What is web hosting?
What is a web hosting server?
A web hosting server is a high-powered computer that processes user requests to access a website. Each time someone types a uniform resource locator (URL) in a browser or clicks on a website link, they are asking to connect to a web server. The web server processes the request and sends the web page files plus the associated media files back to the browser, where that person can view the website.
While it is possible to host a website on your own IT equipment, this option requires more time and therefore cost. All web server configuration and ongoing maintenance of always-on resilient systems needs to be carried out by the organisation or person who is publishing the website. It also requires a high level of technical knowledge to manage the infrastructure, which most individuals and many businesses may not possess. This is where the services of a web hosting service or provider come in.
What is a web hosting service?
A hosting provider, or web host, offers services that make it easy to publish, maintain, secure and back up websites online. From individuals who want to publish a blog to a large enterprise looking for professional hosting services with a high level of assurance, there are numerous advantages to using a web hosting provider.
Not only do they provide additional security and automatic back-up, they also avoid the need for a business to purchase IT equipment and data storage. Plus, the heavy lifting of upgrades, security patches and maintenance is carried out by the hosting provider.
Web hosting services usually include 24/7 monitoring to ensure each client’s website is always up and running. Built-in anti-virus and threat protection, as well as website backup are usually provided as part of the service to minimise service disruption. In most cases, customers remain responsible for managing back-ups and ensuring they have available storage, usually in a secure offsite location.
How web hosting works
When a user rents space on a web hosting provider’s server, they get access to a range of services and technologies to host their website, usually with a range of upgradable performance options. Put simply, when a hosting provider hosts a website, it enables user access to your website’s server. Each user request will then deliver your web files for viewing in a web visitor’s web browser.
Different types of web hosting
There are several web hosting services that businesses and individuals can choose from according to their needs: free, shared, dedicated, virtual private server (VPS) and cloud hosting. We will look at each one in turn to help decide the best web hosting option for you.
When budget is the only consideration, a free web hosting solution offers a no-cost option. While this can sound attractive, when anything goes wrong there are typically no support services. Plus, all technical problems must be solved by the user, which can often cause some downtime. When considering this option, remember that your website is your shop window to the world. A basic paid-for hosting service is very affordable and can help keep your reputation and business intact.
When you register a domain name with OVHcloud, we provide a free 10MB for web hosting along with a free 5MB email account to help get you started.
This model is where many users share the same server resources for their websites, including memory, processing power, bandwidth, and storage. Shared hosting is the most popular choice, since server space, compute power and storage is shared with many other websites, minimising costs. It is ideal for businesses that don’t have the technical resources to manage a web server — this is carried out by the hosting provider, along with security and maintenance. Since shared hosting is fully managed, users are freed up from having to concern themselves with infrastructure management, writing their own code or having to handle web application and website files. It is ideal for WordPress website hosting and for using a well-known content management system (CMS) such as Joomla! or Drupal. Shared hosting is often chosen by small businesses, and individuals, where web traffic is relatively predictable, although many companies offer more sophisticated and powerful shared hosting services for popular e-commerce sites.
At OVHcloud, we offer an easy-to-use and deploy, one-click installation of popular CMSs, including WordPress, Drupal and Prestashop. Our Performance Hosting package can support large e-commerce websites — handling thousands of simultaneous users. Customers can be assured that surges in traffic during busy sales periods, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Christmas are easily handled with no service disruption.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting
One step up from the shared model is VPS hosting. Users still share a single server, except it is split into individual virtual compartments that help to protect data from other users. It also reduces any performance impact if other websites on your shared server are experiencing traffic spikes. Using VPS hosting requires more technical knowledge since the web server, operating system, plus website files require maintenance and management by the user.
Dedicated hosting refers to a dedicated server — also known as a Bare Metal server — that’s unique to an individual client, is not shared with other users, and usually requires complete resource management by the user as with VPS hosting. This option comes with maximum performance and security and is fully customisable.
For example, clients can choose the software and operating system they want — and still get technical support from their service provider. While this all comes at a higher cost, it is ideal for high-traffic websites, websites with databases or ones with large amounts of video, because users are given more control over their resources. Often when a business or entity has outgrown a shared hosting plan, it will turn to dedicated hosting.
When a business reaches a certain size and gains a larger web audience, cloud hosting is a popular option. Instead of relying on a single physical server that could go down, cloud web hosting uses a network of virtual servers to evenly distribute web or web application data over multiple machines. This means the website is more available to its audience and can easily handle sudden spikes in traffic by automatically scaling to meet demand.
Cloud hosting is based on the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model, where users can benefit from pay-as-you-go services, having to pay only for what they use. This option is usually chosen by organisations with strong technical expertise. DevOps engineers can manage the infrastructure, including server resources for the website, databases, plus handling graphics processing units (GPUs), and the overall information architecture (IA) that organises, structures and labels content.
OVHcloud’s Platform as a Service product, Web PaaS, is an automated and fully managed web hosting platform that automates source code deployment on a cloud-based infrastructure. It enables web developers to iterate on web applications using continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices for branch testing and cloning, without the need for DevOps engineers — we handle everything for you.
What type of web hosting is for you?
So, what are the questions to answer when choosing the best web hosting service? It might seem obvious to say that you should choose web hosting services according to your web needs and by how much you are prepared to manage yourself.
Using a web hosting provider will minimise the technical aspects you need to manage yourself. If you want more control over the use of operating systems or open-source distribution, you will need in-house technical experts to manage these. With such a large range of hosting services available, there are several considerations to look at, including the type of website you want to build in the first place. Is it a blog, an e-commerce site or do you need a website for a small or large business? Do you want unlimited web hosting for multiple websites?
Next, what kind of resources do you need? Do you expect your business to grow, or do you need to reach customers globally? Are you just starting out? If so, do you have a domain name yet and will you need email services?
Initial considerations when selecting a web hosting company
Before considering creating your website, a domain name is the necessary first step, based on the domain name system (DNS). This is your digital online identity and what web visitors will type in to connect to your webpage. Many web hosts offer you the ability to register your domain name with them, with a wide variety of domain extensions for top level or generic domains, country specific ones and more.
Many will allow you to transfer a domain name over to them if you have already purchased it. Some web hosts also provide free, low level web hosting, suitable for blogs or small businesses to help them get started. Look for a web host that offers plans for multi-domain hosting if you have multi-site projects in mind.
An email that matches your brand will build trust and demonstrate professionalism with your intended web audience, so it’s important to have an email that uses your registered domain name. Web hosting mail services are worth considering as they are easy to procure and manage, and mailbox size can be upgraded quickly when needed.
Larger companies might want to opt for collaboration features such as shared calendars and mobile access. A good hosting company should be able to offer a broad range of email options to suit specific business needs.
At OVHcloud, we can help you get started with domain name registration, with a choice of 800 different extensions. We also provide custom email solutions, plus everything from simple hosting to the provision of virtual and private Exchange Servers, which can meet the needs and budgets of all business sizes.
Additional considerations before choosing a web hosting provider
The most critical element for any website is uptime, meaning how much time it is online. This is important for businesses in both attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. If a site is down, a consumer will go elsewhere. Look for a company that can deliver a good level of web hosting server uptime.
Being able to scale is extremely important to a business when it’s growing. Even when starting with a small static website, any organisation should consider whether the web hosting company they choose can scale to support business growth. This is especially true for any website with a global audience that will need a robust global data centre infrastructure and a content delivery network. These help to reduce latency, which means fast delivery of web content, regardless of where the website is being accessed from.
At OVHcloud, we offer a range of web hosting options for all your websites — from the simplest to the most complex. We make it easy to migrate to any of our web hosting plans, so you can scale seamlessly as your business grows — all while keeping costs to a minimum.
A good web host will offer a usable and navigable management interface — also called a control panel — for customers to easily manage email, domains and databases. The control panel should also help you to manage SSL certificates for encryption of sensitive data, and the use of a content delivery network (CDN) to support consistent website performance on a global level.
For simplicity, users can choose the popular cPanel, for simple, non-complex administration, or the more visually intuitive Plesk interface, most often used for VPS and dedicated hosting models. Both are easy to use and can be employed by small and large companies alike.
There will be times when things go wrong. It’s important to know that your back is covered and that your hosting company can provide a good level of technical assistance when you need it. Choose a hosting company that can at least offer support via phone and email during working hours. A growing business may require 24/7 support, especially for larger businesses where their website is more complex and faster support responses are required.
When handing over the keys to your website to a hosting provider, it’s vital to know that security is covered. After all, your data is valuable — plus there are a lot of bad actors out there developing malicious code. Look for a provider with security built in for virus and malware protection and automatic secure socket layer (SSL) certificate provisioning. Protection from spamming and denial of service attacks (DDoS) is also important, as are automatic back-ups. High levels of security are essential to protect business data as well as information about its customers.
OVHcloud and web hosting
OVHcloud offers a wide range of web hosting services for all sizes of business — from those starting out with their first website to businesses with multiple sites and deep levels of technical knowledge.
All our Cloud Web solutions make it easy to get started and can scale with your business as it grows. Our solutions support everything from a blog, or small business website, to powerful e-commerce solutions and the more complex web deployments required by large enterprises.
At OVHcloud, you can host multiple domains and enable developers to publish their own software code with our Web PaaS platform. All this comes with different levels of support, documentation and access to our online community where you can exchange ideas with your peers.
We help you on any stage of your web journey for whatever level of performance you need for your website. We also provide unlimited bandwidth and optimal security to safeguard your valuable data across all our web hosting plans.