Whether I’m geeking out with Ryan, Laura, and the team, or sketching out server diagrams to explain the basics to my grandmother, talking about a career in web hosting is always a creative endeavor, and I love it. Hopefully, this guide has cleared up some of the common confusions of hosting services, and you’re ready to sign up with the web host that best fits your upcoming site needs.
Web hosting is a service that allows organizations and individuals to post a website or web page onto the Internet. A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed in the Internet. Websites are hosted, or stored, on special computers called servers. When Internet users want to view your website, all they need to do is type your website address or domain into their browser. Their computer will then connect to your server and your webpages will be delivered to them through the browser.
Many web hosting services offer so-called unlimited or unmetered service for whatever amount of bandwidth, disk storage and sites you use. It's important to understand that most terms of service actually do limit the definition of "unlimited" to what's considered reasonable use. The bottom line is simple: if you're building a pretty basic website, unlimited means you don't need to worry. But if you're trying to do something excessive (or illegal, immoral or fattening), the fine print in the terms of service will trigger, and you'll either be asked to spend more or go elsewhere.
The force driving server virtualization is similar to that which led to the development of time-sharing and multiprogramming in the past. Although the resources are still shared, as under the time-sharing model, virtualization provides a higher level of security, dependent on the type of virtualization used, as the individual virtual servers are mostly isolated from each other and may run their own full-fledged operating system which can be independently rebooted as a virtual instance.
A web hosting account is a secure space on powerful computers (called servers) located in special buildings (datacenters) that provide consistently fast Internet connections, redundant power supply, and physical access security. Today, web hosting has evolved from being considered “just some space on a server” to being a comprehensive platform on which you can build, publish, and market your website, in addition to providing powerful collaboration tools such as email, calendars, and file sharing.
We liked how Web Hosting Hub describes its new customer process. It tells new customers, "We walk you through setting up your account in a personal on-boarding call." The company has a few other wins as well. It offers an all-SSD infrastructure, automatic vulnerability patches and a custom firewall, SSH access for certain plans, free site migration and an excellent 90-day money-back guarantee.
If you're not sure of the type of hosting your business needs, you might want to start small, with shared Web hosting. You can always graduate to a more robust, feature-rich package of, say, VPS hosting or even dedicated hosting in the future. Unfortunately, some hosts don't offer all hosting types. Consider how much you expect to grow your website, and how soon, before you commit to anything longer than a one-year plan. It's worth spending the time up front to make sure that the host you select with is able to provide the growth you envision for your site, as switching web hosting providers midstream is not a trivial undertaking.
Once you register your website's domain name, it's time to start picking the specs for your server. Web hosts typically offer multiple VPS plans that have varying amounts of email capability, RAM, storage, CPU power, domain hosting, and monthly data transfers. The plans typically include website builders that let you quickly create a face for your site without much—or even any—coding required. A solid web host should offer at least 4GB of RAM, 100GB of storage, and an ample volume of monthly data transfers. If you expect a significant amount of website growth, then you should look for a web host that has as many unlimited offerings as possible. For example, Hostwinds—the PCMag Editors' Choice for VPS hosting—offers unlimited email, domains, and monthly data transfers. Note, however, that as with all unlimited service offerings, you really need to read the fine print to make sure that what you mean by unlimited and what the hosting service means by it.
If you're planning on selling a product, look for a web host that offers a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, because it encrypts the data between the customer's browser and web host to safeguard purchasing information. You're probably familiar with SSL; it's the green padlock that appears in your web browser's address bar as you visit an online financial institution or retail outlet. A few companies toss in a SSL certificate free of charge; others may charge you roughly $100 per year for that extra security layer.