What is a hosting service and what is its purpose?
Hosting is a service whereby one computer configured as an Internet server offers a part of, or its whole resources, for use in exchange for a certain rental fee. Thanks to this service, one or more users can use information, services or content located on this server using another computer called client. The client uses the Internet to connect with the server and displays the desired content to the user.
What kinds of hosting services are we aware of?
Depending on the type of resources offered by an Internet server, there are various kinds of hosting services, the most popular and widely used of them being:
Web hosting is the most widespread hosting service. It allows your website to be assessable on the Internet 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The website itself is being hosted on a web server most often located in a specialized data center. The web server offers uninterrupted Internet connectivity, a certain set of software packages, which offer additional services such as e-mail, ftp, databases, as well as an environment for utilizing different programming languages such as: perl, php, java, xhtml, html and others.
File hosting is close to web hosting. The difference is that the server stores files, not websites and web applications. Some of the advantages of file hosting are the safe storage of information and its accessibility across the Internet all the computers with adequate transfer speed can take advantage of. It is most often used for storing and archiving large chunks of data so that they are accessible from different parts of the world. Big corporations consisting of many branches often resort to file hosting, for example.
Image hosting is a specialized file hosting service whereby only image files are being stored on the server. This allows for easy and unrestricted sharing of images, graphics and other materials, which can be conveniently used for example on various online forums, ecommerce platforms, etc, which usually disallow the uploading of images and photos of very large size and resolution for the purpose of decreasing bandwidth.
E-mail hosting is a type of hosting specialized in offering electronic mail services. This type of hosting is usually offered together with web hosting or at least with domain hosting, and allows for the creation of an e-mail address of the email@example.com type. The clients of the e-mail hosting service also get large size mailboxes and the possibility to send many e-mails every day. Most e-mail service providers offer access to the mailbox not only via a web interface, but also via POP3 and IMAP protocols, which renders the service accessible via both a web browser and specialized e-mail client software.
Of course, the types of hosting depending on the offered services do not end with the abovementioned; database hosting, domain hosting, etc. are encountered as well.
Depending on the quantity of the server resources your website is allowed to use, and how many user accounts a given server hosts, hosting can be divided into:
Shared web hosting
Shared hosting is the most popular form of web hosting. It is called "shared" because many different web applications (most often websites) are stored on one single physical server and thus share its resources. A separate account with specific parameters (disk space, traffic, number of databases, etc) and a web-based account administration control panel is assigned to each user. The account is administered entirely by the user via a web-based interface control panel, which gives even the beginners quick access and full control over their accounts. Because of the very nature of the shared web hosting service, it is suitable for smaller and not too heavily loaded websites.
Semi-dedicated hosting is a type of hosting service, which is closer to "shared" than is to "dedicated" hosting, whereby the server is configured so as to host less but more heavily loaded websites in terms of bandwidth. As with the shared hosting service, the users too have separate accounts but their parameters are many times larger than those offered by the shared hosting service.
In contrast to shared hosting, dedicated hosting implies that clients' applications do not share the server's resources with other users' applications. Besides, the server uses the entire available bandwidth for purposes of its own. Thus, a given application uses the entire hardware resources of the server on which it is located, the system settings are wholly consistent with and optimized according to its needs, and last but not least - the user has full control over the server. The most commonly installed operation systems are Linux, FreeBSD and Windows. This type of hosting is intended for websites and web applications, which generate substantial hardware load, unthinkable for the resources that shared hosting offers. Dedicated hosting is usually recommended as a solution for sites that register more than 15000 visits a day, for big online shops and portals, popular online games, etc.
Virtual server is a notion, which stands somewhere between "shared" and "dedicated" hosting. Here, one physical server is divided into several independent virtual servers. Essentially, each such virtual server can be looked upon as being "dedicated", because a separate operation system is being installed on it according to the user's needs, which takes up the applications of one given client only. The most commonly used pieces of server virtualization software are VMware, FreeVPS, User-mode Linux, Virtuozzo, etc. The settings of the server are optimized to work with each of them and the resources it can use are much more than those offered by shared hosting. Recommended for websites and applications, which require specific operation system settings, and which generate substantial server load.