A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to provide their own websites accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server they own for use by their clients as well as providing Internet connectivity, typically in a data center. Webhosts can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for servers they do not own to be located in their data center, called colocation.
The scopes of hosting services vary widely. The most basic is webpage and small-scale file hosting, where files can be uploaded via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or a Web interface. The files are usually delivered to the Web "as is" or with little processing. Many Internet service providers (ISPs) offer this service for free to their subscribers. People can also obtain Web page hosting from other, alternative service providers. Web page hosting is typically free, advertisement-sponsored, or cheap.
Single page hosting is generally sufficient only for personal web pages. A complex site calls for a more comprehensive package that provides database support and application development platforms (e.g. PHP, Java, and ASP.NET). These facilities allow the customers to write or install scripts for applications like forums and content management. For e-commerce, SSL is also required.
The host may also provide an interface control panel (e.g. cPanel, Hosting Controller, Plesk or others) for managing the Web server and installing scripts as well as other services like e-mail. Control panels and web interfaces have been causing some controversy lately as Web.com claims that it holds patent rights to the hosting technology with its 19 patents. Hostopia, a large wholesale host, recently purchased a license to use that technology from web.com for 10% of retail revenues. Web.com recently sued Go Daddy as well for similar patent infringement.
Some hosts specialize in certain software or services (e.g. e-commerce). They are commonly used by larger companies to outsource network infrastructure to a hosting company. To find a web hosting company, there are searchable directories that can be used. One must be extremely careful when search for a new company due to the fact that many of the people promoting service providers are actually affiliates and the reviews are biased.
Hosting uptime refers to the percentage of time the host is accessible via the internet. Many providers state that they aim for a 99.9% uptime, but there may be server restarts and planned (or unplanned) maintenance in any hosting environment.
A popular claim from the popular hosting providers is '99% or 99.9% server uptime' but this often refers only to a server being powered on and doesn't account for network downtime. Real downtime can potentially be larger than the percentage guaranteed by the provider. Many providers tie uptime, and accessibility, into their own Service Level Agreement, or SLA. SLAs may or may not include refunds, or reduced costs if performance goals are not met. One must be extremely careful when selecting a new company and they should read all terms and conditions carefully.
Web hosting is often provided as part of a general Internet access plan; there are many free and paid providers offering these services.
A customer needs to evaluate the requirements of the application to choose what kind of hosting to use. Such considerations include database server software, scripting software, and operating system. Most hosting providers provide Linux-based web hosting which offers a wide range of different software. A typical configuration for a Linux server is the LAMP platform: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl/Python.
Web hosting packages often include a Web Content Management System, so the end-user doesn't have to worry about the more technical aspects.
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