What is Web Hosting? Why do you need Web Hosting?
Hosting when you want to have a website. A website will only be called a 'website' if everyone connected to the internet is able to see it. They must be able to look at the text you have written, the pictures you have posted and everything that you have placed on your website! Just like every internet user will be able to read this article, including you.
Your website is actually a collection of computer files (usually text files & pictures). These files need to be store in a 'super' computer with high speed internet connection. These computers are called servers. You will put all your files in these servers. The guys who provide such services are called web hosts, or web hosting providers. They HOST your website
The place where they put their servers is called datacenter. A datacenter is simply a room or a building. A datacenter provides fast internet connection to the servers. It also has facilities such as security entrance, fire protection, electricity backup ... for the purpose of keeping the server safe, secure and running with minimum downtime.
SERVER VS. YOUR COMPUTER
A server is quite different than a personal computer. Your personal computer will usually have 1 processor, 1 hard disk drive and 1 power supply. A powerful server will usually have 2 or more processors. This allows the server to execute faster and process more applications at the same time.
A server will also have a few hard disk drives to store its data. The same data is always written to 2 disks for backup purposes. That's why no data will be lost if one of the disk failed. The swappable feature of the hard disks even allow a technician to remove and replace the failed hard disk drive without turning down the server!
Most servers will also have 2 power supplies. If one of them failed, the other power supply keeps the server running without disruption. The power supplies are also swappable so the failed power supply could be replaced without the need to power down the server.
A server will need an internet connection that is a few hundred times faster than ordinary DSL/Cable in order to serve many visitors simultaneously. So why are we telling you all these? Because it is really a bad idea to host your website with your computer and your DSL connection! :)
DIFFERENT LEVEL OF WEB HOSTING - SHARED HOSTING (VIRTUAL HOSTING)
Having a website on a server alone is a waste of resources. Unless you have plenty of money to spend, we usually don't need a whole server to host our site. Here we introduce to you the most common level of web hosting - shared hosting (or virtual hosting). Depending on the speed of the server, it could possibly host more than 1,000 sites without any problem. The users on the same server will share the same resources of it (disk space, bandwidth, memory, etc.). This makes web hosting affordable because you pay a portion of the server fee instead of the entire server. Our directory focus entirely on shared hosting below20LE/month. Over 95% of websites of the internet are hosted on shared hosting environment.
When you choose to rent the entire server for you own use, then you are using a dedicated server. In some cases, you can share a server with another user and so you are using a semi-dedicated server. For dedicated hosting, you actually rent the server from the web host and you do not own the server. The web host owns it. Another common term for dedicated hosting is managed hosting.
You can choose to buy a server instead of renting it. You will then need to place it in a datacenter. Server Co-Location means having your server co-located at a datacenter by paying the datacenter a certain fee. A datacenter provides your server with the greatest protection and most important, high speed internet connection.
WHAT IS OPERATING SYSTEM (OS)?
We believe you are using Windows XP, Windows 98 or other versions of Windows.
Over 90% of personal computers are using Windows Operating System (OS). Operating System is the most important software for your computer. It takes care of many important tasks of your computer where in most cases you aren't even aware of. For example, your OS is responsible for booting up and shutting down your computer, handling your computer hardware (CPU, memory, disk, modem ...), allow you to install other software, plus many more. An operating system act as a platform for a computer. It needs to be installed in a computer before any other software because it is the core software.
UNIX - LINUX & FREEBSD
Since web hosting servers are also computers, they will also need an operating system. However over 90% of web hosting servers are not running Windows! Instead, they are using Unix as their operating system. All you need to know about Unix is that it is a FREE operating system created by volunteers and it is open source. Open source means the source-code (the programming codes) of the software are publicly available to anyone. Anyone can look at it, learn from it and even modify it. Since it can be modify freely, it actually evolved into a few variations. The 2 most popular variations are Linux & FreeBSD.
The word 'Unix' is now a common term referring to all such operating systems derived from the original Unix.
WINDOWS SERVER 2003
Microsoft do have their own operating system designed specifically for servers, the newest is Windows Server 2003. But why do most servers choose to run on Unix instead of Windows? Unix is developed in the Universities for the purpose of research and has been focusing more on networking and speed. Windows is a commercial product developed and targeted to the home users. Unix is built to be more powerful, secure and fast while Windows is built to be more user friendly and easy to use. After so many years of development, Unix has been evolved into a very stable, secure and powerful platform for the servers. On the other hand, Windows (Microsoft Corporation) is consider to be a new comer to the server market.
UNIX OR WINDOWS?
You should always go for a Unix web host unless you have some specific requirements that require Windows platform.
Not only Unix is more powerful and secure in networking but it is also cheaper because Unix is free! If a web host setup their servers to run Windows 2003, he will need to purchase the license from Microsoft and this will increase the hosting price.
You will need a Windows host if you want to use some Windows-only features. The most common are ASP, ASP.NET, ColdFusion, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, etc. If you have never heard of any of them, you probably won't need a Windows host. Cut it short, ASP, ASP.NET and ColdFusion are scripting language. Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Access are databases.
CAN I USE A UNIX HOST EVEN IF MY COMPUTER IS RUNNING WINDOWS?
YES! What operating system you use is irrelevant to the operating system of the server. All you need to do is to upload all your website's files to the server. And to do this, you will be using a standard way called FTP (File Transfer Protocol), which is platform independent. If you design your website using Microsoft FrontPage and wish to publish you site with FrontPage, a Unix server is able to handle it without any problem as long as FrontPage Extensions are installed. You won't need FrontPage extensions if you use FTP to upload your files instead of FrontPage publishing tool. Nowadays, most web hosts will offer you a web-based file manager where you can upload your files without using FTP! All you need is your web browser! I will discuss more about designing your website and uploading your files in the "Build your Website" chapter.