Web Hosting 101 – The Only Resource You Need to Start a Website
Why Did We Write This Guide?
The Internet is growing and so are Internet-based businesses: if you want to build your dream project online, the first thing that’s needed is web hosting. And so we wanted to create the most extensive and detailed guide on it so you can avoid hunting everywhere and use this guide as your one-stop source of web-hosting knowledge. This resource is filled with rich information, from the basics of web hosting to how to choose the right hosting service to fit your needs well.
- List Of Contents
- Chapter 00 – Intro to Web Hosting 101
- Chapter 01 – Web Hosting Basics
- Chapter 02 – Domain Name
- Chapter 03 – Launch a Website
- Chapter 04 – Common Pitfalls
Who Is This Guide For?
This guide is for all kinds of audiences, such as businesses that want to open an online store as an extension of their physical shop and those that plan to educate people through blogging. Thus, this guide is for both first-time and experienced entrepreneurs, individual bloggers and blog network owners, and literally everyone else who wants to capitalize on the power of the Internet.
How Much of This Guide Should You Read?
We believe knowledge is power and the ultimate key to success. So our suggestion is to read the entire guide. Each chapter walks you through the different concepts of web hosting, and this will not only make your foundation strong but also enable you to make a better decision when it comes to selecting the right hosting service provider.
How Should You Read This Guide?
We wanted to make it a user-friendly guide, so each of the following points is covered as a separate chapter. The end of each chapter presents key takeaway points that can be bookmarked and used for your benefit.
Web Hosting – The Basics
In this chapter, we walk you through the definition and different types of web hosting so you can compare providers and choose a plan that perfectly satisfies your requirements.
What Is Web Hosting?
Web hosting provides a place where a website can be parked – short and simple!
Let’s take the example of a popular website: Forbes.com. Forbes publishes several news and feature articles under different categories, from technology to business and marketing. It has a massive readerbase across the globe, but how does everyone access it from different locations at the same time? This is where web hosting comes in.
A company provides Forbes a rented space on a computer to host its web pages and files, or collectively, its website. Here, the computer refers to a web server, and because the site is meant for the public, it requires much higher specifications than an ordinary desktop PC and must be connected to the Internet through a powerful link to make sure it’s available 24/7.
In a nutshell, the objective of website-hosting services is to sell space on the Internet for hosting a website and make sure it’s available to the public. Web space is measured in megabytes in a similar fashion to how we assess space on our computers.
Types of Web Hosting
When it comes to the selection of a web-hosting plan, most service providers offer a large variety of packages, which can create a difficult decision-making process if the buyer lacks a basic understanding of each plan. So let’s look at the different types of hosting available and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
This is best suited for personal or small sites with very low traffic. It should be a good fit if there are budget constraints and merely basic requirements. Of course, the biggest advantage is it’s free and it may also come with free email services depending on the provider.
However, the problem with free hosting is it has more disadvantages than benefits. For example,
- User control is limited.
- Preferred domain names cannot be used.
- There’s intrusive, annoying advertising, in the form of banner ads and popups, on the site itself.
- File transfer ability is limited.
- It doesn’t have a robust security system.
- There’s limited or no technical support.
- There’s limited or no database support.
- Monetization ability is limited.
Shared Server Hosting
This is one of the most popular hosting services, and it’s best suited for both personal and business sites with average traffic. Most shared hosting providers use a Linux platform, but a few offer Windows as well. As the name suggests, it offers shared dedicated servers with multiple users. These packages come with optional scalability, so for any business that wants to start small and increase spending depending on its growth, this is a perfect plan.
Some of its advantages are
- Cost-effectiveness / low pricing
- Availability of a wide variety of add-on tools that help the site work efficiently
- Ability to use own domain and email
- Good customer support
- Good administrative control and monetization options
- Requirement of minimum technical knowledge to set it up
However, although it’s a good entry-level option, shared hosting comes with a few disadvantages:
- It’s less secure as the hosting space is shared with other sites on the same server.
- Software and database support is restricted.
- There’s limited ability to handle spikes or high traffic levels.
- Site performance can be affected by other sites on the server.
Dedicated Server Hosting
This is an exclusive service, meaning it hosts only your website on its server. The dedicated server option is a perfect fit for large websites with high web traffic. Logging in to a dedicated server is as simple as logging in to your personal computer. Once logged in, users can perform installation and configuration any way they want. Some of its advantages are
- Use of multiple domain names and hosting of additional websites
- Effective email solutions
- Powerful database support
- Unlimited software and applications support
- Full administrative control
Although it seems much better than the other options, it has a few disadvantages:
- It is expensive because of its exclusivity.
- It needs skilled resources, such as a dedicated system administrator.
- The user is responsible for security and maintenance issues.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
This is shared hosting that acts like a dedicated one. Basically, VPS hosting divides a server into several virtual servers, where each web portal looks like it’s hosting on its personal dedicated server, but it actually shares a server with other users. This is a great hosting option for those who do not want to invest in a dedicated server. VPS is less expensive than a dedicated server but more expensive than a shared hosting server. Some of its advantages are
- Better security
- Root access to the user’s own virtual space
- Good administrative control
There are very few disadvantages:
- Site performance can be affected by other sites hosted on the same server.
- There’s limited ability to handle spikes or high traffic levels.
This is a good option for businesses that want to have a dedicated server but don’t want to pay for an in-house skilled resource. The resource requirements are taken care of by the hosting company’s staff, who can configure the server and install software the way you want. In short, your server is managed by your hosting provider. You will be responsible for the website content, but the hosting provider takes care of the hardware, virus protection, patch management, spam filtering, and other maintenance, letting you focus on core business needs. However, managed hosting is expensive compared with other plans.
If the requirement is to have a hosting solution that can bill on actual usage and not a flat fee, then this is the perfect plan. Cloud hosting follows the pay-as-you-go approach and bills users on total consumption. It is a new technology that allows hundreds of individual servers to work together so that the process looks like one giant server. Some of its advantages are as follows:
- It nullifies hardware costs.
- There’s no need to hire skilled IT resources for maintenance.
- High traffic or spikes can be managed.
It has only one disadvantage: cloud-hosting providers usually do not offer root access, which is needed to amend server settings and install apps or software.
Collocated Hosting Server
Collocation means “co-location.” It is about having your own server, but it is located at a different place specifically designed for it. It’s similar to having a server at your own office. The business brings the server and rents rackspace, and the service provider offers physical security, power, dedicated Internet connections, and cooling. Also, the business is responsible for its own data storage, backup system, and server software. In any case, if the hardware fails, then it’s the business’s responsibility to replace or repair it to get the server up and running.
Some of the advantages of collocated hosting servers are as follows:
- Better security
- Unlimited software options
- Good bandwidth
- High up-time
It has a few disadvantages as well:
- Requires skilled resources
- Difficult to configure and debug
Clustered Hosting Server
Clustered hosting is a robust solution that offers redundant servers to “run the show” when one server goes offline. This proves very useful because when you shut down a server that needs maintenance, its load can be assigned to other servers. Let’s look at what benefits it brings:
- High scalability
- Good option for sites with high traffic
It has a few disadvantages too:
- High cost
- Greater effort to manage and monitor
Reseller Hosting Server
Here, a reseller is a company that offers hosting service under its brand name but uses the resources of its parent company. Ideally, small web-hosting services act as resellers by using the resources of larger brands, but they can also be obtained from specific field experts, such as web designers or developers who offer hosting as a value-added service. These are ideally shared hosting, and some resellers offer dedicated technical support as well. Some of its advantages are private-name servers, free website templates, and white-label customer support.
3 Top Consumer-Rated Web-Hosting Services
- Web hosting provides a space on a web server where an individual or organization can place one or more websites.
- Free hosting should be sufficient if there is a stringent budget and only basic features are needed.
- Shared server hosting is a popular choice for sites with moderate traffic.
- VPS divides a server into several virtual servers, a good option for those who do not want to invest in a dedicated server.
- Dedicated servers are a great option for high-traffic sites.
- Managed hosting is a useful plan for businesses that want to have a dedicated server but don’t want to get into the hassles and can’t afford the expenses of management.
- Cloud hosting follows a pay-as-you-go approach, and it bills on the actual usage rather than billing a flat fee.
- Collocated hosting means renting rackspace from the datacenter where the server is owned by the business but maintained by the hosting service provider.
- Clustered hosting is better for businesses with high traffic as this ensures better maintenance by offering the option of having a redundant server.
Now you should understand what web hosting is, and know the different hosting options available, which will help you make an informed decision to benefit your business. Let us then move to the chapter on domain names.
Introducing the Domain Name
In this chapter, you’ll gain a complete understanding of the difference between a web host and a domain, what a domain is and what its advantages are, and domain privacy.
The Difference between a Web Host and a Domain
Most newbies who plan to open their venture online are baffled by the difference between a web host and a domain name. So it is very important to first clear the confusion before going any further. Let’s make it simple for you through an everyday example: a car.
In this analogy, the car represents a website, which can “travel” to many places and become visible to different people at once.
Every car needs a license plate, which identifies the address and owner of the car. Here, the license plate is called the domain.
Just as every automobile needs to be registered (with the motor vehicle authority), so does every domain. Here, the authority is called the domain registrar.
Once car registration is completed and a license is received, the car can be driven anywhere, but it also needs to be parked in a garage or driveway, right? Here, the garage or driveway is called the web-hosting server.
To put it all together:
Car = Website
Car license plate = Domain
Car registration process = Domain registration
Car registration authority = Domain registrar
Garage or Driveway = Web host
Now do you think a website host and a domain name are similar? Of course not. So let’s discuss more about what a domain name is to strengthen your foundation.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name is the unique identity or address of a website. It represents an Internet protocol (IP) resource, such as a server hosting a web portal, a PC used to access the Internet, or any other service relayed through the Internet.
A domain name helps visitors easily remember and find a website. Facebook.com is a domain name, as are Google.com, Yahoo.co.uk, and Linux.org. In 2014, the number of active domains reached 271 million.
Why Is a Domain Name Important?
If the objective is to make your presence felt on the Internet, then a domain name is the starting point. To really open the gate for considerable Internet opportunities, you must register a domain name representing you or your brand name. Let’s look at a few of the advantages of registering one:
- Makes a business stand out from the crowd and builds credibility
- Helps businesses market and advertise on the Internet more effectively
- Makes it easier for people to remember a brand name
- Gives you better control and ownership of your brand name
- Enables you to create multiple, personal email addresses with the preferred domain name
- Improves visibility on search engines
- Gives a professional edge
Types of Domain Names
As we discussed before, a domain name is a unique address that gives an identity to a site on the Internet. These addresses are managed by the domain name system, or DNS. The name of a website always includes a dot (“.”), used by the DNS to organize domain names.
Let’s take the example of Yahoo’s mail URL: mail.yahoo.com.
Here, the name uses three levels of strings listed in ascending order when read from left to right. The first string, “mail,” represents a subdomain. The second one, “yahoo,” denotes the organization’s domain, which points to the website but also contains several subdomains, like “mail.” Finally, “.com” represents the top-level domain, or TLD, which encompasses many websites worldwide. Still confused? Let’s explain some more.
Top-Level Domain (TLD) Extension
A non-profit organization, called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, oversees the namespace of the Internet. ICANN has a dedicated department named Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or IANA, which is responsible for maintaining the list of top-level domains. Around 735 TLDs are active, as of October 2014. Let’s look at the different types of TLDs available.
Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD)
As the name suggests, these TLDs have been created to help organize websites within each country in the world. The standard format of these domains is a two-letter country code, such as
- .ca for Canada
- .in for India
- .fr for France
- .au for Australia
- .ru for the Russian Federation
- .cn for mainland China
- .br for Brazil
- .jp for Japan
Internationalized Country Code Top-Level Domain (IDN ccTLD)
These domains are country code top-level domains with domain names specially encoded in non–Latin-based alphabets (such as Arabic) or writing systems (such as Chinese characters) that are displayed in an end-user application, like a web browser. These domains need to first be submitted to ICANN for evaluation and then get tested and categorized under the IDN test domains. An example is as follows.
Generic Top-Level Domain
This includes both sponsored and unsponsored top-level domains. Sponsored TLDs are established and sponsored by private agencies, whereas unsponsored ones abide by the rules set by ICANN for the global Internet community. Here are a few popular generic TLDs:
.com – This is the most common TLD and the most widely used across the Internet. It is intended for use by commercial entities. An example is the world’s largest social networking site, https://www.facebook.com/. However, because of this domain’s immense popularity, all kinds of entities, including schools, nonprofits, and private individuals, have started embracing it as well.
.org – This is an open TLD (i.e., anyone is allowed to register), but it is primarily intended for use by nonprofit organizations, though not limited to them. An example is http://www.unicef.org/
.edu – Only educational institutions, like schools and universities, are permitted to register this TLD. An example is http://www.harvard.edu/, the website of Harvard University.
.net – Anyone can register this TLD. It’s primarily considered for use by domains that act as an umbrella site for a set of smaller websites. An example is http://themeforest.net/, a popular portal for website templates.
.gov –This is a sponsored top-level domain (sTLD) that can be used only by US government agencies and other entities. An example is https://www.aids.gov/.
.int – This is an sTLD derived from the word “international” and intended for use by international organizations and with agreements between two or more nations. An example is http://www.nato.int/, the domain of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Lately, many new TLDs have emerged, such as .biz, .info, .jobs, .mobi, .tel, and .name. Some of these are designed for special-interest groups, while others are intended for broad use worldwide.
Infrastructure Top-Level Domain
This was the first top-level domain, named .arpa (address and routing parameter area). Currently, it is used exclusively for Internet infrastructure purposes, managed by IANA for activities like the reverse mapping of IP addresses.
To learn more about different existing TLDs, visit IANA’s website, at https://www.iana.org/domains/root/db
By now, we have learned the differences between a domain and web hosting, what a domain name is all about, and the different types of names widely used. But there is another important point: domain privacy, which many of us overlook. Let’s see what it is and why it is significant.
In simple terms, it’s about keeping domain registration details private or hidden from the public. This includes information, like your name, office or home address, phone numbers, and email addresses, that are required for registering a domain and included in the public database (the WHOIS) of domain registrars as per the guidelines set by ICANN.
Here are some advantages of domain privacy:
- Protects against identity theft and fraud
- Prohibits unsolicited calls from telemarketers
- Prevents receiving unsolicited emails and spam
- Protects all personal information and contact details
We are now done with the second chapter, and by now, you should have a holistic understanding of domains and web hosting. Let’s look at the KEY TAKEAWAYS from this.
- Domain name is the address of a website.
- Web hosts and domain names are different.
- There are mainly three types of domains or TLDs: country code (ccTLD), generic, and infrastructure TLDs.
- ICANN looks after the namespace system on the Internet.
- IANA is responsible for managing the domains.
- As of October 2014, 735 TLDs are active.
- ccTLD is dedicated for nations and territories.
- IDN ccTLDs are domain names with non-Latin characters.
- .com is the most popular and widely used TLD.
- Domain privacy hides all domain registration information from the public.
Ready for the next chapter? Let’s move on.
How to Launch a Website
Now that you understand which web hosting service may work best for your business, and may plan to subscribe to one, how will you get your site up and running? This chapter walks you through the different steps involved so that you can do it yourself. Website building may sound like hard work, but it is not. Many websites are built by people who have never done it before!
First things first. Before you buy a car, you need to think about where to park it. Similarly, to get a website online, web hosting is required, and to obtain web hosting, a domain is the first requirement. Let’s see the process involved in registering a domain.
Register a Domain – The Process
Remember, the better the domain name you choose, the wider reach your website gets, so it is critically important for the growth of your portal and business. Some popular web-hosting services that register domains are GoDaddy, HostGator, Bluehost, Dreamhost, and FatCow. Let’s explore the standard registration procedure and the best practices you should follow.
Look Out for Availability
Every hosting site comes with an availability checker, where you can type in your preferred domain name and it will tell you if it is available for registration and if not, it will show a list of suggested domain names that you can select from. For example, if cloudwards.net is unavailable, then the checker may suggest going for domain names like cloudwards.biz or cloudworlds.net (supposing they are available), which sometimes can be obtained at less cost.
Add-On Value-Added Services If Needed
When a domain name has been selected, as a checkout process, a list of add-on services, such as a website builder and a certified domain, is shown to the buyer.
Fill-Out Order Form
Remember we mentioned that a domain registrar is responsible for managing a public database (WHOIS) for all of its registrants? Here is how a registrar does it. To complete an order, you need to provide the name, address, email, and telephone numbers that go directly to the database.
Make a Payment
This is self-explanatory. You have to make a payment after providing all the information required to avail yourself of the service, so make sure the payment information provided is correct. It is also advisable to use a secure, reputable site to pay as the transaction is done online.
Get Web Hosting – Things You Need to Know
There are different kinds of web hosting available, as covered in our first chapter, and which web hosting service you choose completely depends on your needs. So let’s look at the basic parameters you need to consider that can help you make the correct decision.
Amount of Server Space – This is about how much server space a hosting provider offers. It can vary from 100 MB to 2000 MB, and sometimes customized space is also available for larger needs, which is ideal for sites with heavy traffic.
Number of Email Addresses – This refers to how many email IDs are permitted by a hosting company. Usually, it is between 1 and 10 email addresses, but it can go up to an unlimited number depending on the plan chosen.
Data Transferability or Bandwidth – This refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted to the user of a website. This is crucial as exceeding the limit of bandwidth allowed by the hosting provider can suspend a website. So it is advisable to choose a hosting service that automatically provides extra bandwidth with extra charges.
Operating System Supported – There are two major operating systems available today: Windows and Linux (a major variant of UNIX). This may not be a point of consideration for a basic website, but it’s a must for advanced users. For example, apps like WordPress and Magento run better on Linux, whereas apps like the Umbraco website-building tool and nopCommerce shopping cart are ideal for Windows.
Features and Apps – Most businesses prefer to go for a website that is dynamic and good for interacting with users. Thus, it is very important to see all the apps the service offers and supports, like MySQL database support and scripting languages, like PHP, ASP, and .NET.
Uptime Guarantee – Uptime is crucial for any business, especially for high-traffic sites involved in e-commerce. Just one sudden downtime can hurt sales, so it is advisable to go for a web hosting service that offers at least a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
Level of Technical Support – Look at the different support channels used, such as email only or phones and live chat. The more options available, the better it is for a business.
Scalability – There are few hosting providers who specialize in only one environment, like shared or dedicated servers, and do not offer scalability. So if a business’s plan is to start small and then expand the need as the business grows, then it needs to choose a hosting provider that can offer variants, like shared servers and then dedicated servers, when the time comes to scale up.
Engagement Policy – This includes contract termination and renewal policy, refund policy, and others.
Several tools and apps that make website creation easier are available today. But determining which one meets your needs depends on your objective. For example, if the plan is to create a blog, WordPress is the best platform, compared with expensive website builder tools, like Adobe Dreamweaver. Here is a chart that clarifies what kind of apps should be used to best fit your goal.
Once an email account is set up, there are several ways to access the emails, provided the email account supports IMAP or POP3. Here are some examples:
- Email software that comes with your iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows, or other smartphones
- Webmail offered by the hosting providers that can be accessed through a web browser
- Popular web mail systems, like Gmail
- Desktop software, like Outlook Express, Microsoft Outlook, and Thunderbird
- Domain registration is the first step of the website building process.
- Choose web hosting that offers better support, security, and an uptime guarantee as its three key features.
- The kind of tools and apps needed to build a website depends on the goal of the website.
- WordPress is a popular open-source blogging platform.
- Magento is good for e-commerce site building.
- For static sites, site builder tools can be useful.
Now you know how to create a website, but there are common pitfalls you must avoid to ensure your effort and dream don’t get shattered. Curious to know what those are? Let’s find out.
Common Pitfalls You Should Avoid
As we stated before, the first step should be to register a domain. So following the same rule, let’s look at the common pitfalls that you should avoid when choosing a domain name.
- Using numbers or letters for words
- Domain names that are not readable across all media, including print and online
- Lengthy domain names that are difficult to remember and type
- Tying the domain name to your product rather than your brand
- Giving your website a name similar to another’s, like DisneyMovies.com (i.e., copyright hassles)
Now, let’s look at web hosting and explore what you need to know to ensure you don’t get yourself in trouble.
Common Pitfalls – Web Hosting
Hidden Bandwidth Charges – There are hosting providers that offer inadequate bandwidth required to run a website, and that leads to buying extra bandwidth. Often, extra bandwidth comes with a much higher rate.
Hidden Setup Expenses – Always check the VAT and setup costs involved as most of the time, these expenses remain hidden and increase your total bill.
Unlimited Data Transfer – This may sound extravagant, but the reality is there is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth. What it simply means is there are no set limits, but if a website attracts high traffic, it will be asked to upgrade or shut down.
Hefty Fee for Domain Name Transfer – Most web-hosting providers transfer domains without any charges involved. However, some charge a good amount of money to transfer, so it’s better to avoid them when there are plenty of options available.
Fixed Contracts – Most companies offer a monthly contract, but a few offer good discounts on a fixed long-term contract. It’s advisable to go with short-term offers.
Slow Technical Support – Before subscribing to a hosting service, test their customer support. If the response time is slow and sometimes unavailable, avoid that service.
Low-Priced Hosting Plan – Recall the saying, “You get what you pay for.” The objective is to get a better deal at an affordable price. Cheap services often come with a lot of hidden charges and technical hassles.
So, are you ready to build or upgrade your website? If you would like to know details on specific web hosting providers, keep watch on this site.