What Makes A Good Web Hosting Service?

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Not everyone who uses the web understands what web hosting means.  Even people who use web hosting sometimes don’t fully understand it.

If you’re thinking about getting a website of your own, knowing what makes a good web hosting service is critical.

Otherwise, you’re going to waste time and money messing with the wrong types of deals, and that’s not good!

This is why today we’re chatting with Monzurul Haque, who owns the web hosting company Fifohost.

In this interview, we ask Monzurul exactly how web hosting works, in order to provide insight for the beginner website owner, so that you know what to look for in a quality web host.


How long have you been in the web hosting business?

Since 2012, so 6 years now.

For those who don’t know what web hosting is exactly, what is it, and what is the purpose of it?

Hosting means giving your website a place to live online, where the data actually is stored. 

From there, you can build your site and then interact with people all over the world, via the web.

There is also the domain name registrar.  Sometimes people confuse the domain name registrar for the web host.  Hosting platforms and domain name registrars are two different things, correct?

Yes.  Someone might think that because someone is selling you a website name, they are also selling you a place to put the website, but that’s not the case, necessarily.

How are they different?

Think of it like this.  Hosting is like having a house to live in, but the domain is like having an address for that particular house. 

This way, other people can find you by your home address.  Also, people will more easily remember your house address than remembering what color your house is, how tall it is, how many bed room it has etc.

I see.  But hosting and domain names can be sold together, or also they can be sold separately.  Is that how it works?

Right, they can be sold together or separate.  Many web hosting companies will sell you a domain name as well, and vice versa.

Do you recommend people buy hosting and domain name together, or not?

I don’t recommend that people buy them together, because, in general, certain companies are good at hosting, and others are good at domain name registration.  There are those who are good at both, but I prefer to find a company that is strong at both one or the other.

Is it more secure do you think to buy a domain name and hosting separate, in terms of hackers?

Yes, absolutely.  This is because if someone somehow manages to hack your domain name account, they still don’t have your actual website.  And if they manage to hack your hosting, they don’t have your domain name.

That said, the domain name is more important than the actual website, because the actual website has backups, most likely, and the domain name does not.

Besides being secure from fraudulent login attempts, what makes a company a good choice for domain name registration?

A good choice for a domain name registrar would be a company that can register domains without being a reseller, has a good DNS management facility, and offers free WHOIS support. Last but not least, they should offer competitive pricing.

How do you know if a domain name registrar is reselling or not?

By Googling it.  It’s the same as like checking a product review online.

I see.  But what allows a company to be able to sell domain names in the first place?

Basically, if the company has an agreement with ICANN (the organization that handles domain names), then they are allowed to sell domains directly, or resell permission to someone so that they can sell it.

Also, an individual can own a domain, but if ICANN feels any rules any sort of violation, they can revoke it.

I guess it’s similar to someone who rents a house or sells a house.  They have some agreement with the government as a landlord, and if they follow the rules, they are allowed to do it.  Is this an apt comparison?

Yes, I’d say so.

What is DNS management?

Well, a DNS means Domain Naming System.  This is what some people in the web hosting business refer to as “name servers”.

This system connects the hosting, which has the IP address you will be assigned for your website, to the domain name itself.  A DNS server will make this connection happen. 

Anyway domain on the net should have at least one active DNS server, but usually there are two, just in case.  This feature of having a backup server will make sure your domain doesn’t go “down” at any point.

What does it mean if your website is “down”?

It means something isn’t working, and the some connection somewhere is unresolved, so it can’t be accessed.

What else can go wrong with DNS if that service isn’t good?

Mainly it’s just your website being online or not.  If the DNS isn’t good, your site will randomly go down because the domain will not resolve to any specific IP address.  This is as bad as it gets, for a website, really.

Does your hosting service provide DNS?

I am a Namecheap domain reseller myself, so every domain registered through my site handled by Namecheap.

What indicates to people that a company like Namecheap has a dependable, high quality DNS?

Namecheap actually uses Verisign DNS services, and Verisign is one of the industry leaders in DNS services, along with Google, Cloudflare, etc.

Is there a technical reason you can think of that would make Verisign superior?

They just use high quality hardware and software for providing DNS services.  You get what you pay for, and they invest in both hardware and software. 

Ok, and what makes a good hosting platform?

Hosting is all about hardware / resource management.

Can you elaborate on this?

A good hosting company should have decent hardware for servers along with efficient hosting management software. 

You should have total freedom to do anything you want, so long as its legal and abides by the hosting company’s protocols, and it should run fast, no matter how big or complex it is. 

This is the ideal situation, but not usually the reality.  

What do you mean by “good hardware”, in this case?

For example, a high quality hosting service should have RAID activated servers, 24/7 power backup, 99.99% uptime guarantee, and simply a very good internet connection.

Actually, they should have multiple 10GigE carrier connections, and the latest industry standard hardware and software. 

The quality standard for these things has been established by the industry itself by this point.

What’s RAID?

It is a technology for data protection.

Is RAID hardware or software?

There is software RAID, but it doesn’t work so well.  Hardware RAID is the way to go.

Some hosts don’t offer RAID?

Yes, that’s true, not all of them offer RAID.  There are basic 7 levels of RAID – 0,1,2,3,4,5,6.

But you should also know, not all RAID are good.  RAID 10 is excellent, and it is achieved by combining level 0 and level 1.  Other combinations are possible too.

That’s a bit confusing.  How does RAID 10 work exactly?

To explain further, RAID 10 combines the mirroring of RAID 1 with the striping of RAID 0. Or in other words, it combines the redundancy of RAID 1 with the increased performance of RAID 0. It is best suitable for environments where both high performance and security is required.

In addition, these days, SSD is an important factor for hosting, because I/O is very fast on SSD drives as opposed to HDD.

What’s SSD?

It means Solid State Drive.

Why is it better?

Because of the faster read write speed and stability.

Ok, so we have SSD and a good RAID setup. What else do we need for hardware?

You will need a decent amount of CPU cores and RAM.

How many CPU cores and RAM will the average website owner need?

It varies based on the individual users’ need. Some users will be okay with shared hosting, if they have limited traffic, but, for high traffic sites, dedicated server resources are required.

Is most hosting usually shared?

Yes.

Why?

Well, because your average website owner usually doesn’t have high amount of traffic, so they don’t need a lot of server resources, and, of course, pricing is also a factor.  Not everyone wants to spend a lot of money per month for hosting.

How does shared hosting function?

Shared hosting provides hosting management software like cPanel, and also shares the server resources among the users.  It’s like a dormitory, where a lot of people live for cheap and share resources.

So shared hosting means sharing one single server with a bunch of other websites that don’t belong to you?

Exactly.

How many websites can fit on this one server?

It depends. Most shared hosting servers host 150-200 websites in a single server.

Why that number?

Just my guess.

But each site is limited in space, right?

Yes, not only space but some hosting companies also limit resource usage, so one user can’t abuse the shared situation while others suffer.

This is hard to maintain and sometimes doesn’t work.  And then, the hosting company may want the user to move to dedicated servers or somewhere else.

Is it possible that if I’m abusing resources, it will affect your site, for example if we are sharing the same server?

Yes, it will affect my site.

But usually, a hosting company should tell the offending user to buy more resources in order to avoid this, right?

Yes.  Or move somewhere else.

By “somewhere else”, you mean not leave the hosting company entirely, but move to their own server and still with the same company, right?

If the user doesn’t want to upgrade, then they (the host) might force them to leave and find services elsewhere.

Like, cancel their account?  Evict them from their online apartment where they are breaking the rules, so to speak?

Yes.

Normally, a hosting company wouldn’t admit to an innocent user who doesn’t abuse resources that they would have a neighbour who is abusing resources and potentially making things slow, correct?

Yes, they won’t admit anything to other users.  They deal with the abuser directly.

I would imagine that sometimes, they might keep the abuser with their company so they will keep paying, and some users do suffer.  Does this happen?  

Very rarely, unless the host doesn’t care about their business.  In which case, they will earn a bad reputation and everyone will avoid them.

At what point should a user leave shared hosting for dedicated hosting?

When they start to notice that the website loads slower, and has a decent amount of traffic that can’t be sustained by the shared hosting they have.  There is no exact answer for that.  It depends on the individual situation.

Do most hosts who offer shared hosting also offer dedicated hosting?

Yes, they do.

Dedicated hosting is always more expensive, right?  Because there’s no more sharing going on.  You get your own server to play with.

Yes.  The hardware costs more, but you get more space, power, and resources to yourself, so the price naturally goes up.

Is a company like Wix what you would consider shared hosting?

Actually, they are not considered a hosting company. They do offer users the ability to create a website with ease, in the form of templates, and then they offer a type of “hosting”, but they are not what anyone would call a website hosting company, including Wix themselves I think.

Ok, so if they technically host your site, how are they not a hosting company?

In a sense, they do offer shared hosting, but in a very limited way.  Think about it like this.  Facebook gives you a place to put your personal profile, and professional pages.  Are they considered a hosting service?  No.  Youtube lets you make a page and call it your own.  Are they providing website hosting?

It’s a grey area.  You could argue that any website you visit and have an account with is a hosting service in that case.

You can make a WordPress.com blog, or a Blogger blog, but those also are not hosts.  This is mixing up real web hosting who offer web developers freedom with companies offering to let you have an account and some very limited server access, but with a few handy features.

Can you elaborate on this?

Wix, Squarespace, Blogger, and these types of platforms are for newbies who specifically want to blog and do it fast and easily.  In other words, people who do NOT want to, or CAN’T do any coding.

Preferably, these people want a very simple setup for their blogs or websites.

These “blog” platforms like Wix to name but one, offers templates to make your blog-making experience easy, but a real web host would offer you more in the way of control when it comes to accessing the code on the backend of your site, and more online real estate to do what you need to do.

And through manipulating the website’s code is the true freedom leading to designing a truly versatile website.  These non-host hosts don’t let you touch the code.  It’s their code, essentially, but you are allowed to play with their templates to get an approximation of what you want.

If you don’t control the code of your own website, you aren’t getting real hosting – it’s that simple.  Secondary to that, is the amount of server space you have to work with.

So, you’re saying that certain blogging…let’s call them “platforms”… are very limited.

Right.  You are limited to their templates in terms of what you can build.

You can’t access the code on these platforms, then, correct?

Right.  Of course, you can login, but simply logging on to a website doesn’t mean you control the function of that website.  On other hosting platforms, which simply give you the space and let you decide what to do next, there is nothing stopping you from doing whatever you want – except of course the law and the rules of the hosting company.

What is the difference between dedicated hosting and cloud hosting?

Cloud hosting is like shared hosting, but instead of sharing a single server, it shares the whole facility servers.

For example, if a data center offers cloud hosting then they have hundreds of servers at their disposal, and users will be able to use resources from any server by parallel computing.

Of course you will be assigned minimum amount of CPU cores and RAM, but if your site happens to need more power and the cloud has resources available, then you will be able to use it.

So like de-centralized shared hosting?

Yes.

It would seem that dedicated hosting would be preferable to cloud hosting setup in general?

Yes.  That is, if you know what you are looking for, and gear your dedicated server towards that, it will be better than cloud hosting.

That said, if you have resource hungry app/site, then cloud hosting is better as long as a good cloud infrastructure setup is ensured by the hosting company (data center).

The main drawback of dedicated hosting is if your server hardware fails, then your site will be down, but, with cloud servers and hosting, you will have other resources to share and support your needs and the downtime will be much less, should the site in fact go down.

The only thing we haven’t really talked about is website security. What security features should a good web hosting service offer?

First and foremost DDoS attack prevention.

Be sure to follow best practices to configure your servers and minimize any bot attack efforts.  Also, SSL support is good, and obviously data loss/ theft prevention.

Would you say it’s standard for most hosts to offer these things?

Yes, these things are the bare minimum for good and secure hosting.

With shared hosting, there is a limit shell used for each user so that one cannot affect another or even the server itself.

Is a “limit shell” a technical thing?

Yes.

Is it hardware or software?

Software.

Well, I think you’ve explained a lot today and I want to thank you for the conversation.  I think now people who have read this will know what makes a good web hosting company.

My pleasure!

Visit Monzurul’s web hosting site here: fifohost.com

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