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Different Hosting Packages and Choosing the Right One for You

by Amy Armitage
Companies called hosting providers are in the business of giving websites virtual "homes" in cyberspace. There are many types of hosting services and "Web site solutions," and knowledgeable webmasters can customize approaches for their own, unique needs. Still, less experienced people will need sites, too, which is why hosting providers continue to offer three common "packages" - dedicated hosting, shared hosting and virtual hosting. Even among this range of choices, today's leading hosting companies will offer more personalization, often calling them "managed" and "semi-managed" packages.
You need to know the differences between and among these packages, just as you need to compare cost, security, service and expertise among the providers. When you start to know the terms and understand the technology, you can narrow down the list of firms that will eventually produce the winner. Learning about the different hosting packages and choosing the right one for you is a crucial step in getting your business to its peak performance in this networked global economy.
Shared packages
Sometimes companies (and individuals) will sign up for the least costly plan they can find, especially when starting up their first site. The lowest costs are among the "shared hosting" plans, and the term means pretty much what it suggests - you will share disk space on a server with 20 or 200 other Web sites. These agreements contain a limit on the amount of CPU (Central Processing Unit) use as well as disk "real estate" that your files can take up. For small companies and individuals, this is not typically a problem.
These kinds of hosting plans didn't spring out of thin air. Hosting firms looked at the behavior of different kinds of customers, and one conclusion they made (since verified a few million times) was that most customers didn't use all the storage space or transfer "bandwidth" they had been given with their plan. If you plan on growing, you will need a plan that can grow with you, not a low-use shared plan that charges you a penalty for doing more transfers and having more visitors.
Virtual private hosting
With a Virtual Private Server (VPS) you get a Virtual Dedicated Server (VDS), and although you still share space you will have your own area, or partition, on the server. Big servers are often "divvied up" into multiple, separate (called "discrete") partitions that run their own operating system and can be started ("booted") individually. This is a very critical feature from some companies. Despite sharing space on a physical device, your partition acts like its own server. Naturally - and physically speaking - your site will still share disk space, have a CPU usage limit and be restricted to a certain amount of transfer and bandwidth. However, you have much more room to negotiate the kind of package deal you need, and virtual hosting has become quite popular.
Dedicated packages
Dedicated packages get you and/or your company a customized service with benefits like improved security, the best infrastructure and higher speeds. Because they are tailored to the unique, often demanding needs of customers - precise amounts of bandwidth, storage space, memory, etc. - these are costlier packages. What you are doing, in effect, is renting a server that you do not share with anyone, which enables and empowers you in many ways. You can run CPU-intensive programs at any time, not worry about your Web site's performance affecting other sites (or being affected by them) and not be brought "crashing down" by others' errors.
If you have a large company with a complicated, media-intensive, high-traffic Web site - or two, or three - you will find the dedicated plan to be ideal. The "discrete server" kind of hosting gives you control, and completely, over content, structure, operations and activities. Not everyone needs this kind of hosting package, but if you do, you will not make your Web strategy work with anything less. Past a certain point, of both bandwidth and operational flexibility, there is no reason not to have a dedicated server.
Managed vs. semi-managed and reseller hosting
If you choose managed hosting, you lease the equipment and the connections, which the owner of the data center will keep powered up and running (the hardware part). Managed hosting exceeds basic hosting because there are shared responsibilities, better performance, heightened security and guaranteed (and higher) up time. Semi-managed, or root server hosting, lets you control the server with "root access." The provider will maintain the hardware, and you will manage all the other aspects of the site (backups, upgrades, etc.). With root access and administrator privileges, you can do anything you want.
Reseller hosting allows businesses to host sites for their own customers. If you resell hosting services it means that you contract with a hosting provider to sell their services with your name or brand. There are as many different ways of putting these kinds of plans in effect as there are hosting firms out there, and it is not something you should consider doing without sufficient expertise.
The right plan for you depends on your needs, so you could possibly choose any of the hosting plans discussed here. You may start slowly and then grow into a costlier, more powerful package. When you realize how hosting plans work, you can compare services, security and costs much more accurately, which is just what you want when you are ready to start up or expand your company's site.
Friday, Mar 5th, 2010