For many of us starting out in the web development field, choosing hosting can be a daunting task. I was hoaxed into buying web hosting with 1&1 Web Hosting, and while I haven’t had any problems yet, I’ve only heard terrible things. To clarify for any other noobs like myself, I did a little research and will attempt to explain the basic different types of web hosting options. I hope it can help someone! Free Web Hosting There are times when you are not able to, or don’t want to spend money to host a website. The option you turn to is free web hosting. I’ll list a couple pros and cons of this option. Pros Cost=Free. Some offer high levels of service, others even scripting and databases as seen in paid hosts. It’s an excellent way for new developers to learn from and also allow backup sites, as well as a testing platform for more experienced webmasters. Cons We’ve all heard the saying “there is no free lunch.” This usually applies to free web hosting. Usually this type of hosting comes with you displaying their ads, to recoup their costs. Banners, text links, pop-ups, and many more are common among free web hosts. Also they usually have bandwidth and storage limits, which are very limited. Lastly they do not come with custom domain names, and therefore do not give a very professional impression. Examples www.700megs.com www.free2hoxt.com www.fusedtree.com www.40gigs.com Shared Web Hosting (Virtual Hosting) This is the most common type of hosting service used (This is what I use). You are sharing one server (cpu time, memory, OS, applications, bandwidth etc.) with a number of clients from your hosting company. Your webhost manages the server to ensure uptime, upgrading hardware and software as necessary. The cost often depends on the number of clients on a server, as the hosting company is trying to maximize profits per server. You have no control over server, but full control of your website through a control panel. Pros Price is the cheapest and most affordable solution for a professional online presence. Since companies host many sites on each server they are able to pass the saving on to the customer. Performance can sometimes be an issue, especially when a host company oversells, but with software and hardware getting cheaper and better, this aspect might not be relevant for everyone. Cons Though it’s the most popular choice for web hosting, it is definitely not for everyone. If your web application requires excessive amount of CPU, RAM, or other resources, a shared hosting environment may not be best for you. You may run into performance issues, and your hosting company will not enjoy you hogging the resources, nor will they install foreign software, as it could be an issue for their other clients. Overall This is the best choice for small to medium sized sites and email domains, and for emergencies or as a backup hosting solution. Examples www.bluehost.com www.hostmonstar.com www.lunarpages.com www.startlogic.com Virtual Private Server Hosting (Virtual Dedicated Server) A Virtual Private Server (VPS), also referred to as Virtual Dedicated Server (VDS), provides the features of a dedicated server for multiple web hosting customers in the form of "virtual computers". At first blush it sounds somewhat contradictory - how can you have a dedicated server if it is being shared by multiple users? Isn't that a regular shared or virtual hosting environment? It is true that with a Virtual Private Server you still share system resources like the CPU and RAM with other users but the resources are allocated in such a way that you cannot tell that the system has anyone else on it, much like a dedicated server. So resources are usually setup in such a way that each hosting client is only allowed to use an allocated percent, meaning that resources assigned to you will always available to you. Each virtual server looks and acts like a dedicated server. Pros VPS offers an attractive alternative hosting solution for a niche of web hosting clients who would like the stability of a dedicated server, but on a smaller scale. With the amount of resources each client users being allocated consistently, the clients site will be more consistent since it will always have the same amount of access to the CPU, memory, bandwidth, etc. Also VPS are more secure since even as you share the memory and CPU time, you are allocated your own files system. IF a website on the server is attacked, the hackers will only have access to that particular file system and would not be able to attack other websites. Cons After reading that, this probably seems like the best solution, right? Well, almost. Not all VPSs are created equal, meaning not all hosting services setup or define VPSs the same way. You must ensure that your provider guarantees that their setup is robust enough to handle operations at a peak level. Overselling is the big issue here. A shortfall of resources could end up causing problems for everyone hosted on such a server, therefore negating the benefits of a VPS. In a shared or dedicated environment you might be able to access more resources during peak or spike periods but since the VPS environment limits you to to your slice of the server resources, it can be a drawback. Examples www.startlogic.com www.hostican.com www.easycgi.com www.lunarpages.com Managed Dedicated Web Hosting Unlike shared hosting where tens to hundreds of websites of various customers are hosted on one computer, dedicated web hosting solutions allow a client to lease the complete computer and have access to all its resources to host one or multiple websites. This makes a dedicated hosting solution especially attractive for large high-traffic websites, custom development projects creating complex web based applications, and web sites that require a high degree of uptime and total control of the hosting environment. Managed or "fully managed" web hosting solutions take the dedicated model to a higher level. We know that dedicated hosting allows the client to have full control of the server but dedicated servers can be difficult to operate technically and require that you have certain knowledge about server maintenance and system administration. The notch above is managed hosting, as it takes the dedicated features and adds extra services like reporting and monitoring, load balancing, security, setup, system administration and software updates. This is the most hands-off solution for the client. Pros Managed hosting solutions continue to provide the benefits of a dedicated server, that is you have access to the complete server. Your package would be tailored to the amount of bandwidth and hard drive space that you might need and CPU intensive applications could operate without hindering other sites or being conflicted. Added as well is the management service that would ensure that the server operates at an optimum level by installing the needed software, updating patches, and providing support for any hardware or software issues. But you must make sure that the provider has the specialized people on staff and provides 24/7/365 support. Cons Managed web hosting solutions are usually the premium offerings of a company and represent the top tier in terms of service. Therefore they usually command the highest prices - managed hosting solutions are more expensive than their dedicated cousins. Managed hosting packages will also likely involve some sort of a setup fee as it is more time consuming to setup a complete server than it is to create a hosting account in a shared environment. Managed solutions could also be an overkill. If you know your way around the operationg system being used and have system administration experience, you might be paying extra for something that you could do yourself. Examples www.lunarpages.com www.esecuredata.com www.steadfast.net www.hostican.com Unmanaged Dedicated Web Hosting (Server Co-Location) In situations dedicated or managed servers provided by a web hosting provider do not meet your needs, it is always possible to custom build your own server and place it in the data center of a provider. Co-located hosting means that you purchase a server from Dell, Gateway or your neighborhood hardware vendor and supply it to the host. The host will in turn plug your server at its data center providing you access to its network and infrastructure. The webhost is reponsible for the network infrastructure and the data center while you are responsible for the server through remote access. This type of solution allows the very customized and specialized web sites to function at peak performance. Many of the ulta-popular websites use a co-location strategy to provide them with the combination of customization and best possible performance. With co-location you would have to evaluate the specific providers to go over their terms of service, the security of their location, their bandwidth providers, backup and power systems. Some co-location hosting providers may also offer seperate management contracts for the day to day maintenance of your server. Pros Co-location provides the ultimate in flexibility, choice and control. You as the customer know exactly what type of hosting service you need, and if your own custome server is the answer, you can put it together, house it in a data center and manage it as you please. Most providers will include a secure cage that ensures security and will also allow you to use your own specialized components like routers to increase efficiency. Cons With co-located servers, you as the customer are fully responsible for the equipment. Most data centers will monitor and manage your system, but any problems will have to be dealt by the owner unless maintenance agreements are in force (extra costs). Co-located servers are most likely to contain specialized software or operating systems aswell, which have to be managed by experienced staff or the customer. For the record, I am not endorsing any of the examples I have listed, I only got them off of a list of web hosting reviews. They are simply listed to get an idea of what kind of services are offered from each option. If I’ve made any mistakes or misquotes, or you have any other valuable information that could help, please let us all know. Thanks!