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If you are new to web hosting and want to start an account, you may be overwhelmed at all the options that are available. In order to determine which hosting type best suits your needs you need to first understand the various types along with their primary features.
Additionally, in order to determine which is best for you, it is necessary to analyze the features you want compared to the ones offered with each type along with your budget. You want a good balance of the primary features you need without paying for those you don’t.
Free Hosting Vs. Paid Hosting
The first decision you will have to make when you look for hosting services is whether you want to go with a free host or a paid host. There are advantages and disadvantages of both.
For free hosting the main advantage is, of course, that it is free and it may also include free email services. For personal and family websites free hosting can be a good option. However, for professional sites free hosting should be avoided entirely. For either personal or professional web sites, consider the disadvantages of free services:
No domain names
Often includes obtrusive advertising including banner ads on your site, pop ups or pop unders
Software additions are limited
Ability to expand or move your files is limited
Typically does not include databases that are required to run many forms of useful software including blogging tools
Security may not be as sound
Technical support may be nonexistent, slow or limited
Shared hosting is the most popular type of hosting and will suit the majority of both business and personal needs. Most shared hosting companies use a Linux platform though some offer a Windows option as well, usually for a higher rate per month. Most shared hosting packages are scalable so you can start off with a small plan and then increase as your needs change. Some advantages include:
Low cost per month, often discounts are available if paid annually
Most shared hosts offer a variety of add on programs and tools that will help you optimize your site, make it more efficient and dynamic
You can use your own domain and domain email
There is usually adequate to superior customer support
When considering shared hosting, though, you should also be aware of the disadvantages:
You will share space with other sites on the same server that makes your site less secure. However, this risk is negligible.
You may have certain restrictions on software languages supported or file types that are allowed.
You may outgrow your shared hosting environment due to increased traffic and need to move
If you have a sudden spike in traffic, your site may be at risk for suspension due to increased resource usage
Dedicated hosting is where your site is housed on a server by itself. The main advantage to this is that you have a lot of autonomy in determining how your resources are allocated and what your server is used for.
This option is well suited for larger companies and high traffic web sites. You can use multiple domains and host additional sites on one server if you so choose. The amount and type of software solutions you install are virtually unlimited. The disadvantages to dedicated hosting are that you need to have a much higher skill set and that is the most expensive option.
Other Hosting Terms
Free versus paid and shared versus dedicated are typically the two main categories of web hosting types available. However, there are some other decisions you may need to make.
Collocation – Collocation is essentially a situation wherein you use your own web server but rent space at a service provider to run it. This is a highly expensive option that requires knowledge and skill. Often this option is used for larger businesses with a dedicated IT department or small web host providers.
Linux Vs. Windows – Most shared hosts use Linux as a platform but some have Windows hosting available. Windows is typically a lot more expensive because it is proprietary software. Windows may be a personal preference or you may have an application that specifically requires Windows.
VPS – Virtual Private Server is a shared hosting plan that acts like a dedicated one. Resources are petitioned and you get a portion of these resources so it looks as if you have your own dedicated server. This is usually more expensive than shared hosting and slightly less expensive than true dedicated.
Managed Hosting – This is a way to have dedicated service without the requirement for substantial knowledge. For more popular sites without a large staff or dedicated IT staff, this is a good option. You can have dedicated space to do with what you want but your needs are taken care of by the hosting company who will configure your server and install software for you.
Reseller Hosting – A reseller is someone who offers hosting services as their own company but uses the resources of the parent company. Small web hosts are often resellers but you may also find resellers in related fields such as website designers or graphic artists who may offer web hosting as a value added service.
Want to learn more? Check out all of our great web hosting guides!