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Choosing between Servers
Linux hosting, Windows hosting, UNIX, cloud hosting, Virtual Private Servers (VPS), dedicated servers — the list of choices for your hosting is huge. So how do you choose which is best for you?
Start by defining your needs.
The most important consideration is what platform or program you are going to use to build your site. Some platforms and certain web technologies only work on certain types of hosting, so you need to know what you are going to use before you can pick a hosting plan. Are you planning on using a platform like WordPress or Joomla, or are you going to code the site yourself? If you are coding it yourself, which language will you use to write it? Knowing the answers to these questions gives you the starting point for choosing which server is best for your needs.
Any server needs an operating system and some web server software to be able to deliver websites to the Internet. The most commonly used are Windows/IIS and Linus/Apache.
Using Windows as a server
Windows servers are most commonly used by businesses that design their own sites and use Microsoft technology to build them with. Windows servers run the Windows operating system (usually a version of Windows Server) and run Internet Information Services (IIS) to serve up web pages. The Windows server/IIS combination is great if you want to create a database for your website using Microsoft Access or if you want to use the ASP.Net framework. They are also capable of running PHP-based sites, but it is not their forte.
Looking at the different flavors of UNIX and Linux
UNIX is an operating system originally developed by AT&T in the 1970s. Its purpose was to run the servers at large corporations and universities.
The way UNIX was licensed, the purchasers received a full copy of the source code (the code that makes up the operating system) so they could alter any and all parts of it to make it work on their particular computer hardware.
Web hosting in the cloud
Cloud computing is all the rage these days and the hosting industry is no exception. The basic idea of cloud computing is that you join multiple computers together to provide faster, more reliable performance.
In terms of web hosting, that translates to meaning that websites get delivered faster and don’t suffer from slowdowns. When one website receives a lot of traffic, the load is spread equally among multiple servers in the cloud.
Imagine it as a grocery store where, if the lines at the checkouts get long, shelf-stackers and other staff from around the store are summoned to temporarily open additional checkouts until the rush is over.
Cloud hosting has a couple of small drawbacks, but they affect only the most security-conscious users. Some users may be concerned about data security due to multiple websites floating around in the same cloud, and the potential exists for a hacker to break an entire cloud rather than one server, but for the majority of website owners, the advantages of the cloud far outweigh the drawbacks.
A dedicated server is exactly what it says . . . a server dedicated to you. It is a physical server in a data center which is yours and yours alone. No one else shares it or even has access to it. This is the most expensive hosting option, but it is also the most powerful and gives you the most control over the environment in which your site is hosted.
All Hosts Are Not Equal
It’s impossible to tell exactly how many web hosting companies there are in the world, but the number ranks in the hundreds of thousands if not millions.
Choosing among them can be tricky because they all make bold claims about their speed, reliability, and service. It sometimes can be nearly impossible to distinguish among them.
In this section, I explain a few things to look out for that might make the decision a little easier.
In the end, though, the best way to pick is by asking people you know which hosts they have used and which they would recommend. You can’t believe everything you read online; personal recommendations trump just about every other way to select a web host company.