Virtual or shared Web hosting is the business of housing and serving files for a Web site. Typically, an individual or small to mid-sized business cannot afford to independently obtain an extremely robust connection to the Internet for their Web presence. Virtual or shared Web hosting provides these consumers with the option to outsource their Internet requirements inexpensively.
Using a shared hosting service allows these companies to share the cost of a fast Internet connection for serving files. It is the most basic entry-level, fee-based hosting service a customer can select.
Shared hosting offers clients the ability to host their Web site on a powerful, professionally managed server at a low monthly cost. Shared servers provide individual Web sites with redundant connectivity and guaranteed uptime. These services provide an excellent solution for entry-level hosting needs because they are designed to host small-scale e-commerce sites and static Web pages.
Shared hosting is also popular among first-time webmasters because it can provide a reliable Web presence without advanced technical skills. Such a service is also advantageous to the smaller consumer because it assures them that they will obtain transparent services and that their Web site will have its own domain name and set of e-mail addresses.
Virtual hosting services are thus extremely popular because they offer the smaller consumer fast deployment, strong resources and most importantly, low cost. By paying an affordable and predictable monthly fee to a shared Web hosting service, consumers obtain reliability, expertise and faster connections than their dial-up service can provide.
Such a service is also advantageous to the smaller consumer because it allows them outsource a high-traffic, content-rich Web site for a small percentage of what it would cost to hire a single employee to develop it and run it in-house. For this reason, most individuals and small businesses opt to select a virtual hosting service because it is inexpensive and usually provides the basic services that they require.
Convenience is another factor that drives popular interest in shared Web hosting due to the service’s fast setup time and bundled features. Typically, site activation can take minutes after you have purchased services with a credit card.
The most characteristic feature of virtual Web hosting is that services are usually bundled. For an inclusive monthly fee, consumers can obtain a variety of high-quality, multi-platform Web site solutions.
Usually the bundle of services includes a minimum amount of disk storage space for your Web pages. The bundle will normally also include a minimum amount of data transfer, or a capped amount of data that your can send to individuals that access your Web site. Most virtual accounts will also include e-mail forwarding services along with hardwired, physical e-mail boxes. Mail forwarding services allows you to create e-mail aliases at your domain name that will forward to an external e-mail address.
A decent shared hosting firm will also include free 24×7 technical support in all of its service bundles. It should also include unlimited file transfer protocol (FTP) services so that you can update your Web site at anytime.
For your own reference, a shared Web hosting service should also provide you access to Web statistics, so that you can gage how many Internet clients are visiting your site. For the sake of accuracy, a reliable Web host should also provide its customers with access to raw statistical logs, so that consumers can use their own statistical Web packages for site analysis.
Other services that are typically characteristic of a shared Web host include: daily tape backup of your Web site; anonymous FTP server access so you can provide public access to your files via file transfer protocol format; and full CGI-BIN access so that as you upload scripts that will add functionality to your Web site.
Most shared or virtual hosting services now also offer hosting automation software such as control panels. The control panel allows a consumer to control most aspects of their hosting service through an online graphical interface. The graphical interface allows users to control all the characteristics of a shared hosting service described above.