05 Dec

Web Hosting: What does it all mean?

When working in the hosting industry, we tend to use a lot of loosely defined definitions and terms.

Lots of times these definitions can change between providers but there is a general “description” that I’ve learned to look for when shopping for outside services, and I thought I would give you QnEZ’s definition of these various terms in hopes that they help you understand what you are getting when shopping around.

Shared Hosting / Virtual Hosting :
These terms generally mean the same thing. There are multiple users (or tenants) on a single computer. All the resources are pooled together like on your home computer, but there is “magic” in place (‘name based virtual hosting’) that makes it so that when you go to www.yourdomain.com you get your website instead of www.joeswebsite.com or the default servers website at servername.hostingcompany.com. This is best described as everyone living in an apartment complex with shared electricity, shared internet, etc and living in just one room.

Virtual Server / Virtual Private Server / VPS:
Generally when you talk to someone, this is a simple “virtualized” host. One computer, split into several “small slices”. Each virtual server has it’s own OS. It’s own software stack, and it’s own configuration. Resources can either be dedicated or shared depending on the provider but there is usually a “bare minimum” configuration that is guaranteed. When shopping with QnEZ our base VPS service always allows for X amount of Dedicated Ram, and then generally double that in “shared” ram as available on the server. We do this so that we can share resources among users and reduce cost, while guaranteeing bare minimum service qualities and allowing for a better experience. This would best be described as a living in a nicer apartment complex. Everyone has multiple rooms, you have your own internet and electricity, but there are common access elements that you can access also (like a pool, gym etc).

Cloud VPS / Cloud Server :
Now this is where we start to get into debated terms. Some providers use the term “cloud” to mean any VPS or Virtualized system like we described above. However most of the reputable providers, will give you a definition more like this. Cloud tends to refer to a “highly available cluster of resources that is split up among one or more virtual servers”. So I could have 15 computers, networked together, sharing resources, but acting as either one Super Computer or 150 smaller shards or virtual servers. These numbers can vary depending on the size of the server that is at the base of the cluster, and the amount of resources each VPS/Shard/Node needs. The goal of this is that if any 1 or more “machines” go down, your services will just roll over to another machine and keep running. That machine or “box” can then be replaced without any degradation or downtime to the “cluster”. I really don’t have a nice apartment analogy for this one, but I’m sure you can see the benefits of this over a standard VPS.

Hybrid Server:
This term doesn’t seem to get used as much any more, but it’s essentially a “dedicated server” with a “hypervisor” or “virtualization layer” over the top of it. In some places you are sharing the dedicated server with one or 2 other “tenants” so that resources are shared but not heavily. But it’s also possible you are alone on the machine. The reason for offering this kind of service was generally meant to reduce the cost of software licensing because licensing for a VPS (which this counts as because there is a virtualization layer) is cheaper than “bare metal” dedicated or colocated servers.

Dedicated Server:
Hopefully this is exactly what it sounds like. You have a dedicated server. You are the only client on it. Unless you want to add your own virtualization layer and make many smaller computers (which you often CAN do), it’s just a leased server. You moved out of your apartment complex, into the condo complex near by but are leasing or leasing to own instead of owning.

Colocated Server / Colocation:
This is a service, in which you purchase your own server (either through your service provider, or directly from Dell/HP/SuperMicro or one of the various OEM’s or even used re-sellers on eBay,) and then “co locate” it with a provider. Generally the server sits in a “rack” or shelf (depending on if it’s rack mounted or a tower server) and is plugged into power and internet. They may or may not do any management services for you. You may have access to a “KVM”, “Remote Access Card”, “Integrated Lights Out (ilo)” or “Baseband Management Controller”. You also may or may not have access to a PDU or “web power” where you can log in and “cycle” your power service to reboot your server.

Also published on Medium.