There are a lot of ways to get a funny cat video or photo of a chic shirt delivered to someone’s laptop. In this post, we’re going to get a basic overview of all the different ways that someone might choose to host their website, from dedicated servers to private clouds.
Servers are either rented directly to a company to store in-house, sold directly to a company as hardware, or rented to a company as a managed solution. When you see the phrase “dedicated servers,” it usually refers to this third option, a managed solution that is rented out to individual companies for their web services. The server is called dedicated to contrast it to VPS and shared server solutions.
However, if you want your own server, you can also rent a physical server which you would house in your office or company building. Additionally, you can buy servers outright and use them to host web services.
If you need to increase power, you’ve got a few different options. Many companies are beginning to opt for private cloud and CDN solution, which we will discuss below. The other two main options are to increase the power of the dedicated server or to use a load balancer to link multiple physical servers together. Individual physical servers can be very powerful if you simply increase the hardware of the solution, adding more RAM and CPU cores.
The load balancer is like a cloud solution, in that it uses multiple servers as if it were a single environment, but it is different in the approach. With a load balancer all the traffic to the site runs through a single server and then gets distributed to further servers at the end of the line. The load balancer throws users and requests onto the least busy server that is available. Each server is capable of running all the individual data and instances of the website on its own.
Like in almost any industry, there are people who make things and people who sell things, and sometimes the middleman finds a price point where they can make money by buying and reselling the product. Server space is a commodity, and there is a whole industry built around buying server space and reselling it to different consumers. Usually, this happens when a company utilizes a colocation center (see below) to split dedicated servers into shared servers or VPS solutions, which they then manage themselves. By providing the tech support and branding, they can upsell the server space that they are paying for.
Resellers is located in the dedicated servers category, but there are many different types of upselling operations that can take place. Some resellers of web services will offer services that are nearly identical to the ones that they are purchasing, but will provide additional technical support.
Not every cloud is shared. For example, Amazon offers a Virtual Private Cloud as part of its web services which creates a logically isolated section of their cloud. They also offer dedicated instances which can be defined and isolated at the hardware level for additional security. This means that when you see “cloud hosting,” you’re dealing with 2 different types. Public cloud hosting allows companies to lower costs and split resources with a ton of different people. Private cloud hosting allows companies to have tons more resources and increased security and compliance specs.
A private cloud has the same kind of technology that a public cloud uses, but it stops short of splitting the virtual environment into different individual virtual private servers that are servicing different users. Instead of splitting the virtual environment, the resources the whole environment are given to a single company, site, or solution.
Private clouds also allow companies to utilize the power of a content delivery network (CDN). If you’re a large company that has to deliver a complex website or e-commerce experience with tons of data, you’ll need to leverage a CDN. When a company wants to stream thousands of gigs of data per second to a lot of customers, for example a large video streaming service, they use a CDN.
A CDN creates additional instances of critical data and locates them in cached storage at strategic locations. One of the big considerations of large websites with a global audience is latency. Latency is how long it takes data to move from one location to another, and is affected by the kinds of cables that are used, the kinds of signals that are employed, and the precise geographical location of the entities. If a data center needs to move data to a laptop that is requesting a site from a distant location, a CDN lets it bounce that request to a different data center that is closer to the laptop. An originating data center processes all requests, obtains the location of the users making the requests, then reroutes those requests to nodes in the CDN that are closer to the user making the request. CDNs allow huge companies to deliver lightning-fast website experiences to people on different sides of the world.
Green hosting is a branding of web hosting that has popped up recently, targeting consumers and companies that wish to reduce the environmental impact of web hosting services. Web hosting services can draw a ton of power to support the data centers and keep things cool enough for servers to function properly.
In response to this drain on environments and resources, green hosting usually also pays for carbon offsetting or even powers a whole data center with renewable energy. Some green data centers will even prioritize the planting of trees and plants around the data center property. They try to conserve energy and opt for energy saving versions of equipment.
Colocation versus Management
If you’re setting up shop in a major technology hub, like San Francisco or New York, you’ll also have the option to sign up for colocation services. Colocation services expect that you’ve got boots on the ground in the area. Instaead of fully managing your servers, you’re rented the space on the rack to put up your own equipment. Colocation services vary, but for the most part you’ll be responsible for your own management and IT. You may have to even purchase your own hardware. They will provide the power and fans to keep things running and cool.
When people think of web hosting services for small to mid size operations, they usually are thinking of management, and not colocation. When you hire fully managed hosting operations, you get way more than just power and air conditioning. You get the servers adn the personel to keep things running on the servers. Many management hosting solutions also handle certain security, backup, and OS updates.