Running your own website is no longer the sole domain of companies, organizations and public institutions. Increasingly, private individuals also create their own website, be it a homepage that revolves around their hobby, a blog, a photo page or simply a self-presentation. However, since hardly anyone has sufficient server capacity to host their own website, a simple solution is obvious: web hosting.
There are a significant number of web hosting service providers in the marketplace, making it difficult for aspiring webmasters to gain a solid overview and to make the best possible offer for their individual needs.
It is also worthwhile for more experienced website operators to probe the market at regular intervals and to check whether their contract is still the cheapest. The trend is clear: The range of services is steadily rising for all providers, while prices are constantly falling. A change is therefore worthwhile in many cases!
Top 10 Web Hosting
What is web hosting and why do you need it?
Whether companies or private individuals – web hosting is interesting for anyone who wants to build their own website and operate. Thanks to practical homepage kits, even small business owners without programming and IT skills can quickly and easily create their own website or a small but professional-looking online shop. But hardly any individual or small business has its own server to host the site.
Anyone who wants to create and operate a website, therefore, not only has to deal with the topic of content management systems or homepage building blocks, but also with web hosting.
What does the term “web hosting” describe?
Sure, most people know that web hosting has something to do with the internet – but what exactly is behind it is known by very few. This is partly because there is no common definition so far.
Of course, websites do not buzz around in a sphere called the Internet. You can think of a website as an extensive Word document. Of course, this must be stored somewhere and connected to the internet. If someone wants to read this document, they must call it with the specific IP (or URL). Web hosting describes the location of this document and the program that the webmaster, the maintainer of the homepage, can use to edit this document.
In general, web hosting is the provision of web space, that is, capacity on the World Wide Web, and the hosting of websites on the web server of an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This provider is therefore also called web host. He makes his resources available. These are usually:
- The host computer, short host
- Permanent network connection
The web host is financed either by invoicing or, in the case of free web hosting services, by advertising that he or she places on their clients’ websites.
Put simply, web hosting provides the storage space and infrastructure you need to run your website. In this room, customers upload the files and content of their website with all HTML commands, texts, images, and videos and save them. This results in the complete design of a website by networking all content with a content management system (CMS), which visitors can call up by entering the corresponding domain. A permanent network connection ensures that the website is always accessible to visitors on the World Wide Web.
What speaks against hosting yourself?
The web host provides customers with the IT infrastructure they need to access their website online. Of course, he does not offer this service without consideration. Therefore, the question is justified, whether it would not be more sensible to host your own website itself, so even to provide for the appropriate server capacity and to create your own server.
Of course, every website operator is completely free to create their own server and maintain it. But he will soon realize that this is anything but cheap and easy. The following questions should ask each webmaster before purchasing their own server:
- Do I have sufficient funds to procure the high-priced infrastructure and to maintain it including all follow-up costs (electricity, internet, operating system, software, fans)?
- Is or will the web project be so extensive and successful that the purchase and operation will pay off in the foreseeable future?
- Do I have sufficient IT knowledge to ensure a permanent and fail-safe operation of the server?
Most webmasters do not have required programming skills. With the establishment of the server, it is far from being done. Regular maintenance and the avoidance of longer downtime due to the ability to fix problems quickly should overtax any hobby hoster quickly.
Who is Webhosting worth?
In the end, web hosting addresses those who want to run a website for personal or business purposes, but do not have the capacity or the knowledge to take care of running a server for themselves. Web hosting customers
- do not need to acquire programming skills or hire a person who has them
- they do not have to buy their own hardware and IT infrastructure,
- save space, since no physical server is necessary
- save power for the operation of the server,
- enjoy full service from a single source for setting up, maintaining and administering the server,
- have to expect at most with minimal downtime and
- benefit from professional security measures and backups of their data.
In the end, it does not matter how extensive a customer’s web project is, the market for available web hosting models has the right solution in the appropriate dimension for every need. Of course, web hosting is not the same as web hosting: there are different concepts that are suitable for different groups of needs.
What types of web hosting are there?
There are a variety of different hosting models. You will quickly recognize this when you take a look at the portfolio of services offered by one of the hosters in the test. Basically, the offer can be subdivided into four different categories. These are:
- Shared hosting
- Virtual private server or vServer hosting
- Dedicated server hosting
- Cloud hosting
All models have in common that they derive their capacity from physical servers located in the data centers of the hosters themselves or in their data centers rented by them. The differences primarily concern the storage capacity, the previous knowledge the customer has to bring with him, the speed available and the reliability.
Shared hosting is especially suitable for beginners. It is the least expensive and at the same time the most popular form of web hosting. Your website project is here with numerous other websites of other customers on a single server. Accordingly, your project shares with those of other hosting customers the available power and capacity of this server, that is, CPU, data transfer volume, and RAM. They share the costs with the other customers who are responsible for providing and maintaining this server. As a result, shared hosting is generally much cheaper than the other variants of hosting.
Despite the shared hardware, partitioning hard drive storage allows you to operate projects that are largely shielded from each other by different customers. As a rule, you, therefore, book a certain hard disk capacity at a fixed price. This capacity will then be available exclusively to you and your project. However, if your project grows, sometimes there is no scalability. Short contract periods and notice periods or the possibility to upgrade to a larger service package are recommended here.
The possibility of root access (access with administrator authorization), which allows you to make custom adjustments and settings on the server itself, does not exist here. The freedom of action is accordingly limited, the capacity is not flexibly scalable. Of course, access to one’s own website is also always possible in this variant. Sometimes, however, a client’s project that you share your server with will temporarily take up a lot of capacity, and so your site will be less available.
The advantages of shared hosting summarized:
- Does not require any technical know-how
- Web host takes over maintenance, repair, and updates
The disadvantages compared to other hosting variants:
- No root access
- Rather unsuitable for high-traffic websites
- Performance losses when visitors to other customer sites load the Sever
- Limited administration and configuration options
This solution is therefore especially suitable for beginners who only have rudimentary knowledge in the IT sector. It should be noted, however, that even professional websites with moderate traffic can be hosted reliably and easily with this solution.
Virtual Private Server Hosting (VPS)
As with shared hosting, you share a physical server installation with other customers during hosting on a virtual private server, or VPS or virtual server or vServer for short. These solutions are on the rise and are gradually replacing the traditional shared hosting variants.
In this model, several virtual operating systems run in parallel on one server or CPU instances. Your data will be shared among all or at least some of these instances. So you get a fixed allocated area on the server that you do not need to share with other people. Another area of the server remains “community property”. These capacities are flexible enough for the projects you need. However, significantly fewer customers share a server in this model that is the case with the shared hosting model. This means that all resources, ie bandwidth, computing time and main memory, are always flexible and fairly divided among all customers. The virtual servers are encapsulated and act independently of each other, like multiple independent root servers. This allows flexible and individual adjustment options and increases security.
The Benefits of Virtual Server Hosting:
- Assured computing power and consistent performance
- Web host takes over server maintenance
- Root access and thus own settings options
- Flexible allocable resources
Of course, but this variant is not free of disadvantages:
- Settings and updates must be made by the customer
- Incorrect settings can damage safety and system
- More costly than shared hosting
- Minimum technical know-how necessary
This hosting variant is suitable for you if you want to have more control over system and settings and value consistent performance. It is an intermediate to dedicated server hosting because it requires some technical knowledge, but not to the extent that is the case with dedicated server hosting. For medium-sized website projects and variable visitor tips as well as online shops, this hosting option is ideally suited.
Dedicated server hosting
Dedicated server hosting is the professional version of web hosting services. Hosting on dedicated servers allows you maximum freedom and flexibility in setting up and designing the server. They do not share the server’s capacity with other customers; instead, the physical machine, including all access permissions and settings, is available to you alone. You have full control over the server system and are solely responsible for security. All resources are dedicated to your web project.
There are two different models of dedicated server hosting:
- Managed Server: The maintenance and security of the server are in the hands of the host, but the user has full root access.
- Root Server: The customer handles all administrative tasks and has full root access.
The advantages of this model are numerous:
- Maximum flexibility
- Full capacity for a project without resource sharing
- Server software of your choice
- Full administration rights
- Safety standards can be defined on your own
However, there are also some disadvantages:
- Cost-intensive hosting option
- Updates must be carried out by the customer
- Time-consuming setup
- Customer needs the expertise to operate the system safely
- Long-term commitment to a hosting provider
The rental of a dedicated server will, therefore, be well thought out and is not worthwhile for the operation of small websites or online shops of medium size. Only if you implement several thousand euros a month with an online shop or if the success of your web project is significantly dependent on extremely short loading times, is it worth thinking about this solution. The care of such a server requires competent personnel. Dedicated servers are also used in the gaming sector, as they ensure a direct and permanent connection to the Internet.
In recent years, the so-called cloud hosting is growing in popularity. Here, the data and applications are not on a single physical server, but on multiple servers in series. This gives you virtually unlimited resources necessary, they handle even high traffic peaks and large numbers of visitors without any problems. Cloud hosting therefore always has sufficient resources to avoid performance losses. Selective technical failures of a server are no longer important in cloud hosting. Anyone who places increased value on the continuous availability of their website is well advised with this model. In addition, this method can score points with maximum scalability: As your Internet project grows, so does the server capacity. Billing is based on actual use. Accordingly, cloud hosting takes the principle of virtual servers to the next level.
The advantages are:
- Resources are available indefinitely
- Performance flexibly adapted to requirements
- Price model according to actual needs
- Maximum reliability
- Easy to restore backups
- The server is ready to use
But there are also disadvantages here:
- No or limited root access for configuration
- More cost-intensive than simpler models
- Data security doubtful, since storage locations, are sometimes abroad
- Dependent on large data centers
Cloud hosting is a worthwhile alternative for fast-growing and large website projects where maximum availability is a must. Above all, online shops and websites with high and strongly fluctuating visitor numbers benefit from the scalable and flexible performance. However, care is required regarding data security. You should check in advance where the data centers that host the servers that make up the cloud structure are located. At best, all servers are located in Germany or at least in Europe.
What to look for when choosing a web host?
If you want to use a web hosting service, you not only choose from a large number of providers, but also between the various tariff packages that are offered. It’s hardly surprising that choosing a service is anything but easy.
Where is the server location?
A data center located in Germany or at least in Europe not only means security in terms of data protection, but also a higher speed of data delivery. It is recommended to check in advance the ping, ie the response time of the Internet connection of the provider, and the loading time of a website. The response time of the server should be less than 200 milliseconds. Keep in mind that short response times have a positive effect on the search engine ranking of your website.
What security measures and updates are included?
Hosting should offer separate, mutually-isolated accounts, firewalls, and built-in backup, and, unless you opt for a dedicated hosting plan, include automatic updates to content management systems.
How good is the support?
Reliable, fast and competent support is very important in a service like a web hosting. A German or at least English-language support should be available. If it is still possible for the operator of a hobby site, if he has to wait some time for the solution of his problem in case of failure, this may be a disaster for tradespeople, as threatening angry customers and loss of revenue. Since problems are rarely based on office hours, the hoster should provide 24/7 support. It is highly recommended to contact the support with a question before signing a contract and to test it in this way.
Is the data transfer volume limited?
The web hosting tariff should definitely include a traffic flat rate, so there is no limit to the data transfer volume. Only then can the upcoming costs be reliably calculated in advance. For most providers, a flat rate is already included in the cheapest fares.
What is the server availability?
Webhoster advertises for all their rates with very high availability figures. Of course, the higher the availability, the better.
If you want to start a profitable e-commerce business, you can hardly afford any downtime. If 99.9 percent availability seems convincing, it has to be considered that this already means downtime of 10.1 minutes per week, 43.2 minutes per month and even a proud 8.76 hours per year. Even availability of 99.99 percent means that the server can not be reached about one minute a week, 4.32 minutes a month and 52.56 minutes a year. So do not be fooled: between 99 and 99.999 percent in reality is many hours.
What is in it and what is possible?
Of course, there are a number of other aspects that are important or less important depending on the size and nature of the web project and the personal preferences of the webmaster.
The following questions must be asked if necessary:
- How much web space is included and how much do I need?
- How many domains and subdomains are included?
- Which programming languages are supported?
- How many databases ( MySQL ) are available?
- How many e-mail boxes and which transmission protocols are there?
- Is the number of installed programs limited?
- What about the contract period and notice period?
- Is the tariff expandable?
- Our e-commerce services included creating an online store?
- Which CRMs or which homepage kits are included?
- Which payment methods does the hoster accept?
Of course, anyone who wants to publish long blog texts on his homepage has completely different requirements for the scope of a web hosting service than a medium-sized e-commerce company. However, the following minimum requirements should be met by every web hosting package :
- One gigabyte of web space
- A domain
- PHP capability
- At least one MySQL database
- Minimum 99.9 percent availability
- Traffic flat rate
- FTP access
- Reliable service
Which additional features should possibly be present?
After registering and signing the contract, you will receive the necessary access codes to log in via the hoster’s website and to edit your web space. There are several ways to access the web space:
- Access via web browser
- Access via WebFTP
- Various FTP clients
- WebDAV interface
The web space contains various software components, configuration options, and content management systems or home page builders that you can use to design your website.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
Those who do not want to operate with a homepage building set or exclusively with SQL databases generally have access to popular content management systems (CMS) in their web space on the rented server. These make it possible to populate a website with text and multimedia content. With the CMS even inexperienced people without programming or HTML knowledge can easily design their own website.
The most popular CMS include:
Can it be easier? Homepage construction kits
Homepage kits are a special form of web CMS. Unlike traditional CMS, they provide a highly intuitive and easy-to-use interface where users can usually populate their site with pre-made elements using drag-and-drop.
A special form of the homepage construction kits is online shop systems. With them, the scope of functions is only extended by special shop functions. This includes, among other things, the creation of product selection and prices, the setup of a shopping cart, the design of the payment page and the implementation of a search and filter function.
Simply more professional: E-mail hosting
Anyone who has become the proud owner of a domain with the web hosting package can usually create a personalized e-mail address. This is done by the mail hoster who provides the storage space for e-mails. Especially for operators of online shops, but also for other contact offers personalized e-mail addresses are a real gain. They look more professional, serious and trustworthy. Free hosting offers do not include this feature.
Extra storage in the cloud
In addition to website-related data storage, many web hosting packages include cloud storage. You can use it to store any files, such as Office files, music, photos or videos.
Analysis tools for optimization
Statistics tools are usually also available in the web space. They let you know how many visitors viewed your pages, how long they spent on the page, what items they preferred to click on, and which device they visited. This data is a valuable basis for a targeted optimization of the website. If, for example, a particularly large number of people visit your site via mobile devices, you immediately know where content optimization is worthwhile.
Direct data upload with FTP programs
FTP clients allow the transfer of files over IP networks. Use special FTP software to upload and download files to the web server, rename or delete files. In addition, users with FTP access benefit from the ability to quickly organize and organize files into an existing directory structure.
The following FTP programs use many web hosting services:
Is the domain included?
Web space is not everything. For internet users to find and access your website in the first place, they need an address: the domain. A web hosting package usually also includes a domain that makes your website accessible to visitors. Basically, you can choose the domain yourself, but you should check in advance on the homepage of the web host if your desired domain is still available.
The domain extension, which is the component behind the last point, is also called the top-level domain (TLD). Common examples are .de or .com. The character and/or letter sequence before it is called the second-level domain. In the case of www.stern.de/vergleich/, “stern” is the second-level domain, “de” is the top-level domain, “www” is the subdomain and “Vergleich” is a directory.
In addition to the typical country codes in the TLD, the competent authority, ICANN ( Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ), has approved 1,400 new TLDs. These describe topics or geographic regions, such as “.berlin”, “.business” or “.forum”. If you want to secure a specific TLD for your web project, you should make sure that the web host of your choice also offers it.
The domain registration usually takes over the web host for you. However, before booking a web hosting package, be sure to check how many domains and how many subdomains it contains. The more subdomains exist, the clearer the user can structure the page and the higher its findability in the search engines. If you already have a domain, you should check whether the web host of your choice allows you to opt into external domains and ideally offers a removal service.
Is free web space worth it?
In addition to the paid web hosting services are also numerous free offers. The free web hosting providers advertise not only with free hosting but also with a simple user interface and strong backlinks. This may sound tempting, but such offers have of course one or the other hook.
Most lurk here either hidden costs or various restrictions. Often, this already reveals a glimpse into the fine print. In most cases, the free providers finance themselves through advertisements that they place on their clients’ websites. This not only annoys but acts on commercial sites also deeply dubious. Often, the web space is limited to just a few megabytes, so you can not populate your website with many pictures or videos. Sometimes even certain file types are excluded from the upload.
Also, the traffic is affected by limitations. After exceeding a certain data transfer volume, throttling of the charging speed often sets in, or costs are incurred per gigabyte of traffic started. The support offers free provider is – if any – very rudimentary.
Another major drawback is that free providers generally do not issue full domains, but only run their client’s website under a subdomain of their own domain.
The cons summarized of free hosting deals:
- Unwanted banner ad
- No user-defined banner possible
- Low storage capacity
- Exclusion of certain file types
- Not a full domain
- Limitation of traffic
- No or only rudimentary support