The reason we have a usable Internet at all is because there are companies called hosting providers that give websites their virtual “homes” in cyberspace. There are many kinds of hosting services and solutions, with enough flexibility among them for webmasters to customize approaches for their specific needs. Despite this wide range of capabilities, however, hosting providers still offer three common package types – shared hosting, virtual hosting and dedicated hosting – although today leading hosting firms will also offer more personalized packages, often referred to as managed and semi-managed plans.Understanding the differences among these approaches is just as important as comparing security, service, expertise and cost among the various providers you will consider. Understanding the different types of web hosting packages, in fact, can help you narrow the field of companies from which you will eventually pick a winner. This article will educate you sufficiently (although more study is always better than less) to choose the right hosting package, and perhaps even the right company to implement it for you.Shared hostingCompanies and individuals making their first foray into the World Wide Web often sign up for the least expensive groups of plans, which would be under the “shared hosting” category. As the name clearly indicates, your website will be “sharing” disk space on a server with 20 or 200 other sites. Part of your agreement includes a commitment to stay within a certain, prescribed percentage of the server’s CPU (Central Processing Unit) usage. For family sites, small companies and other limited “rollouts,” this is usually not a problem.In fact, shared hosting schemes were originally designed around certain assumptions about site owners’ behavior, many of which turned out to be right on the money. One of the many assumptions that has since become fact is that customers simply do not use all the bandwidth (storage) that they’ve been allotted in their paid plan. The fact is, many people and firms run small websites whose traffic volume only requires a small fraction of that bandwidth. Every so often, a small site will experience a sudden surge of traffic and data transfers, pushing the website use over the set limit. You will want to plan ahead for this kind of eventuality, as most agreement will give your hosting provider the right to “freeze or seize” the website, at least temporarily.Virtual private hostingAs opposed to the shared hosting plans, a Virtual Private Server (VPS) will set you up with a Virtual Dedicated Server (VDS). You will still share server space with other sites, but will have your own environment, or partition, on that server. Individual servers are often divided into multiple, discrete (separate) partitions that run their own OS (Operating System) and can be booted up individually. These can be very important features for many firms. Of course, you will still share space on a single physical server, be restricted to a certain proportion of the CPU usage and have a limited amount of disk space and bandwidth because of the other VPS users.Dedicated hostingDedicated hosting is a specialized service that offers the customer such important benefits such as secure, high-quality infrastructure and high-speed connectivity. These costlier hosting packages can be tailored to the unique needs of a customer for bandwidth, storage space and memory, and “renting” an entire server that you do not have to share enables you to run CPU-intensive programs. Your website performance will neither affect other sites nor be disrupted by what others do.This type of dedicated hosting plan truly is the ideal one for companies with large, complex, media-rich and/or high-traffic sites. The “discrete server” model provides them complete control over the structure, contents and operations of the hosting environment. Not every individual or company needs dedicated hosting, but the ones that do could not make it with lesser hosting packages. Past a certain point of bandwidth, there is no reason to have any other kind of hosting plan.Managed hosting servicesLarger and busier firms often need a more advanced kind of dedicated hosting plan, one that can give them additional technical support and state-of-the-art equipment. These plans will also customize services in such a way as to transfer many important responsibilities to the hosting company. However, IT expertise is still required by the customer, who retains control of the operating system(s), applications and hosting environment. Managed hosting also involves a rather more significant investment of time, effort, expertise, finances and human resources than other hosting plans.If you opt for managed hosting, you would typically lease dedicated, pre-configured equipment and connectivity from a provider. As the owner of the data center, the provider will maintain the server, the network and any other devices, and is responsible for deploying, monitoring, managing and maintaining the hardware. With contractually defined, shared responsibilities, managed hosting far exceeds basic dedicated hosting in levels of performance, security, scalability and up-time.Semi-managed and reseller hostingAnother name for semi-managed hosting is root server hosting, a kind of dedicated hosting that lets you control the server through access to the root. This approach produces a variety of benefits, such as improved security, more reliable infrastructure and more proactive hardware maintenance. As it is a semi-managed hosting plan, a hosting provider will maintain and manage the installation and the hardware, while you (the client) will manage the other aspects (backups, software upgrades, etc.). With root access and administrator status, you can do virtually anything on your assigned server.Reseller hosting is a way for businesses to host sites on behalf of their own customers. If you are reselling hosting services it means that you are making a contract with a hosting provider to sell their services under your own name or brand. There is ample incentive for web hosting firms to do this as it enables them to sell more dedicated hosting space. There are as many different contracts, agreements and ways of doing this as there are hosting companies, and it is certainly not something to be undertaken without planning. However, for some companies it is a powerful addition to the business plan.The right plan for youDepending on your needs, you may choose any of the foregoing hosting plans. Or, as many companies do, you may start small and grow into the costlier but more powerful packages. When you know how the hosting plans work, you can do a better job comparing services and costs when you are ready to set up (or expand) your site.
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