Social networking site Facebook currently has around 800 million users, and by the end of 2012, that number is projected to exceed 1 billion. It's a staggering figure, especially when you consider that each and every user profile, not to mention fan pages, groups, etc., is its own website. Like any other site, all these pages must be hosted somewhere. Time magazine recently did a photo essay on one of Facebook's data centers. Located 30 miles south of the company headquarters, it's a state of the art, 8,000 square foot facility that houses tens of thousands of individual servers. It's an interesting glimpse into the often overlooked world of web hosting.
As big as Facebook is, however, it represents only a portion of the entire Internet. Data centers like the one above are all over the globe, and together they host nearly every one of the roughly 7 billion websites online today. All those web servers translate to a lot of choices for someone looking to host a site. It can all be a little overwhelming. Luckily, learning everything there is to learn is simply not necessary. The vast majority of webmasters, new and experienced alike choose what is known as a virtual hosting plan.
To answer this question, let's first get clear about what hosting virtually means, and then look at the alternatives. Remember those data centers we talked about earlier? A single one can hold thousands of individual servers, but it can host tens of thousands or maybe millions of websites. How can this be? The individual web servers are split up into a bunch of virtual servers. These virtual machines behave and perform as if they were their own physically separate server, even though they are not. In the physical realm, the virtual servers (often referred to as virtual private servers or VPS) exist side by side with many others like themselves on a single physical server. This arrangement has several distinct advantages, especially when compared to the alternatives.
Since several, maybe hundreds, of webmasters are sharing the resources of one server, the expenses associated with that server are spread out and the monthly cost for virtual hosting plans is shockingly low. At the same time, each VPS user treats his or her hosting plan as if it were their very own server, with their choice of operating system and software, as well as the privacy and security that come with a dedicated server. Of course you can purchase plans that entitle you to an actual dedicated physical server, but they are very expensive. On the other side of the spectrum, there are genuine shared hosting plans where all the users share the server itself, the operating system, software, and security settings. None of these users can make changes to the server, since any change would impact all the shared users. These plans can be extremely cheap, though, so they certainly have a place in the hosting market.
The reason hosting virtual is almost universally preferred over the alternatives is that it delivers the best of both worlds. The costs are low enough that the potential savings with a lower-tier shared plan are usually negligible, but the user experience is a lot like having a dedicated server. And unless you plan on building a massive, complex website with lots of advanced capabilities and huge storage and bandwidth requirements, an actual dedicated server is simply overkill. Best of all, the plans we offer are totally customized to fit your needs and budget; you can choose how much storage space and bandwidth you need for your site. So check out the available plans and get started today!