Web Hosting Basics

Articles, Advice, Tips and Tutorials to help you get to grips with the Web Hosting Basics

A dedicated server is a single web server dedicated to one client only. It can be leased or rented, managed or self-managed.

Dedicated servers offer many more advantages to a customer than shared hosting, including greater exclusive resources and flexibility, more features and control. Of course, it also involves more responsibility, especially when self-managed, and will typically cost more than shared hosting, but less than a VPS.

Compare dedicated and other web hosting plans here.

The control panel of your web hosting, is a web-interface to manage your account and hosting. Typically, the web hosting control panel gives the user access to such features as:

  • Visitor statistics;
  • Error logs;
  • A file manager;
  • Email accounts;
  • FTP users;
  • MySQL or another database, and phpMyAdmin (or similar) to administer the database;
  • Backups;
  • Disk space and bandwidth usage;
  • Security, anti-spam and anti-virus modules, such as SpamAssassin, password-protection of directories, virus scanner, IP deny manager, and leech protection;
  • Cron jobs;
  • Image manager;
  • One-click software/script installers.

Some of the more well-known web hosting control panels are:

  1. cPanel

    A Unix-based commercial control panel with a GUI interface. AQrguably, the most popular and widely-used control panel today.

  2. DirectAdmin

    Another proprietary hosting control panel with a graphical interface.

  3. Plesk (Parallels Plesk)

    Commercial hosting control software with a web-based interface.

  4. GNUPanel

    An open-source hosting control panel for Debian.

  5. Usermin

    A free web-based user interface for Unix-like systems.

  6. Virtualmin

    A website control panel in both open source and commercial versions.

  7. Webmin

    Opensource web-based control panel for Unix-like and Windows systems.

[More…]

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In this day and age, it is important for most companies and businesses to have a web presence. A website allows for far greater international exposure than would be possible without one.

But, a web site in turn requires a domain name and webhosting.

Most people know what a domain is, but far less are familiar with web-hosting, and related terms and concepts.

There are a few basic forms of website hosting:

  • Free Webhosting
    Yes, it is possible to get your website hosted for free, but there usually are trade-offs. Often the free hosting provider may add advertising to the top and/or bottom of your website pages, to help offset his free service. Other times, you may not be able to use your own domain name, and will have to settle for a sub-domain (e.g. yoursite.theirsite.com). In addition, page loading times on these free hosts are typically very high, and they suffer from frequent outages due to overloading. This kind of hosting is really only suitable for cheapskates and newbies, not for any serious company or business.
  • Shared Web-Hosting
    If you are happy to have your website share a server with many (sometimes, 100s) of other websites, shared hosting is the most affordable type of paid webhosting. But your website may suffer due to so-called “overselling” (where the host basically overloads the server by adding too many sites to it).
  • Dedicated Web-Hosting
    This is the kind of hosting where you rent your own server, and you have full control over it. This service may be managed (the webhost will perform updates, support, etc.), or unmanaged (everything is your responsibility).
  • Reseller Web Hosting
    This is suitable for aspirant webhosts and webdesigners (who provide/resell hosting to clients), internet marketers, or webmasters who want to create separate accounts for their different clients/websites.
  • VPS Web Hosting
    A “Virtual Private Server” is created by implementing virtualization technology on a server, in order to have numerous “virtual” servers perform under one physical server. It allows the website owner/webmaster almost as much control as for a dedicated server, but requires a lot of technical know-how to operate.
  • Co-location
    If you own and are able to manage your own web-server, you may opt for co-location, where a data center will physically host your equipment, and hook it up to the internet, for a fee.
  • E-commerce Webhosting
    This webhosting service provides add-ons to help businesses perform online transactions, such as sales. Typically it will include a shopping cart, an internet merchant account, as well as an online payment solution.
  • Cloud Hosting
    A fairly new concept, cloud hosting allows website content/data to be hosted/distributed in the “cloud” (i.e. in several redundant online locations). In addition to redundancy, this kind of hosting also scales well, such as in cases of short-term critical bandwidth increases.
  • Email Hosting
    This is for companies that only require webhosting for their employee email.

As you can see, there are many different types of webhosting solutions, and it is it is important that you determine your needs and requirements before signing up for hosting. Then you still have to shop around and find the best webhosting provider for your particular situation. For example, you may decide to go with offshore web-hosting, instead of hosting your website locally.

For a web presence, apart from the website itself, you need to register a domain name, and also sign up for webhosting.

Now, most people will use two different companies – a domain registrar to register the domain name, and a web-hosting provider for website hosting. That is the sensible thing to do.

But many webhosts will offer a “free domain” as part of the hosting package, and it is easy to fall for this trap. There, I said it, a trap!

Once a web-hosting company controls both your domain name and website hosting it has you by the short and curlies. They can basically control and dictate your online presence. You’ll be at their mercy, no kidding. If they subsequently want to charge you an exorbitant domain renewal fee, they can. Want to transfer your domain name to another domain registrar? Or move your webhosting elsewhere? Good luck with that! You’ll probably be stuck with them… for life.

So, use some common sense and keep your domain name and web hosting separate. You’ll be glad in the long run. 🙂

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Remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for”?

Well, in the webhosting world, that isn’t necessarily true. There are many affordable webhosting companies out there that provide a good service.

But, then again, there are also many cheap providers that provide dismal webhosting.

IMHO the best way of sorting the wheat from the chaff is by looking at reviews and recommendations on Web Hosting Talk, the premier forum for webhosting. It’s free to join and can save you endless hours of frustration, not to say, money!

Unless you are starting up with a mega porn website you probably could get almost any webhost, even free. But once it takes off, a professional web-hosting provider will be required to cope with the high traffic volume and bandwidth usage. There are also hosts that only specialize in adult sites.

In addition, depending on the scope of your content, you may want to host abroad, with an offshore web-host. This can limit your potential legal liability and reduce the risk of getting your website taken down.

To learn more about offshore hosting, have a look at our articles, “Offshore Hosting” and “Top Offshore Hosting Providers“.