What is web hosting?
Every page we surf on the Internet has its own domain and data. A web hosting service makes the pages of websites available through the World Wide Web. The data is stored in a space provided on a server that is owned by the web hosting company that provides that service.
In other words, all of that data is transmitted to computers around the world from these powerful servers across the Internet. There are currently 4 different commonly sold levels of web hosting:
- Shared hosting — your website shares space on a powerful server with dozens or hundreds of other sites. You have access to a control panel to maintain the site and its settings.
- VPS hosting — you gain root access to a virtual machine running its own Operating System on one larger server. Like shared hosting, there are typically many other users hosted on the same physical server that have access to their own segregated virtual machine. You can then set up the services you require, like a web server, database server, email server, etc.
- Cloud hosting — This is most often the same as either shared or VPS hosting, but instead of your data residing on a particular hard drive (or set of hard drives), it’s on a software defined storage system, meaning if one drive fails, theoretically the datacentre can simply swap it out with zero downtime (realistically this isn’t always the case).
- Dedicated server hosting — Just like VPS hosting you gain root access to a server, but rather than being a virtualized environment sitting on a dedicated server that hosts other virtul machines, you have sole access to the hardware
You may see things like ‘app’ hosting or WordPress hosting and think these are different types of hosting. They’re not. App hosting is most often your own VPS, but locked down to provide you with no root access and no control over the services running on the machine. And amazingly they charge more for it as well.
WordPress hosting is often sold as a separate service from shared hosting, yet it’s identical. The only difference is that WordPress hosting providers will offer you more tools to manage your WordPress site, like the ability to clone it to a development environment and automatically update WordPress and its plugins and themes. While many hosting companies do this, you should look to avoid paying more for those features: they should come with your shared hosting plan.
It is thanks to the technology of web hosting that so many people are able to share what they want around the world. Without these powerful servers, and the services to make them useful, the Internet would not be a fraction of what it is today.