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Guide to Hosting

What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting providers rent out web space on a monthly or yearly basis just like office space.  So, the definition of web hosting is directly in its name - it is the process of hosting web data.  Essentially web hosting is the real estate industry of the web.  When you have a web site or store data online, it is stored on a server.  A server is nothing more than a computer: generally a high powered machine optimized for internet usage.  Some companies or individuals setup their own hosting operations from scratch, however this can be a costly and time consuming process.  This is why people turn to web hosting providers to store web sites and data.  A web hosting provider is able to purely focus on proper technical maintenance of the server and its connection to the internet.  Instead of worrying about up-keeping complicated server technology, clients can focus on their business and leave the technical work to web hosting professionals.

With thousands of web hosting providers and thousands of service offerings, prices vary from free to thousands of dollars a year.  Some companies rely on an expensive rock-solid hosting solution for the success of their business.  Perhaps they provide internet access, or run a high trafficked, high content online store.  Others may simply be using the web to tell people about their company - a web brochure.  Web hosting is not only used for storing web sites however; company databases, email, picture files, mp3's, movies, and anything that you could put on your computer can be stored on a server.  Once a database or web site is setup, the client is able to easily access their server space using a web publishing tool or an FTP (file transfer protocol) tool. An FTP tool simply put, is an application that allows you to upload files to a server. Many of these tools are free. We will be further elaborating on web publishing later in this article.

Terminology:
If you come across a word you don't understand try looking it up using Webopedia.com.  They offer a great selection of computer/Internet related definitions, complete with links and articles pertaining to each term. Also, you can use these glossaries if you are unable to find any particular word:

- http://www.findmyhosting.com/Glossary.htm

- http://hostreview.com/glossary.html  

Getting a Domain Name (www.yourname.com):
A domain is simply the web address you type into your browser.  For instance you would type www.google.com in your browser to go to Google's web site.  The most common extensions are ".com - .net - .org.", however there are many more. Today, domain names are easy and affordable to reserve.  The average price for a domain is anywhere from $10 to $30.  Domain names are officially managed by the worldwide organization ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).  When you purchase a domain name you purchase it through a registrar that has been accredited by ICANN.  A list of these companies are available at their web site www.icann.com. Many web hosts will reserve your name for you, but the advantage to reserving your domain through a pure domain registrar is in the versatility of being able to switch hosting providers, and most likely get a better price.

 > Click here to read our Domain Name Registration Specialty Guide
 

General Types of Web Hosting:
While there are many specific types of web hosting, all hosting solutions fit into one of these three technical categories:

- Shared Hosting - Shared hosting is when you rent a portion of a server - like renting an office room in an office building.  Usually shared hosting packages are sufficient for basic web sites.  If requested, your hosting provider will reserve your own domain name (www.yourname.com) and provide you with email at your domain name yourname@yourname.com).  Or if you reserved your own domain name in advance, your web host will provide you with the information necessary to "hook it up" to your web server. Pricing in the category of shared web hosting can range from free to over $100/month dependent on the service offerings.

- Dedicated Hosting - This is when you rent an entire server - like renting an entire office building.  Once you have your server you can put whatever you would like on it, your choice of applications, your choice of data.  You can store whatever you need on a dedicated server with fewer restrictions than that of a shared hosting solution. Low end dedicated servers start around $100/month, and go up from there.

- Co-located Hosting - This is when you actually buy the server, hardware, and software.  Your server is then monitored and connected to the web from a data center. This gives you the most control of your server - not only do you choose what to put on your server, but what technology will be hardwired to the physical machine itself.  Frequent clients of co-located services are web hosting providers, because they want 100% control and ownership of their servers.  Co-located services are for companies or individuals in need of mission-critical hosting operations. Co-located web hosting prices are not usually based on specific pricing plans as the prices vary greatly on each individual client's needs.
 

Client-Specific Hosting:
Listed below are common client goals, and the type(s) of hosting solutions that best match those goals:
 
Client Goal: Type(s) of Hosting:
I want a free web site. Free Web Hosting
I want a simple, very affordable dot com web site. Budget Web Hosting
I need to a relatively affordable, but somewhat powerful web site. Basic Shared, UNIX/Linux Web Hosting, Windows 2000/NT, Mac Web Hosting, or FrontPage Web Hosting
I want to sell products online. E-Commerce Web Hosting
I want to resell web hosting packages and make money. Reseller Web Hosting
I need to streamline internal company operations ASPs (Application Service Providers)
I need a full server to store my website or data. Dedicated Web Hosting
I need to have someone host my server at their data center. Co-located Server Hosting
 
 
Choosing an OS:
For most basic shared hosting; the operating system should not make a big difference. UNIX and Linux are stable and more affordable than Windows. Microsoft FrontPage is supported on the Windows OS, UNIX, and Linux. To find out which OS best suites your needs read these articles:

- TopHosts - NT or UNIX?
- John Kirch - Windows NT Server vs. UNIX
- itsALLNet - UNIX Linux FAQ
- itsALLNet - Windows Hosting FAQ

Also, here are the official definitions of the different operating systems:

Operating SystemWindows NT - Windows 2000 - UNIX - Linux
 

What to Expect From a Good Web Host:
Keep in mind budget web hosts cannot always provide all of this, but at minimum all web hosting providers should supply some kind of money-back guarantee and responsive support. Even pure email support can sometimes be quick and responsive.
 
24 Hour Support (preferably telephone)  
Money-Back Guarantee (at least a 14 day minimum)  
99.9% Uptime Guarantee  
Server backups Reliable web hosts will always have backups of your data in case they or you lose or delete data.
High Levels of Bandwidth Host Help and FindMyHosting do a great a job of explaining in detail how bandwidth works. Click here for Webopedia's definition of bandwidth. Click here for Webopedia's definition of bandwidth.
Backup Power Supplies Also referred to as a UPS, or uninterruptible power source.
A T3 Connection or better to a primary internet backbone

- What is a T3?
- What is an Internet bckbone?

Redundancy Redundancy is simply more than one connection to the internet in case one fails. Click for the official definition

 

Web Publishing Tools:

If you choose a free web host such as Geocities you won't even need a web publishing tool.  They let you make your web site online by using easy to use templates, and interactive online tools provided by their web site.  For more free web hosts see our free web hosting guide.  For those of us, however, looking to create a professional web site, a visual web publishing tool is a quite a valuable investment, unless you prefer working only in simple raw HTML, in which case Notepad should be sufficient. Listed below are some major WYSIWYG web publishing tools. WYSIWYG simply stands for "What You See is What You Get". I'm not sure why the industry calls it that, should just be called visual web editor or publishing tool.

WYSIWYG Web Publishing Tools:

Dreamweaver- (Street price: $399) In advanced web publishing, Dreamweaver is the industry standard, hands down. Sometimes knowing very basic HTML will help in developing pages using dreamweaver. The tool is far more professional, however the steepest learning curve of the visual editors.

FrontPage- (Street price: $149) With FrontPage you don't need to know a bit of html to design a professional quality web site, however it seems that FrontPage has complications with browsers other than Internet Explorer. Click here to look for web hosts offering FrontPage support.

ColdFusion- ColdFusion is for designing advanced web applications, and web sites.  Click here to look for web hosts offering ColdFusion support.

Free Web Publishing & FTP Tools:

- Download.com - HTML Editors
Contains many free trials of web publishing tools; some are fully free.

- Download.com - FTP
A useful selection of free FTP tools.

Graphics Design Tools:

Jasc's Paint Shop Pro

Paint Shop Pro has a variety of different versions, demos, and free versions.  All of them are extremely easy to use, and extremely powerful.  We highly recommend you take the time to look around their web site.  The majority of the graphics used on HostCompare.com have been designed using Paint Shop Pro. It is an incredibly affordable and easy alternative to Adobe Photoshop.

Macromedia

From Flash, to Fireworks, the people at Macromedia know how to make incredible graphics design software.  Be sure to visit their web site, and take a look at the many products they have to offer.

Adobe

Adobe provides industry standard software for creating visually attractive pictures and illustrations.

Also visit Download.com - Design Tools for a selection of free trials, and free tools.

Useful Beginner Resources:

- Web Host Magazine FAQs

- itsAllNet FAQs

- FindMyHosting.com Basic Guide to Web Hosting

- WebHostDir.com - Web Hosting Explained

- HostSearch.com - Host FAQs

- TopHosts - Finding The Host With The Most

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