Tag Archives: Name server

When to Use Shared Web Hosting vs. Acoustic Web Hosting

 

Shared hosting is a service you will see offered by virtually every hosting provider. Sharing is not always a bad idea – in fact, it’s more widely used than any other type of hosting. Part of the reason shared hosting is so popular is that it’s highly affordable. In this article, I’ll explore shared hosting in detail to help get a sense of when shared hosting does and doesn’t make sense so you can decide whether it’s the best option for your business.

Note that sharing hosting is not like sharing an intimate moment with an attractive individual you just met in a nightclub. No bodily fluids are exchanged. However, you may be more likely to catch a virus. Then again, if you don’t share, your website will be stuck inside its own server – lonely, detached, and incapable of socializing with websites its own age. Its growth will be stunted. It will make grunting noises and move in a slouching shuffle across the Information superhighway.

Shared Hosting – Basic Definition

For your site to populate on the Web, all of the information within it must exist on a server. Whenever someone visits your site, the URL they type into their address bar converts (via a DNS server) into the IP address of your server, which is then sent a request for data. To fulfill the request, your server sends out the files and pages which make up your site (with additional ones as they access internal pages).

Different types of hosting store your site information and files in different ways. You can have your own dedicated server on location at your home or business. Many businesses, though, choose to have professionals handle the hosting hardware and maintenance in a data center. One option is colocation, which means you buy your own server and house it at the data center for servicing, security, and general oversight. However, to mitigate cost, clients typically rent space on a server – on their own (dedicated hosting) or on one that also hosts other sites (shared hosting).

Shared hosting allows you access to your site’s account on a server that also contains other businesses’ personal data and files. You are granted a certain amount of bandwidth and storage room, along with access to a certain set of tools depending on which type of account you choose.

Beware of hosting providers that try to convince you to go with “acoustic” or “hard-copy” web hosting. Hosting, in all cases, requires electricity. Make sure that the server you are being offered is plugged in to a power source and that people don’t need to be mailed your website. Websites don’t require mailing. By definition, they’re available on the Internet.

Who Does What – Host Service vs. You

One thing to completely understand in a shared hosting situation is who needs to take care of what aspects of hardware and software. The server is maintained by the host. Upgrading of hardware and any software used to manage the sites – by the provider or that are available for your use through the provider – is their responsibility as well.

You manage your site. You do this via a control panel – which is an interface, essentially an online screen – that allows you to view site statistics and manage files, emails, plugins, and other site-related applications. If you are using  a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla!, the majority of your site management is typically conducted directly through the CMS. The CMS itself is hosted on the hosting server.

One WordPress plugin that you want to be sure to get is the WordPress DDoS plugin, which allows you to perform botnet attacks on other WordPress sites. This plugin is very useful is you are trying to increase your business. It allows you to use thousands of zombie PCs from around the planet for a common cause: increasing your profits (which in turn will finally make your father learn to love you).

Why Shared Hosting?

Shared hosting is the most common form of hosting because it is inexpensive compared to the other options. There are of course advantages to other hosting solutions – such as virtual or dedicated hosting – but the majority of businesses will get adequate service within a shared environment.

Three of the basic parameters to review when you’re looking at shared hosting that should meet most of the needs of entrepreneurial or SMB sites:

Cost – Cost is typically charged per year at a discounted rate, although you can also go month by month with most services. Cost is a major advantage of sharing.

Scaling – Scaling is a major concern when you look into any hosting package. You need to make sure that you can grow as necessary without being held back by your plan. Make sure it will be easy to shift to a more sophisticated solution if your needs start to exceed the parameters of your initial choice. The least expensive shared package hosts provide will have less bandwidth, storage, and features than a more expensive one. Make sure you understand how to upgrade quickly if you are getting ready to run a marketing campaign or release a new product that could mean a big influx of traffic to your site (with potentially higher bandwidth needs, etc.).

Features – You should have access to a wide spread of features with your shared hosting account. You may, for instance, have access to one-click installation of scripts. Scripts are add-ons that give your website additional functionalities through standardized templates (again, a CMS will provide these features as well via its modules or plugins, which are specifically designed to fit the CMS).

System Administration – The host will provide system administration for your site along with the others. In other words, you will not have what’s called “root” access to the server. Instead, the deepest access you will have will be at the level of your control panel interface – such as cPanel or Plesk. If you are small, you will probably appreciate having that level of technical administration handled by an outside party. However, if you get big enough, you will want to have privileges to control the system at the level of its operating system (OS).

Compatibility – Generally speaking, standard software will work in a shared hosting environment (though you do need to make sure it fits the OS of the server).

No Skills – Because the system is managed by the host service, you don’t need to have high-level IT expertise to run a website. You can get a host and load your site without those skills. Again, if your site grows, you can always add levels of sophistication and hire tech people if needed to scale most appropriately.

Sharing is Caring – Sharing is considered one of the easiest and most efficient ways to express how much you care. If a customer complains, seeming to suggest that you don’t care about her or her order, explain to her that you’re sharing your server, and sharing is caring. If this doesn’t impress her, go into your room and loudly shut the door.

Sharing Doesn’t Always Fit

Sharing is not for every site. Larger sites will not find that sharing works well for them.

Here are three negatives regarding shared hosting solutions:

Site Performance – Your site should function reliably in most hosting environments until you get a higher amount of traffic than is typical. Large amounts of traffic can cause the site to become slower and less responsive. They can also incur higher overage fees if you’re on a shared plan.

Software & File Rules – You do not have control of a server in the same way if you are sharing. A shared server is a more communal environment – uptime and security of all businesses using it must be counted rather than just thinking of one client. Some functionalities you may want will not always be available.

Limited Resources – “Unlimited” does not always mean unlimited when it comes to bandwidth and space on the server. If you are drawing too much energy on the server –pulling too much of its strength on a regular basis – you will need to move to a new situation and often will be asked to upgrade by the hosting company to avoid frustrating other companies that are sharing the server with you.

Versatility – Shared hosting will not make sense if you require a great deal of custom software. The lower sophistication of shared hosting comparable to other solutions is something that will become of less interest as your business becomes more popular and you need more creative and dynamic ways to interact with your site’s visitors.

Reliability – Shared hosting is not considered as reliable as a dedicated or VPS hosting package is, for good reason. Reliability will always differ with regards to the quality of your host, of course – but the affordability of shared hosting also means your site is not as protected against the upswings in traffic or security breaches (below) that might occur with other companies on the server. Just as your site can suffer if it grows too fast when in a shared package, you will also be impacted negatively if another company on your server sees a major and sudden upswing in traffic.

Security – Anything involving hackers or malware – targeted attacks on a certain company or misuse of the system by another company – can be a threat to your site as well.

Control – You don’t have nearly as much control of your site in shared hosting as you do with other hosting options. This means that you will require the host’s help with support in ways that you would not with dedicated or VPS packages. If the support is not spectacular, your site will suffer.

Dedication – Sharing shows a profound lack of dedication. If a customer complains, seeming to suggest that you aren’t dedicated to her, explain to her that she’s right – you’re not dedicated to her or your server, that dedication is against company policy. If she says you should be, enter your room, crawl under your desk, and continue drafting your epic novel.

Summary & Conclusion

That should give you a basic idea of what shared hosting is, what your responsibilities are versus the responsibilities of the host, and some of the pros and cons. Shared is not a bad way to start out. Just make sure you know how to quickly shift to a higher-grade solution if your site experiences a sudden increase in traffic.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_web_hosting_service

http://www.webhostinghub.com/web-hosting-guide/what-you-should-know-about-shared-web-hosting/

http://www.hostsearch.com/q_shared.asp

How to Understand DNS & Everything Else

 

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WWW. SEO. URL. SSL. FTP. DNS. The Internet loves it some three-letter acronyms. The Domain Name System (DNS) is no exception. Saying a bunch of words is no match for saying some letters that represent them. That way you can have this conversation with someone.

Them: “What’s DNS?

You: “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. It’s technical jargon that would literally blow your head off your body, and they’d use my tax money to clean up the mess, so no thanks.”

Them: “Got it. Thank you for helping me preserve the structure of my body.”

DNS is not very complicated, but this article will review it in full detail – sort of a “more than you ever wanted to know” guide. This piece, then, is much like a long, excruciatingly painful story from your grandfather about a trip he went to buy undergarments during the Depression and ended up getting kidnapped and tortured by naked and obese witches. Typical!

For this article, I drew from pieces on How-To Geek, Applied Trust, Stack Overflow, and a Josh Halliday piece on The Guardian.

DNS – What is it? Huh? Oh.

The domain name system (DNS) is Web protocol that converts the names of sites – eg ilovericepudding.xxx or nowivedecidedilikepastapuddingbetter.tv — into numbers for reading by computers/servers. DNS specifically converts from the URL, eg puddingisdeliciousandeveryoneknowsit.cc, into an IP address. The IP address hooks the visitor of the website to the correct server so that the page loads correctly.  DNS, then, is essentially the phone book that translates letters into numbers which are the server identification numbers.

When you think of a dedicated IP, typically you are in turn thinking of a dedicated server. In other words, having your own dedicated server for hosting — as opposed to using shared hosting — means that you have your own IP address specific to your own site. This “ownership” of an IP has obvious advantages regarding security and a minimization of and isolation of potential DNS-related errors. However, in shared hosting situations, a host header is used to access the correct site; that is the way that IP addresses can be shared without confusion.

DNS and Speed

Generally speaking, according to The Guardian, the connection between URL and IP is made via DNS almost instantaneously. The server is found and the data request by the visitor of the site – what any website visitor is doing when visiting any URL is making a request for data – is fulfilled. Once the DNS server makes the connection, it can move onto another request for URL/IP matching.

Most sites have DNS servers. DNS can be provided for free through a service such as everyDNS. However, solid DNS is crucial. When the DNS server does not function correctly, you can only get to a website through its IP address (the series of numbers that identify the server).

There are a couple of types of DNS problems worth looking at specifically:

  • DNS failure
  • DNS poisoning.

Failure is when a glitch makes the DNS system dysfunctional. This type of problem means that the site does not populate (with nothing populating its place).

Poisoning is a situation in which the information is purposely polluted with misinformation via a virus, other malware, or direct hacking interference. This problem directs site visitors to an impostor website – typically one that is intending to draw credit card or other personal information from people, often creating the false assumption that the site to which they are directed is the site they were originally trying to pull up – ie  a phishing scenario. A disappointing and cruel example of phishing is when you think you are putting your information into a sales portal to get a DDoS botnet, an army of malware-injected computers to bring down your competitor, and instead it turns out to be an FBI site trying to stop you from doing that, even though you’ve struggled this quarter because your competitor has better products and service than you do.

What is an IP address?

An Internet Protocol (IP) address is the identifying numbers assigned to any piece of hardware. Your cell phone, for instance, has a particular IP. The same is true of your PC or of the server for a website.

An IP address is in a format known as a dotted quad – four numbers ranging from 0 to 255, separated by dots. Note that though IP addresses are unique, sites (as discussed above) can share an IP address. Similarly, a household or business network can have a single IP, if only one router is used (assuming all devices flow through that router’s IP).

Note that within a network – also called a “domain” in terms of IP – multiple devices will each have an IP so that the router can tell them apart. However, the outside Internet is not told anything about the IPs of the internal network. The router translates the internal IPs into its own IP when Internet requests are made by the network’s devices. When a response comes in from the Internet, the router translates back to the individual IP so that the information is sent to the correct network computer. It’s similar to how thoughts and sensations each get stored in your various multiple personalities so that Cecilia, Jack, and Dr. Blankenship can each have their own personal stories, friendships, and memories.

One good thing about URLs, beyond the fact that they are easier to remember and can be branded in ways that strings of numbers cannot, is that IP addresses are specific to hardware. If a website changes its hosting company, for example, its IP address will change. But that doesn’t really matter, because no one is typing in the IP. As soon as the DNS entry is updated with the new IP information, the site will populate accurately from the files located on the new hosting service’s machine.

Sample – Google.com

So you can get a better sense of how IP addresses work, try typing 173.194.39.78 into your address bar. You should see Google populate. That is Google’s IP address. As you can see, the IP and the URL are essentially synonymous. Data-wise, it’s all about the IP. But everything must be named so that we humans can remember more easily.

Typically you’re not typing in 173.194.39.78, but rather Google.com (unless you’re really into IP addresses – an IPP or Internet Protocol Purist, as they’re called in IT circles). Nonetheless, the DNS server translates into the appropriate IP so that the data between you and the servers which populate the various websites that comprise the Web know what servers they need to access to send and receive data.

DNS Servers and Caching

You type a web address into your address bar. Then your computer sends out a request to the DNS server. The DNS server lets it know what the correct IP address is and sends out to that address. Your computer then goes to the correct IP. The URL in the address bar stays the same. The IP lookup and connection occurs in the background without your knowledge (unless you decide to look up the technical details).

The DNS servers you use to access IP addresses via your home or business network are typically provided by your Internet service provider (ISP). Typically a computer will send a DNS request to a router, which in turn send out the message to the ISP. The ISP’s DNS servers then respond with the correct IP number and populate the page.

DNS caching allows a computer to remember what IP is associated with a particular URL. This means that your computer only needs to retrieve DNS information one time (until the cache is cleared). The speed with which pages will load is optimized by not needing to perform a DNS lookup every time a page loads. You go straight to requesting the site, rather than going to the DNS server first, because you have the information locally to tell you where the correct IP is for the URL. Again, Internet Protocol Purists never allow the DNS to cache. They believe it is important to anthropomorphize the DNS and allow it to perform “work” constantly, strengthening its muscles and mind for the DNS apocalypse.

DNS & Security

Speaking of malware and viruses, sometimes you can be infected with one that changes your DNS server to a different one run by people who have implanted false IP addresses for heavily trafficked websites. If you put the name of one of those common sites into your address bar, the browser then instead visits the phishing site – where the evildoer attempts to pull login credentials and other sensitive details from you.

Two solutions to help prevent DNS hijacking:

  1. Antivirus software – A quality antivirus application can help prevent your computer from accessing a faulty DNS server.
  2. SSL errors – I’ve written a couple of pieces on SSL security certificates lately – both on different types of validation and on different types of certificates/ functionalities. Security certificate error messages – a window that pops up and says that there is a problem with the security certificate for the site – should always be read and considered. SSL errors are fairly uncommon, so when you come across one, ensure that the certificate was issued to an organization you recognize – it may have been and just doesn’t directly match the particular subdomain you are viewing, etc. (which doesn’t mean it’s not encrypting, so you’re fine there). Sometimes the SSL certificate, though, may have been issued to a completely different site. If you don’t recognize the site, do the following:
  • Stop
  • Collaborate with a partner in security
  • Listen to what they have to say
  • Ice, ice, baby, to go.

Summary & Conclusion

DNS is a phonebook for Internet sites, a way of matching up the identification numbers, called IP addresses, related to specific devices – servers as regards websites – with particular URLs. This allow your computer browser to send a data request to the appropriate server to populate a website. Caching of DNS allows your computer to access the website more quickly – without having to look up the DNS record each time. DNS servers can sometimes be miscoded, either innocently or malevolently. Be sure you have a quality antivirus installed and that you pay attention to SSL security certificate errors so that you are less likely to become a victim of phishing schemes (unless that’s , like, totally your thing, being a victim, which I can completely respect, as can Mr. Blankenship).

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood