What Are Web Hosting Providers?
Web hosting is a service providing organizations and individuals with the technology they need to post a website or page to the internet.
A web host or web hosting provider is a business responsible for operating a series of “web servers.” Web servers are powerful computers which store the various files responsible for making up websites, along with access controls to view these sites.
When a visitor clicks a link to a website or enters an URL into their browser, they request a connection to the web server of a host. The host then sends the relevant information and file pages back to the visitor.
Some web hosting providers require users to have their own domain name before they can choose a hosting plan. Companies who don’t have a domain already can sometimes purchase one directly from a web host.
Alongside hosting your website on the internet, web hosting providers may also offer other services, such as high levels of support, security, and uptime agreements.
Why Use Web Hosting Providers: Key Benefits to Consider
It is possible for a business owner to create and manage their own web server. However, this is not a simple process. Web servers require a lot of expertise and money to run. A high-quality web hosting provider offers a more secure and convenient way to manage your website with minimal effort.
The key benefits of web hosting providers include:
- Excellent Site Performance: A quality web hosting provider delivers exceptional technology, bandwidth, and internet connectivity, to ensure your website can load and perform quickly. Many providers include access to specialist services and support to assist with enhancing site performance through the use of CDNs and similar tools.
- Better Site Maintenance: Handing the process of managing your website hosting requirements over to a professional allows for better site maintenance. With a web host, a professional team will be responsible for maintaining the servers your website uses. This reduces the risk of downtime. Professional web hosts also give users more control on how they want to use their data space on the server, with access to control panels.
- Better Integration of Key Software and Apps: Most web hosting providers already offer critical software and apps as part of their hosting packages. Companies can access integrations with Google Apps, webmail interfaces, and mobile applications. You can also access direct integrations with specific CMS solutions and web frameworks, such as WordPress or WooCommerce.
- Lower Costs: Managing a server manually requires a significant amount of technical expertise and expense. Web servers consume a lot of electricity and require frequent maintenance, which can add up to higher costs in the long term. You’ll also have the concerns of website glitches and limited bandwidth to consider when planning your budget.
- Access to Technical Support: Web hosting providers offer extensive technical support. They can assist companies with setting up a new website, managing bandwidth, controlling updates, and implementing applications. They also aid professionals when they’re dealing with sudden outages or downtime.
Who Uses Web Hosting Providers
Virtually every website operational on the web today uses a web hosting provider. While some larger companies host and run their own web servers, such as Microsoft or Amazon, the majority of companies will leverage third-party hosting services.
The groups who most commonly access web hosting providers include:
- General Business Sites: General business sites are designed to provide information about a specific company, group, or service. Websites such as Cisco.com are a good example of this. These sites use web hosting to showcase their information to their intended audience, allow for communication, and to advertise their services.
- E-commerce Sites: To operate an eCommerce website, a business owner first needs a web hosting solution to activate their store online. Web hosting providers can integrate directly with solutions like WooCommerce and Shopify to enable online purchasing. Many of the top online stores, such as Walmart and Ikea have their own web hosting provider.
- Blogs: Web hosting providers allow companies to build websites and share content in the form of blogs and articles. Most blogs require a relatively low level of bandwidth, and may not need the most expensive web hosting to operate. The more visitors a blog gets, the more bandwidth it will require from its web host.
- Personal Portfolios: Individual professionals use web hosting providers to bring their online portfolios to potential customers. A personal portfolio may include reviews from customers, case studies, information about the individual, and contact details. Some also connect to other assets on the web, such as social media pages.
- Non-Profits: To share the details of their operations with customers and attract donations, non-profit organizations also need web hosting functionality. These companies rely on web hosts to share content on the web and connect with their supporters through web-based email accounts and professional communication tools.
Different Types of Web Hosting Providers
Different websites require different levels of support and functionality from their web hosting providers. This has led to an influx in different kinds of web hosting. Each type of web hosting has its own distinct feature set. Some of the most common options include:
- Shared Hosting: The cheapest, and one of the most common forms of hosting, shared hosting involves sharing a portion of a server with various other websites. Shared hosting is best-suited to companies with limited levels of traffic, as companies need to share their resources with dozens, or hundreds of other entities.
- Dedicated Hosting: Dedicated hosting is intended for websites which see larger degrees of traffic over extended periods. Dedicated hosting providers give companies access to their own unique server, so they don’t need to share any resources. However, dedicated hosting may not come with as much technical support as other hosting methods.
- VPS: Virtual Private Server hosting, or VPS hosting is somewhere between shared and dedicated hosting. VPS hosting creates a “virtual” server for a company on a private server, allowing companies to access greater bandwidth and customization features. VPS is also a little less expensive than dedicated hosting.
- Managed Hosting: Managed hosting involves a service and product package from hosting providers, where the company is responsible for managing your server on your behalf. With managed hosting, hosting providers handle everything from security, maintenance, and operation. WordPress managed hosting is a popular sub-category in this area.
Features of Web Hosting Providers
- Storage Limits: Every form of web hosting comes with a specific limit on how many files and assets can be stored on a server. Some hosts provide limitations on their space for those with a smaller budget, while others may offer unlimited storage. Companies will need to check how much disk memory their site files require when selecting a web host.
- Bandwidth Allocation and Allowance: Bandwidth measures the capacity of a server for data transfer within a specific time frame. A high bandwidth is essential to loading a website quickly, and efficiently. Dedicated hosting packages and more expensive plans generally include a higher level of bandwidth.
- Control Panel Integration: Control panels are the tools within a web hosting provider database that allow companies to control aspects of their website. Control panels include FTP (file transfer protocol) for bulk uploading, encryption protocols for security, and SSH (secure shell access).
- CMS Support: Content Management Systems (CMS) tools are the solutions companies use to manage their websites and its content. Many web hosting providers include built-in support and installation tools for popular CMS options like Wix, WordPress, and Shopify. Some also provide managed services for assistance with using CMS tools.
- Web Framework Support: A web framework is a software solution which supports the development of web applications such as APIs, resources, and applications. Web frameworks assist companies with managing database information, and frameworks for dynamic and static websites.
Key Features to Look For
- Ecommerce Integration: Some web hosting providers come with built-in integrations which allow users to instantly access ecommerce tools. This ensures companies can add checkout functionality, payment processors, and similar features to their website. Some also allow for specialist ecommerce security, like PCI compliance.
- File Management: Companies need to be able to control, remove, add, and delete files within their website quickly to preserve bandwidth and space. File management tools make it easier to compress certain parts of your website, or update your site when necessary.
- Database Support: Databases are the environments responsible for hosting and managing data in a website. Your website hosting provider should include support for the database you feel most comfortable with. Options can include MySQL support, Oracle, SQL server, and other solutions.
- Security Tools: Security tools preserve the safety of your website, and help to protect against cybercriminals, ransomware, malware, and hacking. Most hosting providers offer a range of security tools, including access control, spam removal, firewalls, intrusion protection, SSL encryption, and email scanning.
Important Considerations When Choosing Web Hosting Providers
Choosing the correct web hosting provider means finding the company most suited to the specific needs of your website. The wide variety of options means business leaders need to think carefully about a range of factors, including:
- Managed vs Unmanaged hosting: Unmanaged hosting solutions provide companies with complete control over their own hosting experience. You can invest your own time into maintaining and running your website from within a control panel. Managed hosting solutions provide users with more support from the hosting team. With a managed service, professionals make sure the server can continue to perform effectively, with patching, updates, maintenance, and support.
- Scalability: It’s often important to ensure your hosting provider is capable of growing with your website. Spikes in demand can happen suddenly, and you’ll need the resources available to manage these changes in visitor and traffic numbers. Some web hosting companies offer unlimited bandwidth and file storage for scalability, while others allow companies to update their hosting package over time.
- Uptime: The uptime of a website refers to how much you can rely on your site to stay online and operational at all times. Uptime can be affected by a number of factors, including the presence of other businesses on a shared hosting package. Most hosting providers offer “uptime guarantees” which provide an insight into exactly how often business leaders can expect their websites to go down.
- Speed: Excellent data centers and bandwidth opportunities increase the speed and operation of websites. To boost the chances of a high-speed and fast-loading site, some website hosting providers also include access to bonus features such as CDNs. A Content Delivery Network distributes content over a specific network, which means a user is connected to the network closest to them when they try to reach your site.
- Access to Support: While technical support is common among most hosting providers, some are more accessible than others. High levels of support should ensure your business can reach out to your hosting provider and get assistance immediately when something goes wrong. You can look for support in the form of email requests, phone calls, and chat.
Software Related To Web Hosting Providers
Web hosting solutions often go hand-in-hand with a range of other software offerings, including:
- Website Builders: Web hosting providers can integrate directly with website builders such as WordPress, or come with their own site building tools built into the service. These tools help companies to get online quickly without the need for coding expertise.
- Managed Hosting Providers: Managed hosting providers handle the back-end requirements of running a website on a secure server. They address patches, updates, security, and maintenance on the behalf of business owners using hosting packages.
- Content Delivery Networks: CDNs or content delivery networks are geographically distributed groups of servers which speed up the provision of internet content. When your hosting provider offers a CDN, it means users will be directed to the server closest to them when they’re trying to access one of your web pages.
- Domain Registration Providers: Domain names are the addresses customers use to find websites online. Some web hosting providers require companies to purchase a domain name before acquiring hosting, while others can include domain registration as part of their service package. Domain hosting often requires an additional expense.