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A Quick Look at Web Hosting for the Beginner

Whether you’re a web designer, business, blogger, or anyone else looking to start their own website, you’re going to need a web server to host your website files.  What follows is a quick, and hopefully informative, guide to choosing your first web host.

Now before I jump right into discussing some of the different web hosting companies out there, I feel that we should first cover the 3 different types of web hosting, along with their associated pros and cons.

Shared Hosting

The bottom rung of the web hosting ladder, shared hosting involves as many websites/accounts on one shared server as possible.  This allows the hosting provider to sell their web hosting at a significant discount, but may also involve “overselling” of accounts to the point where a web server can become overloaded and slow (or completely unresponsive).

For the beginner shared hosting is usually the way to go.  You get great features for a low price, in fact you frequently can get more features with shared hosting than a much more expensive hosting plan.

Some of the more common, or well known shared hosting providers include:

Dreamhost (my pick) – Great Customer Service, and a web hosting company owned and run by its employees.

Godaddy – One of the biggest names in domain name registration also offers shared web hosting (great if you like to have everything in one place).

1 and 1 – One of the most popular shared hosting providers with many of the customers and clients that I work with because of their low prices and frequent promotions.

Host Gator – Very popular with the design crowd (most likely due to their advertising in design magazines and such).  Host Gator is a well respected shared hosting provider with thousands of satisfied customers.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting

The middle of the road as far as web hosting goes.  For medium to large websites that may have outgrown their shared hosting, or sites that require higher uptime and performance than a shared web server can provide.  You’re still sharing accounts with other websites on the server with a VPS, but your account is guaranteed a certain allotment of the server’s resources including cpu and memory.  For those with websites that are not quite ready to make the move to managing their own dedicated server, VPS’ offer a great amount of flexibilty, and many web hosting companies take care of the server and account management for you.

Some of the more common, or well known VPS hosting providers include:

Liquid Web (my pick) – Great service and support, backed by their company owned and operated data centers, Liquid Web is a great company that is serious about web hosting.

Wired Tree – Another hosting company with really great customer support, although some say that their VPS servers seem to run slower than competitors’.

Known Host – Gaining popularity in the VPS market for their low prices and the option for premium bandwidth (in their texas datacenter) or double bandwidth (in their california datacenter).

Slicehost – Very popular with the web design/development crowd, Slicehost offers reliable VPS hosting for a very reasonable price (Note: Slicehost does not offer managed VPS plans, meaning you will be responsible for all setup required).

Dedicated Server Hosting

Go big or go home as they say, and if your shared or VPS hosting can’t cut it, then it’s time to move on to your very own, dedicated server.  No more sharing server resources with other website accounts, this baby is all yours, and while there are companies offering managed servers, the majority of companies leave you in charge of the server management.  This is also the place to be if you are looking for custom applications or uses, such as online gaming servers, web/email/database servers, and more.

Some of the more common, or well known dedicated server providers include:

Rackspace – Well known and respected company offering 24×7 customer support and 0% downtime for mission critical web services.

The Planet – Another well known and commonly used host that is believed to currently be the largest dedicated server provider in the world.

Server Beach – Top notch hosting provider that has worked with some of the biggest projects and web services out there including Youtube.

Liquid Web – What can I say, Liquid Web is a great company, with great customer support, and you can’t go wrong with their services.

Additional Web Hosting Options

Well if that all wasn’t enough to confuse you, there are also 2 less common types of web hosting that have starting gaining popularity with website owners:

Reseller Hosting

Think of shared hosting as you’re paying for a plan similar to a VPS, with the tools and capability to resell individual accounts (similar to shared hosting, but you do the selling).  Reseller hosting has been around for a number of years, but has seen a tremendous growth in users as hosting prices have come down, and the number of competing reseller hosting providers has increased.

Some of the more common, or well known reseller hosting providers include:

Innohosting (my pick) – With free end user support, and a large community of other resellers there to help, Innohosting is a great hosting company to work with for your reseller hosting needs.

Host Gator – Host Gator doesn’t just do shared hosting, they are very well known for their reseller hosting services, and they offer great features with a competitive price.

Grid Hosting

Last but not least, Grid Hosting is the new and popular “thing” in web hosting.  The basic concept is simple enough, split the load between a group of servers, clustered together, to offer more power and greater reliability

Some of the more common, or well known grid hosting providers include:

Media Temple – These guys are re-inventing the grid hosting service, with a new cluster service that will revolutionize hosting, and improve upon their already existing grid hosting services.

Mosso – Owned and operated by Rackspace, Mosso has won numerous awards and praise for what some consider to be the most reliable and scalable hosting on the market today.

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