Web hosting for beginners

If you're looking to launch your own website, then sooner or later, you'll have to get to grips with the whole concept of web hosting.  This can be a confusing area for beginners, who often assume that there is only one type of web hosting, and that the only thing they need to do is to find the best price.  In this article, we'll give you an overview of all the different types of web hosting that are available, to help you choose the right type of package for your particular needs.

Different web hosting types

Dial Up Access Hosting
This is web hosting at its most basic, and is a legacy from the early days of the internet.  Under this type of hosting, users literally dial up to view your site.  With the spread of broadband, dial up access hosting has become more or less obsolete, although you might still find hosting plans of this type here and there.

Shared Hosting
This is the most common type of web hosting, and the type you're most likely to come across.  It's web hosting for the average web user, and it's also known as "virtual" or "mass" hosting.  Shared hosting, as the name suggests, involves a number of websites all sharing the same computer server.  The advantages are that it's cheap, since server costs can be shared, and user friendly - anyone can set up a website with a shared hosting plan, and no particular technical skills are required.  On the downside, security levels, data transfer allowances and storage space can be low, and the hosting package may not have all the features you require.

Dedicated Hosting
With a dedicated hosting package, you get a whole computer server to yourself.  It allows you full control of all server settings, and all of the resources of that server are at your disposal.  That means lots more bandwidth, so you can handle large volumes of visitors, faster response times, more storage space, higher levels of security, the most advanced control panel technology and greater reliability.  It's also the most expensive option, and is generally only used by large companies who need a high quality online presence.
Dedicated hosting itself comes in two types -  managed hosting, where the hosting company looks after the server for you, and unmanaged, where you have to perform all the server maintenance and management tasks yourself.

Root Server Hosting/Semi-Managed Hosting
This is similar to dedicated hosting, but it also allows you to access the root of the server itself.  Obviously this requires more technical skills, but it's a very flexible and versatile form of hosting, that allows you to customize your server to your exact requirements.

Reseller Hosting
This type of hosting allows you to lease or purchase a huge chunk of web space from a hosting company, which you can then subdivide and sell on to other people.  In effect, you become a web hosting company yourself, with the added advantage that all of the technical and support functions are handled by the parent company.

Co-Located Hosting
The most advanced, and expensive, web hosting of all.   Co-located hosting is where your own server is physically located in another company's data center.  This provides maximum levels of bandwidth, security and reliability, but will be way beyond the reach of the average webmaster.  It's really only an option for major commercial enterprises.

These, then, are the six basic types of web hosting.  There's a lot of variation within those types, and each package will have its advantages and disadvantages.  The main thing is to be absolutely clear about what you hope to achieve with your website, and to research your web hosting options thoroughly before signing up to a specific deal.

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