Virtual vs. Dedicated vs. CoLo: Which Web Hosting Do I Need?

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You know you need a web host, but you don’t know where
to start. So you do a web search to research potential solutions and
get a bit overwhelmed with all the jargon: UNIX, dedicated servers,
POP3, CoLo… the list goes on. 
Step back a bit. You don’t need to learn everything
about web sites to choose a host. You do however need to know what a web
host is, and the basic types of web hosting. This knowledge will lead
you to know what type of hosting you need, and ultimately you can make a
sound decision.
To begin, let’s define the term. Web hosting is a
service that hosts web pages on servers that can be accessed through the
Internet. There are three primary categories of web hosting providers
that cater to the requirements of site owners; these include virtual web
hosting, dedicated web hosting, and co-located hosting. There are
various sources online that offer detailed information and reviews on
these services, but there are several details you should pay most
attention to. The points to consider before selecting a web hosting
provider include the number of clients they service, years in business,
customer service reputation, hardware specifications, and backup
routines. With that out of the way, let’s jump in and explore the basic
types of web hosting.
Dedicated hosting
A dedicated web server is basically like the name
sounds: it’s dedicated to your site only. Typically it is leased to a
site owner. The hosting company is responsible for the maintenance,
backing up, security, and power management. The site owner manages the
software-related issues.
Dedicated hosting is useful for websites that need
extra bandwidth and system resources because of the use of technologies
such as e-commerce software, customized server applications, and heavy
traffic. Such websites are often better served by a dedicated hosting
provider rather than developing and running an in-house solution.
Dedicated hosting is possible with Windows, Mac, and Linux servers. A
dedicated server can cost upward of $100 / month.
Pros and cons: 24/7 tech support is available. Speed,
dependability, and customizability of website are often enhanced. The
response time of dedicated servers is fast as compared to shared servers
where the activity of other sites affects server speeds. Reliability
and customizability of websites are improved as dedicated hosting offers
greater storage capacity and greater freedom in terms of hardware
configurations and software installations; hard drives can be upgraded
and bandwidths increased with growth.
Shared servers and CoLo t:hosting are cheaper
alternatives to dedicated hosting. Moreover, as the server is not owned
by the site owner, security of sensitive data can be an issue.

Virtual hosting
Virtual hosting, also called shared hosting, is a
popular and cost-effective web hosting solution. The hosting provider
leases the website hosting server, services, and bandwidth to more than
one website. Small and medium-sized websites, which do not have high
traffic and have limited bandwidth requirements, benefit from virtual
hosting. A virtual hosting offer by a service provider usually includes
features such as Internet connection, domain name registration, file
storage, email account, and may also include website design assistance.
The cost of virtual hosting is in the range of $5-40 per month. It can
be more or less depending upon the package selected.
Pros and cons: Virtual hosting enables the
establishment of an online presence with no expensive equipment
purchases required on part of the site owners and therefore is the
perfect solution for SMBs.
One of the limitations of virtual hosting is that
sites compete for the provider’s service; this may result in slow server
response times in periods of heavy traffic and make browsing
inconvenient. Since websites hosted on a server may be grouped under a
single t:IP address, there is a chance that a site owner may have to share
an IP address with adult or scam sites. This can lead to debarring from
search engine placements which will have an adverse effect on the
traffic. As the software components are shared between websites, a site
owner may not be able to personalize the website as per his business
objectives and target audience.
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While purchasing virtual hosting services, it is
useful to have an idea of the total anticipated t:traffic during the day
as well as the visits during the peak period. This helps in obtaining a
package with sufficient bandwidth for immediate and near term needs.
Also, the cost of an upgrade and changes to the package should be
understood.

Co-location (Co-lo) hosting

In Co-location hosting, the server is owned by the
site owner and it is leased at the co-lo facility, where it is installed
along with other servers in the facility. A co-lo service enables site
owners to make maximum use of network access points and the freedom to
choose between telecom lines provided by the hosting company and other
telecom lines. Co-location hosting enables site owners to utilize high
bandwidth at a cost that is not significantly higher than that of a
normal web hosting package. The site owner maintains the server while
the hosting provider ensures smooth running by providing regular power
supply and IT support.
Co-location hosting services can be standalone data
centers or companies that operate by leasing server space from a
co-location web hosting reseller. The cost of the server and the volume
of rack space required by the servers of a site owner influence the cost
of co-lo hosting. Servers that fit in with the dimensions of the racks
can help to save costs; co-locating tower servers usually cost more.
Additional services provided by the hosting provider and insurance are
other factors that affect cost. The monthly cost of a co-lo service for a
half-rack of server space can be up to $1000.
Pros and cons: The benefits of co-location hosting
include temperature and humidity controlled environment for the servers;
security from hacking, fire, and theft; provision of redundancy and
backup. It enables the site owner to control the critical features of
web hosting such as bandwidth allocation, routers, t:VPN, server space,
and t:VLAN.
Site owners may not find it easy to locate a co-lo
service that is situated close enough to facilitate easy and safe
transfer of servers and at the same time provide the best connection
speeds. Co-lo hosting is of greater advantage to those who have hosting
experience and consequently are better placed to recover the costs
involved. 
Ultimately, it is the requirements of the site that
dictate the choice of web hosting solution. Online stores and sites with
heavy traffic are better off with dedicated hosting, personal blogs and
small sites without ecommerce activity that do not have high bandwidth
consumption can function with virtual hosting, and websites that require
a high degree of customization and deal with sensitive data benefit
from a co-lo hosting arrangement.

To determine what type of host you need, ask yourself what type of site you have, and it should all flow naturally from there.

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