Demystifying Website Hosting services

Web hosting services are the libraries, newsstands, and bookshops of the internet. They’re the places where the information we receive online is stored, accessed, and organised. Web hosts provide all the digital facilities for their clients to build and maintain a website and make it accessible on the internet. Without these vital but largely invisible providers, the World Wide Web would not function at all. 

To understand web hosting in more depth, it’s worth separating it into its key areas of classification and its different types. There are two broad areas in which web hosting services can be classified. 

Small hosting services provide small-scale file hosting and basic website publishing tools; these services are most often used by private individuals for personal websites, and sometimes for basic business sites.

The second is large hosting services. Larger companies, and particularly companies operating in different countries and time zones, usually need their websites and databases to be permanently online in order for essential functions such as their email and file-sharing systems to operate properly. This requires large hosting, where the web host provides much more complex support to the client, including database support and application development functionality. With the provision of these more sophisticated services, the large-scale web host gives their client the tools to manage, maintain, and modify their digital systems through their content management system, or CMS. 

Managed, Unmanaged or Ethical Hosting
There are no fun website hosting images so we picked one of Walle instead.

Which is right for me? Managed or unmanaged web hosting?

There are many types of web hosting, including shared, virtual private server, colocation, grid, and cloud-based hosting. These differ in the physical location and organisation of the hardware used to run the systems our websites need.

Another differentiating factor is whether the hosting is managed or unmanaged.

The difference between managed and unmanaged hosting is who  monitors and maintains that hardware and its performance. In managed hosting, the servers are fully taken care of by the hosting provider.

In unmanaged hosting, the servers are the responsibility of the company that is using them. Managed hosting packages usually involve a package of complete integrated support for the client’s websites, data, and digital services. This means the client doesn’t need to worry about maintenance or troubleshooting when managing their websites; in a managed hosting environment, this is taken care of by the hosting provider. When running a server, there are a number of key processes that must be taken care of, including script installations, maintaining the content management system, and looking after network security. To do that right, you have to be familiar with the latest security threats, best operating practices, and database architecture tools.

A managed web hosting service will usually provide a content management system that’s easily accessible by anyone, and will not require detailed technical knowledge of web servers or computer code.

It is often the case in many unmanaged hosting arrangements that the client must have some technical knowledge to run the system correctly. An unmanaged hosting service will not be a bespoke solution tailored to the needs of your business and the requirements of its websites, but a much more generalist package that is designed to fit the needs of many different kinds of websites

With a managed hosting service, on the other hand, the hosting provider will provide a unique solution to the digital needs of your business. This way, you can focus on actually running the business rather than worrying about whether or not your website is still online. For this reason, managed hosting services are often the number one digital choice for many companies, from small and medium sized businesses with important e-commerce channels right through to large multinationals selling products or services in different territories and time zones.

Managed web hosting, then, is usually the best choice for those businesses who want their website administration areas and content management systems to be easily accessible by anyone without technical knowledge, and who want an expert team to be available to troubleshoot problems in their digital systems. Managed web hosting is almost always more expensive than unmanaged hosting. Despite this, most businesses find that the return on investment from managed hosting is considerable, and it is worth the additional cost over unmanaged hosting many times over.

Towards an ethical web hosting?

Digital ethics are an increasingly important consideration for many businesses in relation to their web hosting. The basic principles of ethical web hosting could be summarised as the following key areas. First, websites should function for everyone and be accessible to all. Second, websites and applications should operate properly wherever they are used. And third, websites and applications should respect the privacy and security of their users.

It will always be easier to build these principles of ethical web hosting within a managed hosting service. This is because you’ll be able to work with your hosting provider directly to achieve these aims, which is not possible with an unmanaged hosting service. On the final point about user security and privacy, it is becoming clear that many website users, and users of e-commerce sites in particular, are increasingly savvy to the importance of proper digital privacy protection. To that extent, improving your website’s user privacy and security could be seen as a way of enhancing your brand in the digital space, and putting the needs and concerns of your customers first. 

Web hosting is a vitally important part of the everyday life of any business with any digital presence. It is so central to an effective online strategy that it can either make or break that digital presence itself. As such, whilst it is the least exciting part of your website presence, hosting cannot be ignored.

At Modular we help organisations of all shapes and sizes find the best hosting for them. If you want some help working out what is right for your site and your organisational needs, email Emma or give her a call on 07584 652285 and she’ll gladly talk you through the options.

Emma Millington

Emma Millington

Head of Customer Relations - Passionate about demystifying tech so we can all speak the same language

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