There are five main methods for a company to host a website: in-house, co-location, shared, dedicated and 'dedicated and managed'. The choice regarding which method will be used depends upon the technical skills of the in-house staff and the requirements of the business.
Hosting Options: The in-house solution involves the company itself purchasing all necessary software and hardware together with the leasing of a high speed internet connection. One of the main considerations of in-house hosting is that the company is required to employ system administrators to maintain all aspects of running the site such as; security, monitoring site responsiveness, reliability and backups. The costs involved in running an in house server are considerable. The largest cost by far is the expense of employing trained and experienced personnel to deal with all aspects of running the server.
Co-location allows companies to locate their server hardware in a location owned by the hosting company. The hosting company provides the bandwidth, an IP address and the electrical power to the server. The advantages of co-location include; a low cost for the bandwidth provided, control over what hardware is used and a UPS in the form of independent generators. Disadvantages include not having immediate physical access to the hardware and the difficulties associated with finding a provider that offers this service which is local to the business.
One common method of hosting a web site is through a shared web server provided by a hosting company. Multiple web sites from various companies are located on one server with the hardware resources and internet connection being shared between all sites. Shared web server services are only suitable for sites which generate a small amount of traffic and are available at a fairly low cost. The main drawbacks are; limits on bandwidth, no control over the operating system software and security breaches on another site which is hosted on the same server could affect the site.
The term dedicated web-server refers to the rental and exclusive use of a computer that includes a Web server, related software, and connection to the Internet, hosted in the Web hosting company's plans. With the dedicated approach a server is leased from a hosting company which is responsible for maintaining the hardware and internet connection while the company that owns the web site has unlimited access to the operating system, software applications, and database applications through the 'control panel' provided by the hosting company.
Upon further investigation, dedicated hosting companies – such as Donhost Ltd – often supply the server with the necessary software and employ technicians to take care of configuration, security updates and provide advice. Dedicated hosting can cost from around £ 1,000 to £ 5,000 per year depending on the requirements of the web site. Most dedicated web hosting companies now offer servers with a pre-installed operating system and server / security software in addition to offering some level of technical support and backup procedures.
There is usually a need to use a dedicated web server when the use of a web site produces a reasonable amount of traffic. The main advantages of using a dedicated server are a high level of reliability, a high bandwidth and efficient user response times.
'Dedicated and Managed Hosting' refers to a service similar to the dedicated web-server approach with the added advantage of being able to choose from a variety of technical services from the hosting company such as; monitoring, advice, administration, support, security, updates and upgrades, testing and troubleshooting.
In conclusion the main factors surrounding the choice between the various hosting methods are cost, in-house expertise, expected bandwidth / traffic and the level of service. Sites with highly sensitive information, high volume, or special software requirements will probably need a dedicated server.