Web Hosting Platform
What kind of account or hosting platform will you need?
No, we’re not talking about Windows or Linux operating systems here. We’re more looking at the differences between shared hosting, reseller accounts (multi-domain accounts), Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and dedicated servers.
Depending on your needs, you will have different options to choose from when it comes to selecting your hosting platform. In most cases you will be able to choose between a web hosting account on a shared server (shared hosting) and a dedicated server. Other web hosts offer so-called reseller accounts and virtual private servers, too. In most cases you will not find all these hosting platforms at the same web host. Some web hosts are only catering a certain market segment like the multi-domain hosting or reseller hosting. Their packages are fine-tuned to allow the client to host more than just one domain. Very often the tools provided by the actual web host allow the customer to resell the services to other clients (his own clients). The clients of the reseller do not usually know that they are dealing with a reseller and not the real web host. This is not necessarily a bad thing (more about this further down below). We are going to explain the differences in these platforms shortly. Please read on to get a better impression of what to expect out there.
Your domain and website will reside on a server among several other domains and websites. All websites and domains share the available resources like disk space, CPU, and memory. There is no allocation of resources. Which website needs resources will try to grab whatever is available. This can be a problem in a shared hosting environment, if a very busy website slows down the server performance. This will affect every single website on the server. Good system administrators know how to fine-tune the machine so that for most cases this is not a problem. System administrators also try to limit the load on the server by not max’ing the server out. They leave a gap between how many websites the server actually could hold and how many they actually put on the server. Shared hosting is the most affordable hosting solution for most people and fits their needs just fine.
Reseller Hosting / Multi-Domain Hosting
So-called reseller hosting accounts allow the customer to host more than one domain on the allotted disk space and within the bandwidth limits purchased. As domain names are very cheap nowadays, more and more customers own more than one domain name. These reseller accounts are a very affordable option for these kinds of clients. They can usually fit as many domains as possible into these accounts. However – people starting out as new web hosts use the same kind of accounts to jumpstart their business. They do not need to invest into expensive hardware right away. By using these multi-domain accounts they have a low-cost option to resell the disk space and the bandwidth under their own brand name. The actual web host still supports the complete account, but the reseller has to support his/her own customers first. The end-users cannot go to the actual web host and ask for support. There is no customer relationship between them and the actual web host. The reseller takes on the support requests and what ever he/she cannot take care of because of limited access to the necessary tools or resources is being passed on by him/her to the web host. By using a reseller account to start a business these resellers have a little more time to learn the business or to concentrate on customer service and marketing. Some resellers stay permanently with the web host and never buy their own hardware. It’s nothing bad – it’s basically that they outsource their system administration and part of the support to the web host. It’s a different business model, which can be very successful. Reseller hosting accounts are still shared hosting accounts of some sort. Except for disk space and bandwidth there is no other allocation of resources.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
A virtual private server is a mix between a reseller account and a dedicated server. It basically simulates a server environment for the user. The customer has his own instance of the OS running and a guaranteed level of CPU and memory available. As the environment is like a complete server, the customer has access to resources that are usually not available to end-users (e.g. root access or the customer can install custom software usually not available in a hosting environment). This can be important under certain circumstances. Usually there are several VPS’s on one server. However – the VPS is very limited hardware-wise and should only be considered a step in the middle before going for a complete dedicated server. VPS can be managed or unmanaged (please see dedicated server for definition of managed/unmanaged). A VPS comes with a pre-defined level of disk space and bandwidth allocation.
A dedicated server is dedicated to one customer. None of the resources is shared. The customer ‘owns’ it all. The customer has full system access and can basically do whatever he/she wants to do with the server. The server can de dedicated to a certain task or the customer starts his/her own web hosting business on the server. These servers can be managed or unmanaged. The difference is that a managed server is being administered by the provider or web host. All hardware and software issue are taken care of. The customer just runs his/her own stuff on the server and passes on whatever problems he/she experiences. An unmanaged server requires the customer to take care of all OS and software related issues – remotely. There is no physical access to that machine granted. This can be very challenging to many users if they do not have any system administration experience. An unmanaged server is significantly cheaper to lease. Depending on the provider these offers can start at around $69.00 per month for an unmanaged server and include a certain level of bandwidth. Managed solutions usually go from $150.00 and higher. A customer could also just hire a system administrator per hour. Once the server is configured it might only need administrative work every once in a while. It depends on what is the server being used for. Dedicated servers usually come with a setup fee, too. So, plan accordingly.
This is just a brief overview about the available options for web hosting customers. If you don’t know what you need, we recommend thorough research to avoid a costly mistake.