What is Virtual Hosting?
By Bob Hubbard
Look everywhere on the Internet and you will see thousands of web hosts offering incredible hosting deals, for peanuts. How can anyone make money selling 20 gigabytes of space for $5 a month? Doesn’t it cost more than that for all the equipment and staff and whatnot? It sure does. Web hosts can offer this through a system called Virtual Hosting.
Virtual Hosting, also called “Shared Hosting” is where multiple web sites (www.anyname.com) are served off the same physical server. This saves each customer from purchasing their own expensive server, performing the setup, hiring support staff and providing the appropriate environment. The great majority of web sites are set up this way.
Virtual Hosting allows someone to run a website without having to buy equipment, maintain that same equipment, pay for expensive maintenance agreements, keep trained technicians on staff, install and maintain expensive high speed data connections, and provide expensive on site security for all of this expensive equipment.
It allows a web hosting company to divide the costs among many different clients who share part of the same physical server, at a great savings to their clients.
The pluses of virtual hosting are the lower costs and easy setup. You often don’t need to know more than how to use a free web page design tool to use it.
The minuses include poor support, too many shared hosting companies going under due to under charging, as well as all the problems one could expect if they were to live in an over crowded apartment complex due to a condition called “over selling.”
“OverSelling” is where your host sells more space than the server can physically provide. If your host is selling an “unlimited” space plan, or even hundreds of gigabytes of space, you can be certain they are “Over Selling”.
Budget hosts will cram hundreds of accounts onto a single server. Each account uses X% of the servers memory, processor and physical hard drive space. If a single account uses too much, you start to see server slow downs, connection problems, and errors.
Reliable hosts carefully monitor these issues, and will sometimes move accounts between servers to balance the loads and keep things working smoothly for all their customers. Sometimes that’s not enough, and hosts will recommend upgrading to a “Virtual Server”, or a real server, depending on the situation.
A “Virtual Server” is exactly what is sounds like. It’s a server, which is entirely in a larger servers memory. It functions like it’s physical counterpart, in that it has a limited amount of memory, and drive space, but it differs from conventional Virtual Hosting in that rather than share space, processor and memory, it’s all yours. Virtual hosting can be a short-term answer when you have out grown a shared environment, but can’t afford a full dedicated server of your own.
In most cases however, the great majority of websites will work fine in a Shared environment, as long as you choose a reliable hosting company that won’t overload their servers, and who doesn’t offer the unattainable.
Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts portal site MartialTalk.com and president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists. Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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