Whether it’s your first time building a website or your 50th, a reliable web host is an important part of the process. Your files need to be stored somewhere for users to have access to them on the internet—that’s where a trustworthy, secure web host comes in.
Web hosting is essentially a storage unit for all of your website’s information. With traditional hosting, your website’s “storage unit” is a single server in a data center. Cloud web hosting, on the other hand, uses software to divide a single physical server into multiple virtual servers—meaning your files are distributed to different “storage units”, across a network of physical and virtual servers.
Here’s a helpful guide for understanding the ins and outs of web hosting and why it may be beneficial to your business or personal website.
Web hosting 101
When a user wants to visit your website, they simply type your domain name into their browser. Their computer connects to your server—where your information is securely stored—and delivers your web pages through their browser.
This usually works one of three ways. With shared hosting, multiple websites are stored on the same physical server. To keep things organized, websites have their own partition, or storage section, that is separated from other sites on the server. For small businesses especially, this is an affordable way to create a website and safeguard your data.
For large companies like Facebook and Google who are dealing with high volumes of traffic and data, dedicated hosting is a better option. Dedicated hosting means only one website is stored on a single server. It also allows for more customization of the server, depending on your unique needs. These benefits come at a higher cost to shared hosting.
Last but not least, Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is a web-based virtual server that acts as a private server. While it is not exactly the same as cloud hosting, they are similar in that a physical server is divided into virtual servers. The cost is somewhere in between shared hosting and more expensive dedicated hosting.
The cornerstones of web hosting
While many hosting providers offer different features and packages, the following features are necessary for reliable and secure web hosting:
- Storage: Creating a website means having enough storage space for all your files and media. While many hosts provide sufficient storage, you can also opt for additional disk space at a higher cost, depending on your provider.
- Bandwidth: Bandwidth describes the capacity of data that can be transferred between your site, users, and the servers. Less bandwidth means slower loading time, regardless of the connection speed of site visitors. Higher bandwidth means faster data transfers—which comes at a cost.
- Guaranteed Uptime: If you are creating a website, you want it to be up and running. Guaranteed uptime is a commitment to keep your website up and available to visitors at least 99.9%. This should include network, server, web, and service uptime.
- Security: Like anything online, it’s important to keep your information secure from cybercriminals, critical data loss, or other malicious activity. A reliable web hosting provider should offer SSL secure servers, antivirus software, firewall protection, and more to keep your site safe.
- Support: Web hosting requires ongoing maintenance and attention to make sure everything runs smoothly. Your web hosting provider should offer reliable technical support in the event that something goes wrong.
What is cloud-based web hosting?
Cloud web hosting allows users to access your website using cloud resources. What does this mean? Unlike traditional hosting, your website’s information is not managed on one single server. Instead, the cloud allows you to spread your data across multiple, interconnected servers. By relying on multiple servers, there are more resources available to your data—and as a result, more opportunities for flexibility and scalability as a business or personal brand.
What are the advantages—and drawbacks—of cloud web hosting?
Cloud infrastructure creates an added layer of security called virtualization. Virtualization improves the physical security of servers by reducing the number of hardware in an environment, meaning less opportunities for malicious activity. The cloud is also monitored at all times—from the server, across the network, and on all software. Centralized management keeps security systems up-to-date, while making sure no data is lost if your system is compromised.
In a cloud hosting environment, you are entrusting another party with your data. You do not have control of security in the same way you would with your own server. For this reason, it’s extremely important that you communicate with your cloud hosting provider about security, privacy, compliance, and more to make sure your data is protected on physical and virtual servers alike.
Unlike a dedicated server where a sudden increase in site visitors can lead to a crash, cloud hosting ensures your account can respond to rising demand. You can allocate resources as your needs change, by adding storage, bandwidth, or RAM from other available resources in your interconnected network.
Businesses and individuals can only make use of the cloud if they have an internet connection. This is because the technology needs a connection in order to send and retrieve files from the cloud. While most people do have a steady internet connection, storms or power outages could lead to downtime for your site.
Cloud web hosting ensures that your data is safe and backed up in the event of catastrophe, considering information is stored in multiple places.
Not all cloud providers offer the same benefits or advantages. It’s important to do your research and communicate with your provider about how much bandwidth, storage, and security measures you are entitled to ensure it is sustainable for your business and budget needs.
Your website’s performance depends on the server uptime. In the event that something goes wrong, there is no single point of failure because cloud technology offers a system of interconnected servers. If any server goes down or cannot take your request, another server from the cluster takes over by default to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Though many cloud providers prioritize security and privacy, your data and files are still vulnerable to threats on an external service provider. It’s important to communicate with your provider about what measure they are taking to mitigate malicious activity or threats.
Modern cloud hosting services can instantly detect which server is closest to a given user, meaning information is pulled from the nearest source and delays or loading times are minimized.
Is it difficult to transition to cloud hosting?
While it may seem daunting, switching to cloud web hosting could have a huge impact on your personal brand or business. That said, it’s important to consider the following to ease this transition:
- Communicate with your cloud hosting provider to make sure you are on the same page about storage, bandwidth, privacy, and security needs
- Educate your team about the benefits of cloud web hosting and how they can take their own security measures too
- Develop an implementation and migration strategy with support from a provider, as well as an effective data integration tool
Is cloud hosting the right choice for my website?
For many businesses who have outgrown shared hosting or are ready to embrace a new way of managing their data in anticipation of growth or changing needs, cloud hosting is a great solution. Hosting your website on the cloud is reliable, secure, and scalable—not to mention cost-effective and flexible. Do your research and communicate with different cloud hosting providers to find the package and pricing that best aligns with your needs.
Explore the benefits of cloud hosting with DigitalOcean.