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You Must Understand These 17 Key Elements Before You Purchase Hosting (Not Understanding These Will Prove Fatal For Your Business)

By CuylerC / February 10, 2018
Understand these 17 key elements of hosting

Are you lost…

Lost in the forest of internet technology and unable to untangle the mess to see the way to building your own business website?

Please let me help you find your way back to the highway. A business website is very important to have.

So don't give up… and keep reading.

The world of internet technology is a scary place. New innovations sprout up daily.

Just take a look at the tech catagory of your favourite news site.

75 Million Servers Around The World

75 Million Servers Around The World

And just like our galaxy is just one in billions, that galaxy is still as complicated and confusing as if we never knew a universe existed outside it.

The same applies to web hosting. It is a confusing piece of the internet world.

But it is the foundation of the internet. Without hosting servers, the internet could not exist.

And not understanding hosting will prove fatal for any website you create.

Interesting Facts


Did you know there are an estimated 75 million servers powering the internet.

And if you want to know how much data is held on these servers, there is a very detailed article on lifewire.com you can check out: https://www.lifewire.com/how-big-is-the-web-4065573

But the number is estimated to be 1.1 zettabytes of data.

A zettabyte equals 1000 exabytes, and an exabyte is made of 1000 petabytes, and a petabytes is 1000 terabytes, and terabyte is 1000 gigabytes, and a gigabyte is 1000 megabytes.

That is approximate. The numbers are actually a little bigger. But this breakdown by an easy 1000 keeps the picture clearer.

That’s as low as I’ll go, because I’m sure most of you have heard of megabytes, gigabytes, and terabytes.

To put it into better perspective:

1 zettabyte equales 1 000 000 000 000 000 megabytes.

Yes 15 zeros

Although, if you could take all the electrons representing the data of the internet, you could fit it into the space of your average kiwi fruit.

 It would weigh about 50 grams. Just a cool little fact you can share at your next nerd gathering.

Despite the small physical space taken up by the electrons of the internet, the internet is a very big place, and the server networks that host it are just as complicated.

I want to help you understand hosting. If you plan to build your own business website, understanding hosting is a vital part of the process.

Not understanding hosting will lead you to make mistakes that will cost you time and money.

"there are an estimated 75 million servers powering the internet."

To check out another article we have on how to pick a hosting company, check out: How To Choose The Perfect Web Hosting Service For Your New Business Website In 7 Easy Steps

 Now let’s get started…

What Is Hosting?

Hosting is the process of storing data on a computer, and then connecting that computer to the world network called the internet or World Wide Web.

Other users of the internet can connect to that computer through the internet, and access the data on it.

Through protocols that tell the computer how to process the requests for information, that computer will deliver the information it deems viewable based on access rights set by the owners of that computer.

web address bar

Enter Your Destination

The requesters also have to direct themselves to the information by knowing the directory location on the computer the information they want is stored.

This can be done by inserting the address of the information in a web browser, or clicking a link that has the address already coded into it.

For a more detailed explanation on the definition of web hosting, check out: https://techterms.com/definition/webhost

Let’s dive a little deeper now…

How Visitors Get To Your Website

When a visitor wants to access your website, they’ll type your website's address into their browser address bar.

Example


So, say your website is called www.bobsbread.com, your visitors will type:

www.bobsbread.com into their web browser.

Now, that would bring them to the main home page of the your site.

Now they want to visit a specific page about your famous rye bread. You decided to give the page file about rye the name: bobsfamousryebread.html

Now your visitors will type in www.bobsbread.com/bobsfamousryebread

This address tells the browser to locate the site www.bobsbread.com and then look for the web file bobsfamousryebread.html

The web address starts with your domain name. (I’ll get into domain names in a bit.)

But how does the browser know www.bobsbread.com is supposed to go to your website?

Let me show you…

Note: Would you like to know who we use to host our websites? These guys are the best in the industry, and their trophy case proves it. Get amazing service, fast website speeds, fully maintained and upgraded servers, easy scalability, free website transfers, and a no-hassle guarantee. Be one of the many business owners that rely on A2Hosting. Click here to learn more and take advantage of their 50% off deal on shared hosting for first time purchasers.

Domain Registration and DNS

When you purchase your hosting account, and then log into your Cpanel, there will be a spot to add domain names.

But you currently don’t have a Domain name…

Do you know what a domain name is?

A domain name is a phrase you register with a domain registrar that people can type into their browser to enter your site.

The domain can end with a number of different designations such as:

  • .com
  • .net
  • .org
  • .biz
  • .ca
  • .uk
  • .in
  • .club
  • and more

So, for example with Bob's Bread, you would probably want www.bobsbread.com.

But maybe somebody already registered www.bobsbread.com.

So, now you could try www.bobsbread.net

It is recommended you try to get a .com designated domain if possible. It is the most widely recognized.

your domain in browser

Some of the other designations may want you to meet certain requirements to use them.

Like .ca. That is the designation that recognizes a site as Canadian. To use that designation you have to:

  • be a canadian
  • and allow full public access to the information about who owns the site.

Some people want to have a site, but they don’t want their private information disclosed. So, by using a .com you can register by proxy, therefore hiding your private info.

You can’t do that with a .ca

Now that you understand domains...

You have to find a domain registrar to register your domain name.

I personally recommend GoDaddy. GoDaddy.com

Once at GoDaddy, you can search for the domain name you wish to register by typing it into the search box.

If the domain is free, and not taken by somebody else, you can buy the domain for a time you designate. Each year costing a fee.

Now that you have your domain registered, you must point your domain to your hosting company’s servers by inputting their DNS (Domain Naming System) values.

For more information regarding DNS, I suggest this post from PCMag.com: https://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/41620/dns

By pointing your domain to your server with the DNS input, you are now associating that domain name with your server’s IP address.

In your control panel, you would add the domain to your account, so the server now recognizes the domain as well.

So, instead of your visitors typing in a long string of numbers (I.P address) to reach your site, they just type the name of your domain.

"It is recommended that you try to get a .com name if possible. It is the most widely recognized."

Typing the root domain name into the browser will bring them to the homepage.

If they want to access another page on your site, they have to append the file name after the domain name and/or the sub-directory it is located in.

Homepage: www.bobsbread.com

Rye Bread: www.bobsbread.com/bobsfamousryebread

And if in a subdirectory called breads: www.bobsbread.com/breads/bobsfamousryebread

Now let’s move on…

Server Software

I touched on server software earlier, when I mentioned the operating systems.

I fully recommended Linux as the operating system of choice.

Different operating systems will use a different control panel.

If you decide you are going to use WordPress as your web-building software, you will want Linux for easier WordPress integration.

This is due to the PHP being the native server-side programming language of Linux, and WordPress is programmed with PHP.

You can use a Windows Server, and install PHP, but there have been known compatibility issues. As well, you need access to MySQL Databases, PHPMyAdmin, and a number of other applications that work with PHP.

These applications are not on the Plesk control panel used by Windows servers. They have work-around solutions, but those solutions are known to be a headache to deal with. 

Like trying to use the Apple Operating System to use software designed for use with the Windows Operating System. Can be done through work-around solutions. But the software is prone to glitches and bugging out. It really isn't a great solution.

The applications you want access to, for working with PHP, are part of Linux's cPanel control panel, because cPanel was designed for Linux, and PHP is native to Linux.

See what I'm getting at here... use Linux servers and make life easy.

Here is a great link to check out regarding using Linux for your WordPress site: http://www.theblogtip.com/linux-or-windows-hosting-for-wordpress/

Linux Penquin

The Linux Penguin: You Can Trust Him

Good hosting will load your server up with software solutions to connect you to many different services.

Some servers will allow you to connect your site to 3rd party services and software such as Shopify, WooCommerce, PayPal and other purchasing and shopping cart software.

Some software will help you with analytics, search engine optimization, and split testing your webpages to see which reacted better to your visitors.

Some software will help you build your website. But I don’t recommend using the stock software that comes with your hosting account.

If you pick a good host, they will have a push button install of WordPress available.

Just push the button in your cPanel and follow the very easy instructions.

The big thing to know with the software options provide hosting package is: not all are a good option.

Make sure you check outside software options for the task you need completed to make sure you are using the best options available to you before you resort to the server-provided software solutions. Some of them are great solutions, some are bare-bones and not worth using. 

This is applicable across the board with all server types.

If you use an outside software solution, you download the software and upload it yourself, following the instructions from the software developer.

Some of the software provided by the hosting company on your server is great. But there will also be 3rd party software pre-installed on the server that has been "optimized" by the hosting company. I often find this "optimized" software is a headache to use.

It is often better to control the software directly than let the host do it for you by going straight to the software provider and controlling the software from their side.

Data bases are important…

"use Linux servers and make life easy"

Software is installed in a database, and the software will store the information created by the software in a database, and then pull information from the database as it needs it.

The database software is called MySQL on Linux servers. Here you can create and edit databases, and you can connect software to these created databases.

You will also want to be familiar with PHP.

I won’t claim to be a PHP expert, but being aware of the software interfaces for PHP is good to know, because when troubleshooting or editing your site, you may need to follow instructions that direct you to make changes to your PHP through one of the PHP interfaces.

You may also, at some point, want to copy and paste a snippet of PHP code into a portion of your site. You'll want to know some of the basics to be able to do that.

Here is a great resource from Code Academy about PHP to help you get started: https://www.codecademy.com/en/tracks/php

It is hard to cover everything to know about software integration with your hosting server here. I just wanted to give you a quick overview.

Now let’s keep our website safe…

Website Security

Hosting companies, at least good ones, will provide security for your server and website.

They’ll use a combination of server side security, and physical security.

Server Side Security

A good host will know how to secure their servers, following the guidelines by Linux, and installing software to help with the task.

They’ll also monitor the activity on the servers for anything suspicious.

As server space renter, you can do your part to help secure your website while the host protects the server.

What you can do depends on the method you decide to us when building your site.

But, no matter how you build your site, you can use SSL to protect your website visitors.

A good host will provide a free SSL encryption method for you to use, with the option of purchasing your own SSL certificate if you decide you need it.

You will still need to set up you SSL, however, even if the encryption is provide for free.

Here is a great place to get started learning about SSL

You can also install  security plugins on your WordPress site like WP-SpamShield.

Check out WP-SpamShield here

Server Security

There are also .htaccess file edits you can make to secure your site, and a good host will help you with that if you ask.

Click here to learn how to make the .htaccess file edits so you can redirect your visitors to your SSL secure website.

Click here to learn about securing your .htaccess files ,so hackers can't take control of your site.

Your host will also have their own security initiatives in place to protect the server.

My host uses:

  • HackScan, which I believe is their own program designed to watch for Malware.
  • They also use KernalCare, which is available for many hosting companies to use.

Learn more about HackScan and KernalCare here

Now on to physical server security…

Physical Server Security

A server is a physical computer, stored in a building, and accessible by real people.

Servers can store a lot of sensitive information, and it is important that physical security of these servers is maintained.

You want to make sure your hosting company maintains strict control over those servers.

They should incorporate:

  • A physical fenced barrier
  • Limited Access Keys
  • 24/7 Security Monitoring with Cameras and Sensors
  • A security guard should be including the location as part of his route.
  • And their data centre must be SSAE16 Certified

Don’t allow a cheap hosting company to take care of your website. If they can’t afford to secure their location, you are putting yourself and your visitors at risk.

Click here to check out A2 Hosting as a great example of a company that takes your security, your visitors' security, and their security seriously.

You'll have to scroll down a bit to see the physical security measures they use.

"Don't allow a cheap hosting company to take care of your website. If they can't afford to secure their location, you are putting yourself and your visitors at risk."

You'll also notice they mention their facility is SSAE16 Certified. This is an important regulation to follow and be certified under when your business deals with and manages a data centre that distributes the sensitive information of third party users.

You can learn more about SSAE16 by reading this article from the Data Center Journal: http://www.datacenterjournal.com/is-your-data-center-ssae-16-certified/

Now, let's speed up your site…

Note: Would you like to know who we use to host our websites? These guys are the best in the industry, and their trophy case proves it. Get amazing service, fast website speeds, fully maintained and upgraded servers, easy scalability, free website transfers, and a no-hassle guarantee. Be one of the many business owners that rely on A2Hosting. Click here to learn more and take advantage of their 50% off deal on shared hosting for first time purchasers.

Website Caching

You want your site to be the fastest it can be.

Choosing a host that has the latest server technology available is a great step forward. But another way to help keep your site fast is by caching your website.

Website caching is the process of storing your web files in your visitor's browser. When that visitor comes back again, and visits a page they viewed before, the browser will bring up the page from the computer storage, rather than having to rely on their internet connection and your server to deliver it.

This makes the site faster to them.

You can cache your site easily with a website caching plugin for WordPress. I like to use WP Super Cache.

Now what about if they haven’t visited your site before? How can you deliver your content to them faster then?

Content Delivery

Introducing Content Delivery Networks…

Or CDN

A CDN will cache your site to servers closer to the location of your visitor. The farther away a visitor is from your server’s physical location, the longer it takes to load up your site.

A site that takes more than 3 seconds to load can reduce your visitor retention by 33%. Imagine a 33% loss in sales, just because your site took 3.5 seconds to load.

Why risk it. Make sure your site loads up fast.

The other benefit of a CDN is: If your site crashes, but the CDN has a cached version of your site, the cached version will be delivered to the visitor, and not an error.

This uninterrupted up-time will retain the confidence of your visitors.

How Does It Work?


If your server is in the U.S, and your visitor is in the U.K, the visitor has to be sent the information from your server in the U.S to view your site.

But, if your are using a CDN network, and the CDN you choose has a server in the U.K, the visitor from the U.K will receive a cached version of your site from the CDN’s U.K server. This will cut down the load time.

The CDN will also update the cached version of the site, so your most updated version of your site is delivered. Often, you can set the update frequency yourself, depending on the CDN you use.

Here are some CDN networks you can choose from:

  • Cloudflare
  • MaxCDN
  • Google Cloud CDN
  • CDN777
  • Akamai
  • Rackspace
  • Amazon’s AWS
  • EdgeCast
  • Fastly
  • Incapsula

And there are many more...

​​​​"This uninterrupted up-time will retain the confidence of your visitors."

Cloudflare is a very popular CDN due to their free package, which delivers much of what small business websites need.

If your business relies a lot on your website for income, and you can use the additional analytics provided by CloudFlare, the premium version may be a good fit as well. Click here to visit Cloudflare

Here is a great guide on content delivery networks by globaldots.com: http://www.globaldots.com/content-delivery-network-explained/

Choices, choices, choices…

Types Of Hosting

Hosting Packages offered by hosting companies usually are defined by the different types of hosting offered. Depending on your website's goals and resource demands, you may need one package more than another.

And some hosting packages aren’t for website’s at all. Their use enters a different part of the internet world. They can be used for software and app development, resource distribution, Service as a Software (SaaS), and reseller hosting.

Let’s begin learning about the types of hosting available...

Dedicated

Dedicated hosting will designate 1 server to your account. You are renting the entire server. No sharing space with anyone.

All the server’s resources are dedicated to your needs.

Settings and adjustments are not limited, because you won’t be effecting any other server renter's experience, and you also have the choice of root access if you select an unmanaged server. Though, I don't recommend that unless you are doing something crazy with your server like developing software.

If you plan on having a lot of websites, or expect high traffic to your sites, this may be the type of hosting you need.

types of hosting options

Shared

Shared hosting is just like it sounds. You will be sharing a server with other renters.

The resources of the server are shared among the renters.

You will be limited to some of the settings you can change due to the fact some setting changes will effect the experience of other renters.

Settings available for change are those that only effect your account on the server. Much like having a non-admin account on your computer at work or home.

If you are going to have low to moderate traffic, and you don’t need a lot of server resources, or are only going to operate a few websites, then shared hosting may be all you need.

Reseller

Reseller hosting is for those who want to get into the hosting business.

You rent the server from the hosting company, and sub rent the server to your own customers.

The hosting company will also take care of the technical support for you, so all you need to worry about is selling your hosting.

Cloud

Cloud hosting is a newer concept in hosting.

Instead of your website being hosted on one server, your website is hosted on multiple server partitions, on multiple servers.

This ensures no down time, and multiple servers can kick in to help if there is a large spike in traffic.

Often, cloud hosting is charge based on bandwidth usage over a specific period of time.

So, the more resources you use, the larger the bill. This is true with all hosting, but with the cloud, it is calculated on a month-to-month cycle and automatically scaled up.

If you are to get charged more on your other server packages, your host will require you to move up in hosting packages because your current package resources are being exceeded by your website's demands on it.

Here is some more information from lifewire.com regarding cloud hosting: https://www.lifewire.com/understanding-what-cloud-hosting-is-3473557

" VPS is a great solution as a stepping stone between shared and dedicated hosting."

VPS

VPS stands for Virtual Private Shared hosting.

VPS is a great middle ground between shared hosting, and dedicated servers.

The price is also mid-range.

A shared hosting account shares a server with multiple renters, using the same operating system, and sharing the servers resources.

You setting changes are limited to those that can not effect the other renters. Also, with shared, you are at risk of other websites bringing in security threats to the entire server.

You are also limited to low traffic sites that use lower resources.

With VPS, however, you are given your own partition on a server, that has its own operating system, and a specific amount of the servers resources are dedicated to your site, no matter what.

You are also not limited to server setting changes. Because your partition acts like its own dedicated server, just without the full power of a dedicated server.

VPS is a great solution as a stepping stone between shared and dedicated hosting.

Learn about the different types of hosting from A2 Hosting. They go over all the options.

So, do you know what type of hosting you need…?

What Type Do You Need?

In order to evaluate the type of hosting you need, you must evaluate your website’s goals.

You need to estimate the traffic demands within the near future, and the resource demands your site will incure.

Some of your website goals may include...

Income Site

An income site’s goal is just that. You plan to generate income from this site.

Customers will purchase from this site, or be directed to a purchase location off site, but still online.

The important thing to note is:

You will be having a lot of traffic, and probably a lot of software to manage and track that traffic, as well as software to manage and display content to that traffic.

Lots Of Traffic

Is Your Website Ready For Them?

The site may start off as a small resource dependent site, but your goal should be to grow it much larger.

You will probably be fine starting with a shared hosting account, but you’ll be scaling up to a VPS, and eventually a dedicated account.

If you already have the ability to drive a lot of traffic to your new site quickly, you’ll probably want to start off with a VPS or Dedicated hosting package.

Informational

If your site is purely for informational purposes, and to direct traffic to your physical store front, you’ll probably be experiencing lighter to moderate traffic.

This of course will depend on your goals for your physical business location.

As I assume you are probably a newer or small business, the ability to handle hordes of customers at once is probably limited, and so the traffic to your site will also be lighter.

I recommend a shared hosting account. You may never need more than this. But of course, if you do, you will always have the option to scale up.

If you are a big company with the ability to handle a lot of customers through your doors, you probably don’t need to be reading this article, because you’re most likely going to have the funds to hire a company that specializes in web development.

My Goal

The goal of this article was to inform you about the fundamentals about web hosting.

It is impossible to teach you everything there is to know about web hosting from one article. I doubt you could fit all the information in one book.

But there is a large community of web developers and hosting experts that are willing to help online.

"Sometimes the hardest part about being new at something is not even knowing what to ask."

When you are trying to select a web hosting service, it is important to know how hosting works so you can make the most informed decision about what you are going to need for your website.

You also will know a little more about what you are doing, or at least know where to look for help once you dive into your hosting control panel.

Sometimes the hardest part about being new at something is not even knowing what to ask.

I hope after reading this you’ll be able to form the right questions, so you can get the right answers.

Did you find this information helpful? Do you like to help your friends? 

Share now to give them a boost!

Note: Would you like to know who we use to host our websites? These guys are the best in the industry, and their trophy case proves it. Get amazing service, fast website speeds, fully maintained and upgraded servers, easy scalability, free website transfers, and a no-hassle guarantee. Be one of the many business owners that rely on A2Hosting. Click here to learn more and take advantage of their 50% off deal on shared hosting for first time purchasers.

About the author

CuylerC

Cuyler loves WordPress. He uses it to set up websites, web-software systems, and eCommerce channels. He has experience in the technical world of the internet, and is good at troubleshooting problems through google searches, and technical support. (gotta love Google and good tech support). He has come to believe that some problems aren't worth solving himself if he can just pay for a good service to put that responsibility on. He would rather spend time building his websites and business than solving technical problems. He spent too much time doing that already.