13 Aug

Evolution of website hosting

Much like the human race, the world of web hosting has evolved into more advanced forms over the years. The difference is that while humans evolved through millions of years, web hosting technology has rapidly transformed over a period of just a few years. In fact, if the web developers a decade ago could catch a glimpse into the future of today, their jaws would likely would drop and their minds would marvel at how web hosting technology has advanced significantly.

Ready to jump back through time to see how things have changed in the world of web hosting? Here is the evolution of web hosting:

Workstations

The earliest method of hosting web pages involved saving files in a workstation securely hidden under a computer desk or inside room cabinets. This primitive – and very unsafe – web hosting technology was exposed to the greatest risk of all: accidentally unplugging the power supply. Once power supply was lost, websites hosted on a workstation would be on shutdown status. That is why a person was assigned to ogle the machine at all times to ensure that it did not get disconnected for any reason whatsoever.

Data Center and Physical Servers

This upgraded version of workstations was more secure because the servers were situated in a special place in the room away from possible accidental power cut-off. Physical servers in a data center offer better web hosting capabilities with its redundant power and hardware. Maintenance of these physical servers is conducted by a team of experts in server technology.

However, the installation of a data center with many servers requires a physical space, which is disadvantageous in terms of capital expenditure and space constraints. The physical server system is also difficult to relocate, should the need arise.

Data Center and Virtual Servers

The solution for space limitations and prohibitive capital costs came with virtual servers, which separated the physical hardware and the operating system (OS) running in the servers. The physical equipment was significantly downsized because the servers were running on a common OS. Virtualization made web hosting more efficient both systematically and financially.

Despite the improvements in the use of physical space, data centers with virtual servers were still situated in physical locations. As the virtual servers grew, the localized nature of these virtual data centers lead to limitations as well.

Cloud Computing

Named after the ethereal, gaseous, and fluffy matter floating in the skies, cloud computing changed the way web developers think of hosting. If you want to save webpages in cloud servers, you don’t need to purchase physical equipment. Instead, a virtual hosting interface will be provided by big-name companies, which house powerful and redundant servers on your behalf.

As of this writing, cloud computing has become the industry standard in terms of web hosting. These systems have practically endless hosting capabilities (depending on the hosting plan acquired by the customer), sustainable APIs, and useful back-end applications for advanced developers. Web hosting over the cloud also affords the user with scalable web solutions, wiser expenditure (the user will only be charged for the memory usage), and airtight web security.

Some of the famous companies that offer cloud servers include: Amazon, Microsoft, and Rackspace.


Exciting times are ahead, especially since cloud computing is still being developed and morphed into hybrid applications. Only time will tell when every website is hosted on the cloud, or when a new technology trumps the already-advanced cloud technology.

[Photo courtesy of Torkild Retvedt on Flickr]
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31 Jul

Common website hosting terminology, Part 3

A lot of terms related to web hosting and website setup sound like gibberish. That is why we at GeeXSE found it important to run this series of common hosting terminologies to help you understand some of the things that may come up in the course of e-commerce website management.

We’ve already featured two articles that form part of the three-part series on hosting terminologies. If you missed the previous articles, you can read the first article here and the second piece here.

Here is the last leg of our definition series. You may encounter these terms sometime during your experience in maintaining an e-commerce website, from the initial stages of installation to the management of your online store as it grows.

Megabyte (MB) is, simply put, a million bytes. However, to be more technical about it, one megabyte is equal to 1,024 kilobytes or 1,048,576 bytes. In terms of the smallest unit of digital data, 1 megabyte is equal to 8,388,608 bits.

Primary DNS or Primary Domain Name Server is the set of servers provided by the web hosting provider for the client’s use. Primary DNS is denoted by IP addresses in the form of “ns1.dnsname.com”, to which the domain name must be pointed in order to “resolve” to a virtual location.

RAID, or redundant array of independent disks, is a technology that involves virtual data storage in the form of multiple disk drives. Its main purpose is for data redundancy to make sure that website performance is not hampered by server errors.

Reverse Proxy is a kind of proxy server that gets resources in place of a client from a server but returns only the resources to its nearby clients as provided by the server. The client making the request connects to the proxy without awareness of the network.

Secure Server (SSL) or Secure Socket Layer is defined as a standard security protocol to connect a web server and a browser through an encrypted process. The link encryption ensures privacy and security of data transferred between the server and the client.

Shell Account is a type of Unix hosting account on a remote server where the user or customer can update the website using the command line via Telnet.

SMTP or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is defined as an electronic mail Internet standard. SMTP is used by e-mail servers for message transmission.

TCP or Transmission Control Protocol is a primary Internet protocol (IP), hence its frequent merge as TCP/IP. This particular protocol processes a reliable delivery of octets across programs in computer networks.

TLD or top-level domain is the highest domain level in the Domain Name System (DNS), and is stored in the name space root zone.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the standard address assigned to any Internet resource that forms part of the World Wide Web. A standard URL usually starts with “http://” and includes a domain name and a specific Internet resource.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) is any virtual machine that contains its own operating system (OS). This server may be offered by a web hosting company to its customers, who will then gain access to the OS and install programs to their liking.

Web Server is a computer or machine that runs a website. It can deliver web pages and data to any client software, most notably browsers.

Web Site is defined as a group of interconnected web pages accessible through the World Wide Web.

XML or Extensible Markup Language is denoted by rules governing document encoding that is readable by humans and machines. The language design is aligned towards simple, generalized, and useful data over the Internet.


This concludes our series on common web hosting definitions. If you have questions or some other terms that you need to understand further, drop us a note in the comments section below.

 [Photo courtesy of Chris Dlugosz on Flickr]
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24 Jul

Common website hosting terminology, Part 2

We hope you were able to learn a few common terms used in e-commerce website hosting through our first feature article on hosting terminologies. This is the second part of our list of definitions that should help you in setting up your e-commerce website, troubleshooting any errors along the way, or customizing the layout and backend programming of your site.

This week, we go from F to I.

File Extension is a suffix that defines the file type that a particular document belongs to. File extensions are separated from the primary or base filename by a dot. Examples include .exe, .txt, and .png.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a type of network protocol designed for the purpose of transferring data between hosts across a network. Through FTP, local files may be uploaded to the web server, and server files may be downloaded to the local hard drive.

Firewall is a network security tool that restricts network traffic in accordance with pre-defined rules. Most computer operating systems nowadays are equipped with firewall software for protection against malicious access via the Internet.

FTP Client is an application that sends and receives data from a server through the use of file transfer protocol (FTP). Common FTP clients are either desktop applications or online web forms. Popular clients include Filezilla, net2ftp, and cURL.

FTP server is a server that hosts files accessible through FTP via a client. A web server may be configured to store and share files that can be downloaded by users using an FTP client.

Home Page, as its name implies, is the first page that loads from a website. In most cases, a website’s homepage has a filename index.html or any of its variations (index.htm or index.php).

Hosting Provider, or Web hosting provider, is a company that offers virtual space on its servers for storage of files that may be accessed or downloaded using Web browsers. Also called Web hosting service providers, these companies provide a venue for any entity to put up websites that are available for viewing on the World Wide Web.

HTML or HyperText Markup Language is the basic language used in creating web pages. It appears as codes in the form of several elements such as tags, which are defined by opening and closing brackets.

HyperText may be described as text that links to other content on the same document. Hypertext can connect different content using links (or hyperlinks).

IP Address or Internet protocol address is a numerical description that identifies a particular device in a network using Internet protocol. It is similar to a set of numerical coordinates on a particular spot on Earth, only in this case the IP address identifies a network device.

ISP or Internet Service Provider is a company that provides internet service to homes and businesses, usually for a fee.

Next week will be our third and final installment of common web hosting terminology.

[Photo courtesy of John Keogh on Flickr]
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16 Jul

Common website hosting terminology, Part 1

Web development involves a lot of terminology that might throw off business owners. While company executives and store handlers may not see the importance of learning the definitions of all the terms used in e-commerce hosting, knowing the basics will prove helpful in the long run.

For one, if the website exhibits any errors, the business owner who is familiar with hosting jargon may be able to understand the error and forward it properly to tech support. It also makes troubleshooting easier for the site developer if the company executive can describe what the displayed error is, and not just a generic statement like “something is wrong with my website.”

Over the next few blog posts, we will look at some of the most common web development terms.

Here is a list of terms that are commonly encountered by e-commerce website developers, as well as site visitors who may come across an access error in one of your website pages.

This week, we’ll cover terms from B – E.

Bandwidth is the rate of data transfer that a particular connection handles. This is usually expressed in bits per second (bit/s), although most rates are commonly measured in higher multiples such as kilobits per second (kbit/s) or megabits per second (Mbit/s).

Bot, or Internet bot, is any application that can run automated processes through the Internet. Some call it web robot or WWW robot but the function is the same: to automatically complete online tasks. The largest and most efficient use of bots is in web crawling, wherein the search bots browse through data from web servers.

Caching Proxy, also called proxy server, functions as an intermediate server between clients and servers. These servers create a more secure facilitation of web data because the server cannot determine which client is asking for information.

Client, while also used to denote a customer of the online store, is defined in computing terms as any application that sends or retrieves data from a remote server through a connection. Some examples of clients include web browsers and web applications.

Custom Error Messages are displayed when a browser encounters an error during the access of information over the Internet. The website owner may customize the message that appears in the error prompt.

Datacenter or Network Operation Center is a network environment that plays host to computer systems and related components in a secure and completely manageable structure. Datacenters can handle thousands of web servers, and are equipped with redundant power supplies to ensure uninterrupted service.

Data Transfer is defined as a physical distribution of data from one point to another using communication channels. The latest technology allows data transfer not only across wires and cables, but even through wireless means.

Disk Space, sometimes called Storage Space, denotes the amount of computer memory where files can be stored. The amount of storage space varies per medium (hard drive, USB flash drive, or floppy disk) and memory capacity. This figure is expressed in bytes, but is more commonly known in terms of megabyte (MB) or kilobyte (kB).

Domain Name is a unique text identifier connected to an Internet resource, such as a website or a media file. This is governed by the Domain Name System (DNS), a structured naming system that assigns the domain name to a particular Internet entity. The basic syntax of a domain name consists of a domain (.com, .net., org) and a set of labels such as the top-level domain or its subdomains.

Domain Name Registration refers to the process of using a domain name for the purpose as deemed necessary by its owner. By registering a domain name in the Domain Name System (DNS), the owner or registrant can use the name to connect it to a hosted webpage for viewing in a browser.

Electronic Commerce (E-Commerce) is the conduct of trading products or services using online applications and media. Customers can visit an e-commerce website to choose their desired products and purchase them through online payment modules. E-commerce involves scripts that process purchase and customer information via digital content.

E-mail Alias/Forwarder is basically an email address that forwards content to a real POP e-mail account. This usually appears as username@mydomain.com, but the account does not have a real username and password to log into. While an e-mail alias forwards content to another address of the same domain name, an e-mail forwarder can send data to addresses at another domain name.

We will continue next week with more common ecommerce terms.

[Photo courtesy of Dave Worley on Flickr]
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