Web Hosting Basics

Steve Ashton

So youre about to embark on your first web project and youre wondering where on earth to start Well, one of the first things youll need is a web hosting package. There are so many out there it can seem daunting to try and choose one. In this article well teach you the basics to help you make an informed decision.

What is Web Hosting

For people to actually view your pages on the web, you must have your files located on a "web server". When they visit your site, what they are actually doing is viewing those files. You can rent a little bit of space on the web server, or if your site is large, rent an entire server for your site. Each server is assigned an IP address. This is a four number address that is separated by dots. i.e. Every domain name actually points to an IP address and this is how visitors access your files on the web server.

Once your site is hosted on a webserver, it can be viewed by any computer in the world through a web browser. All they need to do is type in your domain name to view your web pages. Your site must be hosted on a web server before it will be available to external visitors.

What is a Web Host

A Web Host is a company that owns and maintains webservers with the purpose of hosting web sites. You rent space from these companies and in return they will maintain and service the server. Part of this entails keeping the server software current, applying any security patches and ensuring the site is always available, known as uptime. To achieve peak performance, these servers are normally housed in specialist datacenters with dedicated high speed connections to ensure that website loading speeds are as high as possible. A lot of web hosting companies will rent space in a large datacenter to save costs.

Web Host companies come in all shapes and sizes, from large multinational telecommunications companies to joe bloggs down the street with a server in their office. A number of web hosting companies will include a lot of other services to make them a one-stop shop to get yourself on the web. This could include domain name registration which ensures your domain name will point to the correct IP address as soon as the name is registered. If you register your domain name with a different company you will need to specify the IP address of your hosting server before anyone is able to view your files.

Types of Web Hosting

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting means your site will be hosted on a web server that is also hosting a number of other websites at the same time. The server disk space and server resources, i.e. RAM, data transfer is divided up between the various clients. Although your site is located on a shared server, your files are still secure and can not be viewed by anyone else who also has their site on that web server.

As well as sharing the server resources, all the websites also share the same IP. This can be important in some cases as some websites can get banned by search engines for improper behaviour such as SPAM or illegal activities. When a website is banned, the search engine will block the IP address which means all the other sites on the web server may also be affected. It is therefore important to ensure that the web hosting company careful monitors the activities of the websites they host or state what kind of sites are appropriate for that server.

Virtual Private Server Hosting

Virtual Private Servers VPS share some of the same characteristics as shared hosting but it provides you with a bit more control over your own destiny. Like shared hosting, a web server is divided up and the servers resources are split between the clients. What makes this different is that each partition is given its own IP address and generally, there are a very limited amount of users on each server, ensuring that you get a good share of the servers resources.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated Hosting means that the entire web server is dedicated to one website, or one client. A client can host a number of their own websites if they choose to do so. The benefits of this are that you control the server, and can be assured that no one else is doing anything on their website that will affect your site. It also means that all the systems resources are geared to your site which will boost the speed and reliability of your site. On the downside, having your own dedicated server incurs a much bigger investment and you are responsible for ensuring that the server is always running.

This can be a great option if you run a large site that will cover these costs and you have the technical expertise to manage the server.


I hope that after reading this youll have a better idea about what kind of web hosting plan best suits your particular needs. Remember to look around. There are lots of very good companies out there but there are also a lot of bad ones. It pays to do some research about the company you choose before purchasing your web hosting plan.

About The Author

Steve Ashton is a programmer and web developer. He runs two popular websites, http://www.abetterwebhost.com and http://www.domainnamescenter.com.

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