Web hosting – what it is and how does it works

The second episode of the series List of hosting types for internet pages introduces web hosting. Let’s look in greater detail at how web hosting works, what domains are often combined with web hosting in a package and finally, compare some selected hosting companies.

What is Web Hosting  

The series about hosting:

Web hosting is simply providing a place on the internet for your pages. This “place on the internet” consists of several points:

  • Computing resources – You share the resources of a physical or virtual server with other web hostings. The company that provides the service also has the required know-how, such as the maximum number of web hostings that can be placed on one server while maintaining a fast speed.
  • A place on a disk – Space for pages is so cheap today that companies often promote it as “unlimited space”, but if you check further, nothing is really unlimited. Limits or other factors not related to hosting often apply. For example, if you have more than 10,000 files in one directory, the provider will probably call your attention to this because it will slow down the provider’s disk performance.
  • Data transfers – If visitors are to get to your pages, the pages must be connected to the internet. The hosting provider arranges for the data transfers on its own at its own expense. Today, data transfers, called “Traffic”, are often not limited, but sometimes smaller packages include a data limit, such as 30 GB, which is still quite a lot.
  • Administration of the entire system – A great bonus of web hosting is that it is all taken care of by IT specialists of the web hosting provider. They are in charge of everything from settings and updating of the operating systems on the servers to the safety and configuration of the entire system.
  • Domain – An inseparable part of each hosting is a domain, which is a unique address on the internet. You can register and “rent” a domain for a specific period of time, which you pay for. Each domain has its public IP address, to which the domain is “translated”, which is almost always shared with other web hostings (often one public IP address per server). The shared IP address may be a disadvantage for some projects, but you can rent a dedicated one for an extra charge.
  • FTP & databases – These are two issues which system administrators take care of, as noted above. You just need to establish a database and upload files (such as an installation of WordPress) through FTP. Most pages currently store text in the database, while photos are stored elsewhere by the system core (on the server through FTP). This means that the entire system works dynamically and is interconnected.
  • Emails – if you buy a domain, you can activate your own email. For example, if you have pages example.com, you can set up an email in the form of “[email protected] example.com”. This is also a part of web hosting.

Watch out for multihosting!

When addressing hosting companies, I attempted to find out how many domains you can operate on one hosting and how. Multihosting can be divided into two types:

  1. Aliases with a different content – An alias is another domain directed to the same directory, which you can use for WordPress multisite and domain mapping, or you can create a subdirectory and direct the alias to it. Then you have a second web with different content. However, there is a safety risk in that if something attacks one of your domains (e.g. an installation of WordPress), it can jump to the other domain as well, as the directories are not separated from each other.
  2. Multiple web hostings in one package – you can see from its name that it is a commercial package, where independent web hostings are combined into one. This alternative is a more expensive and purer solution.

In the past, many people used to buy multihosting abroad, where prices were better. Today, I would not recommend multihosting any longer. You should rather buy an independent web hosting, or if you have a lot of things, then you should buy a Virtual Managed Server. Foreign webs are an exception, as they offer multihosting of the type of multiple web hostings in one package. One such example is WPengine.com, which is a VIP hosting solution for WordPress.

Web hosting vs. VPS

In my few years of experience in this field, I have already gone through the cycle of “web hosting -> moving to VPS -> moving back to web hosting a year ago”. Now I buy independent web hostings, and I do not want to hear any more about VPS – it is not the product for me. I do not want to have to take care of anything, and you need to take care of so many things with VPS – LAMP settings, etc. If you are not an IT person, do not buy VPS. And if you do want to buy it, you should preferably buy the managed variant, where you do not have to take care of the operating system and the like.

How web hosting works

lampYou can occasionally come across information that the provider offers two types of web hosting, depending on whether the operating system is Linux or Windows. Most web hostings run on Linux, but you can also find some Windows ones.

The main core of web hosting is the so-called LAMP (WAMP for Windows), an acronym explained next. LAMP is software, so you need servers to run it. These servers must be placed somewhere in a datacentre. Therefore, for your web to work, it needs several layers (above each other) of software and hardware. The details of the individual components of web hosting can be found in the following illustration I created for this article.

detail of web hosting environment

Technical parameters of web hosting

The word “unlimited” is meaningless. There is always a limit, but it is often hidden in the conditions of operation or in a similar document. Today, the trouble is that hosting companies too often mention the word “unlimited” without any explanation. Let’s look at selected technical parameters of web hosting, which should be available on the pages of the provider or which the provider should disclose to you on request.

Disk space for web A space for your pages, often it is a sum of the space for FTP, database and emails.
Traffic Mostly unlimited today, but sometimes you can find a tariff with the limit in GB or TB
Max. number of PHP processes The number of PHP scripts which can be active at the same time
A space for databases The size of the database is also important. It will certainly not be unlimited!
Max. size of the database How large one database can be
A space for emails How much space do you have for emails? They often occupy a lot of space, if you are not careful.
Daily backups Each hosting performs at least so-called technical backups, which are for in-house purposes. This is an interesting parameter!
Restoration of a backup for free Restoration of data from a backup certainly is not a standard part of web hosting.
PHP memory_limit This is a very important factor – the more the better.
PHP upload_max_filesize The maximum size of an uploaded file
PHP post_max_size The maximum size of a post
Max. time period of a script Some plugins or scripts require some time in order to run. I have come across this just a few times.
Number of alias / domain Companies tend to use this to implement multihosting. They will direct more domains to your account.
CRON number of tasks If your web activates some automatic task, it is an issue of CRON. WordPress activates them in the background, e.g. an update check.
CRON Interval of tasks How long is the interval between the activation of different tasks?
Firewall protection this is offered only by few companies, as they mostly have just a basic firewall.
Check for harmful code I have seen this only in few hosting companies so far. This feature is mostly included in expensive web hosting.
Secured FTP Securing of file transfers from your PC to web hosting. FTP is not coded. Ideally, I would like a SFTP or perhaps also FTPeS, if it works well.



Radek Kucera

Work as a salesman in ICT/Telco branch more than ten years, WordPress fan and blogger. Interested to write about an Internet and ICT topic.

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