In today’s modern world, any business that wants to be successful needs a website. Individuals can also benefit from having a web site as well, to use as an easily accessible and shareable portfolio site. Having a website means dealing with web hosting, which isn’t always the most straightforward of projects. Here are the answers to some common questions potential website owners have about web hosting.
In the context of web hosting, hosting means the software and hardware platform on which your website and related web-based applications are deployed. Your web hosting company owns the server that users access when they visit the site at your domain name.
That’s probably the easiest part! If the name you want isn’t already taken, any reputable domain registrar can sell it to you. Often the hosting company you work with will offer you a free or low-cost domain name as part of the hosting package, though future renewals through the hosting company might be more expensive than through a registrar. Therefore, it’s probably best to buy your domain name yourself from a registrar rather than letting your hosting company do it for you.
Yes! There are several major types of web hosting, among them: shared, VPS, dedicated server, and cloud. Shared hosting is the most common, and consists of many clients sharing the same server. It provides a user-friendly control panel for you to manage your website. VPS, which stands for Virtual Private Server, is another common hosting type; each client has their own virtual machine, with several virtual machines running on a hardware cluster.
Dedicated hosting is typically only used by very large enterprise software companies; the company rents the entire server for their business. Cloud hosting is a form of VPS, but instead of the virtual machines running on a hardware cluster, they run on a cloud pool of networked machines.
That’s going to depend on the kind of project or website you will be running on it, and the amount of traffic you expect to see. For example, shared hosting is great for inexpensive, small-order websites, but if any of the sites suddenly experiences a large influx of visitors, other sites on the same server might experience slowdowns or even outages.
To prevent this, shared hosting is usually throttled, which won’t work if you expect to see large amounts of site traffic. If you plan on being able to scale your site up to large amounts of traffic, cloud hosting or VPS might be a better choice, as the available amount of computing power is more variable. Chances are, dedicated hosting is going to be too expensive for any kind of startup business, but if you need to meet certain privacy laws (especially HIPAA) it might be the only legal choice.
A server and a web server are actually distinct identities. A server is hardware that holds the data making up your website. The web server, on the other hand, is the software that provides the link between that server and the rest of the Internet. The web server finds the file the user wants to see, or runs the relevant application, and displays it to the user through their browser.
This also is going to depend on what you need to do. If you want to take credit card transactions, you’ll need an SSL certificate. And if you plan on storing any user information, like email, messages, or files, you’ll also want one.
If your website has an SSL, users can access it using HTTPS, or secure HTTP. In order to encourage more sites to use secure transmissions, Google actually gives a search engine boost to sites that use it. If your website gives an error when being accessed through HTTPS, that’s probably due to an issue with your SSL certificate.
An SSL certificate ensures that the public encryption key used by your website actually belongs to your domain name. This ensures that encrypted data is sent to the user is coming from the correct server. SSL certification needs to be kept up to date and be installed properly.
Encryption on the Internet requires the use of two “keys”, a private key is known only to the website owner, and a public key, which is available for anyone to access. These keys consist of long strings of random characters, used as the values in a formula that encrypts the data being transmitted being user and site.
Data encrypted by the public key can only be decrypted (read) by using the private key, which ensures the privacy of the data. Conversely, data encrypted using the private key can only be decrypted using the public key. This doesn’t stop anyone with access to the public key from reading the data – which is, by definition, everyone – but does verify that the owner of the private key is the one who encrypted the data.
A bad actor could, in theory, send out a false public key to your users and intercept the data being sent. That’s why the SSL certification, verifying ownership of the public key, is so important.
This, once again, depends on what you plan on doing with your website. The major factor in making this decision is what kind of support you think you’ll need from the hosting company. Most hosting companies are the same under the skin, using the same software and one of a few choices of hardware configurations.
The differentiating factor, then, is the support they offer and the price they charge for that support. You’ll want to pick the best hosting company that offers support when and how you want to access it and has options for when things malfunction at inconvenient times.