It is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the options out there when it comes to hosting your website. Hopefully this post will help to alleviate some confusion, however if you get to the end and your head hurts then just give us a shout and we can advise the best way forward for you.
First things first. The main point of confusion is that you can in fact host your website, domain and emails all in different places. This means dealing with maybe three different companies and having a control panel login of each as well. Thankfully, it is possible to combine them all under one roof.
For the purposes of this blog post we will be talking about the website hosting, although generally this will also include the email hosting too and most of the time they both come bundled together. So, what is it exactly? Well, on a basic level the files that run your website need to be stored somewhere. They need to be always available and this is where your web host will come in.
Web hosts will (or should) have something called a data centre where they house lots of specialised computers called servers. They will hold the files and process the requests to put together your website for delivery to the end user. In English, the show it to the visitor.
Data centres are specific buildings that are have backup power supplies, redundant internet connections, environmental controls (e.g. air conditioning, fire suppression) and various security devices. They are a pretty impressive place to behold (especially for nerds like us).
As I noted above this should all be true, but if it comes to light your website is hosted in a spotty teenager’s bedroom then it might be time to consider moving on.
In most cases your website will be hosted on a server with lots of other people’s. This is generally not a problem and is referred to as shared hosting. Having a single server for most websites is too much and a little like having an entire power station dedicated to just your house. However, for high traffic websites a single server might be required. This is called a dedicated server. Now for very high traffic websites you can get really complicated and have several servers, each dedicated to running different services all with something called a load balancer sharing out the work between them. But for 99% of sites this would be massive overkill.
You have probably heard the term Cloud Hosting being bandied about over the past few years and it is not that different from what I have spoken about above. The difference is that your website will not be hosted on a single physical server, but across several servers that are clustered together. They all hold the files required to deliver your website and share the resources needed to do this.
All this means that there is no single point of failure and so even if one of the servers running your website on the cloud goes down, the website will continue to function as the other servers will take over. This also means that the resources available for your website are highly scalable. If you need more hard drive space, processor speed or RAM you can simply increase the allowance without having to upgrade, or move server.
Because of all these benefits we at EngineRoom use cloud hosting for our websites. If you are interested in hosting with us them please just get in touch.
Taking all of this a step further is something called a Content Delivery Network (CDN). This is very much like cloud hosting except the files required to deliver your site are stored in several different locations. Again this means that there is not a single point of failure. Your computer or device will then always be connected to the closest and fastest server on the CDN meaning they get your content at lightning speeds. A CDN is something that you have in addition to one of the hosting methods above as all that a CDN does is serve up the files from a preferred location and does not do any of the complicated computing power required.
If you want to look into a CDN to see if it would benefit you then we can of course assist you with getting your website setup. It is not particularly expensive and can really help the speed of your site which is an important factor in SEO. You can read about this our last blog post on SEO.
I hope all of this has helped clear up some of the confusion around hosting. If you want to see any blog posts on other issues or topics that have got you puzzled, then just pop it in the comments below or drop us a line.