A web host is a business which provides online disk space and access for websites. The website is placed on a server, a computer with the functionality to serve websites to visitors. The term web host is sometimes used to refer to the server itself but we separate them in this lexicon.
If you want a website for your business, you’ll need a web host. While you can technically host a website on any computer with access to the internet, a web host brings several advantages to the table which generally make them the better option:
- Quicker – Web host servers have all the necessary software setup.
- Economies of scale – due to purchasing hundreds or thousands of servers.
- Redundancies – such as data back-ups and back-up power supplies.
- Technical support – Web hosts know what they’re doing.
- High bandwidth – web hosts are usually connected to the internet via fibre optic trunk lines.
- Security – Such as firewalls and spam filters.
Traditional hosting can roughly be divided between shared hosting and dedicated servers. Shared hosting means that many websites reside on a single physical web server. The environment each website exists in is usually separated by a pass-worded account and sometimes by a virtual machine – a simulation of a computer within the real physical computer.
A dedicated server is an entire server dedicated to one client. In practice, you will usually be given far more control over the administration of the server allowing you to customise the server to your needs.
Shared hosting is the cheaper option and the best option for businesses starting out. A dedicated server is better for websites with large amounts of traffic and web applications which require lots of customisation in the backend.
Virtual Private Server
A hybrid of shared and dedicated hosting is called a virtual private server (VPS). A VPS is sold as a running installation of an operating system, on a server which you are given total control over. But, like shared hosting, there can be many VPS running on one physical server. Its costs tend to run somewhere between shared and dedicated hosting.
Cloud hosting is a little like a virtual private server, but the servers can be requisitioned, switched and deactivated on demand. This allows high traffic websites and web applications to quickly bring additional servers online when demand is high and deactivate them when demand is low. Supporting this model, resources on the cloud are often charged per hour of use rather than per month or year like traditional hosting.
Amazon is the market leader in this field, with Amazon Web Services which provides a huge number of cloud services. Here at Phoenix, we use AWS to run our development server and our Git repositories. Another cloud computing provider is Microsoft Azure. A VPS provider called Digital Ocean is also moving into this market with their introduction of Block Storage.
Web Hosting Companies
Web hosting companies we recommend for Australian clients include:
- VentraIP– The largest Australia’s owned and operated hosting company. We operate our own hosting through VentraIP.
- WPengine– Hosting optimised for WordPress.
- Crucial – Another Australian owned web host.
- Pressable – More WordPress optimised hosting
Web hosting is just like any other service, in that you get what you pay for. Companies like Crazy Domains and GoDaddy offer cheaper hosting than the options above, but have worse hardware and far worse customer service.