Definitions and Descriptions
Web hosting makes a website accessible to the World Wide Web. Companies that offer this service provide space on a server within which the actual website is stored. These service providers may own the actual servers, or they may lease the servers from another entity. Some companies that host websites also provide Internet connectivity services. Others, who own their own servers, may also house the servers of other companies in their physical location. This is called colocation, which will be discussed more at length in a moment.
Web hosting almost always includes other services that go along with operating a website. These services include, but are not limited to, email hosting, DNS hosting, and the registration of domain names. The cost of a service plan typically determines the scope of that plan.
The most common type of web hosting plan is known as a managed service plan. This involves not only publishing the site to the web, but the host company will also provide development security, technical support, storage, and customer service. The client typically does not have full control over the infrastructure of the site. Clients typically do have access to their own content and internal graphics. However, the main framework of the site, along with access to the root directory, is handled by the service provider. This is not intended to limit the client. It is intended to prevent accidental damage to the site. It is intended to ensure premium services on the part of the vendor.
Colocation allows companies who own their own servers to physically house their servers at the physical location of the web hosting company. The colocation provider then manages the server as well as the website. The range of technical support available to the client depends on the colocation provider. Some clients must send out their own administrator to manage the server. Others may pay their service provider for server maintenance.
Free Versus Paid Plans
An individual with a personal page can often find value in a number of free services. However, due to the multiple needs of even a small business, it is strongly recommended that any kind of company pay for a hosting plan.
Knowing what plan to buy and who to go with should be based upon a number of factors.
- The amount of physical space that a particular plan offers is a matter of considerable importance. Smaller websites do not require a great deal of server space. However, effective internet marketing requires the use of articles and blogs that will be added to a portion of the site in order to promote its presence in the search engines. A business should invest in enough space to accommodate an effective marketing plan.
- While many web hosting companies promote the number of email accounts they offer as a major feature of the plan, the facts are that almost every company and every plan gives any business plenty of email addresses to work with. This should NOT be a determining factor in choosing a plan.
- Technical support for email, ecommerce, and other forms of web-based communications SHOULD be a determining factor. This includes both the level of technical support and the response time involved in support-related issues.
- Security is far more important than anything else. Anyone who hosts the site should also take proactive measures to protect against the site being cyber attacked or hacked.
An added bonus to look for is a web hosting company that can also build, redesign, and update websites. An ideal vendor will also offer value-added web marketing services that will promote the online business in the search engines.