Web Hosting 101

A friend of mine and a regular reader of this blog recently requested that I write a tutorial on setting up a web server. To honor his request, I will devote this week’s blog post to the subject of web hosting. I will not, however, cover the programming aspect of web development as I assume that the readers of this tutorial already know how to write a website in HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, etc. I will also not be writing about the all-in-one website builders such as Squarespace and Wix for the same reason.

Step 1: Virtual Private Server (VPS) vs. Shared Web Hosting

The main distinction between VPS and shared web hosting is that the latter is much more simpler to set up. Because of the nature of shared web hosting, a services provider usually gives its customers a graphical system administration interface, allowing them to deploy source code simply by dragging and dropping. Shared web hosting is also slightly more economic than VPS due to the fact a physical server is usually used to host multiple websites from various customers.

Although a VPS is more difficult to set up, it does give the customer unrestricted access to a server, meaning that the customer can use it for any purpose such as computing and private networking (VPN). Different from a dedicated physical server, a VPS is created from splitting a physical server into different virtual machines with each reserving a certain amount of resources (CPU, memory, disk space) on the physical server. More importantly, many developers have chosen VPS because of its scalability. Users can easily “scale” resources such as computer power (number of CPU) and storage (SSD disk space) to the virtual machine to meet the ever-changing demand of the website’s visitors.

In this tutorial, we will use a VPS as apposed to a shared web hosting service.

Step 2: AWS vs. DigitalOcean vs. Azure

Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure are the biggest cloud providers in the world. This is evident from the recent AWS S3 outrage which took down thousands of websites. Nevertheless, AWS and Azure are among the most reliable VPS providers.

Alternatively, many developers and small businesses have chosen DigitalOcean, a VPS provider that mainly targets developers. It offers the same server technical specifications as AWS and Azure but at slightly lower price.

Rather than go into too much detail about the differences between the three VPS providers, I created the following chart for your reference.

Items AWS DigitalOcean Azure
Cheapest plan first year $0, then $15/mo $5 $15
Data transfer of the cheapest plan 200GB 1TB 100GB
No. of data centers 33 8 24
DDoS protection No No Yes
Hourly billing Yes Yes Yes

In next week’s blog, I will continue this tutorial and focus on setting up a website hosted on DigitalOcean’s VPS.

Thank you for reading and see you next week!


Kubo, M., & DigitalOcean. (2015, February 5). First Droplet [Image]. Retrieved from https://dribbble.com/shots/1916795-First-Droplet

Stratusly. (n.d.). Cloud Hosting Showdown – DigitalOcean vs AWS vs VULTR vs Linode vs Azure. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from Stratusly website: https://stratusly.com/digitalocean-vs-aws-vs-vultr-vs-linode-vs-azure/

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