Website files are stored on a web server computer called a Web Host. A domain name points at the web server computer where it’s website files are stored (through the domain name’s DNS settings). Because of the way this works, web hosting does not have to be purchased from the same company where a domain name is purchased. Websites can be hosted anywhere and domain names can be purchased from anyone that sells them.
There are many different types of Web Hosting available ranging from super cheap to very expensive. The three most common types of hosting are: Shared Hosting, Virtual Hosting, and Dedicated Hosting.
Shared Hosting is the most popular type of hosting available today. Shared Hosting is a great entry level option for low traffic volume sites. In essence you share the server with many (sometimes 500+) other websites. Because of the large volume of sites packed into one hosting box, this option is very affordable (as little as a few bucks per month). The cons with Shared Hosting are generally related to reliability and bandwidth. For example, if as little as just one user in a shared hosting environment receives a significant spike in traffic, it will affect the bandwidth and resources for all websites on the same server.
Virtual Hosting (VPS)
Virtual Hosting on a Virtual Private Server is a great mid-level option and can be used to host many sites or one “traffic hog” site. Basically a Server computer is split into multiple Virtual Servers with software. The software allocates Memory, Hard Drive Space, Bandwidth, etc… to each container where each container is separate and cannot borrow resources from other Virtual Containers on the same server computer. The pros to Virtual Hosting are reliability, security and root access control. The cons for this type of hosting is the cost which can range from as low as $50 per month to several hundred dollars per month depending on specifications and Service Level Agreement.
There are two types of Virtual Hosting which will affect the cost, Managed and Unmanaged. Managed VPS Hosting includes support (depending on service agreement) for server management, upgrades, troubleshooting, backups, etc… Whereas unmanaged hosting may offer zero support where you assume responsibilities as the Server Admin. Some companies may provide a-la-carte Server Admin services, but can really add cost depending on support issues. You can’t go wrong with a Managed VPS, save time and headaches.
Dedicated Server Hosting
Like Virtual Hosting, Dedicated Server Hosting offers all of the same options except for the server is not split with virtualization software. The whole server is yours to control with root access privileges, generally a lot of public domain names, etc… Also, like Virtual Hosting, Dedicated Server Hosting comes with two different options through various vendors (Managed and Unmanaged). Managed Hosting includes support, whereas with unmanaged you, the end user are responsible for all server admin functions.
For the hobbyist, shared hosting is generally good enough. For a business, I would recommend at the very least to use VPS hosting for control and reliability. On the very top, if you run a resource hog of a website, most likely you are already using a dedicated server or multiple dedicated servers.
We have multiple VPS’s through Wiredtree and they have always offered amazing support. Check out our review here: http://www.minnesotaithub.com/blog/2009/08/best-place-to-rent-a-vps-or-dedicated-server/