What do you mean when you say gigabyte, megabyte, GB, and MB?

Intro to Web Hosting series

What do you mean when you say gigabyte, megabyte, GB, and MB?

The smallest unit of measurement on a computer is the bit. There are almost always eight bits in one byte. These two terms are commonly confused with each other.

To compound the confusion, the abbreviation for bit is a lowercase b, while byte is abbreviated with an uppercase B.

Making things even more complicated, all the compound forms of bits and bytes — kilobyte (KB), megabyte (MB), gigabyte (GB), etc. — can refer to two different values. Sometimes you’ll see kilobyte and it means 1000 bytes, while it can also mean 1024 bytes.

In any case, a megabyte refers to roughly 1024 kilobytes, and a gigabyte refers to roughly 1024 megabytes. At the next level is terabytes, and hard drives really haven’t gotten any further past that at this point in time.

One other important thing you should know is that whenever you hear about the speed of an Internet connection, it’s almost always going to be referred to in bits, whether that’s kilobits, megabits, or gigabits.

Remember, whenever bits is used, you abbreviate it with a small b. So, kilobits = Kb, megabits = Mb, and gigabits = Gb.

So, the speed of a connection would be referred to, for example, in megabits per second, or Mbps. So, a 100 Mbps connection can transfer 100 megabits every second, which equates to 12.5 megabytes per second.

What is a control panel?

Intro to Web Hosting series

What is a control panel?

The control panel is an essential part of any web hosting account. You wouldn’t be able to do very much without some sort of control panel — even just a basic one.

Among the most widely used web hosting control panels are cPanel (shown here), Parallels Plesk, and DirectAdmin. Some control panels only run on Linux, some are meant for Windows, and some will work with both types of operating system.

One important note: Just because your computer at home is running Windows doesn’t mean you need to find a Windows hosting account. You only need a Windows account if your website requires features that only work on Windows. Otherwise, a Linux account will work just as well, and with very few differences.

Most versions of Linux are free, whereas you can’t install Windows on a computer unless you pay for a license. Because of this, Windows hosting accounts generally cost a bit more.

Here is another control panel, Parallels Plesk

This is the end of the tutorial. You should now have a better understanding of what a control panel is

What’s the difference between shared, dedicated, and other types of hosting?

Intro to Web Hosting series

What’s the difference between shared, dedicated, and other types of hosting?

Shared hosting is probably what you’re most interested in, especially if you’re justĀ  out in web hosting. With shared hosting, you’ll be on a server with potentially hundreds of other accounts. This is the cheapest form of hosting, for the hosting provider and for you.

If your account frequently uses up a lot of server resources, your hosting provider will probably ask you to upgrade to something more suited to your website’s needs.

One option is another type of “shared” hosting called Reseller hosting. This basically allows you to sell shared hosting accounts to other people. Sometimes a reseller server will be less crowded and better suited to websites with high resource usage.

Another option is a dedicated server. This is the most expensive form of web hosting, and will cost you at the very least $40 a month, but probably closer to $100. Since you probably won’t know how to manage the server yourself, it would probably cost closer to $200 per month total for an entry level managed server.

A Managed dedicated server leaves the hardest parts of operating a server to experienced technicians, letting you focus on the website side of things.

On a slightly smaller scale is the Virtual Dedicated Server, also known as Virtual Private Server, and commonly shortened to VDS and VPS, respectively.

What hosting companies do is divide a very powerful dedicated server up into separate “virtual” servers using virtualization software. Each virtual server gets its own operating system, and acts almost exactly like a real dedicated server.

Depending on the hosting provider and the plan you choose, VDSes may not be anywhere near as powerful as a real dedicated server.

It takes just as much work to manage a VDS as it does an actual dedicated server, though, so really the only benefit is decreased cost. A VDS can typically be purchased anywhere from $10 a month up to the price of a small dedicated server.

So, you’ve heard about four of the most common types of web hosting. There are a few others, including cloud hosting, clustered hosting, and grid hosting, but we won’t go into those here.

Should I be taking backups of my account? If so, how often?

Intro to Web Hosting series

Should I be taking backups of my account? If so, how often?

Backups are crucial to the smooth operation of any website, no matter how important, how visitors you have, or how frequently the site content changes.

The frequency at which you should take backups does depend on those factors, as well as exactly what kind of sites and software you have on your account.

If you have any web software installed that depends on a database to function, then you should take backups of all your databases at least once a day. The databases are usually the most frequently changing part of your hosting account. Some web software programs have a backup system built in.

If the other files on your hosting account are likely to change often, you should also back them up every day. Otherwise, once a week or once a month, even once every few months should be sufficient. Just make sure you keep the backups in a safe place, preferably on some sort of disc, like a CD or DVD, or an external hard drive.

Even though you may think nothing is going to happen to your information, you shouldn’t assume that everything will be okay. Hard drives fail more frequently than most people would think.

Almost every control panel has some sort of backup system in place. Some will let you set up automatic backups, and most will allow you to take a backup manually. If there is no sort of backup mechanism, you can always take a backup manually via FTP.

Many web hosts will take frequent backups of all the accounts on their servers, but you shouldn’t count on that. The more backups you or anyone else takes of your account, the less likely you are to lose important data.

What is Spam?

Intro to Web Hosting series

What is Spam?

Spam refers to junk email that’s sent out in mass quantities. On average, three-fourths of the email that’s sent every day is spam.

Spammers find email addresses in a variety of ways, most commonly by searching for email addresses listed on websites and by means of computer viruses and hacking.

They can then sell the lists of addresses to other spammers, and continue to pester people with an endless amount of unwanted emails.

A lot of spam is harmless, but some can contain viruses and links to scam websites. Whenever you recognize an email as spam, you should just delete it.

You should also be wary of any emails that try to imitate legitimate companies; they’ll try to steal your passwords and personal information. They may ask you to respond with it, or they may try to trick you into going to a website that isn’t real. This is known as phishing, and is perhaps the most dangerous type of spam.

Whenever you encounter phishing emails, you should try to forward the email to the company they’re imitating, if possible. They’ll definitely want to know if someone is trying to steal information in their name.

If you find yourself unable to cope with the amount of spam you’re getting, you may want to let your hosting provider know; they may be able to adjust the spam filter settings for your server.

You may also be able to configure a spam filter in your control panel account, or in your email or webmail client.

This completes the tutorial. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what spam is, and how to combat it.