well as physical security. With this option the server will have an administrator who may have visit to the facility or have another form of remote access to the machine, usually 24hr comms with a data center technician to perform hardware reboots if necessary.
In some cases it is not enough to have one server handling the needs of a website. For these cases clustered hosting becomes a viable solution. With clustered hosting multiple servers host the same information allowing a much larger base of users to access the information at one time.
Grid hosting is a form of distributed hosting where a server cluster acts like a grid and is composed of multiple nodes.
Which Hosting Option Should I Choose?
If you’re reading this article on this site you probably should be choosing shared hosting, or either virtual or fully dedicated hosting in conjunction data service provider such as cloudflare. For most small to medium sized websites these are perfectly adequate and viable options. If your web hosting needs are larger than this you will likely have an IT specialist who is part of your team who will most likely loos at options such as ‘Amazon EC2’ or ‘Google Cloud’ to configure second generation virtualisation setups deploying technology such as Docker and Kubernetes for maximum scalability and uptime with adaptive pricing.