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A Beginner's Guide to Web Hosting

What is web hosting? Whenever you visit a website, what you see on your web browser is essentially just a web page that is downloaded from the web server onto your web browser. In general, a web site is made up of many web pages. And a web page is basically composed of texts and graphic images. All these web pages need to be stored on the web servers so that online users can visit your website.

Therefore, if you plan to own a new website, you will need to host your website on a web server. When your website goes live on the web server, online users can then browse your website on the Internet. Company that provides the web servers to host your website is called web hosting providers.

A well-established web hosting provider sometimes hosts up to hundred thousands of websites. For example, data center BlueHost, is a web hosting company that hosts more than 1 millions websites on data centers with over 1500 servers. For that reason, a web hosting company need many web servers (essentially, these are computers) to 'store' the website. And all these web servers are connected to the Internet through high speed Internet connection and housed in a physical building called 'data center'. In order to guarantee all the web servers are safe, secure and fully operational all time, a data center is a physically secure 24/7 environment with fire protection, HVAC temperature control, virus detections, computer data backup, redundant power backup and complete disaster recovery capabilities.

What are the different types of web hosting?
There are different kinds of web hosting companies out there with different characteristics. The main types of web hosts can be organized into the following categories:

Shared Hosting
In shared hosting (also known as virtual web hosting), many websites are sharing the space on the same physical web servers. Depending on the web host, a physical web server can hosts a few hundreds to even thousands of different websites at one time. You may wonder if a physical web server is shared by so many websites, will the performance of the web server deteriorate?  In fact, web servers are usually equipped with high-end powerful computer, therefore it can support up to a certain number of websites without any problem. But when a web server is overloaded and exceeded the reasonable number of websites that it can support, you will begin to experience slower response from the web server. Nevertheless, a reputable and experience web hosting provider will constantly monitor the performance of the web server and will add new web servers when deem necessary without sacrificing the benefits of the website owners.

Since a physical web server is shared (diskspace, computer processing power, bandwidth, memory) by many websites, the web hosting provider can therefore afford to offer a lower hosting price. For the same reason, websites on the shared hosting would have to accept slower server response time. Typically, shared hosting plans start at US$5 - US$20 per month.

Dedicated Hosting
In contrast to shared hosting, dedicated hosting assigned a specific web server to be used only by one customer (hence, the name 'dedicated'). Since a dedicated web server is allocated to only a single customer, that customer has the option to host single/multiple web sites, modify the software configuration, handle greater site traffic and scale the bandwidth as necessary. Obviously, dedicated hosting commands a higher premium and typically starts at US$50 per month and can range up to US$200 - US$500 per month. Therefore, dedicated hosting is regularly used by high traffic and extremely important website.

Co-location hosting
In dedicated hosting, the web server belongs to the web hosting providers and customers only rent the web server during the hosting period. While in co-location hosting, the customer actually owns the web server hardware and only housed their web server within the web hosting provider's secure data center. In this way, the customer has full control over their web server and simultaneously benefit from the 24/7 server monitoring and maintenance provided by the secure data center. Depending on the monthly bandwidth and rack space required, typically co-location hosting range from US$500 - US$1000 per month.

Reseller hosting
In reseller hosting, a web hosting provider offers web server storage to third-party (i.e. reseller) at a discount price, who then resell the web server storage to their customers. Typically, resellers are web consultants including web designers, web developers, or system integration company who resell the web hosting as a add-on service to complement their other range of services. Commonly, resellers can receive up to 50 percent discount on the price of a hosting account from the web hosting provider. And resellers are allowed to decide its own pricing structure and even establish its own branding (in other words, reseller setup its web hosting company on the Internet and start selling web hosting plans under its brand). Here are few examples of a web hosting company with reseller hosting program.

To the reseller's customers, the reseller is the 'web host provider'. In cases when technical problems such as server down and access problem arise, the resellers will have to correspond directly with the actual web host provider. Due to the communication process taken place between customer to reseller and from reseller to actual web host provider and back and forth, undoubtedly problems will take longer time to resolve. Unless you are running your own personal website or non-profit website and willing to take the risks of poor support from the reseller, generally reseller hosting is not a good option.

However, the web hosting market today is filled with resellers that sell lowest price web hosting plans. So, how do you tell between a genuine web hosting provider from a reseller? First, don't be fooled by the professional designed website alone because it is extremely easy to create a professional looked business website nowadays. Likewise, you don't judge by the availability of toll-free number alone because some web hosting providers even offer their resellers with their own toll-free number for co-branded technical support. When the reseller's customer calls the number for technical support, the web host uses the reseller's name so the customer thinks that the support is coming from the reseller directly.

In general, resellers can be distinguished from their hosting price and company information. In most cases, a genuine web hosting provider has solid company information where they publish its financial background, offices and data centers. In contrast, resellers usually do not have solid company background. So, why choose resellers when you can find genuine web hosting providers offering superb quality web hosting at a slightly higher hosting price ranging between US$5 - US$7.

Therefore, you should not strive to find the low cost web hosting companies without first considering the quality of the service and support provided. Don't expect to find any top-level support if you choose to pay only US$2 or US$3 per months for your web hosting plan. On the other hand, just paying slightly more for your hosting plan, you can now discover a list of best quality yet affordable web hosting plans to host your important website. Look at our top 5 cheap web hosting recommendation here.

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