Web Hosting Definition – Plus Other Hosting Services

Web hosting definitionEarthLink has been a leading Web hosting provider since way back in 1995. So it’s sometimes surprising to hear that people still don’t understand the term web hosting.

But we hear that all the time. And we’ve acted on that information too.

In fact, that’s why our main website navigation that takes visitors to our web hosting services is labeled Web Sites and the first link in that menu say Get a Website instead of just web hosting or web hosting services.

So this post is going to focus on one thing and one thing only: the definition of web hosting.

First, here are some expert definitions…

According to Wikipedia (today, at least), web hosting is defined as:

A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their website accessible via the World Wide Web.

According to the PCMag.com Encyclopedia, the definition of web hosting is:

Making a Web site available on the Internet. A Web site contains pages of information stored in a Web server, which is a computer running Web server software connected to the Internet.

According to TechTerms.com, the definition of a Web Host is:

In order to publish a website online, you need a Web host. The Web host stores all the pages of your website and makes them available to computers connected to the Internet.

But to help define web hosting in a way that’s clear for everybody, let’s broaden the context further and talk about hosting in general.

Everybody, I think, understands what it means to host a party – you have the party at your house. But you are more likely to say you are hosting a party if the party isn’t a personal one, like a birthday party.

Recently, friends of ours hosted a fundraising party for a local preschool at their house. It wasn’t their party; it was the preschool’s party.  But, by agreeing to host the party, our friends were making the party happen at their home and making sure everything went smoothly – guests could come, eat, have fun, and donate money – for the preschool.

The school could have hosted the party themselves, but that’s not what they’re experts at. And they don’t really have the right space or facilities to host a successful fundraiser. So they turned to someone else to host their party for them.

That’s the same basic idea with web hosting.

With Web hosting or website hosting, a company like EarthLink agrees (for a monthly fee) to host the website of a customer at their web hosting facilities. When we host a website, we are putting all the files for the customer’s website (HTML pages, images, etc.) on our server computers in our data centers and making the website open and available to whoever wants to visit. Of course, our Web Hosting services offer much more – domain names, site-building tools, search engine marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, etc. – but the core web hosting function is keeping other people’s websites publically available on our computers.

The websites we host are not our own websites: they belong to our customers. But our customers – mostly small and medium sized businesses – need someone to put their website online and make sure it is readily available to visitors.

It’s technically possible for someone to build and host their own website. But to do it well and have the site perform properly and be easily available, you need to have the right (expensive) equipment and expertise. Most individuals or businesses don’t have that expertise, so they turn to an expert in web hosting to host their website.

It is also possible for a business to have a webpage for their business on a 3rd-party site like Facebook. But that’s not web hosting, because Facebook is letting you promote your business on their website rather than hosting a website that belongs to you. The web address for your business on Facebook would be something like www.Facebook.com/YourBusiness because it is Facebook’s website, not yours. When you are a web hosting customer, your website is hosted at its own domain name; something more like www.YourBusiness.com. That’s why, when you decide to host your website with EarthLink, we offer a free domain name with most plans, and your first step will typically be to choose a domain name for your website.

Some of the confusion about the definition of web hosting probably arises because for most small businesses, they don’t initially turn to a web hosting provider to host a website they have. They don’t, in essence, say, “Here, take my website and put it on your computers so everyone can see it on the Web.” Because they don’t have a website yet, what they actually say is more like, “I finally decided I need a website” or “I want to get a website for my business.” They don’t necessarily know they need web hosting – just that they need a website. So we help with that too. We make it simple for people to build a website (or arrange for one of our professional website designers to build it for them) and then we host the website for them.

Here are some real world scenarios (from least common to most common) for how people get started with web hosting that may further clarify what web hosting is.

  1. A business has a website already (they built it themselves or had someone else build it) and has already registered a domain name. When they sign up with EarthLink Web Hosting, they transfer the domain name for the site to us and then they use an FTP program to upload the HTML files for their website to our web servers (we give them the settings to do this). We then host their webpages so their site is available online.
  2. A business has a domain name already but hasn’t built a website. When they sign up, they transfer their domain name to EarthLink Web Hosting; then they either use our free Site Builder to build a website (Site Builder uploads it automatically to their webspace) or have one our professional website designers take care of everything for them. We then host the site that they build.
  3. A business has a website already but has not registered a domain name. When they sign up with EarthLink Web Hosting, they choose a free domain name for their website. Then they use an FTP program to upload the HTML files for their website to our web servers. We then host their website.
  4. A business doesn’t have a website or domain. When they sign up with EarthLink Web Hosting, they choose a free domain name for their website. Then they either use our free Site Builder to build a website or have a professional website designer do it for them. We then host the website that they build.

For more context about hosting, consider some of the other types of hosting services offered by our EarthLink Business division:

  • Cloud Hosting – Rather than a business buying, storing, and managing server computers at their own facilities, we help them create virtual or cloud servers that we host in our secure data centers. They get secure remote access to their hosted cloud servers and use them as they would physical servers at their business — to host applications, databases, etc.
  • Hosted Voice – Rather than a business buying and managing a complex and expensive PBX phone system on their premises, we offer a fully featured IP PBX system that we host for them. So the business gets all the advanced phone functionality without the hardware costs and maintenance headaches.
  • Hosted Network Security – Rather than a business buying and managing complex and expensive security devices at each location, we offer a fully redundant network security solution that we host to give all business locations the same level of protection.
  • Hosted Exchange Email  Rather than a business buying email servers and managing Microsoft Exchange for all their users, we offer a hosted Exchange solution. Businesses avoid costs for hardware, licenses, backups, antivirus protection, and ongoing maintenance. They also get added security since their email is hosted in an EarthLink Business SSAE 16-compliant data center.

EarthLinkers Keep Pace with the Boston Marathon

4/15/13, 5:45 p.m. EST. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and individuals whose lives were touched by the tragic explosions at today’s Boston Marathon. We are grateful to report that we have accounted for the safety of our employees in attendance there today as spectators and runners.

Monday, April 15th marks the 117th Boston Marathon. Race day is always exciting for EarthLink, and not only because the company is the Boston Athletic Association’s (B.A.A.’s) official IT services provider. One team of EarthLinkers has been busily preparing, monitoring and proactively routing web traffic for the Boston Marathon, ensuring that the web site for the iconic event is accessible for the more than 1 million site visits and 12 million page views during the event, while another team of EarthLinkers is preparing to run the race!

Team EarthLink at the Boston Marathon

“EarthLink is a great partner to have our back with web traffic on race day. They provide us with the peace of mind to know that we have ample data storage and servers in our arsenal. Even if we get 100 million site visits, we know we can provide a good experience to each and every one of them,” said T.K. Skenderian, Marketing and Sponsorship Manager, Boston Athletic Association. Click here to view the full press release, and click here to view our B.A.A. case study.

For five lucky EarthLink employees, Monday is the day they will run the Marathon after winning a company contest for complimentary race waivers. Mark Clementi – Circuit Design Tech, Rochester; Christine Antonini – Provisioning Team Lead, Rochester; Justin Davidson – Manager Network Support, Burlington; Scott Turner – Manager System Administration, Atlanta, and Linda Scavarda – General Ledger Accountant, Huntsville will each fulfill a lifelong dream when they compete in the Marathon.

Scott Turner wrote, “I ‘m not as fast as most Boston Marathoners but my goal is to be like a freight train – unstoppable!  Life is more of a distance race than a sprint and thanks to the EarthLink waiver, I get to fulfill my dream — running the Boston Marathon on my 60th birthday!’  And Justin Davidson also shared, “I remember the first time I ran this race for our company in 2011. While running I remember saying to myself, ‘I know it is a race, but I really wish it never ended.’ 

Congratulations to everyone on Team EarthLink, whether running in the Marathon or keeping the technology infrastructure operating at peak performance!

For the latest EarthLink updates, visit our press release page, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Business Web Hosting

Happy April Fools’ Day!

Before we get to our regular Monday topic, Web Hosting, here’s a quick roundup of April Fools’ gags from Google, Sony, Twitter, and other companies.

And now, no fooling, back to web hosting. Specifically business web hosting.

business web hosting - business website plus hosting planBusiness Web Hosting Defined

What distinguishes regular web hosting from business web hosting? Sometimes nothing, because the terms are often used synonymously. But there certainly are several requirements for a web hosting service to be called business web hosting.

Business web hosting clearly means that the web hosting service is intended for businesses, probably small to medium-sized businesses (the term enterprise web hosting is often used for the largest businesses).

The number-one distinction for business web hosting would be from various forms of free hosting intended for personal consumer use. EarthLink Internet access, for example, gives dial-up, DSL, cable Internet and other subscribers a small amount of free webspace that we host on our home.earthlink.net domain (rather than at their own domain name). People typically use these very small, simple sites to share their interests or post something about their family.

Domain Web Hosting

Business web hosting would always be a domain web hosting service, meaning it would support your website at its own domain name (e.g., www.YourDomainName.com). EarthLink Web Hosting plans support from 5 to 50 domain names depending on the service level, and all plans come with one free domain name. Having your website at its own domain is the main requirement of a business web hosting service. (Take a look back at this post about the best website domain names for SEO, branding and online success.)

Business web hosting often provides domain email service as well, although some web hosting providers outsource this to another email provider. EarthLink Web Hosting plans come with from 100 – 1,000 business-class email accounts, so business employees’ and departments’ communication with customers is a branded experience. (See our previous post about domain email addresses for your business.)

Other business web hosting features may include FTP accounts, database support, support for multiple programming languages, content management tools, and marketing tools (our Business Website Plus plan provides a comprehensive suite of online marketing tools).

Ecommerce Web Hosting

When some people use the term business web hosting, they mean ecommerce web hosting: the hosting of a website with online store capabilities. While ecommerce hosting is always business web hosting, not all business website hosting is ecommerce hosting. Ecommerce hosting is specifically geared towards those businesses that need to provide real-time credit card processing on their website, so customers can buy from an online catalog or store, using an online shopping cart. However, not all businesses, even very large ones, need an online store.

Cloud Hosting and Dedicated Server Hosting

Other hosting terms related to business web hosting are cloud hosting and dedicated web hosting or dedicated server hosting.

Cloud hosting means building and hosting a virtual server in the cloud (at the cloud hosting provider) that is dedicated to one company (for that reason it is also called cloud server hosting). Cloud hosting isn’t always used for web hosting; often the cloud servers are used for application hosting or other IT needs. Cloud hosting for websites offers businesses a greater amount of performance, scalability and security, since the business website is on its own virtual server.

Dedicated server hosting is when you lease an entire physical server from a service provider such as EarthLink Business. When the dedicated server is used for a website it is called dedicated web hosting. Dedicated web hosting offers an even greater degree of control, reliability and security since you have control over an entire server housed and monitored by the hosting company.

If you have basic business web hosting or ecommerce web hosting needs, EarthLink Web Hosting offers six of the best web hosting plans. For very high-traffic sites or complex web hosting or security requirements, you should probably give EarthLink Business a call at 1-855-873-1393 to ask about Cloud Hosting or Dedicated Server Hosting.


EarthLink Ranks #1 on MSPmentor’s List of Top Managed Service Providers

As evidence of EarthLink’s transformation into a leading integrated communications and IT services provider comes news this week that the company has landed the prestigious #1 position on MSPmentor’s 6th annual World’s Top Managed Service Providers (MSPs) List!

Click here to view our top ranking on this prestigious global list. As the editors of MSPmentor stated, “EarthLink has quietly transformed itself from an ISP . . . into a full-blown MSP. Big areas of focus include managed voice, cloud hosting and integrated voice and data services.”

We take pride in providing an exceptional customer experience, and EarthLink’s managed services, such as cloud computing, managed and private cloud, and virtualization services including managed hosting and cloud workspace, and a robust portfolio of IT security, application hosting, colocation and IT support services are designed to help businesses of all sizes leverage the efficiencies of these exciting technologies. Our customers are already in the know, and we are pleased that MSPmentor, a leading industry media voice, now recognizes our success and is helping to spread the word!

For the latest EarthLink updates, visit our press release page, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook and LinkedIn.