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Web Hosting Can Make You Crazy

Mar 23, 2008
So...it's time to build your first web site. You've used a software application to create a simple page, and now you're trying to figure out how to get the doggone thing online. Where do you go to do that, anyway?

It can be maddening to try to figure this process out when you're new to this game. But, as someone who's built close to 150 sites, let me share with you a little bit of my experience in the constantly evolving world of hosting.

Once upon a time, a web hosting account allowed you to put up a single web site, and everyone was really happy with this arrangement. But, as the web grew and folks wanted to put up more than just a single site, the idea of paying to host each individual site became much less attractive. The ability to host multple sites has been around for some time now...but it looks a bit different than it did even three years ago. There are three popular hosting models. The names may change, but the hosting packages most companies offer are identical to or slight variations of these three:

Shared Hosting: These accounts can be very affordable...starting at less than 5 dollars a month. There is one master domain...the one you sign up with originally...and then your "add-on" domains are actually located in subfolders inside this root site. That's not visible to the outside world...which is good, because who wants a web address like http://www.mymainsite.com/myothersite?

* The upside to this type of package is the features and the price. The best hosting companies really load up on stuff (much of which you'll never use) to prove that they are the best.

* The downside is that you are sharing resources with a TON of other people. So if you're on the same server with someone who is using a ton of bandwidth and processor power...the performance of your sites tend to suffer. With the better hosting companies...the ones who keep an eye on those who drain resources, this can be less of a problem. So a good shared hosting arrangement can be the very best option for some people.

Virtual Private Server: The VPS option is a step up from Shared Hosting. There are still multiple clients on the same server...but the boundaries between you are enhanced significantly. You have a certain amount of "protected memory" (i.e., RAM set aside just for you) and the processor has the similar boundaries set up so that others can't steal all its power.

* Upside: Higher guarantee of performance. Cheaper than dedicated hosting.

* Downside: It can be pricey. Full-featured, high-capacity VPS hosting will easily slip into the $50-100 per month range...and you'll find that the allowances for disk space and transfer bandwidth are DRAMATICALLY lower than those of shared hosting accounts, even at a much higher price.

Dedicated Hosting: This is when you lease an entire server for your purposes. There are two levels of dedicated servers...an unmanaged server or a managed server. If you know how to manage a server, you're probably not reading this article, because you know way more than I do already. But there are server administrators that you can hire to do that for you...although it will probably cost you at least an additional $50/mo for that service. A managed server can become amazingly expensive...up to several hundred dollars a month. But those who are very serious about their online business sometimes find that it's necessary to be able to control virtually all eventualities.

* Upside: Almost total control. And for the few things you can't do yourself (like pull the plug out of the back of the computer and plug it back in), there's usually someone on-site who can.

* Downside: Price and complexity.

So...for the most part, you will want to begin with Shared Hosting. If you outgrow that, try a Virtual Private Server. And when you're making hand-over-fist...that's the time to look into a Dedicated server.

Best of luck in your journey!
About the Author
Chuck Brown is the father of two and husband of one and lives in the Central Ohio area. He makes his living primarily as a voiceover talent. He also enjoys developing cool web sites on topics in which he has a personal interest. You can also read his personal web hosting recommendations.
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