Dummy’s Guide To Finding a Web Host
One of the terms that new Web users see over and over is “Web Hosting.” A basic question we get from these folks is, “What is a Web Host?” and “What is Web Hosting?” This is natural for people who are new to the terminology of the Internet. They see the term “Web Host” pop up all the time on the Internet at various sites. Who better to ask for a definition than Web-Hosting-Reviewz ?
The term “Web Hosting” is simple, but the mechanics behind it are not. Web Hosting is a term that was coined to explain the services performed by someone that “hosts” a Web site on the World Wide Web. You already know that a host is someone that facilitates an event, or a function, like the host at a party, or an emcee on the radio or TV. In our case, a “host” involves a computer that is setup to control the networking and communications necessary to allow a Web Site to display specially formatted documents on the World Wide Web. Typically, these documents are formatted using a special language called HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) that supports mouse click connections to other similar documents on the World Wide Web. These HTML documents are normally called Web Pages, and you are looking at one such page now in your browser window. To keep track of these Web pages in an organized manner, individual and specific areas are set-aside for them called Web Sites. A Web Site may hold one Web page, or thousands. Web sites are stored on “host” computers that are connected to the Internet and setup to communicate their contents to the rest of the Internet. The people and companies that handle these special computers are called Web Hosts. The computers that handle the Web Hosting chores are called Servers, and they may serve any number of Web sites, one or even hundreds.
A Web Host ensures that the Web Servers that contain the Web Sites are functioning properly all of the time. That may include adding a customer’s Web sites to the Servers, moving Web sites from one Server to another, deleting old Web Sites, monitoring the amount of Internet traffic and activity taking place and a multitude of other tasks required to ensure smooth operation. Web Host companies come in various shapes and sizes, and many specialize in certain types of Hosting. Our staff at Web-Hosting-Reviewz refers to these special Web Hosting types as Web Host Communities.
There is little argument in the fact that the Internet and the World Wide Web have changed the world forever. The Internet has greatly affected the economies of all the major industrial nations, and is beginning to have its affect on other nations as well. However, it is important to remember that the Internet would be nothing without the Web Host. Every single one of the millions and millions of Web sites, from simple one-page advertisements to e-commerce online super stores, reside on a Web Server that is administered by a Web Host in some capacity.
URLs, Domains and Addresses
Each Web site has a “home” on the World Wide Web and each home has an address. In fact, this is much like your own home where there is an actual physical area where each Web site resides. As mentioned above, this physical area is called a Web Server. A Web Server “serves up” Web pages and is actually somewhat similar to your personal computer except that it is capable of connecting to the Internet in a manner that allows the rest of the Internet to see the Web sites residing there.
In its simplest form, space is “rented” on a Web Server for a Web site, much like renting property. The Web Host facilitates the Hosting efforts by creating an “address” for the site on the World Wide Web so the Internet community can find it. A Web site address is generally called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). In fact, every page on the Internet has a URL, with the URL being the primary method through which you find the Web site.
Along with the name and path of the actual Web Page document, the URL includes a Domain name or a series of numbers called an IP address. Like your home address, the URL makes it easy for people to find any Web site on the Internet.
So what is an IP Address? This is a unique set of numbers that Web Servers connected to the Internet are identified by. An IP (Internet Protocol) address is composed of 4 sets of numbers separated by periods (such as 126.96.36.1994 – sometime called a “dotted quad”) and hence is fairly difficult to remember. IP Addresses are great for computers talking to one another, but most of us use normal words in our communication so we assign an identifier, called a Domain Name, to the IP address. The Domain Name makes it easier to remember and use.
You probably already know what a Domain Name is. It’s the familiar “DOT COM” name you see in commercials. Web-Hosting-Reviewz and Yahoo are examples of Domain names. The IP Address hardly matters to us as long as we know the Domain Name.
Basic Kinds of Web Hosts
There are plenty of Web Host companies that will rent you space on a web server and there are a wide range of services available to you. Services can range from free hosting to buying your own Web Server for your private use. However, choosing a host is not an easy task. There are so many features, services and options to consider. The most important factor is making sure that the host you choose will provide everything that you need. For instance, if you wanted to build a, E-Commerce store on the Internet, you would consider a Web Host that could provide at least the following:
• The ability to gather data
• The ability to show data to mass quantities of people
• The ability to sell consumer products and services electronically
• The facilitation of ideas on a global scale
Web Host providers have four basic types. These four basic types are the foundation of the majority of all Web Hosting on the Internet.
Sub-Domains are web plans that do not have their own web domain name. They reside in a sub-directory of a primary domain. These can include both free and pay packages. On the whole, the price is cheaper and the sub-domain plans are easier to setup with no addition costs of registering a domain name. The major drawback is name recognition. Since they are but branches off of a larger tree, the URLs are longer and harder to remember. For e-commerce sites, the ‘piggy-backing’ of a electronic store to another domain gives a less polished feel.
A step above sub-domains in both professional polish and complication, virtual web sites are the most common. A virtual web site is one that has a domain name off of a server, which incorporates multiple users. Unlike sub-domains, virtual Web sites have a slightly higher price do to the registering of a domain name, but there is a lot more freedom as to content, size, usage, etc. Virtual web sites are your standard-issue Web site.
Web Server/Dedicated Server
Explained in more detail later in this article, dedicated and co-located web sites are the heavy hitters of the web host world. A dedicated server is a server designed solely for either one or a few customers. Because of this, service, space, overall usage, and control are at an optimum level.Dedicated users get a great deal of options and garner a lot of tech support from the web host provider staff. For this, these power users get a highly polished, good quality site, with room for lots of data, and even separate programs for a high cost.
Co-Location servers are almost identical to dedicated servers with on exception. The machine itself is owned by the user (not rented) and is located in the web host provider’s server buildings. Co-located servers use the web host provider’s links to the Internet and infrastructure investments such as UPS systems, diesel generators, and climate control systems. Users usually have to pay the price of buying a whole server and renting out the location and usage of Internet connections, however single user use and access is guaranteed.
Our Main Web Hosting Communities (See Our Web Hosting Community)
We took the most popular categories of Web Hosting and divided them up into nine Web Host Sections. The following text outlines these categories and gives a brief description of each.
Cheap Hosting (or Budget Hosting):
We classify Cheap Web Hosts as ones that provide a standard grouping of services and hosting plans for less than 7.95 per month. These hosts provide a key stepping stone for users looking to move from Free Web Hosting to paid hosting, but do not want to pay a large monthly fee.
Budget Hosting plans typically include the following features:
• Own domain name (www.yourdomain )
• 1 to 25MB of disk space
• 1 to 10 e-mail accounts
• FTP account
• Microsoft FrontPage Support
• Basic Technical Support
Typical Budget Hosting Customers are:
• Family sites (photo albums, etc.)
• Single-page brochure sites
• Hobby sites
• Small personal interest sites
The use of web-enabled databases provides of means of changing the way Web sites can be managed, produced and scaled. The use of a database as a means of holding Web page resources is an efficient means of data storage, allowing for easier search operations and a cleaner means of presentation. However, to use web-based databases requires both an understanding of database software, Web usage, and, in some cases, different aspects of programming languages.
The rise of interest in full-fledge database accounts continues as the Web Hosting industry provides more Internet connectivity as well as old-fashioned networking (intranet) capabilities. Database storage design is such that easy access and transfer of information is making it the number one way of transport ideas across both inter and intranets.
Typical Database Hosting plans include the following:
• 25MB to 1GB + of disk space
• Support for database applications (SQL, mySQL, and others)
• Advanced technical support options
• Sub-domains and redirect capabilities
Typical users of Database Hosting include:
• Auction Sites
• Catalog Sites
With the rising growth of the Internet, businesses are learning new ways to expand their storefronts. Businesses across the board are finding that the Internet hosts a multitude of opportunities for success. However, the task of setting up an e-commerce Web site is often not as simple as it seems. The Internet is proving to be the great equalizer, allowing the smallest of businesses to access markets and present a presence that allows them to compete against the giants in the industry.
Most small and mid-size online businesses aren’t candidates for hosting their own sites in-house. The cost of running an in-house operation as opposed to the profits one would make from such a venture renders the option unfeasible. Fortunately, there are alternatives. Companies specializing in E-Commerce Hosting abound, and enable even the smallest e-business to gain an online presence quickly and inexpensively.
Typical E-Commerce Hosting plans include:
• Own domain name
• 100MB to 1GB + of disk space
• 10 to 1000 e-mail accounts
• E-mail autoresponders
• E-commerce tools including storefront software
• Payment gateway and merchant service assistance
Typical users of E-Commerce Hosting include
• Catalog Sites
Fairly self-explanatory, free web sites are just that, free. Space, content freedom, and many other areas are severely limited. Technical assistance is virtually non-existent and the ability to make money off the site can be just as difficult. Free Web sites are good for dabbling in development and practice web creation as well as making personal or family Web sites, but not much else.
Typical Free Hosting plans include:
• Sub-domain (www.yourdomain.somehost )
• 1-5 E-mail accounts
• FTP upload support only
• E-mail only technical support
The typical users of Free Hosting include:
• Internet newcomers
Full Service Hosting
A Full Service Host is a host that provides a thorough set of features and options. The technical staff also provides extra attention and care for its clientele. Items such as 24/7 technical support should not be unheard of. Features such as ASP, PHP3, CGI support, predefined CGI, Custom 404 pages, etc. should be standard.
Customers looking for full service sites usually require one or more of the following:
• More hard drive space
• More bandwidth
• Better Technical Support
• Need for advanced features
• Need for ‘extended’ services
Most Full Service Hosting plans will include:
• Own domain
• 24X7 Technical Support
• Advanced scripting support
• Database support
• Basic e-commerce support
• 25MB to 1GB = of disk space
Typical users of Full Service hosting include:
• Larger companies/organizations looking for stability
• Professional Web developers
• Small to medium sized businesses looking for a Web interface to existing systems