What is web hosting?
If you want to take part in the internet as a business,
information resource, directory, or as a hobbyist wanting
to share data, information and knowledge with the many
people and communities on the internet, you have to
contain this in a central spot on the internet. You
have to own a piece of space in cyberspace.
Web hosting empowers you and anyone with a computer
and internet connection to own a piece of cyberspace.
In your space, you can have news, bulletins, documents,
data, files (your web site) and your own post office
(mail server) to accept mail, all in the context of
you or your business. This is your space and to get
this space you either have to own a piece of the physical
internet with a network connection to the internet backbone
and computer(s) operating as server(s) offering access
to your files and post office, for people on the internet
to view your web site or send and receive email with
The cost of owning a direct connection to the backbone
and a server dedicated to a web site and email is out
of reach for the average business and especially general
members of the internet. Even running a web site and
mail server on your own computer when it is connected
to the internet requires a lot of technical ability
and knowledge. The internet itself has to be your business
for either of these options to be viable.
In our modern society, for every person in business
or with a career in most industries today, it is imperative
to have a place in cyberspace, not just to be competitive
but to survive. Web hosting companies were born out
of this great need to provide an environment for the
masses to own a piece of cyberspace, to offer an environment
where people could have their piece of cyberspace on
the internet 24/7 without the great cost. Web hosting
companies developed a model where they could split up
areas on the servers connected to the backbone and ‘rent’
this space, cutting the costs across many people sharing
the server and backbone connection to the internet.
In a web-hosting environment, you are offered a web
site to place your files, data, documents, and bulletins
for people to access with their web browser and an email
server for you to send and receive email messages. The
web host will also provide you a means to get an address
for people to get to your web site with a web browser
and post email to you.
To obtain space in a web hosting environment you become
a member and agree to terms and conditions of renting
the space – just as if you were to rent a house
or commercial premises for your business. Once you agree
and become a member, you are given an access code, a
key, to your piece of cyberspace. This key, in the form
of a login and password, allows you to connect to the
web hosting server and up-load (transfer to) your web
site so it can be accessed on the internet. Your login
and password is also used to connect to a mail server
to create and administer mailboxes to send and receive
email for you, your staff, or family members.
Just like when you rent a house or commercial premises
for your business, you have so many rooms, bathrooms,
and floor space to use. In a web-hosting environment,
your area is defined as disk space and network transfer.
Disk space is measured in Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes
(GB). Megabyte roughly means 1,024,000 characters and
Gigabyte roughly means 1,024 Million characters. Imagine
a character as one key on your key board. These amounts
determine how many files, documents, or data you can
have on your web site.
Network Transfer is also measured in Megabytes or gigabytes
which determines how much data (how many of your files,
documents or data) can be downloaded (transferred to)
people accessing your web site. The more people, or
the more data each person accesses on your web site
the more data is transferred on the network.
The more disk space and network transfer you use the
greater percentage of the web-hosting environment you
are using – therefore the higher the rent.
Just as no office building and home is the same, neither
is every web-hosting environment. Some offices have
stairs, others have lifts, some houses have ensuites,
swimming pools, and gardens, – and others do not.
Web-hosting environments are much the same, some offer
bare structures to do just the basics and others offer
an array of features and facilities to help you do just
about everything you could ever need or want. Some of
the features and facilities likely to be offered are
ranges of software to use, components, databases, and
server side script processing.
The similarity of renting an office or home to renting
space in a web-hosting environment is even more similar.
With some buildings a gardener and/or a guard is available
to look after the gardening or provide security. In
a web-hosting environment, you have support people to
help you do what you need to do on your web site to
make it grow and there are server administrators to
protect and secure your web-hosting space.
When you rent a building there are key parts needed
to work or live in the space, like rooms, offices, kitchens,
toilets, and bathrooms. In your web-hosting environment,
you will find equally important components that are
required to make the space workable. The core components
in a web-hosting environment are:
The web server is a relatively simple piece of software
that accepts requests over HTTP (Hypertext Transfer
Protocol) and delivers HTML pages and Image files.
FTP is the means of which a web master can transfer
files to and from the server. To put your HTML and image
files on a server you will generally use FTP to upload
(transfer to) your files to the server running the web
The mail server consists of two parts POP (Post Office
Protocol) and SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol).
POP is where email is received into your mailbox and
SMTP is what is used to send and receive email between
If you are using server side scripting on your web
server (you use something like Microsoft Internet Information
Server) then instead of providing ‘static’
data only on web pages you can provide data from a database
allowing your users to search and view the data in different
and dynamic way. Also, a Database server is used to
gather data from visitors to your site; orders, feedback,
discussions and the like.
Each one of the above components are software programs
running on servers in the web-hosting environment. You
can interact with each of these with special software
programs you use on your computer. The main ones being:
When viewing the web you use a web browser like Internet
Explorer. Many web hosting companies provide a ‘Control
Panel’ to administer your web host account, which
you use with your web browser. Most allow you to configure
most aspects of your account using a simple web browser.
Web site/page editor
Today many web servers allow editing of WebPages over
HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) based on Microsoft
FrontPage technology. These special editors allow you
to essentially look at your web site as if you were
using a web browser and edit the pages directly as you
see them using WYSWIG (What you see if what you get)
technology. Most web hosting environments support this,
and if you are starting out, make sure it is available.
One tip: make sure the web host providing this really
does understand this technology – it is the main
area of which many hacks and security intrusions occur.
This is a very simple piece of software that allows
you to view the server folders and files in your web
host account as if they were files and folders on your
own computer. You can then drag and drop files between
you computer and your web host account.
If you are on the internet you would already be using
an email client to send and receive your email. The
most common are Outlook Express, Eudora and Web based
mail clients like Hotmail.
Database Administration Client
The most common databases used with web servers are
Microsoft SQL Server (available only on Windows) and
MySQL (commonly found on Linux and UNIX but also available
on Windows). SQL Server comes with it’s own administration
client where you can view your databases, edit them,
backup data and do all the administration functions
you need. MySQL has an active online community where
there is a range of administration clients available.
Choosing a web host is, again, similar to choosing
a house to live in or commercial premises to do business.
You need to define what it is you require: how much
space you need and what features and facilities you
If you have been reading this article because this
is new to you, then it is likely at this stage you only
need minimal space and basic facilities. Once you have
worked with the basic facilities you will learn more
and become aware of greater facilities and features
and then you can simple move from one web –hosting
environment to another – paying more or paying
less. Moving in cyberspace is much easier, faster, and
more seamless than physically moving house or commercial
Initially you may use the web-hosting environment offered
by your ISP (internet Service provider), the company
you use to connect to the internet. But remember these
companies main business is connecting many thousands
of people to the internet – not managing web hosting
environments. You will generally find they offer less
than basic facilities and minimal space.
If you are just starting out with your first web site
the first major choice you will be faced with is “Unix”
or “Windows”. For a person just starting
out on the internet, both are equally capable and will
offer the facilities you need to have your place in
If you have a web designer or technical person to help
you, you only need to consider how much space you really
need. With this simple idea in mind, when you are just
starting out, owning your piece of cyberspace will not
cost anymore than $10 per month. Many web-hosting companies
will offer what you need for as little as $8 per month
(usually paid yearly).
If you are going alone and doing it all yourself you
may want to consider an account with a web hosting company
that offers and prides itself on it’s support
and customer service, 24/7 support access and the experience,
knowledge and skill of it’s server administrators.
Remember, these are the gardeners and the guards who
take care of your environment.
Web hosting is very simple and straightforward an once
you obtain your space in cyberspace you will never want
to let it go and you can easily move it where you want
as a turtle carries it’s shell on it’s back.
Always remember you are not stuck in the first web-hoisting
environment you choose.
Web hosting is your space in cyberspace and it is imperative
to have a place in cyberspace in our modern society,
just as it is to have an office to do business.
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