There are many places where a website can be hosted. A website can even be hosted on a PC, but once the PC is turned off, then the website goes offline. When selecting a server, your business model should always play a role in what type of server is used.
Shared Server for Web Hosting – These types of servers have many users. It is fine to use for almost any website. Use this if you are new to web development and don’t need anything complex. A shared server is normally provided by a web hosting companies like Godaddy, Dreamhost, or Host Gator. If you are going to run eCommerce software like Magento or blogging software like WordPress, then don’t look any further, unless your website needs to be on a private server. Monthly costs for shared servers should be about $10/mo. You might see some web hosting companies offering web hosting on shared servers for $3.99/mo, but I do not recommend it because there may be too many people on those servers; thus, slowing down your website. The more people who are “sharing” a server, the slower your website will be. There is no shortage of web hosting companies. Just do a web search for “web hosting companies” and you’ll find plenty. Or you can see a list of web hosting companies I have used before.
Dedicated Server for Web Hosting – While many web hosting companies offer shared servers, you can opt for having a dedicated server. These servers have no other websites hosted on them. They should be used if you believe your website is going to have a lot of traffic.There is normally a big jump in cost because a whole server is dedicated to your website and the web hosting company cannot sell space on that particular server to anyone else. Your website should run super fast because there won’t be any other websites taking up the bandwidth. Companies like Dreamhost, Godaddy, RackSpace (all highly recommended) are good solutions. If you are just starting off, there really is no need to start off on a dedicated server. You can always start on a shared server and if you find the server is slow, the web hosting company would be happy to upgrade you to a dedicated server. On a side note: Sometimes I see web development companies get a private server for their clients, but they effectively throw all their clients onto “one” server. So technically while it is a dedicated server for the web development company, it can have multiple websites on it.
Stand Alone Server for Web Hosting and Applications – These servers will need someone who is knowledgeable with server-side programming languages. It is used by companies that have mid-sized to enterprise level operations that usually need to sync their offices. Here is a quick example. If you are using a computer at an office in Los Angeles, CA and you try printing something, but you accidentally select the printer in the New York office, the company is most likely using a stand alone server. All the locations are synced together. Private networks are run using these servers. The cost of these services are high and only make sense to a company who can allocate a few hundred dollars per month.
Another great use for these servers is when a company needs to run custom applications, like a backend system to process orders. RackSpace is a highly recommended company. I highly recommend them. You can use both SQL (Windows) and MySQL servers. However, because this service can be expensive for small and mid-sized business, there is a MASSIVE shift happening and everything is going to cloud servers.
Cloud Computing Servers – Even though I use cloud servers at Amazon Cloud and RackSpace Cloud, I always have a hard time trying to describe it to someone new to web development. Here is Wikipedia’s definition of a Cloud Server. Don’t bother looking at any other clouds service companies besides the ones below. Maybe this will change in the future, but these are VERY solid companies. Unlike the other forms of web services, cloud servers usually charge based on the amount of usage. Being able to provide this feature allows a company to save money when they don’t use all the memory. Let me put this into perspective for you. A company with a $10,000 server can be now have the same thing for $10.95 per month on the cloud. You aren’t locked down to a contract and you can pay-as-you-grow your business.
An AWESOME feature is you can choose from a variety of popular operating systems. With a click of a button and your server can be up and running. No need to hire an expensive computer programmer anymore! Oh, and here’s a secret. If you do need a programmer, find one for cheap on Craigslist.org. Seriously, you don’t need to pay someone $120/hr anymore to help you.
So to recap here, follow your business model. If you are just starting off, use a shared web server with a reputable web hosting company. You can always move your website later. If you are going to have heavy traffic on your site, then use a dedicated server. If you are going to be running custom applications for your business, use a cloud server. Just to let you know, BuildBusinessWebsite.com is on a shared server at a web hosting company called Dreamhost.