As soon as you have decided that you want establish an online presence you need to choose a web host. Part of this is process is going to be research and due diligence, but probably the first step is to know what type of web hosting you are going to need - obviously there is no point in doing research on a host only to find they don't offer the type of hosting you need for your website. Unfortunately, there is a myriad of types of hosting to explore. The most common types (meaning the types you will probably have to use) are explained in some detail below.
First of all, you need to establish what your website is for. If it is for private purposes, perhaps the multitude of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, etc.) can meet your purpose. The advent of social media has really made the personal/family website redundant.
However, job hunters do these days put their resumes online just in case someone out there is Googling for their specific skill sets and to show potential employers they have IT talents a company could utilize.
A couple of pages of resume will not take up much disk space, and perhaps a free web hosting service might be your best option for this. However, as you might imagine, in terms of service, with a free host you often get what you pay for. Servers are often down and that means your site is down, too.
If your need is more substantial, perhaps you have a company website that isn't particularly sophisticated - something like an online brochure - and needs to be available 24/7, then perhaps a cheap shared hosting service is what you need.
A shared hosting account can prove excellent value. There are countless web hosts around offering excellent services at around the $30-50 a year mark, with some really good hosts offering shared services at even less than that. As the name implies, a website that utilizes a shared hosting account sits on a server and shares that server's resources (RAM, memory, disk space, bandwidth, etc.) with other websites.
Although shared hosting is generally a good solution for most types of hosting, it can be unreliable for bigger, database-driven websites (for example, ecommerce websites) that require a lot of a server's resources. A popular ecommerce website with a larger number of visitors could slow a shared server down until it stops - and when it does your site is no longer making money.
SSD Shared Hosting
However, these days there is another layer of shared hosting, and that is Solid State Drive (SSD) hosting, and this is generally much faster than the traditional "spinning disk" drive hosting that shared web hosts have relied on. With no moving parts, SSD drives are faster and more efficient, meaning they can manage a bigger workload than standard shared hosting servers, and that means they can handle your load easier. In fact, most types of web hosting offer SSD options, so for each type of hosting that requires a physical machine (meaning not in the cloud), there is usually an SSD alternative.
Whether this type of hosting is reliable for a big ecommerce site is debatable, but it should certainly be adequate for the average 'fixed' (meaning non-dynamic) website (often built using .html). However, as your website gets bigger and more resource hungry as you add bells and whistles, your web host might "invite" you to upgrade your hosting package to Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting or even a Dedicated Server.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
VPS hosting is essentially a highly organized form of shared hosting. A server that hosts shared hosting accounts could host thousands of websites. Each website will 'share' the resources available on the server in a 'winner-takes-all' fashion - and often that really is the case. VPS is different in that it restricts the number of sites that can be on a server.
Each website is given a strict allocation of the available resources a server offers. Unlike in shared hosting, if a website does not use the resources it is allocated, they remain unused. This type of hosting is good for any type of site, and is especially good for sites that utilize Content Management Systems (CMSs) like Joomla or WordPress, which are generally quite resource hungry. Again, whether you would add a huge ecommerce website to a VPS account is debatable. Once a VPS accounts resources are used, that's it - your website is no longer available. Spikes in traffic might bring your website offline, so for 'mission critical' websites that need to be available 24/7, VPS might prove a risk.
As you might understand from the name, a Dedicated Server is different from Shared Hosting or VPS. A server is like a computer. It is a physical machine. If you rent a Dedicated Server, you get all of the resources it offers and you can either allocate them to a single website, or a few websites. Many servers offer 16GB of RAM, 2 × 1000GB of storage, unmetered bandwidth and a transfer speed of 100Mbps. Of course, the cost of all these resources is substantially more (perhaps $150 per month for the specifications outlined) but if you have the type of website that needs to be up on an ongoing basis and you can't afford slip ups because any downtime costs you money, then a Dedicated Server is for you.
However, you need to understand that along with the resources, you get the machine as well. It is usually on your own premises. This means you have to manage everything you want to do with it and maintain it yourself, and if you have limited technical skills, that is going to be a challenge. Note too, that with a Dedicated Server onsite, you will have to manage its environment properly.
Managed Hosting is essentially renting a Dedicated Server but having someone else do all the heavy lifting. Updating software, adding patches, restarting the server - if this is all gibberish to you then you need a high level of managed support. However, if you do have some skills your Managed Hosting package can be tailored to provide the skills you are missing. Of course Managed Hosting comes at a cost - often a high one. But if you have a need and not the skills, this is a great alternative.
Whereas with Dedicated Server Hosting a user rents an entire physical machine which he/she must manage, Colocation Hosting is different in that the physical machine is in a data center. The Colocation Hosting manages the data center environment (security, cooling, etc.) but the user manages the physical machine. Generally, Colocation providers offer no support for a customer's server and just manage the facilities it is housed in.
Colocation Hosting avoids the need for a user to maintain an in-house environment that is suitable to maintain a Dedicated Server, but this type of hosting is extremely costly, and only applicable for websites that are absolutely mission critical.
Reseller Hosting can be a Shared Hosting account, a VPS account, or even a Dedicated Hosting or Collated Hosting account that is configured to allow users to set up third parties as web hosts. The owner of a Reseller Hosting account allocates resources to customers who in turn offer hosting packages to their own customers.
This type of hosting can be particularly useful for web designers and developers who produce websites and apps for people. Reseller hosting allows them to offer a full package and get a customer's site up and running and ready for them to see on the Internet. It is also of use to the budding entrepreneur who wants to get into the web hosting industry.
Cloud Hosting is different from all other types of hosting. Rather than being dependent on physical machines which are rented to customers, or have a proportion of resources and disk space allocated to a customer, the cloud is a network of machines that combines each machine's resources and disk space with that of others in the network. This creates a pool (or 'cloud') or resources that are generally sold on an 'as-used' basis, meaning a Cloud Hosting account holder pays only for the resources used, and nothing else.
Maintenance of the cloud and all other aspects of maintaining web hosting is the responsibility of the Cloud Hosting service provider. Paying only for resources used, Cloud Hosting can be cost efficient for a website of any size. It is especially useful for websites that might experience bursts of traffic (or traffic 'spikes').
The "cloud" is more resilient to natural disasters as data can quickly be transferred to any other machine that is in the network. However, the cloud might not be suitable for websites that save user details such as credit card information as there have been a number of high profile data thefts from cloud infrastructures. Although there are Private Clouds that are purportedly more secure, the technology is still not as mature as it will be, so highly sensitive data is probably better stored in a Dedicated Server where it can be controlled more easily.