What is a hosting service provider (HSP)?

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A hosting service provider (HSP) is an IT service company or partner that provides remote IT resources and/or services enabling individuals, companies or managed service providers (MSPs) to host websites, databases, applications and other critical systems.

What are web hosting services?

Hosting service providers offer a wide range of web hosting services to deliver the best experience possible for their clients. Traditionally, web hosting services include everything needed to host and maintain a website or other IT assets, including servers and hardware, related software, data storage, IT support, cybersecurity and more. 

There are many benefits to choosing a web hosting model as opposed to attempting to go it alone by placing a web server in an office. Clearly, this approach allows companies to offload all day-to-day hosting and management responsibilities to a third party — who usually has more expertise and resources related to hosting. 

In many cases, web hosting helps companies reduce costs since it eliminates the need for upfront, capital-intensive investments and enables them to pay a smaller subscription fee each month. This model also removes day-to-day management burdens from busy IT teams and frees them to focus on potentially higher-value projects related to business growth.

While there are several different web hosting models and variations, five of the most common include dedicated server hosting, shared hosting, managed hosting, cloud hosting and colocation hosting. We realize there may be some confusion related to these different options, so we’ll briefly describe each one below, including their differences and most compelling benefits. 

Dedicated server hosting

Dedicated server hosting is an IT service delivered by a hosting service provider that gives remote access to off-premises servers (physical or virtual) for a monthly subscription fee or usage-based price.

Going with a server hosting model can deliver many advantages. This approach lets technical teams set up the right servers, resources and related services and then access and use them to meet the business’ needs related to scalability, uptime, and performance. In addition, the server hosting model reduces or even eliminates upfront costs, time commitment and man hours required for deploying, managing and maintaining physical servers in its own environment.

Shared hosting

Most small businesses do not need an entire server to host the websites and applications they need. Servers today are so powerful that a single web server can host dozens or even hundreds of websites and/or smaller applications at the same time with no reduction in performance. This is where shared hosting comes in.

A hosting service provider offering shared hosting will use specialized software that allocates resources separately to each website or application and then deploys them to a web server. All the customers who are hosted on that server then share the resources of that server — including memory (RAM), storage (disk space) and processing power (CPU). This model allows even small businesses to have professional websites hosted at a very low cost — often from a few dollars per month.

Managed hosting

In a managed hosting model, the hosting service provider owns, operates, and maintains servers and other physical hardware and then leases them to its customers. (We’ll describe three different managed hosting options in more detail below.)

Yet this model differs from shared hosting described above in that hosting service providers deliver additional services as part of their engagement. The hosting service provider is responsible for server management, including updates, maintenance, and even troubleshooting issues that may arise. 

HSP vendors also provide other services including cybersecurity (especially backup and disaster recovery), technical support, reporting and more. All of this is designed to make sure the customer’s websites and applications are up and running and available at all times.

Cloud hosting

Cloud hosting is a method of pooling large arrays of disk drives, processors (CPUs), and memory (RAM) along with networking services. These large arrays can operate as one very large server or as a series of servers that are used cooperatively. Individual customers are allocated resources and individualized security through server virtualization — thereby allowing each customer to operate their space in the cloud independent of other customers. 

Examples of public clouds include companies like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud. On the other hand, some cloud hosting providers build their own cloud infrastructures and/or create smaller cloud environments to serve the needs of specific customers. These kinds of environments are often referred to as private clouds.

Cloud hosting may be an attractive option since it provides on-demand — and highly scalable — access to compute power, data storage and many other advanced capabilities (e.g., machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data analytics) with pay-as-you-go pricing flexibility. 

Colocation hosting

Colocation hosting is a type of service offered by data center providers and larger hosting companies. This type of hosting operates in a similar manner to conventional dedicated server hosting; but in this case, the customer has provided the hardware by delivering it to the hosting company’s data center for installation. The colocation hosting provider provides the space, physical security, network, connectivity (bandwidth) and power — as well as other options. 

With colocation, clients still own their own servers, hardware and other physical assets, which means they are often responsible for managing their own infrastructure. Still, this model may be attractive since it helps companies move their servers to an environment that may be superior to their own, or offer other advantages, such as geographic diversity for backup and disaster recovery.  

Benefits of using hosting services

Why consider a hosting service? There are many benefits to partnering with a hosting service provider and taking advantage of their many services, including: 

  1. Greater visibility and control: In many cases, outsourcing websites, applications and other IT assets can help companies gain more visibility into their overall performance. As a result, these companies enjoy greater control – especially when it comes to making proactive, strategic decisions related to scalability, performance and reliability. 
  2. Superior performance: Additionally, hosting service providers can customize various infrastructure components — servers, data storage options, networking traffic architecture and more — to truly optimize website or application performance.
  3. Multi-cloud flexibility: With so many different cloud providers, companies can work with the vendor of their choice, including market leaders (AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform) or other vendors. Additionally, companies can choose to deploy all their infrastructure in a single public cloud; multiple public clouds; a private cloud; or even a hybrid — all for maximum flexibility, strategic value, and cost savings.
  4. Better cybersecurity: In many cases, using a hosting service provider enables companies to gain much higher levels of cybersecurity than they could otherwise achieve on their own. This is so critical in securing sensitive data but also for complying with stringent data privacy requirements in regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and more.

Shared hosting vs. a virtual private server (VPS) vs. dedicated hosting servers 

As companies look to pick the best hosting service possible, they may have to choose between shared hosting, virtual private server (VPS) hosting or a dedicated hosting server. Let’s examine the differences in these three hosting options.

  • A shared hosting service is where many websites may reside on a single web server. While this may be the cheapest option since the cost of one server is spread or “shared” by many different customers, it doesn’t provide as much control as may be needed for larger websites. 
  • Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is a hosting option that uses a single physical server to function as several separate virtualized servers. In this example, companies get the full experience of a dedicated server even though they’re sharing the physical server with other companies. 
  • Dedicated hosting is the opposite of shared hosting. Instead of pooling and sharing server resources, companies have access to a dedicated server (or pool of servers) reserved for their website only. This may be a more expensive option, but it offers complete control over all available resources.

Free web hosting versus paid web hosting

When it comes time to choose the best hosting option — as well as various web hosting services — that’s right for their companies, there’s one more decision. Should companies choose free or paid web hosting?

Both have real advantages and drawbacks. Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong decision but companies should carefully consider what each option offers and how they could affect their businesses. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between free and paid web hosting.

Free web hosting: sometimes “free” costs more than you expect

One of the biggest issues with a free web hosting package is related to traffic and bandwidth. Many free web hosting providers put daily or monthly limits on the amount of traffic a company can generate. If their website includes a lot of images, videos or other bandwidth-intensive traffic, it could exceed free limitations and lead to charges. Free web hosting services can also limit a company’s access to certain features. 

Related to this, it is important to consider that some free hosting providers impose a maximum size for individual files. If the company is looking to distribute large files, it may be wise to consider moving to a paid web hosting vendor. In many such cases, the “free” part is a loss leader to guide users into a situation where they must start paying for higher level (premium) services. This is a common practice in technology services and is sometimes referred to as a “freemium” model.

Paid web hosting: real costs, but real advantages

Let’s face it: website uptime is extremely important, and if this is a company’s top concern, they should only consider a paid web hosting model, since these offer reliable servers and stable network connections. 

Paid web hosting can provide valuable benefits in many different areas such as:

  • Traffic and bandwidth: crucial if the website will use video, audio, or other large files or types of traffic.
  • A control panel to enable users to perform common website tasks, such as passwords, email addresses, and server configurations – without the need for technical support staff.
  • Multiple domain hosting space and options for companies looking to host and manage separate websites. 
  • Technical support that is available when something inevitably goes wrong, even if it’s during the middle of the night. 
  • Upgrade options that can make a company’s website even more successful in the future. Whether this includes more powerful server options, better ways to handle spikes in traffic or other technical issues, having access to upgrade options can assure the company it picked the right vendor. 

Acronis and hosting

No one understands hosting better than Acronis. The Acronis team has been working with and building integrations for the hosting industry for more than two decades. With Acronis, you can deliver integrated cyber protection with a platform built for hosting. Through one integrated platform, service providers can deliver all the cyber protection solutions today’s clients demand via a single pane of glass. And everything is deployed via deep integrations with control panels, billing systems and automation platforms hosting companies use today.

The Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud now helps hosting service providers modernize their cybersecurity and backup with integrated cyber protection. The Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud is the only solution that integrates cybersecurity, data protection, and management to truly protect endpoints, systems and data. 

This solution lets hosting companies reduce costs by eliminating the need to purchase multiple point solutions from multiple vendors. With the Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud, HSPs can truly harness the power of one: a single solution controlled and deployed through one intuitive console. 

To learn more, please visit https://www.acronis.com/products/cloud/cyber-protect/ today.

About Acronis

Acronis is a Swiss company, founded in Singapore. Celebrating two decades of innovation, Acronis has more than 1,800 employees in 45 locations. The Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.

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