Web Servers and Hosting


Websites may be installed on various types of servers, which are computer systems that process requests via http (hypertext transfer protocol).  HTTP is a computer protocol for transferring information across the Net in such a way as to meet the demands of the global hypertext system. A server can be a single computer in a home, dedicated as a web server, or large systems for corporate use in single or multiple locations. Most websites are hosted on web servers maintained by hosting companies, which may be located in several countries.

Web hosting is the easiest way to set up a website and facilities available vary, as do the requirements to install and maintain of different types of websites. These include many different types of sites such as a person wanting to have a single page site for blogging, a tradesman advertising services, a home industry marketing its products and range up to large companies, or government departments, which do not want to maintain their own servers.

If you are looking for hosting for a personal website or a business site for the first time, you will find so many choices, it will be confusing. There are companies as large as Google Web services and Amazon Web Services down to small hosting companies scattered around the world.  The first thing to remember is that, providing local regulations allow, you can install and administer a site on a server located anywhere in the world from wherever you are located.  However, support is essential and be careful that the hosting company can provide support in your language. Smaller companies may only be competent in the local language.

There are many offers of free hosting, where you may only need to pay for the registration of a new domain; and others, where the domain registration is free, after you order hosting for a fixed period.  Remember that all domains must be renewed every year and, whatever the initial cost, even if free, there will be a listed cost for renewal1. This varies depending on the domain name extension, originally .com for commercial, .org for organisations and so on, but now there are many other choices, some tied to specific countries. Check the renewal cost, if you plan to extend your use of the domain for more than a year.

The free and least expensive hosting is usually on shared servers, which have certain limitations. For larger businesses dedicated servers may be used. These have greater capacity for storage and traffic and more complete services. The most popular software used on servers is IIS (Microsoft Corporation),  Apache (Apache Software Foundation) and NGINX (NGINX, Inc.).  Google has its own software.  Most hosting servers tend to use Apache. The server may use several other software programmes and server-side scripts that provide services including PHP, a server-side scripting and programming language; and MySQL, which provides database management.  It is often with these ancillary features that the free or shared hosting may fall short. Even when these facilities are limited, they should at least be up-to-date, to avoid security issues. The premium and dedicated hosting will usually give the user more control on what can be installed and enabled.

We have evaluated and used various hosting companies. The better ones will have a good website, which explains what they offer clearly.   Go to their  website and check them out. Look at what is available and whether it meets your requirements.  Avoid those that put advertising on your site.  Some will give you your money back after a month’s trial. If you are ordering a new domain from the hosting company, make sure they are an accredited ICANN registrar. Also make sure the actual server you want to use is in a country, which is stable and has good security.

We have recently completed a survey of free web hosting, which may be of interest to anyone just starting or considering, to build a website. We have put our reviews of the offerings of free web hosting on a new dedicated website Free Web Hosting – Reviews and, although not exhaustive, have tried to make them as comprehensive as possible. They range from 100 MB disk storage space with 1 GB bandwidth and no database to unlimited disk storage storage, bandwidth and databases. The reviews only include hosting, which is free of advertising and use PHP versions, which are still supported.

1.  There is a very limited number of TLDs (top level domains) with special conditions attached, that are free. This is explained in the Free Web Hosting – Reviews.

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