Webhosting 101
An introduction of basic web hosting terms

An Introduction to Domain Names

Simply put, a domain name is a "front" - they are word sequences users enter in their browser's location bar to visit your site, but are not a Web site's true address. Domain names are attached to DNS (Domain Naming System) servers, which are used to translate numeric addresses (known as IP, or Internet Protocol, addresses) into words. Each site you visit on the net has a numeric IP address behind its name, which represents the site's true address on the Internet.

Domain names are typically categorized by their extension, which is their identifying code. The three most popular types of Top Level Domains (TLDs), which are domains that are not associated with a country, are: .COM: Short for .commercial. Domain names with the .com extension are by far the most popular, and can be purchased by any individual or business. . .NET: Short for .network, this domain extension was originally designed to be used by technical Web sites. However, domains using this extension can be registered by anyone. .ORG: Short for .organization. Originally designated for non-profit firms and any other organizations that did not fit under the .com or .net extension, any individual or business may now register a .org domain name. COUNTRY LEVEL DOMAINS Domain names can also be assigned using country extensions. Each country has its own domain extension; Canada, for example, is .ca, while Japan has been assigned .jp. Most countries have specific rules surrounding exactly who can register domains using their extension and for what purpose; it's therefore important to look before you leap. ALTERNATIVE DOMAIN NAMES The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization responsible for the administration of TLDs worldwide, recently approved several new extensions that are not specific to any country. These are: # .areo # .biz # .coop # .info # .museum # .name # .pro

Domain Name Buying Strategies

In today's world of e-business, one of the biggest advantages you have as a domain name buyer is control. The industry is chock full of companies offering domain name registration services, empowering you to seek out precisely what you are looking for.

But although you are ultimately in control, buying a domain name still requires careful consideration. After all, you want to buy a useful domain that is backed by a reliable registrar. Obviously, the first step in purchasing a domain is to think of a name. When searching for a name, forget about purchasing a single-world .com, .net or .org domain name; virtually all of these have already been snapped up. Instead, try to think of word variations or word combinations that are easy to remember and spell. If you can't think of a suitable name on your own, there are several tools available that can help you. (Nameboy is one of the most powerful and popular tools; simply enter two keywords in to the site's interface, and it will return several dozen domain name ideas.) Once you've settled on a domain name, be sure to shop around for a reasonable price before committing to a registrar. The days of the $100 domain name are over; many reputable companies now offer domains as low as nine or ten dollars. When shopping, keep your eyes peeled for any value added services you may find useful, including: * Domain name parking/temporary one-page sites * URL forwarding * Free e-mail forwarding * Technical support * Online control panel Remember, the industry is so saturated that you are in control. Therefore, shop around for a deal you feel best suits you prior to registering. You'll want to make the right choice the first time, as transferring your domain to a new registrar is rarely a pleasant experience. When shopping for a domain, it is also important to keep an eye open for domain name scams. The surging popularity of domain name affiliate programs has created countless "fly by night" operations; dozens of domain name resellers worldwide cease operations every month, often leaving the administrative status of the domains they leave behind up in the air. Making a purchase from a reseller is not a bad decision, but make sure to research the company's history and credentials. There are less than 170 ICANN-accredited registrars (that is, non-resellers) for .com, .net and .org domains worldwide; a full list is available here.

Introduction to Web Hosting

Web hosting is a service that allows users to post Web pages to the Internet. A Web host, or hosting service provider (HSP), is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for Web sites to be viewed on the Web. Web hosting is a primary service that consumers can utilize after obtaining either dial-up or broadband access to the Internet. It allows users to disseminate their own information resources to any Internet user that is interested in accessing them. Web hosting utilizes the server/client model to distribute content. A Web hosting provider will offer its clients access to a Web server that will push that client's content to recipients on request. Recipients use clients, or Web browsers, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator to request content from the Web over their own Internet connection. Web sites are hosted, or stored, on a special computer called a server. The server, or host computer, allows Internet users connected anywhere to reach your site when they put in your domain address, for example: www.yourcompany.com. The host computers are set up so that when someone types in your domain name (your Web address), the address will follow a route from computer to computer until it reaches your host computer and your web site. Then the Internet user will be able to browse through your Web site. Hosting companies usually require that you own your own domain name in order to host with them. If you don't have a domain name, most hosting companies will help you purchase one. To have a Web site on the Internet you first need to have a Web server. Unfortunately, owning and operating a Web server can be very costly and requires technical expertise that most businesses do not possess. This is where "Web hosts" come in. Web hosts provide the equipment and other technical resources that are required to provide a consumer with their own customized Web site. Hosting companies charge a rental fee for the service of storing your Web site and allowing Web site visitor traffic flow to through their computers to get to the information on your site. Web hosting services are more advantageous because they are outsourced, meaning that the physical location of the Web server does not reside at the consumer's premises. Outsourcing your Web presence effectively transfers the responsibility for maintaining your Web site infrastructure from yourself to an organization that is more competent to do so. Many individuals and small businesses take advantage of Web hosts in order to free themselves from pre-occupying their scarce human and financial resources on Web host issues. Individuals and companies who outsource their Web presence do so in order to achieve the following objectives: reduce and control operating costs; improve their own company focus; gain access to in-depth expertise; free internal resources for core competencies; and obtain access to world-class capabilities to control IT functions which are difficult to manage. The best Web hosting services will provide relatively seamless access to IT functions that will allow you to self-publish your Web site. It is important to note that "Web hosting" strictly refers to providing the consumer with the capacity to upload content to a server for immediate transmission for those that request it. Web hosting does not include the authoring of a Web site or the development of database-driven components or code. It is incumbent upon the consumer of Web hosting services to develop this material or have it developed on his or her behalf. Web hosting is offered to the consumer in multiple formats based upon the user's requirements. These requirements are incumbent upon cost and infrastructure provided. Web hosting can be obtained free of cost from content portal sites such as Yahoo! GeoCities. Such content sites invite individual users to establish Web sites on their domain in order to create a critical mass of core content on their online property. The user does not pay for service because it is subsidized by banner advertising. Because such sites do not charge, they offer limited service depth and quality of service. For example, free services will not provide customized hosting services where domain names are personalized (i.e., www.yourdomain.com). The "paid" class of Web hosting services however does provide such services. Paid services are normally offered by Internet service providers (ISPs) or by hosting service providers (HSPs). Paid services provide a reliable set of offerings that ensure domain name personalization, service depth and high levels of quality of service. The paid class of Web hosting includes shared, dedicated and managed services. Shared is the most basic level of hosting. With shared hosting, numerous Web sites are shared on one server. While an economic solution, they typically cannot handle large amounts of storage or traffic. If a consumer's needs are more sophisticated, then they might opt for either dedicated or managed services. Dedicated hosting allots a Web site its own server. This is more flexible than shared hosting, as webmasters typically have full control over the back end of the server, including choice of OS. Managed hosting, on the other hand is a dedicated server that is accompanied by a full suite of technical support, maintenance and monitoring services. This differs from dedicated Web hosting, where customers are provided with their own servers but are still responsible for virtually all administrative and maintenance duties.

Evaluating Personal Hosting Solutions

Web hosting for personal sites differs tremendously from hosting for mission-critical e-commerce in that it is not as complex or demanding. For this reason, individuals and hobbyists can opt to select low-cost solutions that allow them to experiment with Internet technology without making a demanding or expensive commitment. Personal Web sites that focus on publishing an individual's resumes and other personal content can be easily satisfied by free hosting solutions. Typically, if all you require is a small personal Web site, then there are a myriad of free sub-domain hosting solutions that are available. Free sub-domain hosting allows individuals to host their Web site at a large portal or content aggregator. Usually your Web site is hosted in a Web community, and is sub-categorized by interest. The hosting is provided free-of-charge by way of pop-up or banner advertIsements and sponsorship automatically included by the host. The most popular of these sites include Yahoo! Geocities (www.geocities.com) and Tripod (www.tripod.com). These services are only meant for personal use and because they are offered en masse, your site will be one of many sites shared on a server. Because free hosts don't charge you for their services, their fiduciary responsibility to you and your quality of service is limited. Free hosts have a tendency to offer no quality assurance or technical support because their business model is a loss leader meant to attract a large amount of users in order to generate advertising revenue. While this business model might not amount to the most dependable service, it does allow individuals to set up free sites. Another solution that many individuals and hobbyists also select is the hosting associated with their ISP account. Many ISPs offer sub-domain hosting space along with their dial-up or broadband access to the Internet. More complex hosting services provide highly individualized functionality that guarantees a sound level of quality service. Such services are fee-based, ensuring that revenues can be allotted to maintaining and improving service and providing superior technical support. The most basic entry-level fee-based service is "virtual" or "shared" hosting. Shared servers offer clients the ability to host their Web site on a powerful, professionally managed server, at a low monthly cost. Shared servers provide individual Web sites with redundant connectivity, guaranteed uptime. These services provide an excellent solution for entry-level hosting needs because they are designed to host small-scale e-commerce sites and static Web pages. These sites are also popular amongst first-time webmasters because they can provide reliable Web presence without advanced technical skills. These servers are also very popular amongst webmasters because they allow you have your Web site hosted on your domain name such as http://www.yourname.com. Such services vary widely in price and can cost anywhere between $2 to $50. As with any purchase, users can expect the quality of service to fluctuate based upon the amount paid for the service. "Caveat emptor" is thus the rule and not the exception when it comes to purchasing shared hosting services. If an individual decides to purchase a relatively inexpensive package, then he or she can expect the quality to reflect the cost of the service. The lower the price one pays for hosting, the more network outages and service problems a consumer can expect. This however might be acceptable if all an individual desires is non mission-critical hosting for a non-essential personal site.

Choosing a Budget Web Host

When considering a budget host, consumers must realize that the options that they will receive will be tremendously limited. Budget hosting is usually priced between $2 to $25 per month. This cheap pricing makes Web hosting more accessible to consumers who want to obtain an Internet presence for their individual interests or for the purposes of experimentation. Lower price schemes however guarantee that the quality level of the hosting will be less than stellar. Budget hosts can offer low prices because most take a "no-frills," bulk approach towards hosting. All budget hosts leverage shared hosting, in which numerous customer resources are multiplexed upon a single server. In the case of most budget hosts, many hundreds of customers are located upon single servers or hosting appliances. The net result is that consumers experience a tremendous amount of service degradation in respect to server performance and network efficiency. With a multitude of consumers sharing a single server, any access to service is determined on a first-come, first-serve basis. In effect, consumers compete for all accessible services. Usually, this competition results in a tremendous amount of server load which causes tremendously slow execution of applications on the server, and high levels of latency, or network delay. Most budget hosts therefore cannot guarantee 24/7 uptime due to server load issues. Many budget hosts might also guarantee "unlimited bandwidth," or unlimited traffic to and from your Web site. Such claims are exaggerations since bandwidth is a finite resource that the budget hosting company purchases from an upstream provider. Further, consumers must remember that the functionality of bandwidth is limited by server performance. If a Web server is inefficiently provisioned and has a large number of hosted Internet domains, that server's performance will become slow and impeded, and will even block requests for Web pages. If a Web server does not allow connections due to the sheer amount of traffic to the server, then the promise of "unlimited bandwidth" becomes effectively meaningless. Since budget hosts make smaller profit margins than regular hosts, which offer hosting in the $25 to $100 per month range, it can be expected that technical support and customer care functions will not be a high priority for a typical budget host. With a budget host making smaller margins, consumers can assume that that most of the revenue will be retained and not spent on support. Most industry analysts however peg typical support costs at 30 per cent of a hosting company's revenue stream. Due to the smaller margins that a budget host makes, consumers can deduce that much less human and capital resources will allocated to technical support. This can become a tremendous problem, since most budget-hosting infrastructure is usually stretched to the limit. With a tremendous amount of server issues, due to its bulk approach towards hosting, consumers of such services can expect little effective support for a budget host when a technical issue arises. Good technical support provides quick response and definitive solutions to any problems that might crop up. This usually requires a good investment in customer relationship management and human resources, which budget hosts most usually lack. Budget hosts therefore should never be considered for mission-critical e-commerce, or even for an Internet presence for a small or mid-sized business. The best use of budget hosting service is for a small personal site or to evaluate and learn Internet technologies if you are a novice.

What is Virtual or Shared Web Hosting?

Virtual or shared Web hosting is the business of housing and serving files for a Web site. Typically, an individual or small to mid-sized business cannot afford to independently obtain an extremely robust connection to the Internet for their Web presence. Virtual or shared Web hosting provides these consumers with the option to outsource their Internet requirements inexpensively. Using a shared hosting service allows these companies to share the cost of a fast Internet connection for serving files. It is the most basic entry-level, fee-based hosting service a customer can select. Shared hosting offers clients the ability to host their Web site on a powerful, professionally managed server at a low monthly cost. Shared servers provide individual Web sites with redundant connectivity and guaranteed uptime. These services provide an excellent solution for entry-level hosting needs because they are designed to host small-scale e-commerce sites and static Web pages. Shared hosting is also popular among first-time webmasters because it can provide a reliable Web presence without advanced technical skills. Such a service is also advantageous to the smaller consumer because it assures them that they will obtain transparent services and that their Web site will have its own domain name and set of e-mail addresses. Virtual hosting services are thus extremely popular because they offer the smaller consumer fast deployment, strong resources and most importantly, low cost. By paying an affordable and predictable monthly fee to a shared Web hosting service, consumers obtain reliability, expertise and faster connections than their dial-up service can provide. Such a service is also advantageous to the smaller consumer because it allows them outsource a high-traffic, content-rich Web site for a small percentage of what it would cost to hire a single employee to develop it and run it in-house. For this reason, most individuals and small businesses opt to select a virtual hosting service because it is inexpensive and usually provides the basic services that they require. Convenience is another factor that drives popular interest in shared Web hosting due to the service's fast setup time and bundled features. Typically, site activation can take minutes after you have purchased services with a credit card. The most characteristic feature of virtual Web hosting is that services are usually bundled. For an inclusive monthly fee, consumers can obtain a variety of high-quality, multi-platform Web site solutions. Usually the bundle of services includes a minimum amount of disk storage space for your Web pages. The bundle will normally also include a minimum amount of data transfer, or a capped amount of data that your can send to individuals that access your Web site. Most virtual accounts will also include e-mail forwarding services along with hardwired, physical e-mail boxes. Mail forwarding services allows you to create e-mail aliases at your domain name that will forward to an external e-mail address. A decent shared hosting firm will also include free 24x7 technical support in all of its service bundles. It should also include unlimited file transfer protocol (FTP) services so that you can update your Web site at anytime. For your own reference, a shared Web hosting service should also provide you access to Web statistics, so that you can gage how many Internet clients are visiting your site. For the sake of accuracy, a reliable Web host should also provide its customers with access to raw statistical logs, so that consumers can use their own statistical Web packages for site analysis. Other services that are typically characteristic of a shared Web host include: daily tape backup of your Web site; anonymous FTP server access so you can provide public access to your files via file transfer protocol format; and full CGI-BIN access so that as you upload scripts that will add functionality to your Web site. Most shared or virtual hosting services now also offer hosting automation software such as control panels. The control panel allows a consumer to control most aspects of their hosting service through an online graphical interface. The graphical interface allows users to control all the characteristics of a shared hosting service described above.