Web hosting is the service that makes your website available to be viewed by others on the Internet. A web host provides space on its server, so that other computers around the world can access your website by means of a network or modem. There are literally thousands of web hosting services available today, ranging from free services with limited options to expensive, specialized business web hosting services. Which option you choose depends primarily on how you plan to use your website and how much you want to spend.
Types of Web Hosting Services
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
Many people put up their first websites through their ISPs, because it's generally easy and inexpensive. Most ISP service packages include a small amount of free web space, along with tools to create and upload websites quickly and easily. ISP websites are perfect for people who want to put up small sites with low amounts of traffic. However, there are usually rate restrictions, and most ISPs don't offer a lot of features, so they might not be the best choice for a thriving business website.
Free Web Hosting
Free web hosting is another good option for smaller, personal websites. There are many free hosting providers that offer all types of features; some include CGI access and more. The drawback to most free hosting services is that they are funded by advertising that appears on your site, so free web hosting so generally best for personal, rather than business, websites.
With paid hosting, you pay a fee for space and services on a web hosting provider's server. Monthly fees can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. Obviously, the more you pay, the more features you should have at your disposal. Services can include CGI access, database support, ASP, e-commerce, SSL, additional space on the server, extra bandwidth, and more.
A good option for small businesses is to pay for domain hosting. Domain hosting allows you to host your site anywhere you like: on an ISP, a free hosting service, or even your own server. You buy a domain name and have the provider forward all requests for that domain to the actual web location. This is often less expensive than buying both the domain and the hosting service, and it allows businesses to brand their URLs.
Collocation is an option for businesses that want to run their own web servers and machines, but don't want to have to maintain them directly. With collocation, the website owner places its own server on the premises of its ISP or other host, where it is stored, maintained, and provided with an uninterrupted power supply. Collocation provides security and protection for your server while still giving you control of your own equipment.
Direct Internet Access
Hosting your site yourself offers you the most control over your web server. Companies with large data centers or that require high security in every aspect of their web and Internet access should look into this type of hosting.