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Top 5 Things you need to know when buy a Hosting

by Hồng Yến

Building a website isn’t difficult, but web hosting-related terminology can muddy the waters. These basic web hosting tips will get you up to speed.

Web hosting can be considered as one of the most talked-about pillars on the Internet. Everything you enjoy online—podcasts, memes, articles, tweets, websites, online games, Netflix content—exists on a server that an individual or company pays to maintain and run so you can access it. In short, web hosting is an invisible, essential element of the online experience.

For example, if you’re considering launching a website, there are some basic aspects of web hosting that you should familiarize yourself with before starting the project. While it’s relatively easy to register and use website building software provided by the provider to quickly create an attractive, fully functional user interface, there are many related terms and concepts that make you think. As you’ll soon see, some of them are confusing, if not completely contradictory. Here’s what you need to know about web hosting services before opening an account.

1. There are differences between types of hosting services

If you’ve spent some time on a web hosting provider’s website, you might have noticed terms like shared, VPS, dedicated, cloud, WordPress, and reseller. These represent different types of web hosting services, but not all web hosting services offer all of them. Additionally, these services vary in significant ways.

Almost every web server offers shared hosting, which is the cheapest form of web hosting. With shared hosting, your website shares a server and server resources with many other websites. If you want to keep your web hosting budget low and don’t expect a lot of traffic, then shared hosting is a suitable choice. You’ll have to pay $10 or less per month for this tier of web hosting. Since you’re sharing resources with other websites, you should be prepared for occasional slowdowns if one of your co-hosted websites starts attracting a lot of visitors. Free web hosting services are available if you’re on a tight budget, but they come with their own caveats (usually ads and extremely low server specs).

Larger businesses expecting high traffic to their websites should opt for VPS or dedicated hosting services, each offering increasingly powerful server specs. VPS hosting is like a beefed-up version of shared hosting, except there are far fewer websites sharing server resources and these resources are also more segregated. VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting but you’ll only have to pay under $100 per month.

Dedicated hosting puts your website on a server by itself, so it can harness the full power of the server. This is the most expensive type of hosting; eventually, you might have to pay $100 per month or more for this raw power.

Reseller hosting allows you to start your own branded web hosting business without worrying about building infrastructure from scratch. WordPress hosting allows you to build a website in the environment serving the world’s most popular content management system. And cloud hosting? That’s a whole different tool that allows you to easily scale your website’s power across multiple servers, although not every web server offers this feature. Yet. Prices for these tiers are all over the place, so shopping around is important.

The final important point to remember here is that web hosting providers often offer lower rates for longer commitments. For example, a server package might cost you $10 per month but could drop to $8 if renewed annually instead of monthly. True, you have to pay the entire bill upfront, but that could save you precious dollars in the long run. However, please note that this is not common and largely depends on the web server. For example, some of HostGator’s shared packages and WordPress packages are actually more expensive when renewed for longer blocks. Do your due diligence and check the renewal rates of each provider to verify pricing. Don’t hesitate to contact customer service or chat to clarify. Check out our various explanatory articles (linked to in the above paragraphs) to learn more about each type of hosting service.

2. Bandwidth is not the same as data transmission

“Bandwidth” and “data transfer” are often used interchangeably to define the amount of data your website serves to visitors, but technically, these terms do not have the same definition.

Bandwidth indicates the total amount of data that can be transmitted at the same time, while data transfer is the throughput or actual amount of information that can be used in a certain period—usually a month. Think of it this way: a web server might have a maximum bandwidth of 5GB, but depending on your hosting package, your website might only be allowed to transfer 1GB of data per month.

Note: For example, if your website exceeds the monthly data transfer allocation due to Reddit traffic, the web server might slow down your website’s data transfer speed or charge you a penalty. It might even prompt you to upgrade to a higher web hosting tier. It’s good to know your website’s data limits before you encounter situations like this.

3. Unlimited is not unlimited

Web servers will entice you to sign up for their web hosting package by tempting you with promises of unlimited storage or monthly data transfer. It’s usually not a completely honest deal. Now, I’m not saying these web servers are lying, but “unlimited” storage or data transfer almost always has various restrictions depending on the company. For example, FatCow offers “oodles” of disk space and claims there are no limits on user content—as long as that person fully complies with the company’s terms of service and uses storage “for normal operation of your FatCow website.” It’s like an all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet: Eventually, a restaurant will kick you out, if they don’t run out of shrimp first.

Unlimited storage and data transfer are typically associated with shared or WordPress packages and they allow you to run free…within limits. If your blog receives a steady, reasonable amount of traffic (whatever that means!), you’ll be in good shape. However, you should not upload or stream 50TB of data every day. An average person might engage in some suspicious activities with high data usage and the company might flag you for that.

You should refer to the web server’s terms of service or customer service representative to understand exactly what you can and cannot do within the scope of your package’s unlimited offer. For example, Dreamhost states on its website that the company does not monitor “bandwidth or disk usage, so you never have to worry about pesky overage fees.

4. The balance between hard drives and solid state drives

If you’re looking to sign up for a shared web hosting service, you might be offered space on a server with a traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD). The advantage of an HDD-based server is that it can provide large storage capacity at a low cost. When you upgrade your hosting service to more powerful options, such as Virtual Private Server (VPS) and dedicated hosting services, the web server will offer you the option to build your website on a Solid State Drive (SSD).

SSD-based servers are storage devices with lightning-fast speeds. SSD technology is still quite expensive, so your SSD-based servers usually have a much smaller total storage capacity compared to HDDs. You will rarely see a 1TB SSD server, a common figure in the HDD field.

5. A Linux server will do…Most of the time

Almost all web servers offer Linux as their supporting operating system. In fact, I don’t think I’ve reviewed a web server that lacks this open-source, free operating system. Even if you’re not familiar with Linux, you don’t need to do any special work on the back-end to build a website. Website builders make the process of building a website easy.

This means that if your website requires ASP or ASP.NET scripting framework, you’ll need to run with Windows Server. That’s because the scripts you write and the websites you create will only work in a Windows-based environment.

There’s an added benefit: Microsoft applications, such as Office or Outlook, integrate with the server easily. The downside? Windows servers are not compatible with open-source, Linux-based software unless you tinker. Also, Windows servers are more expensive by about $10 to $20 compared to equivalent Linux servers, but if you need Microsoft’s tools, it will be a small insurance fee. Linux vs Windows: How to choose the best server operating system for your website presents everything you need to know about these operating systems.

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