All of us spend a considerable chunk of our time on the internet visiting dozens of websites every single day. If you own a business, you must be having your own website as well. But do you fully comprehend what is a website and what happens you visit a website? Or, how is the domain name for a website chosen? Or, if a website is accessed through the internet where exactly is it stored?
In this brief guide, we will discuss everything related to web hosting: websites, domain names, and web hosting.
What is a Website?
To understand what a website is, let us first understand the concept of a webpage.
A webpage is simply a document on the internet. It can include any kind of content including text, images, videos and any other kind of code. A webpage can be accessed through the internet by typing a specific address, the URL in the address bar of your browser.
For instance, if you type the URL in the address bar, you will be directed to the corresponding webpage.
A website is a collection of webpages that are linked together.
All the webpages of a website have a common domain name. Depending on its complexity, a website can have one to thousands of webpages.
When you type a URL in your web browser (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer), your browser locates the web server that hosts the corresponding webpage. The browser then sends a request to the server for a copy of the webpage; after receiving the webpage from the server, the browser translates the code on the webpage to present the information on your computer screen.
In order to build a website, you need a programming language. Simple, static websites that are fixed and display the same content to every user are usually built using HTML and CSS only.
In contrast, complex, dynamic websites that offer user interaction and can display different content require advanced programming languages and databases in addition to HTML.
What is a Domain Name?
In order to locate a website on the internet, you need a domain name.
To understand what a domain name is and how you can get a domain name for your website, read further.
A domain name is an address you type in the web browser when trying to access a website.
For instance, if you type the domain name ‘Go4hosting.in’ in the browser, the Go4hosting website will get loaded.
Every domain name has a top-level domain (TLD) such as .com, .edu, .net, .in, .org and so on. There is a sub-domain name in addition to the top-level domain. For example, in the domain name Go4hosting.in, ‘.in’ is the top-level domain and ‘Go4hosting’ is the sub-domain.
Interestingly, you can access a website using an IP address too. Every website has an IP address that comprises a long and complex string of numbers or both numbers and letters. You can type an IP address to access the corresponding website. But then, nobody wants to remember such a complex address. Domain names allow you to access websites using a simple set of characters.
So, how can you get a domain name for your website?
Getting a domain name is simple. All you need to do is to connect with a domain name registrar. Popular domain name registrars include GoDaddy, BigRock, Bluehost and HostGator.
You have to identify a domain name that is available and get it registered. If the domain name chosen by you is already registered with some individual or business, you will have to look for the ones that are available.
After registering your domain, you get the rights to use it for the duration of your rental period. In most cases, the minimum rental period is one year. If you don’t renew your domain, it expires and you lose the ownership.
Most of the web hosts offer domain name registration as well. However, if you want to keep the two separate, many companies let you register without requiring you to purchase their hosting service.
To know what web hosting is, read further.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is a service where a service provider (called the web host) rents their server (a large powerful computer) to store your website. The web host stores the files and folders related to your website for a fee and offers internet connectivity so that other users can access your website.
The server on which your website is hosted is often placed in a data center. A data center is a facility used to house servers. A data center could be a small room or a large building equipped with hundreds and thousands of servers in a professionally-managed environment.
Typically, a web host does a lot more than storing your website. Most of the web hosting providers in India offer some value-added services such as domain name registration, email hosting, basic technical support and website builder services.
What are the different types of web hosting?
Now that we have understood the concept of web hosting, let’s discuss the different types of web server hosting commonly available in the marketplace. These include:
- Shared Hosting
- Dedicated Server Hosting
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
- Cloud Hosting
Dedicated Server Hosting
In dedicated server hosting, you rent an entire physical server for your exclusive usage. So, in dedicated server hosting, the server stores just one website-and that’s yours. Here, your website exclusively uses the RAM, CPU, bandwidth and disc space of the physical server and, as a result, delivers superior performance and speed.
Dedicated hosting services let you have complete control over the server. This means you can install any niche software, tweak configuration settings and make changes to the operating system. In other words, you can customize the server to fit your specific needs.
Dedicated server hosting is a suitable option if your website is indispensable to running your business and attracts consistently high traffic, or, if you have stringent data privacy or hardware requirements. But dedicated hosting services in India are expensive. So, choose them only if you are willing to spend some extra bucks for superior performance.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
In Virtual Private Server hosting, a single large physical server is partitioned into smaller virtualized servers, each of which is referred to as a virtual private server. Each virtual server has its own set of resources such as RAM, CPU, bandwidth and disc space and operates in a sandboxed environment. This means every virtual server remains isolated from other tenant servers.
In this case, many websites share one physical server but are hosted on separate virtual servers. As a result, they remain somewhat unaffected by the traffic spike on other websites.
VPS hosting also splits server resources like a shared server. But here the number of websites hosted on one physical server is much smaller. As a result, VPS hosting delivers superior performance and speed.
VPS hosting also gives you control over the server environment as in dedicated server hosting.
If you have a small website with low to moderate traffic but have issues with page load speed, you can be better off with a virtual private server than with a shared server.
Shared hosting is the cheapest hosting option available in the marketplace where several websites are hosted on the same physical server. Shared hosting services in India offer all the basic features needed to host a simple website with little traffic.
In shared hosting, your website shares server resources such as RAM, CPU, bandwidth and disk space with many other websites, typically ranging in hundreds or thousands. So, when one of the websites on your server experiences a spike in traffic, it draws more resources from your server, leaving fewer resources for other websites.
Shared hosting is, thus, a suitable hosting option only if you have a simple, static website with low traffic.
Shared hosting needs little to no technical knowledge. No wonder, it is the preferred hosting option for most entry-level websites.
Cloud hosting is the newest kid on the hosting block. Incredibly flexible and scalable, cloud hosting combines the power of several large physical servers in different locations to form a single virtualized ‘cloud’ server.
A cloud server draws resources from many servers, as a result of which it becomes easy for websites to scale their resources up and down as the need arises.
Most of the cloud hosting services in India follow a ‘pay-as-you-go’ pricing model wherein the users are charged only for the resources they consume. Cloud hosting, therefore, does not involve large upfront costs and prevents wastage of computing resources.
However, cloud hosting does not offer server access; as a result, you cannot change server settings or install specific software of your choice. So, if you expect moderately high traffic and can work without access to the technical side of a server, cloud hosting can be a viable option.
What Factors Should You Consider While Choosing a good Web Hosting Service?
While choosing a web hosting you should check key factors like Speed, Server Hardware Specifications, Location of Data Center, speed of Solid State Drives (SSDs), Bandwidth, storage capacity, SSL, Uptime and Customer support.
Choosing a web hosting service can be overwhelming considering the options available in the marketplace. To make your task less difficult, let us consider some key factors that you need to take into account while choosing a web hosting service.
It is crucial for your website to load as fast as possible. If your visitors have to wait for a long time for your site to load, they may leave instantly and not come back again. In this way, a slow-loading website can cause you to lose valuable prospects. Now that Google considers page load speed as one of the ranking factors, speed has become all the more important.
A lot of factors come into play in determining the speed of your website. This, of course, depends a lot on the type of hosting you have chosen .i.e. shared, dedicated, VPS or cloud. There are certain other specific things that should be considered:
Server Hardware Specifications: These may be hard to find out as many web hosts do not specify server details in their plans. But a web host advertising their server specifications is usually a favorable sign.
Location: If your data centers are located closer to your website users, your website is bound to load faster provided all other factors are well-optimized.
Solid State Drives: SSDs are much faster than the traditionally used hard disc drives.
Bandwidth refers to the speed of your network connection. High bandwidth allows more users to visit your website and have a smooth experience. In contrast, low bandwidth results in slow page loading, delays, and errors.
Hosting providers in India usually offer a range of options when it comes to bandwidth. If you have just built your website, you may not need the highest bandwidth right away. Your bandwidth needs have to be commensurate with your website traffic and content.
If you an e-commerce site where users will search and browse through multiple options, make payments, etc. or if your webpages have videos and/or high-resolution images, you need high bandwidth. If, however, you have a blog likely to draw low-to-moderate traffic, a low bandwidth plan serves the purpose.
Many web hosts seem to offer ‘unlimited’ storage space. It is essential to check all the details of the hosting plan to ensure you don’t fall prey to any bait. There may be hidden charges you are not aware of.
If your website has mostly text content, you will most likely not need more than 1 GB of space. If you have created an e-commerce site with lots of product photos or a blog with many high-resolution images and videos, then you can do well with 2 to 4 GB for a while.
So, when deciding storage, select a plan that clearly states the amount of storage space you will get. Going for maximum storage is not the best option always.
Managing a website is a complex task and you can face issues at any point in time. Without a robust customer support service in place, your website may not function as seamlessly as you want it to. If your website has round-the-clock visitors, it is imperative to have 24*7 support. Also, the support should be available through multiple channels.
Read online reviews to understand if the web host duly and adequately handles customer queries. Many times web hosting companies offer comprehensive guides, video tutorials or FAQs on their website that customers can go through and resolve the issue on their own. Such resources are immensely beneficial.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It is a digital certificate that creates a secure link between your website and your user’s browser. By doing so, SSL certification protects your personal information as well as that of your visitors. It prevents hackers from stealing sensitive information such as credit card details, name, address and contact numbers.
While most of the major web hosting providers in India offer an SSL certificate, you can also get SSL from a third-party. Any web host that does not offer SSL is best avoided.
An alternative to SSL is TLS (transport layer security). TLS offers better security than SSL but it isn’t as popular.
Most of the web hosting plan you come across appear to offer 99.9% uptime. This figure, however, doesn’t include the scheduled downtime. So, it is best to go through customer reviews to get a realistic picture of how much uptime they are actually offering.
Wrapping it up
For a website that delivers superior performance, you need a top-notch web hosting service. Selecting a suitable hosting plan entails a lot of research. The first thing you need to do is to estimate your requirements and decide on the features you need for your website. Once done with these steps, search a suitable host that meets your specific requirements.