Web Hosting explained
Every website needs a host to run on. Here’s an explanation of Web Hosting and what it means to you.
The process of connection to Website from your browser is complex and follows a process that crosses many layers of technology. At it’s most simplest, each time a visitor connects to your site, this is what happens:
- A Visitor types in your Domain Name (or selects it from a Search Engine) in their Browser.
- The Visitor’s computer (or smartphone or table) checks the Domain Name with a global DNS server and is provided with the IP address of the host servicing your website.
- The Visitor’s Browser will then establish a connection with the host servicing your website and request the URL of the page the Visitor typed in, or search engine provided a link to.
- The host will service the request, assemble the page in HTML format, and return it back to the browser.
This process repeats every time the Visitor requests a URL, usually through a link on the site, either through menus or hyperlinks created within the site’s content. Each time a hyperlink is clicked, the Browser connects to the host and the website returns the corresponding page, if it exists.
Layers of a Website connection
A Website generally consists of these layers of technology:
Files– a structure of folders and files that make up your website’s that are executed every time a visitor requests a URL.
Database – unless your site is built using a static or ‘flat’ file structure, it is probably built using a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress. We generally build our sites using this platform as we think it’s the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to building and operating a website.
Host – this is the computing infrastructure that services your website requests. A visitor requests a URL, the host builds the page requested and sends it back over the internet to the Visitor’s Browser
Internet – this is the medium for connecting the Visitor’s computer to the Website’s host. We think you’ll already know what this is so we won’t elaborate any more on this subject.
So what? a host is a host is a host, right?
Not quite. Much the same as there are lots of different computer makes, models and levels of performance, it’s the same for your host. It could be a low powered server sitting under someone’s desk or it could be a supercomputer sitting in a huge datacenter somewhere on the other side of the world. The permutations and options are endless and become extremely important when it comes to deciding on who’s hosting your website.
Most people, when setting up their site for the first time, will do a quick search in Google for hosting services and be presented with hundreds of providers willing to take your money and provide you with “lighting fast speeds” and “unlimited internet” for peanuts. Buyer beware, there are some really great services out there at competitive prices but there are sharks out there too. Going for the cheapest option without considering your requirements carefully could limit your site’s capabilities and provide a less than stellar experience for your visitors.
There are a few types of host available on the market, these are the most common:
Shared – Most cheap hosting services will bundle your site with their other customers, making it extremely efficient to service multiple websites from the same server, usually using the same IP address. This is a very cost effective option but has its limitations. The processing capability of the host will be directly affected by your neighbours, if one of them is a really busy store or video streaming service, you may find that your page load speeds are lower than you’d expect. This will impact your visitor’s browsing experience and could signal to search engines that you’re not worth ranking because your site is too slow.
Another pitfall with large shared hosting services is blacklisting. If one of your neighbours is less than scrupulous with their mailing campaigns, you could find that mails sent from your site become categorised as SPAM. You really don’t want this to happen as once you’re on a blacklist it can be extremely difficult to get your domain removed.
Shared services often limit the amount of Bandwidth and Disk storage available to you to be able to squeeze as many clients sites on their host. If you are searching for a suitable host you should ensure any limits they set are sufficient to service your needs.
Secure Shared – if you are running an online store, you will need to secure your website with Secure Sockets Later (SSL) encryption. This ensures that no one can capture traffic between the Browser and the Host as it is jumbled up and requires a special key to unlock it at each end. It is a mandatory requirement to encrypt traffic if you are processing customer information, read about PCI Compliance if you are setting up an online store.
In order for SSL to work, your host will require a dedicated IP Address, i.e. not shared with anyone else. A secure site can sit on shared hosted infrastructure but it has to be configured specially. This removes the risk of blacklisting but can still be at risk of degraded performance if its shared with a lot of other websites.
Dedicated – Larger websites will require a dedicated host. This is a server that does nothing else but service one website. Dedicated hosts come in a lot of different flavours and offer the possibility to scale and tune it to the site’s specific requirements. For example, a site built to stream video will have very different characteristics to a brochure site servicing images and written text.
Dedicated services are available on the market and are generally a lot more expensive than shared services. Often dedicated services will only offer you the basic hosted infrastructure and rely on you to build the operating system and network configuration. Support is often limited with these services as providers generally work on the basis that the site owner knows what they’re doing and can build and operate the host themselves.
Webworks owns and operates it’s own host infrastructure in a different way.
Built on Amazon AWS infrastructure and using the leading hosting management tools WHM & Cpanel, Webworks only services known clients. Casual buyers searching for an internet host are not allowed on our infrastructure, resulting in an extremely high-powered and stable hosting service, populated only by a select list of customers. We know their traffic patterns, resource utilisation and operating routines, such as newsletter email campaigns and ongoing performance requirements.
We are in control of how many sites we service, how much traffic they serve and how much computing power they need on a day to day basis. We are also in control of network security, providing an enhanced protective barrier, closed to the outside world. These areas are not covered by your run-of-the-mill hosting providers and generally you will be expected to cover them yourself.
Webworks provides Shared and Secure Shared hosting services at very competitive prices, offering performance and capabilities usually only available with larger dedicated services, with the security that you’re not sharing with any old Tom, Dick or Harry.
Not convinced? No problem, we’ll build your site on any host of your choosing but be aware of the following reasons why our service could be an attractive proposition:
- Search Engines factor site performance as one of the key considerations in Search Engine Ranking – in tests our page load speeds are 40-60% faster then comparably priced services
- Support and upkeep of your host is your responsibility – dealing with a faceless helpdesk to find out why your site isn’t working can be time consuming and frustrating
- Large shared hosting services are generally behind in advancements or updates. When security vulnerabilities are identified it can take months before they’re applied, we apply updates as they’re released
- Large service providers are keen to fill their hosts up to the max, this will directly affect your site’s performance, we often see shared hosts running at CPU Load Averages of 4.00 – 5.00 (our Average Load is 00.5).
- If you get blacklisted, it is your responsibility to get yourself removed, your provider will not help you. Our hosts are registered with the top anti-spam and anti-hacker agencies to ensure traffic and mail originating from our client’s sites are not flagged as Spammers or publishers of unsavoury content.
Talk to us about your Hosting requirements today!