vector newsletter

How Web Site Hosting Works.

This "How Things Work" article about Web Site Hosting was originally posted in August of 1994, condensed from the early VectorInter.Net community out-reach program we did to encourage early adoption of the new advertising medium called "the Internet". The basic information is still valid.

      As the internet matures, more and more web sites are making the transition from "toys" and/or "vanity pages" into productive tools for communication, helping find incremental sales growth and begin to work as an effective marketing devices. As web site projects mature and evolve the questions about web site hosting naturally follow. Interactive modules, E-commerce functions, heavy graphics and animation all create new demands on web page servers that "free web site hosting" was never designed to handle. Since we receive more and more questions about finding a balence between the cost and benefits of web hosting, I've taken a moment to put some thoughts on paper.

      First, To understand what a web site hosting company does, We need to review "How do web site pages work?" By now, everyone knows that a web site is simply a collection of text and images. Every page on every web site has a specific "address". The full address of this page is:  
It is the address in the browser bar at the top of this page. Every web page is stored, or "hosted" on a specific type of computer connected to the Internet. That computer is called a Web Server. These machines do exactly what the name implies. It "serves" other computers. When you type in a web site address, your browser is actually contacting that "server" computer at a pre-set Internet address. ( You can read more about "How Domain Names work", in the Newsletter section of this web site. )   Servers deliver web page information to your browser in a "code" form called HTML. Each computer translates this code into the text and graphics you are reading on your monitor right now.

     Are you curious what HMTL code looks like? These pages were hand build using the simplest, most basic HTML codes. To see the "machine code" that delivers this page, Look in the top left corner of your browser. Click on the "view" tab, then select "source". A new window will open, showing this page in "text" form. Learn more about "How HTML code Works" in the VectorInter.Net Newsletter archives .

    Now, Lets get back to those "servers". Most standard computers don't have the power or the software needed to constantly respond to the volume of requests made to a web site. Servers also need an extremely fast connection to the Internet, to quickly reply to any and all requests to view your web page. In other words, the web-hosting server provides a place on the Internet where the pages of your web site "live".
   Owning, operating and constantly maintaining your own web server can be very costly in both equipment and technical expertise. Web Hosting Technicians must constantly maintain and update the hardware and software on these servers too. Most web site owners and many small companies don't have the resources to run a web server themselves. This is when a web site hosting service becomes a valuable option.  VectorInter.Net provides the equipment and other technical resources that "serve up" your web site pages, and many others from a single telecommunications facility called a "server farm" . (We actually operate three of these facilities, one each in Australia, the USA and in the new EU community (Germany). Responsible web site hosting companies have two or three backups to every server and multiple, fast connections to the Internet backbone at each of these "server farms".   The availability of this option allows web site owners of any size to out-source the headaches associated with the technical equipment. Operating web servers isn't a "do it yourself" type of job. Company "size" has very little to do with the choice. Many Fortune500 companies subcontract out this work, and a few small ones make the investment in equipment and manpower to do their own hosting. The analogy I use when speaking at non-technical seminars is this. Think of your web hosting company as a landowner with property next to a major interstate highway. This special landlord will rent you a blank billboard. You can paint any messages you want on "your" billboard, for the passing highway traffic to read. The passengers in any car may read your billboard and buy your product. They could also completely miss it, because they were screaming at the 8 year old brat in the backseat to "stop picking on your sister". Your message is constantly available to be viewed by the passing "information super highway"  

    In my example, there may be more than one billboard on that piece on land. Every business/person will decorate their billboard with a unique message. Each hosting client will have a "billboard" message designed specifically for the traffic passing by on the information super-highway. Does the advertiser or web page designer go and mow the grass around the billboard? Of course not. They don't worry about the maintenance of the grounds. In a similar way a web hosting company rents out space on a web server, to many different businesses. Each business builds their own web pages (billboard) on a single server (the property next to the highway) and never has to worry about the maintenance (mowing the grass). 

    When VectorInter.Net hosts your web site, we place it on one of our very fast servers that are designed specifically to host multiple web sites. These high-speed, high-capacity computers are directly connected to the Internet backbone using very fast communication links. You'll hear the technical guys talking about T3's and OC3 lines. These connections are the on-ramps to the interstate, and carry the digital data "traffic". The difference is our "on-ramp" is 48 lanes wide. If you are doing e-commerce on your website, you don't want your customer to "miss the exit" (wrong address), run out of gas, (the server isn't dependable) or decide that it is too far the "drive". (slow web site loading speeds). 

     Since you will be in complete control of your "billboard", we do what is called "virtual hosting". Your web site resides on one of our powerful servers, yet you work on it from your office PC. This is "virtually" like having a server computer in your own office. This is where the term "virtual hosting" comes from. You will share a server with others using our hosting service. Shared servers offer clients the ability to host their web site on a powerful, professionally managed server, with what is called "5 - 9's uptime". That means it is dependable 99.999% of the time. Your web pages will share a server with other company web pages and the technical supervision will cost a fraction of a "dedicated server". For the vast majority of companies and individuals with fewer than 100 pages in the website, self-hosting just doesn't make practical or economic sense. Virtual hosting is many times cheaper than buying your own server, and you don't have to hire the technical staff to take care of them.

    Are you interested in operating your own web site hosting facility? That is called "self hosting", and your web site would be on it's own dedicated server . The VectorInter.Net technical staff can help advise you. Contact us early in your planning cycle, because you will need to allocated the floor space, in a secure and protected area of your building. These high-power computers run 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, so you will need dependable electric power, and a lot of it. Web servers are very power-hunger computers. It is not cheap to purchase the web-server computers, plus the routers, switches and back-up systems, needed to make the system "fail-safe". You'll need to hire the technical personnel and budget for around-the-clock staffing. Web servers need fast connections to the Internet. You will need to talk to your local telcom, early in the planning stages too. The cost and availablity of this fast service varies widely. Dedicated servers provide their owners with greater flexibility, because only "your" data and web pages are stored there. They will provide high levels of security, connectivity and scalability, to support high volume and mission critical web-based applications. It's also more convenient to add advanced database and e-commerce applications. We fully expect the predictions of watching TV quality video to be fullfilled, probably "later" than "sooner", but it is coming, as the common, average residential connection to the internet evolves from "dial-up" to cable modems. Since you don't share computer RAM, disk space or a connection to the Internet, dedicated servers also provide customers with the most advanced web hosting solutions, but for a price. All aspects of the computer called "the platform" (disk space, memory, CPU speed, etc.) are expandable and upgradeable as the owners budget and needs dictate, since dedicated servers are only concerned with a single clients pages.  

    If you have questions about your specific situation, just ask us. We are happy to give you a detailed set of options before you make project decisions. The vast majority of web site projects can be well served, by VectorInter.Net Virtual hosting. If we think your project is of a size and scope to justify dedicated hosting, we can assess your needs, prepare schematic plans, line item a budget, and work with your contractor to quickly do the "build-out". Any VectorInter.Net office can refer you to staffing agencies that will help you hire the technical expertise needed to "bringing it in house". 

   Did you ever wonder "Who invented the @ symbol we use in every Email"? You can read more about the "Common Traits of Successful Web Sites" and why "FREE Hitcounters" don't really count hits in the VectorInter.Net newsletter archive.