All the above names refer to the same thing and bear the same description. As a rough definition of hosting, we could try “the business of housing, serving, and maintaining files for one or more web sites” or the “service provided by a vendor which offers a physical location for the storage of web pages and files”.
Let’s start by saying why was there necessary to develop such a business, because it’s a technical possibility to connect a simple PC to internet and serve pages, but in practice it hasn’t go enough power to serve many users at the same time. So we come to the web hosts, for they own and maintain very powerful web servers which stores your web pages and enables many web users to access your web pages at the same time. They provide space on a server owned or leased for use by clients, as well as providing internet connectivity, usually in a data center. They also can provide data center space and connectivity to the internet for other servers located in their data center.
The web hosts can also provide related services, which vary from firm to firm, like:
- Registration of the domain name
- Amount of web space available
- Number of email addresses
- Operating systems of web servers
- Different type of technical support
There are two kind of hosting companies: one who offers host for free and the other one which asks for a subscription to host your site.
The free ones have multiple disadvantages, like:
- They are very limiting
- Don’t allow you to store much on your pages
- You probably won’t be able to run CGI (see below the explication)
- You may not be able to choose a domain name
- You will probably have annoying banners on your site
This raises the next question: what should we all be looking for when searching for a hosting company?
Here are some examples:
- What is my bandwidth limit? AND What happens if I go over my monthly bandwidth limit?
- Does my account have a CGI-bin?
- Do I receive E-mail and how many accounts do I get?
- Do I have FTP access?
- What types of support does the host offer?
- Are ads placed on my site?
The business of hosting, as in all the IT business, requires a special vocabulary and use different means of words. Here are some of them, in a brief description:
- A web server includes the hardware, operating system, server software, TCP/IP protocols and the web site content. They process requests from browsers for web pages and serve them up via HTTP.
- HTTP comes from Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, which is the underlying protocol used on the Internet. HTTP defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what action web servers and browsers should take in response to various commands.
- A domain name is actually the name of the site, which is, after the command is sent, translated by the Domain Name System (DNS) into the numeric addresses (Internet Protocol (IP) numbers).
- An IP address is a numeric address written as a set of four numbers separated by dots, for example 126.96.36.199. The address provides a unique identification of a computer and the network it belongs to.
- DNS, as said above, comes from Domain Name System, and is a system of mapping names to IP addresses. It’s like the phonebook of the Internet.
- FTP comes from File Transfer Protocol and that means that it allows the transfer of one or more files from one computer to another across the Internet. Usually from a personal computer to a server or vice versa.
- CGI comes from Common Gateway Interface and it provides a method to interface a computer program with an HTML page. CGI programs can do many different things, such as: counting visitors to your web site or processing data obtained from online forms.
- HTML comes from HyperText Markup Language is the standard language used to create web pages.
- A bandwidth is the amount of information that can be transferred from the server to a browser. Hosts usually limit the amount of bandwidth a user has available per month.