Web hosting primer

Discussion in 'Hosting Discussions' started by SpilltheBeans, Dec 22, 2005.

  1. SpilltheBeans

    SpilltheBeans Adherent

    I'm running a forum and I enjoy managing the forum, but I don't enjoy researching web hosts. I just want it to be on a good host and be done with it. I spent hours researching and had to search in different places to find information. I don't know of a central place that talks aobut all the hosting options and their pluses and minuses. So in an effort to share knowledge, we should have a primer here on the different web hosting options. I'll start.

    Shared hosting: You get some space on a server. It is shared by a few or many other sites. You use whatever software and OS is already provided and it is shared by everyone on the server. Many times, it is oversold, meaning the host puts more sites than should be on one server and it slows things down for everyone. Good for smaller forums. Usually the cheapest plan.
    VPS: Virtual Private Server. Like shared hosting, but everything is partitioned, including disk space and memory. You run your own OS and software for your site. Multiple sites are still in one server. You have more control but also greater responsibility. Usually faster than shared server. Also more expensive.
    Dedicated server: This is essentially leasing or renting a server. You get full control over it and you can choose self-managed or host-managed, which is more expensive. Best for very active forums. Better speed than VPS or shared hosting but also usually a lot more expensive. Can run $100+ vs. $10 for shared hosting.
    Co-location: You provide the server, the host provides the pipes. You're basically renting space at a data center. This affords you the most control but also requires a lot of responsibility as you sometimes have to go to the location to fix the problems.
    Self hosting: The server is at your home and you're using your ISP to serve the data. This gives the most flexibility but also the most responsibility. Hosting cost is pretty much free, but you have to provide the hardware. Possibly violates your ISP TOS. Not good for active forums. Requires a permemenant IP address.

    Some of this may be somewhat inaccurate as I had to piecemeal information together. Perhaps people with more expertise can contribute. Are there other options? How do resellers fit into the picture?

    edit for correction.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2005
  2. ZenithRS

    ZenithRS I Like 'Em Chunky

    Reseller fits in between VPS and shared hosting effectively. You can have a reseller account on either a VPS or dedicated and use it to create shared hosting accounts, or you can just use for your own needs.

    You'd need a pretty big forum to need anything more than shared hosting as long as the host you're using is reliable and reputable. You'll see a lot of people recommend a lot of different hosts based on their own experiences. Personally I've been with HostGator pretty much since their inception (a few years now) and have never had reason to leave them. They're particularly fast for me from here in Australia. Pricing is resonable (not the cheapest but you get what you pay for), and uptime has been exceptional over the years.

    A good site is WebHostingTalk, a heavily trafficked forum with lost of good and bad opinions about lots of host. If you go there though be careful to sort through the useful info from the rubbish, read between the lines, as you see a lot of posts trashing hosts from users who simply want to damage them for their own reasons without having any real grounds for complaint.

    With the VPS and dedicated, you really need to have at least some experience in managing a server before going down that route for your live site. As a guide, if you're not familiar with command line then give it a miss. I'm not saying you can't manage the server without using the command line, (cpanel and directadmin etc are incredibly powerful now), just that it's a sort of measure of your knowledge.

    Hope this helps a little.

  3. vincentg

    vincentg Neophyte

    I would first look at the number of sites per server.
    Many hosts push 400 to 800 sites on one server.
    This causes high server load when all sites are busy then all sites suffer.
    Look for a number of 200 to be a max - more then that is trouble for all.
    For Linux look for a page that shows the current server load for each server.
    Constant Loads higher than .7 show a host is not doing the right thing.
    Third look for or ask for policy on bandwidth - many claim to give high bandwidth but they don't. As soon as you start to use this bandwidth then they will push you to a higher price plan or a dedicated server.
    Ask about Server Downtime. How often do they take the server down?
    A good host will almost never need to take a server down for any length of time more than 1 min which is the re-boot time unless there is hardware failure.

    Backups - a good host will provide daily, weekly and monthly backups.

    Server type - With server costs being so low a P4 3 Ghz is the minimum I would look at. Many hosts run servers that are sub standard.

    Connectivity - you want to see redundancy here - at least 3 different company incoming lines to prevent downtime due to faulty routers by one company or another.
    Software support - a decent host should support all popular Perl or PHP software packages.

    Website problems - should a website run into a problem of any kind a host should work with the client to resolve the problem and not just pull the plug.

    I have seen horror stories such as a server down for weeks due to tech problems.
    Or a site being disabled due to form hijacking or hacker problems.
    If a website owner is responsive and performs proper basic maintenance then such problems, which are beyond his expertise, should be referred to the host tech support.
    That is why they call it Support - to help one through problems of any nature.

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