The first step to happy hosting is picking not only the right host, but also the right kind of hosting. Although there are a lots of web hosts out there, these host are offering only about a handful of web hosting solutions. Each of these solutions is available with several plans. The objective of this post is to inform you about the kinds of web hosting available, so that you can choose the hosting that suits your needs best.
Linux or Windows Hosting
The first decision you have to make is choosing between Linux hosting and Windows hosting. The latter drastically decreases your number of options, since not all hosting companies offer Windows web hosting.
The short answer: go for Linux web hosting, unless your website makes use of Windows technology like ASP.NET.
In all other cases, Linux web hosting is a safe bet. Most websites are created with open source technologies and these run best on Linux servers. This includes static HTML sites, dynamic PHP/MySQL websites and content management systems like WordPress and Drupal.
An additional benefit of Linux web hosting is that it is generally cheaper than Windows web hosting. Linux is a free operating system, so web hosts do not have to pay for it. However, the hosting company has to pay Microsoft for using Windows Server – and so do you.
Types of web hosting
Despite the variety in hosting plans, there are basically four categories of web hosting:
- Shared Hosting
- Reseller Hosting
- Virtual Private Servers
- Dedicated Servers
Let us have a closer look a these hosting options.
As the name shared hosting indicates, websites on shared hosts share the resources connected to one physical computer server. Basically, all websites with a shared hosting plan compete for the limited resources of that one server.
Running hundreds of shared hosting accounts on one computer server is very common. On one server, you will usually see a mix of web sites. Some sites require more resources than others. Although it also depends on the specifications of the server, it will make a huge difference whether a web host is in a habit of running 700, 800 or 900 websites on one single server.
Entry shared hosting plans with a host might allow you to use 2 GB of disk space and 200 GB of monthly traffic. Other plans come with an unlimited resources. You can use as much space and traffic as needed. Sounds to good to be true? Well, it is.
The bottleneck of hosting plans is not disk space or traffic, but processing power (CPU) and memory usage.
Websites on a shared host share the processors (the cores) of the server they are running on. It does not matter whether a host monitors the inode usage, the number of processes or resource points. Point is, every web host limits the processing power. Some more, some less.
Does that mean you have to steer away of shared web hosting. No, of course not. Especially when you are starting out with a new blog or website a shared hosting plan is good place to start. HostingCaddie for example is running on a shared plan with Site5.
Decent shared hosting plans start at about $5 a month.
Reseller Hosting is a special kind of shared hosting. When you sign up for a shared hosting plan, you get one account. That one shared hosting account entitles you to the run one or more websites usually through a control panel, usually the cPanel.
With a reseller account you obtain the ability to create your own shared hosting accounts. In case of cPanel shared hosting, you create shared hosting accounts with Web Host Manager. It does not matter of you create hosting accounts for yourself, family, friends or clients.
For each shared hosting account you create, you decide how much disk space, band width, FTP accounts etc. the account is allowed you use. As you will understand the sum of all individual shared accounts can not exceed the limits set by your reseller account.
For example, I have a Beginner Reseller Account with Neostrada that entitles me to use up to 50 GB of web space and 2 TB of traffic. When creating a new shared account for one of my websites, I allocate 5 GB of space and a maximum of 20 GB of traffic. This way I am able to create up to 10 shared accounts with this one reseller account.
I will get back later in more details on the cPanel as well as the Web Host Manager (WHM) in a separate posts.
Plans for reseller hosting usually start around $12 a month.
Virtual Private Server
When you sign up for a Virtual Private Server (VPS) you get resources, like 512 MB memory, 1 core (processor), 20 GB SSD Disk and 1 TB monthly traffic. That is it.
It is up to you to decide on the Linux distribution, install Apache or Nginx (engine-x), MySQL or MariaDB, PHP, Python, Ruby or whatever.
As mentioned earlier, the bottleneck of growing websites on shared hosting is CPU power and memory usage. The biggest advantage of a VPS is the guaranteed allocation of these resources.Like in the example above, the 512 MB of memory are reserved just for you. Whether you use it or not, no other customer will be able to use these 512 MB of memory.
In case you need the power and flexibility of a VPS, but you do not want the hassle of maintaining a Linux distribution and a web server, you can always opt for a Managed VPS instead of an Unmanaged VPS s for example my droplet with DigitalOcean.
A managed VPS is of course more expensive than an unmanaged VPS, because you also have to pay for the people nurturing your virtual private server. On the other hand, the increased fee might not to be a problem when you relate it to the revenues of your website.
DigitalOcean is a little cheaper, but generally you can have an unmanged VPS with 512 MB from $10 a month. For a managed VPS you will have to pay at least 2 to 3 times that amount.
With a Dedicated Server (DS) you get access to all resources of one physical server. Whether this implies that you are also responsible for all the hardware of that server depends on your service level agreement (SLA) with the hosting company.
Managing dedicated servers is beyond the scope of this blog, but you can have a single core dedicated server for less than $100 a month.
Special Types of Hosting
Two terms that you will definitely encounter when shopping for web hosting are managed hosting and cloud hosting. What are those?
We have already seen that there are two kinds of Virutal Private Servers; unmanaged and managed.
When you have a Managed VPS, the engineers of the web host will take care of the technical side of running a website. They keep all software up-to-date; the Linux distro, as well as the web server software, so that you can concentrate on your core business.
Other examples of managed hosting are Managed WordPress Hosting and Manged Joomla Hosting. In these scenarios, the web hosts offer an environment optimized for WordPress respectively Joomla hosting. Besides that, the support desk of the host is also available for questions related to these content management systems.
A good example is SiteGround where I am hosting my blog WPReviewLab. Last Month, SiteGround contacted me about an outdated WordPress install. This was regarding a test installation which I had not been using since February of this year, but nevertheless, it proves that they proactively monitor WordPress installs for possible security issues.
Manged hosting plans with SiteGround start at $3.95 a month – for WPReviewLab, I have settled for the GoGeek plan.
Yeah, the cloud. It seems you can do anything in the cloud nowadays. With traditional hosting, your website is served from one physical server and all available resources (memory, cores, disk space) are attached to that server.
With cloud hosting you are not using the resources of one server, but bits and pieces from several servers. Because of this a website will not go down when only one web server has issues, improving the overall availability of the website.
More advanced implementations of cloud hosting add even greater scalability and better load balancing to facilitate growing websites or the need for temporary resources because of peaks in traffic during marketing campaigns or a season sale.
Cloud hosting is more complex than traditional hosting, that is why it comes with a higher price tag. Please note that it varies from host to host whether a cloud hosting plan only improves the availability of the website or also allows you to use more resources during occasional peaks.
What is the best option for you?
So, now that you know a little about the different kinds of web hosting what is the best option for you?
When you are starting out with your first website and do not know what traffic to expect go for shared hosting. It is affordable and does not require any specific webmaster skills.
Once you are a little acquainted with web hosting and consider a second or a third website, have a look at reseller hosting. You will be able to create your own hosting accounts, and since you are already familiar with the cPanel, working with Web Host Manager (WHM) will not overwhelm you.
In order to run your own VPS, you should really have some experience with the Linux or OS X command line.
Having worked with local hosting environments like XAMPP, WAMP or MAMP will definitely be a benefit too, since you will have some knowledge of Apache and MySQL/phpMyAdmin.
When you have outgrown shared hosting (which includes reseller hosting), but do not want to cope with software updates of the operating system and the web server, opt for a managed VPS.
If your website is based on WordPress or Joomla, then a Managed WordPress/Joomla Hosting plan might be a good choice, since you do not need to worry about the technical stuff. Generally, these plans indicate the number of visitors allowed in per month.
And when you want to level the availability of your website from 99.9% to 99.99%, look for a cloud hosting variant of a hosting plan.