In order for your blog or website to be accessed and seen by people it must have a piece of virtual land in which to reside.
Web servers can be thought of as the virtual land and through Web hosting is how you gain access to this land.
Technically speaking, Web hosting is a service provided by companies that offer a physical location on their servers for the storage of web pages and files (i.e. websites and blogs). Web servers are the computer hardware that provides World Wide Web services on the Internet.
How about an analogy for further clarification.
Let’s say you are in the rental market looking for a place to live. When you choose to rent from a landlord, you simply pay monthly rent to the landlord who owns the property. In the Web hosting world, this would be akin to paying a web hosting company to rent space on their server in order to host your blog. Of course, renting is not all the same. Renting a place in an apartment complex can be vastly different than renting a single family home.
We can categorize Web hosting into two groups; 3rd party hosting and self hosting.
Let’s go over some of the basic forms of Web hosting.
3rd party Hosted Blogs (Blogger, WordPress.com, Tumblr)
Blog publishing platforms such as Blogger’s Blogspot.com, WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org ) and Tumblr all use 3rd party hosting.
Part of the reason these services are all free is because your blog is on their servers. They, in fact, own your blog and you are simply borrowing space on their server to host your blog. This would be like crashing on your buddy’s couch. He may be kind enough to give you a place to sleep but if you wear out your welcome he can kick you out at anytime!
3rd party hosting advantages
Hosting is free and the publishing platforms that come with them are fairly straightforward and easy to use.
3rd party hosting disadvantages
Since you don’t own your blog and are merely borrowing space on their servers, you can get your blog deleted permanently for any reason. If you violate their terms and conditions ( some of these platforms don’t allow advertising) they can and will delete your blog without giving any notice.
These 3rd party hosted blogs also have limited capabilities and often times run into server issues and have extended downtimes – can you say Tumblr!
Who is 3rd party hosted platforms for?
Beginning bloggers who simply want to have a blog for fun and have no real intentions to use it for professional reasons. If you want to make money with your blog or intend to use it professionally or for business-related reasons, then you do not want to go this route.
Self Hosted Blogs (WordPress.org)
If you want to be more serious about your blogging and do more than just post some pics and write random stuff, then going the self-hosted route with WordPress is what you want.
The main reason for this is because you actually own your blog (and all it’s contents) and have complete control over it. Learn more by reading WordPress or Blogger?
4 Main Types of Web Hosting Services
This form of Web hosting means your blog will share the same server as other blogs and websites. This can range from a few hundred websites to several thousand. To keep the real estate analogy going, this would be like living in an apartment complex.
Advantages of shared hosting
The simplicity that comes with a shared hosting plan is great for those who do not have the technical know-how of running a server. The Web hosting provider maintains the server and associated hardware in their data center. They provide you with connectivity and handle all the complex server administrative tasks. Shared hosting is also very cost-effective. Shared hosting costs are drastically reduced for the hosting provider, thus the savings trickle down to users. Most shared hosting plans will cost you $5 – $10 dollars a month. For shared hosting plans I recommend Hostgator.
Disadvantages of shared hosting
Performance can be an issue. For example, let’s assume your blog is currently experiencing moderate traffic but your “neighbor” who is sharing the same server as you gets a sudden increase in traffic. This increase in your neighbor’s traffic can have a direct impact on your site, causing it to lag with pages loading at a molasses pace. This is because you both share the same server. Placing thousands of websites on a single server makes the machine susceptible to failure, which can result in your blog crashing. Hey, renting an apartment may be cheaper but those pesky neighbors of yours can raise your blood pressure and be very annoying!
Who is shared hosting for?
These plans are good for those who do not want to pay much for hosting (or, simply cannot afford to upgrade to a better plan).
If your website has a moderate amount of traffic and is not being used in a professional manner, then a shared hosting plan will suffice. Keep in mind that if your are anticipating a consistent increase in traffic to your website, then the possibility for reduced website performance increases with shared hosting.
Managed Hosting for WordPress users
This is a great solution for WordPress users who need something more than a cheap shared hosting plan.
Advantages of managed WordPress hosting
When you go with a managed WordPress hosting company, they will handle all of the backend tasks associated with your WordPress-powered website. They focus on what they do best so you can focus on what you do best.
In addition to hosting your site, they provide WordPress-specific knowledge and expertise. This specialty service allows them to focus on such things as WordPress performance, security, optimization and other necessary services specific to WordPress. Having people who know the ins-and-outs of WordPress and all of its idiosyncrasies will ensure that your website gets the best care possible. There are several WordPress managed hosting providers available such as Pagely, Synthesis and WP Engine. Wpresstic is hosted by WP Engine and we highly recommend them – Read our WP Engine review.
Disadvantages of managed WordPress hosting
Well, the fact that you can only use this hosting for WordPress websites could be seen as a disadvantage if you want to use other website platforms with the same hosting service. Price can be a disadvantage as well since most of the more reputable companies have hosting plans that begin in the $25 – $30 per month range. With that said, the old adage “You get what you pay for” definitely applies to website hosting.
Who is managed WordPress hosting for?
If you are just starting out with WordPress, then you may want to hold off on this type of hosting. Many bloggers begin their journey using a shared hosting plan then as their blog grows and traffic increases, they upgrade to a managed form of hosting. However, if you are in the early stages of building a WordPress-powered website for business or professional purposes, you may want to consider this option from the get go.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
Also referred to as Virtual Dedicated Server, a VPS hosting approach uses a special partitioning technology to create multiple “virtual” servers out of one physical server. Each account on the virtual server has its own operating system and its own web serving software. In effect, the server behaves as if it’s one single server for that hosting client, isolating each client in a completely separate space.
Advantages of VPS
With virtual dedicated hosting, you have full root control over your server. That means you have the ability to change server configurations, install software, update packages, shut it down, reboot it, host multiple sites, etc. Basically, anything you could do with your own dedicated server you can do with a virtual dedicated server for a fraction of the cost. You can find quality virtual dedicated hosting for as little as $20 dollars a month. This form of Web hosting also greatly reduces the performance drawbacks that are associated with shared hosting. This is perhaps the most common reason why website owners with large amounts of traffic would ditch their shared hosting plan and upgrade to a VPS.
Disadvantages of VPS
With more control comes more responsibility. Having full root control means it’s possible for you to bring your entire virtual server down. Not good! If you don’t possess high-proficiency in using the VPS to control the working of the website, the applications used, and the server resources skillfully, then you may not be getting the entire value from the service which you are paying for.
Who is this for?
If your blog has a moderate to high amount of traffic and gets periodical spikes in traffic, then you should strongly consider a VPS. Additionally, if you are running a site for business purposes – entrepreneurial bloggers, small businesses and eCommerce sites – then it is important to have a “well oiled machine” that is always up and running smoothly. If your site crashes periodically or doesn’t load quickly, then you could be losing money as visitors move along to other websites with better performance.
Note for WordPress Users: If you are considering a VPS, then I highly recommend a managed WordPress hosting provider instead as they specialize in WordPress and can deliver even better performance than any VPS.
Dedicated Server Hosting
This form of Web hosting provides you with a fully dedicated server, which you do not have to share with anyone else. For all intents and purposes it’s yours and yours alone. This would be akin to renting a single family home.
Advantages of dedicated hosting plans
The most obvious benefit is that compared to shared hosting and many VPS options, your web pages will load much faster since the server is not clogged with files from other websites. This allows websites to better accommodate large amounts of traffic and sudden traffic spikes.
Disadvantages of dedicated hosting plans
The biggest drawback is the cost. Most good quality hosting plans will cost you anywhere between $100 and $200 dollars a month.
Who is dedicated hosting for?
A dedicated server hosting plan is ideal for those who have websites with large amounts of traffic, and the budget to support the costs that are associated with it. High scale magazine style blogs with hundreds of thousands of monthly readers, corporate websites and large-scale eCommerce sites should all be using some form of dedicated server hosting. Most bloggers (from novice bloggers with little traffic to most of the professional bloggers) don’t need to get dedicated hosting.
Beginner blogger on any platform – Shared Hosting
Beginner blogger (using site professionally) or small business on non-WordPress platform – VPS or Shared Hosting
Beginner blogger (using site professionally) or small business on WordPress platform – Managed WordPress or Shared Hosting
Advanced blogger (moderate to large amount of traffic) on WordPress platform – Managed WordPress hosting