Today Internet has become an integral part of our day-to-day life. It is one of the widely used and powerful mediums for information exchange. Internet is nothing but a network of networks connected together for information exchange. Information is generally present in the form of websites. Websites are collection of pages on a particular subject, person, company, business or any other services. Today websites are available on almost all subjects and services. One can promote his business or do actual business online through his web site.
To make these websites available to the world to see, they need to be placed on a web server. Web server is similar to a common personal computer, except that it is always connected to high-speed Internet and it’s purpose is to serve websites. The process of putting files of your website (generally HTML or php files) onto a web server is called Web Hosting. There are many companies in web hosting business and most of these companies provide a shared space on their server on rental basis. This way a hosting company can host hundreds of websites on its server and such type of hosting is called shared hosting. Within shared resources, there is another kind of hosting called reseller hosting where they also allow you to resell their hosting to your own customers. If a customer outgrows or needs root access to the server then they might opt for a VPS which are virtual boxes. Many such virtual boxes are stacked up in a single server using virtualization software. In case of high traffic websites, customers can also opt for a dedicated server(s) where they can rent the complete server(s) as well as the facilities of the provider. Some web hosting companies also allow colocation services where you can use your own server in their facilities. A large number of such dedicated servers are placed in a data center. Data centers need to have quality high-speed internet from multiple bandwidth providers, proper maintenance workforce, server space, electricity backups, cooling mechanisms etc. and so, maintaining a data center is quite expensive. So, most shared web hosting companies hire dedicated servers from reliable data centers instead of maintaining their own.
Shared web hosting companies usually provide different hosting plans to choose from. Some of the common features of these plans are:
Server Type: It can be Windows, Linux or Unix. This is operating system environment on which your web files are going to reside. Choosing the right kind of OS is important if you need to use a definite script. Different scripts have different requirements though the popular scripts work on both platforms. Linux servers are mostly preferred though as they are usually cheaper as well as more reliable than windows servers. And you also get a large choice of OS within Linux too such as CentOS, Debian etc. and you can choose the one that you are comfortable with.
Disk Space: It is the actual amount of space made available on a web server for you to host your web site. For a startup website disk space should not be a major matter of concern. Even a disk space of 100MB might be sufficient for a small personal blog.
Bandwidth: When a user visits your website, data equal to the size of that web page he is browsing is actually transferred to his computer/browser. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred from web server to the client (user). Most of the small websites will require a bandwidth under 2 GB. However, a website with file downloads or large images might need more bandwidth dependent on the visitors to his/her website(s).
Email Accounts: It is the number of email ids you get with your web hosting plan. Generally a couple of email ids are sufficient for most normal websites. Instead of using your hosting panel email, you can also use third-party email services such as Google Apps for serving emails for your websites.
Control Panel: Control Panels are another important aspect of web hosting. cPanel is the preferred control panel in most shared hosting companies due to the features and ease of use even for people new to websites. Other popular control panels including DirectAdmin, Plesk, Kloxo etc.
If you are not sure about spending money at the start then you can also opt for a free blog at blogger, WordPress.com, tumblr etc. for your own identity on the web. You can also opt for a free hosting website where you need to accept their conditions such as usage of subdomains, ads on pages or forced forum posting etc. However, if you are serious about web hosting, then you would probably need to go for a proper top level domain with a paid web hosting from a reliable provider.