How Hosting Works
You've mastered your web browser. You can point and click with the best of them, and when you type the word "jump" into your favourite search engine, you get a pop-up window asking you to please verify how high. You have now completed your quest to fully understanding the internet.
Or have you?
You are an important part of the information superhighway, aren't you? You can stand up and be counted as one of the nearly 50 million houses in the global village, can't you?
Of course you can.
But to be able to successfully join the millions of people out there who have carved out their own little space on the internet, there are a few things about website hosting that you should understand.
Renting Space on the Web
Essentially, website hosting is providing both storage space and bandwidth space for people to store their web pages. These websites can then be viewed at any time by anyone connected to the internet.
Hosting a website requires a ready connection to the internet and an internet server to handle network traffic. An internet server is a piece of hardware, like your computer itself, that is full of hard drive space and allows people connected to the internet to access that space. How much information can be accessed depends on the storage space and how fast depends on the bandwidth, or data transfer speed, of the server itself.
You could actually use your own home computer to host your website, but this is not recommended. The bandwidth for a standard DSL line is not set up to handle outgoing information as much as it is for incoming information. Also, many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) simply will not allow you to use their personal internet accounts for this purpose, instead directing you toward more expensive commercial business accounts.
These days, where small internet businesses are so prevalent, affordable home servers are available from many computer suppliers. Because of the complexity of setting up your own server, however, it is recommended you start small. Many ISP's also have website hosting packages available that are quite affordable; often times coming as part of a package that includes your internet service.
ISP's often include in their packages additional features such as email, managed or dedicated servers, and ftp client software that allows for easy uploading and downloading of your website.
Your Voice in Cyberspace
A big part of website hosting has to do with e-mail.
One of the most important tools that an ISP can provide with their website hosting services is a reliable e-mail program. E-mail is the single greatest form of communication in use on the internet, and has radically changed the way we interact online.
A good website hosting service will allow you to set the particulars of your email account, such as spam blocking and account size limits. There are four main types of e-mail accounts: POP3 accounts, Forwarding accounts, Alias accounts, and Auto responders.
A POP3 is simply an e-mail inbox, a place on the server used for storing incoming e-mail messages. E-mail accounts usually come as "POP3" accounts. A specific amount of space is often allotted to a POP3 account, and going over can cause incoming mail to "bounce", or return to sender.
Forwarding accounts allow e-mail to be redirected to another account as soon as they come in. This can be helpful when you have several accounts running at once and would like to consolidate your email to a single address. Aliases can be used to identify different e-mail accounts and can redirect mail to other POP3 accounts or to another folder within the same address. A catch-all alias can be used to process e-mail from unknown senders, and is often known as a "junk-mail" sorter.
Auto responders are not true email accounts, but they do have an e-mail address and reply to anyone who sends them an e-mail. This is a handy tool if you want to send out the same information to anyone who asks for it. The pre-formatted e-mail is automatically sent as a reply, guaranteeing that every response is identical.
One of the ways that can make your website unique is an e-mail address tailored to fit your site. This adds a level of professionalism to your web site that is hard to attain from more commercial and ad-driven sites that have their company name in your online address and e-mail address. For example, your web site address could be "www.mywebsite.com", and your e-mail address for that website could be "email@example.com".
Choosing a Server That's Right for You
ISP companies usually offer website hosting packages in two forms-dedicated server access or shared server access.
In a dedicated server, all of the server resources are dedicated to your website. This is a good idea for high traffic websites because dedicated servers can be used to ensure that everything runs smoothly. You can also tweak the server specifications to suit your own personal needs, a great feature for someone planning a lot of business online.
The problem with a dedicated server is that they are generally much more expensive than a shared server, and are technically more complex. When you rent a dedicated server, you are often responsible for all areas of its operation.
Dedicated servers work best for large companies or companies who do a large portion of their business online.
In a shared server, the server resources are split up into sections and then each individual section is rented to separate parties. This means that the costs of the server and its operation are deferred over many people, making them cheap and affordable. Additionally, shared servers are often run by the ISP itself, meaning that they handle security issues and technical operations as they arise in a "managed" environment.
The problem with a shared server is that with its disk space and bandwidth limitations it is not equipped to deal with high-traffic web sites. The limited bandwidth means that your web site can become sluggish under heavy use, and the limited space restricts what can be put on your site. ISP's often do not allow business websites on their shared servers, and force you to pay for a more expensive hosting package. Shared servers work best for small companies wishing to simply get their name on the internet or for personal, non-commercial websites.
Recently there has been a growing demand for so-called "managed" servers. These are basically dedicated servers with all of the services provided by shared server packages. As businesses continue to grow online, so has the need for managed security, storage, and database monitoring.
Setting up Shop along the Information Superhighway
It is impossible to set up shop on the internet without some kind of File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client. An FTP client allows the user to upload their website content, as well as edit or delete the information on their websites. Many ISP's provide the ability to create FTP accounts with their hosting services. This makes it easy to access your website content personally, or allow others such as web designers to access your website for you.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
Website hosting has become big business is the past several years. Consider that there are almost 750 million internet users worldwide, and nearly 50 million active websites on the internet. Hopefully, you are now ready to join them.
About The Author
Bill Schnarr is a successful freelance writer providing valuable tips and advice for consumers purchasing website hosting resellers, web hosting services, and high speed isp. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.
This article on "How Hosting Works" reprinted with permission.
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