Making Sense of Web Hosting Options

Anyone wishing to do business online needs a website and needs to have it hosted. However, choosing a web host, and then homing in on the right package, can often be a daunting task. The good news is that, thanks to the hugely competitive nature of the web hosting industry, finding value-for-money products is quite easy. The real problem is often trying to make sense of the different packages on offer from your preferred vendor. Let’s take a look at some of these options and the implications of choosing one over the other.

Windows versus Linux Hosting

One of the first decisions you need to make is which operating system will be installed on the server on which your website is hosted. There are only two real options here: Linux and Windows; and Linux, which is an open source project and costs hosting companies nothing; is by far the more popular of the two.

Another factor which may influence your choice is the manner in which your site will be build: do you plan to build the whole site from scratch or to use a content management system. Although the most widely-used open source content management systems, such as WordPress and Joomla, can be installed on a Windows server; they tend to run more smoothly on Linux; since some of the plug-ins on which they rely have been created with the assumption that the software is running on a Linux machine.

Web hosting is a fairly mature industry now; so, In terms of such matters as performance, stability, reliability, and security; there is very little to choose between the two platforms. Therefore, most people, since Linux is the cheaper option; will only consider Windows if their website requires software, such as an ecommerce solution, which has been created in ASP.Net (which of course only runs on Windows machines).

Shared Hosting versus Dedicated Hosting

Most individuals and many companies who require web hosting have very similar requirements and relatively few visitors to their website. Therefore, it makes perfect sense, both for web hosting companies and for their clients, that several websites should be hosted on the same server. Given the capacity of modern servers, this will often mean that several hundred clients may have their websites hosted on the same server. Each client will be given FTP access to a subdirectory on the server to which they can upload their website files. All clients share resources and none of the clients has the ability to see the server desktop or modify server resources or software.

By contrast, if you opt for a dedicated hosting contract, only your website (or websites) will be hosted on the server; and you will be given full administrator access to the server and all the software and utilities running on it. You will typically access the server using a remote desktop manager such as the Remote Desktop Connection utility which is built into the Windows operating system.

Shared hosting is very much the norm for most individuals and small companies. The two main benefits of dedicated hosting are performance and customization. For example, if you are fortunate enough to have hundreds of thousands of visitors clamouring to your website every day, buying and downloading electronic products stored on your site, you will definitely need a dedicated server. Similarly, if you want to install a non-standard piece of server software, you will need the control offered by the dedicated server solution.


Many hosting companies also offer clients the option of buying a server that meets their specific requirements and specifying their own server software; but still physically hosting and configuring the server for them. This service is known as colocation.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is a fairly new development; it refers to the hosting of websites on virtual servers which draw their resources from an often vast network of physical servers configured to work in unison. Cloud hosting providers can offer both shared and dedicated solutions to their customers.

Because websites are not hosted on one single machine, cloud hosting is a more robust solution than traditional hosting. If a single physical server goes down, the virtual servers feeding into the network will seamlessly draw resources from the remaining underlying servers.

When used for dedicated hosting, the cloud model can also offer clients the option of paying only for the resources they actually use. With traditional dedicated hosting, clients are obliged to rent a server which caters for their maximum usage requirements (even if those maximum limits are only actually reached very rarely). With cloud hosting, the virtual servers only make demands on the physical servers as and when resources are needed. It is therefore easy for hosting companies to charge clients only for the resources they actually consume.

Because of its greater reliability and flexibility, both for hosting companies and for their clients, cloud hosting is almost certain to gradually replace traditional hosting and to become the norm.

Published: 15/06/2015

Last modified: 12/06/2019

Timothy Oxendale
I'm an award-winning plant-powered (Vegan) freelance WordPress Developer/Web Designer. I work with great individuals, small-to-medium sized businesses and start-ups. I aim to have a great relationship with all my clients where I can add value to their business by being dependable, honest and by doing the type of work that makes a difference.

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