A website hosting service is a computer service that allows individuals and organizations to make their website accessible via the World Wide Web.
Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server owned or leased for use by clients, as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center. Website hosts can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for other servers located in their data center, called co-location and the scope of web hosting services can vary greatly. The most basic is web page and small-scale file hosting, where files can be uploaded via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or a Web interface. The files are usually delivered to the Web "as is" or with minimal processing.
Many Internet service providers (ISPs) offer this service free to subscribers. Individuals and organizations may also obtain Web page hosting from alternative service providers. Personal web site hosting is typically free, advertisement-sponsored, or inexpensive. Business web site hosting often has a higher expense depending upon the size and type of the website.
The host may also provide an interface or control panel for managing the Web server and installing scripts, as well as other modules and service applications like e-mail. Some hosts specialize in certain software or services (e.g. e-commerce), which are commonly used by larger companies that outsource network infrastructure.
Website hosting is often provided as part of a general Internet access plan; there are many free and paid providers offering these types of hosting. A customer needs to evaluate the requirements of the application to choose what kind of hosting to use. Such considerations include database server software, scripting software, and operating system. Most hosting providers provide Linux-based web hosting which offers a wide range of different software.
A typical configuration for a Linux server is the LAMP platform: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl/Python. The web hosting client may want to have other services, such as email for their business domain, databases or multimedia services. A customer may also choose Windows as the hosting platform. The customer still can choose from PHP, Perl, and Python but may also use ASP .Net or Classic ASP. Web hosting packages often include a Web Content Management System, so the end-user does not have to worry about the more technical aspects.
Most hosting providers provide pretty much the same features for example
Small Package:- Webspace 5GB, Bandwith 5GB, Email Accounts 10, Sub Domains 10, …
Medium Package:- Webspace 10GB, Bandwith 10GB, Email Accounts 20, Sub Domains 20, …
Large Package:- Webspace 20GB, Bandwith 20GB, Email Accounts 50, Sub Domains 50, …
It is generally recommend to purchase the smallest package and then upgrade at a later date if you need to, almost every hosting package is on a 12 month subscription. Its always easier to upgrade than downgrade to a smaller cheaper package.
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Webspace: The amount of webspace provided on the server, most websites are very small about 200mb for a average site.
Bandwith / Traffic allowance: This is the amount of data that you are providing to people, webpage use little bandwith and videos use lots of bandwith. Youtube for example use a large amount of bandwith because of the big files and the high number of users.
SQL Databases: Many websites depend on my sql databases for features such as forums, blogs, forms customer forms, ecommerce and more. A single my sql database can be used for multiple features but if you have heavy usage then it would be better to split to load over several my sql databases.
Customer Service: I highly recommend choosing a host in your local country with 24 Hour telephone support, from time to time you will need to contact them for problems you never expect to occur. I recently lost secure encryption on one of my domains than should of automatically renewed. A phone call fixed the problem.
Cost: The cost varies greatly, some company provide very cheap domains with more expensive hosting and some vice versa. Shop around and see what offers you can get but try not to be suckered in by stuff you don't need. A typical medium package should not cost more than £6.95 a month.
All of the hosting providers will have a huge list of all the features their package has, but they are all pretty much the same, they all do the same things.