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Website Hosting

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Website Hosting

Web hosting is the service that allows you to make your website visible online and a web host is a company that has lots of computers connected to the internet, typically in a data centre with a commercial-grade connection to the Internet.

A professional web hosting company will use a resilient infrastructure so should one of the internet connections fail,  there will be a spare to take its place. If the power supply or hard disk malfunctions on the machine hosting your website, there is another ready to take over.

The company will also take care of ensuring there are frequent back-ups and that the Trivial File Transfer Protocol is maintained while a whole host of technical services ensuring your websites are up and running, 24/7. In 2018 and beyond, most websites are hosted in virtual machines, providing yet another layer of backups and security, but having your own, off-site, verified backup is still 100% essential.

Types of Hosting

There are many varieties of web hosting offering a wide range of services and performance benefits. In most cases, the type of hosting suitable for your website will depend upon the technology required and the amount of website traffic you are expecting to receive.

The main options are as follows:

Shared Hosting
This is the standard hosting used for most sites where your website shares space on a machine with a number of other websites. This is the most common type of website hosting and is suitable for all but the busiest of websites.

Dedicated Server
Dedicated hosting provides a single machine dedicated to your requirements. This is used when your website will receive a large amount of concurrent traffic and a shared environment can simply not provide the necessary performance.

Cloud Hosting/VPS
Cloud hosting provides all the benefits of dedicated hosting with a sliding scale for performance. This allows you to easily add CPU, memory and storage as your requirements grow.

CMS Specific Hosting
These are hosting services that are targeted towards specific popular website content management systems (CMS), like WordPress.

Free Hosting
Many sites provide hosting that is supported by advertisements. This is usually low quality and bereft of features but can be useful for personal sites.

* This is not an exhaustive list and there are many different types of hosting or sub-divisions of the above list, including managed hosting, virtual private hosting, colocation hosting and many others.

If you have any specific queries with regards to a hosting model not mentioned above, please get in touch and we will be only too happy to assist.

Web Hosting Technologies

To further complicate matters, there are a variety of hosting environments based on differing technologies.

The most common web hosting environment is based on the Linux operating system, the Apache web server, the MySQL database and the PHP scripting language. This technology platform is commonly known as LAMP. The Linux operating system is freely available so this type of hosting tends to have a cost advantage.

The other big hosting technology is based on the Microsoft Windows Server operating system and Microsoft’s proprietary web server, database and scripting languages, known respectively as IIS, MSSQL and Dot Net. Microsoft charges for its software and therefore this tends to be a more expensive route to take. Likewise, using an open-source database like MySQL, rather than MSSQL, will usually infer a cost advantage (even on a Microsoft hosting platform).

Both platforms will cope equally well with a standard web page consisting of just HTML pages. Microsoft can run PHP scripts, but the exact technology you use will depend upon what exactly you want from your website.


All web hosting packages should provide an optional email component. This will usually include access through your web browser, much like Gmail or Hotmail, along with the ability to read and reply to your email using your favoured email client (Outlook / Mac Mail).

You should also look for a variety of additional email features, including the ability to set an out-of-office or auto-responder, the ability to forward to multiple addresses, to send out a batch email to a mailing list, and most importantly – junk email filters.

Better hosts will provide a control panel where you can create new email addresses and aliases and manage all aspects of your email without incurring further costs.

Email is a value-added service and there are a wealth of commercial options often providing additional features. We tend to recommend clients use a cloud email system like Google Apps so you can easily access email on all devices and don’t have to worry about backups and such.

Additional Services

Many web hosting systems provide a huge range of additional features – a virtual toolbox that you can use to automate, benefit, and promote your business. These will vary in scope from provider to provider, but you will see a trend for more value from the Linux-based web hosting.

Additional services may include:

  • Website Statistics
  • Website Builder Software
  • Free eCommerce & CMS Software
  • Database & Management Platform
  • A Range of Free Templates & Graphics
  • Online File Manager
  • Backup & Restore System
  • One-Click Install for Various Software Packages
  • Free Secure Certificate (for eCommerce)

Email and backups tend to be the important services to look for and much of what is remaining tends to be window dressing.

Service Level Agreements

One important but often overlooked feature is the level of service and resilience that your website host will provide. This is a technical service so it is reasonable to assume you will have a small problem with email or hosting every now and again, but these problems should be small, infrequent and quickly resolved. A 99% uptime sounds great but this allows for over three days of downtime.

A 99.9% uptime is not unreasonable and over the course of a year that allows for around 10 hours of problems (most of which should be due to upgrades and servicing, which should occur in the wee small hours).

Your own technical expertise and sensitivity to downtime will be a factor as cheaper hosting packages will provide poor support and more frequent downtime. If you want your site and email to be up all the time, make sure you choose a quality host and review the SLA before you commit.

Hosting Summary

Whatever hosting you choose, it has to support the requirements of your website and business. If you are building the site yourself, then you may know what you need, but if you are looking to appoint a web developer/designer then it would be prudent to ask the web developer for a list of requirements and check that your chosen web hosting supports the needs of your new site.

Often, website design companies resell cheap hosting at a huge profit so don’t assume you have to take what you are offered by the designer. Ask questions. Ask what the SLA and compensation is.

If you want something to benchmark against, take a look at the SLA on the WP Engine site.

Your web designer may want to sell you hosting. This may be okay, but you will likely maintain more control, visibility and get better value for money if you query their requirements and arrange for your own hosting.

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