If you are self-employed on the Internet, then you usually also need a website, a blog, a shop or another Internet presence. The fact that the selection at the beginning is not so easy is partly due to the many English terms that do not really help a “hosting layman”.
Therefore I would like to address in today’s article the basics of hosting and introduce the different common hosting variants and their advantages and disadvantages.
In the second article I will describe how to select a concrete hosting provider and tariff and what you should pay attention to.
In the third article of this small series I have listed for concrete Internet projects like shops, forums, blogs etc. which criteria are to be considered with the Hosting choice.
Today we are talking about the very general basics and methods of website hosting.
The surprising first realization of many of my new web design customers is that the website is not located on their own computer and is accessed from the Internet.
Instead, there are special providers, so-called hosters*, who usually do nothing other than set up masses of computers in special rooms and “store” websites of companies and private individuals there for money and deliver them to the Internet around the clock.
Of course, one can also put one’s own computer, a so-called server (explanation follows below) in one’s own basement, have it on the Internet around the clock and store one’s own websites there.
For independent ones this is however usually not the optimal variant, since quite expensive, aufwndig and one must have naturally the necessary know-how. Larger companies, on the other hand, often afford their own server “in the basement”.
If one uses an external hosting provider, then one pays a monthly rent, which orients itself in the height at the kind of the Hostings, the offered achievement, the service and other additionally booked functions.
Basically there are the following Hosting variants. The individual hosters call them somewhat different, but these are the most common hosting models:
Actually, this doesn’t belong in this list. The time of the Freehoster is over at least in the professional area. Free hosting offers often have strong disadvantages in the performance and the additional functions, contain forced advertising or similar.
However, there are still good alternatives in individual cases, e.g. when blogging, where there are one or the other free service, which is quite sufficient for the first blog.
Result: I would recommend free Hosting however no existence founders or independent ones, since one gets for only few euro in the month already a good Business Hosting.
This is probably the most common hosting variant for freelancers and small companies. In shared hosting, various websites of different customers are stored on a server in the provider’s data center.
The individual shared hosting areas are of course shared, so that you have no access to other shared hosting users on the same server.
However, all shared hosting customers share the resources of the server, such as RAM, processor performance and bandwidth, i.e. the speed/data volume in which data is delivered to the Internet.
In addition, the same technical settings apply to all customers and it is almost impossible to customize anything.
As a result, you often don’t get such a good performance for your website yourself, as you only get a small amount of RAM etc.. It is also not unusual that hundreds of customers are accommodated in this way on a server.
This can lead to a “black sheep”, i.e. a customer who consumes a lot of computing power, memory and bandwidth, and all customers who are accommodated on this server have to suffer as a result.
The consequences are a slow page structure or even times of inaccessibility. The costs are usually a few Euros per month.
Result: For small and only regionally active independent ones and small companies the Shared Hosting is surely a good entrance. If you only want to set up a small static company website for customers from the region, you will usually get by with it. However, if you want to start an online shop or plan something bigger, you should avoid shared hosting. In this comparison you will find the right provider.
This is also called vServer and is the next higher hosting variant. Here, too, several customers usually share a physical server and each has a virtual server with the same functions as a real server.
Also here the vServers share the resources of the computer, but as a rule there are not as many customers “crammed” together as in shared hosting.
And because you can visualize a real server with software, you have many more options than with shared hosting.
The prices are usually between 10 and 20 Euro per month, but depend of course also on the concrete functions and specifications.
Mittwald* offers cheap, but very powerful vServers in Germany. The support is very good and the technology mature.
Conclusion: If you don’t want to spend the money for a complete server, but want better performance and more influence than with shared hosting, a vServer is a good compromise for you. However, such a vServer will never have the performance of a real server.
Let’s get to the right server. This server is also called Dedicated Server and it is a server (computer) completely for one alone.
So you rent a computer from a hosting provider and can use all its resources for your own website/shop/blog etc..
This has among other things the advantage that no other customer influences the own performance and one can really adjust everything in such a way as one needs it.
Of course, there are also differences between the servers, depending on the type of computer (processor performance, memory size, etc.) on which the server is based.
Meanwhile I use my own server at DomainFactory for Independent in the net, which has paid off in speed as well as in reliability.
The costs also fluctuate here, but are higher than with the vServers and can go into three-digit ranges per month.
DomainFactory* is my main host, where I host this blog. The managed servers are fast and professionally maintained, so you don’t have to worry about anything.
Conclusion: As soon as the traffic on your own business site increases and you can’t afford downtimes or slow access times (e.g. online shop) or don’t want to, you can’t avoid your own server. For me, the higher costs have definitely paid off.
Root or Managed Server?
With the servers you have to distinguish between Root Server and Managed Server.
Root in this case means that you have to take care of the technical things yourself. Are there updates for the software used? Then you have to install them yourself. If there are problems or failures, then you have to take care of them yourself. But you have full control over the server. It’s almost as if you have it at home.
The situation is different with managed servers. Here the server is installed according to the customer’s wishes and then later monitored, repaired and updated.
In contrast to the root server, you need much less know-how and in case of problems, the support will take care of it.
But you also pay for this with much higher monthly rents.
Conclusion: Depending on your own know-how, you decide between Managed and Root. I prefer to pay more, but don’t have to worry about the technical details and can invest the time for maintenance more sensibly. However, users of root servers have significantly more options for fine-tuning.
Cloud servers and cluster hosting
All previously presented hosting variants use 1 computer as basis. For very large websites, shops and Co. this is not sufficient.
And so various hosting providers offer products such as cluster hosting or cloud servers.
Cluster hosting refers to the technical solution of distributing the hosting of a project to several physical computers. In this way, you can use the services of many computers and distribute the load over many shoulders. Giants like Facebook or Google run on hundreds or thousands of computers.
Cloud servers have a slightly different orientation. Here you only pay for the service you call up. If you have relatively little traffic, you also use fewer resources and the costs are lower.
If you have peak times, additional resources from the computer network are used and you only pay for these additional resources.
Cloud servers are certainly very interesting if you only have a temporary increase in the number of accesses (e.g. Christmas).
Conclusion: If you are so big that you need these technologies, you can hire your own server administrator. 🙂 For most self-employed people these services are not necessary.
I have already indicated with the individual technical variants, for whom these are suitable as a rule. In practice, the choice often depends simply on the type of Internet project you want to implement.
So you can start a static regional company website or a blog on a shared hosting tariff without any problems, while in an online shop you should at least use a vServer.
If, on the other hand, a nationwide or even international online service is planned, then a server or even a cluster hosting is often unavoidable. This depends on the one hand on the expected traffic, but also on the software used.
For this reason, each project should be individually evaluated to determine which hosting solution is best.
In a coming article I will present concrete examples and give suitable hosting recommendations.
Start small and then grow
It should also be noted that you can often start small when hosting and then continue to grow with the development of traffic. So you don’t have to rent an expensive server right from the start, which you hardly use.
Therefore you should, and here I anticipate my upcoming article “Choosing the right hoster”, always make sure that you can easily and without major downtime, to more expensive rates and even higher hosting variants can change.
I am with “Independent on the Net” at DomainFactory and had a shared webspace there at the beginning. The move to a managed server was carried out by DF and everything went smoothly.
There are not so many basic variants of hosting. However, these are subdivided again, since each provider offers its own configurations and additional functions.
Therefore I list in the next article “Choosing the right hoster” all criteria which play a role in the choice. And that’s not just the price! 🙂
And I have listed in an article for concrete Internet projects such as shops, forums, blogs etc. which criteria are to be considered with the Hosting choice.