Private investigators who conduct computer forensics and internet investigations should be familiar with the different types of web hosting and the major providers. In addition to understanding the technology and processes involved, private eyes will most definitely need a presence on the web to promote their services.
What is Web Hosting?
A web hosting service is a type of Internet company that allows individuals and organizations to provide their own website accessible via the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server for use by their clients. They also provide Internet connectivity, typically in a data center. Such companies can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for servers they do not own to be located in their data center, called co-location.
The scope of services varies widely. The most basic is web page and small-scale file hosting, where files can be uploaded via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or a Web interface. The files are usually delivered to the Web “as is” or with little processing. Many Internet service providers (ISPs) offer this service free to their subscribers. People can also obtain Web page hosting from other, alternative service providers.
Personal sites is typically free, advertisement-sponsored, or cheap. Business web sites often has a higher expense. If that’s what you’re looking for, get started at Yahoo!
Single page sites are generally sufficient only for personal web pages. A complex website calls for a more comprehensive package that provides database support and application development platforms (e.g. PHP, Java, ColdFusion, and ASP.NET). These facilities allow users to write or install scripts for applications like discussion forums and content management. For e-commerce, SSL is also highly recommended.
The webhost may also provide an interface or control panel for managing the Web server and installing scripts as well as other services like e-mail. Some hosts specialize in certain software or services (e.g. e-commerce). They are commonly used by larger companies to outsource network infrastructure to a hosting company.
Server uptime refers to the percentage of time the web server is accessible via the internet. Many internet service providers state that they aim for a 99.9% uptime, but there may be server restarts and planned (or unplanned) maintenance in any environment.
Many providers tie uptime and accessibility into their own service level agreement (SLA). SLAs sometimes include refunds or reduced costs if performance goals are not met.
Many large companies who are not internet service providers also need a computer permanently connected to the web so they can send email, files, etc. to other sites. They may also use the computer as a website host so they can provide details of their goods and services to anyone interested. Additionally these people may decide to place online orders.
- Free service: Free service is offered by different companies with somewhat limited services, sometimes advertisement-supported, and is often limited when compared to paid versions.
- Shared service: one’s Web site is placed on the same server as many other sites, ranging from a few to hundreds or thousands. Typically, all domains may share a common pool of server resources, such as RAM and the CPU. The features available with this type of service can be quite extensive. A shared website may be hosted with a reseller.
- Resellers: allows clients to become web hosts themselves. Resellers could function, for individual domains, under any combination of these listed types, depending on who they are affiliated with as a provider. Resellers’ accounts may vary tremendously in size: they may have their own virtual dedicated server to a collocated server. Many resellers provide a nearly identical service to their provider’s shared plan and provide the technical support themselves.
- Virtual Dedicated Server: also known as a Virtual Private Server (VPS for short) divides server resources into virtual servers, where resources can be allocated in a way that does not directly reflect the underlying hardware. VPS will often be allocated resources based on a one-to-many VPSs relationship, however virtualization may be done for a number of reasons, including the ability to move a VPS container between servers. The users may have root access to their own virtual space. This is also known as a virtual private server or VPS. Customers are sometimes responsible for patching and maintaining the server.
- Dedicated service: the user gets his or her own Web server and gains full control over it (root access for Linux/administrator access for Windows); however, the user typically does not own the server. Another type of Dedicated hosting is Self-Managed or Unmanaged. This is usually the least expensive for Dedicated plans. The user has full administrative access to the box, which means the client is responsible for the security and maintenance of his own dedicated box.
- Managed service: the user gets his or her own Web server but is not allowed full control over it (root access for Linux/administrator access for Windows); however, they are allowed to manage their data via FTP or other remote management tools. The user is disallowed full control so that the provider can guarantee quality of service by not allowing the user to modify the server or potentially create configuration problems. The user typically does not own the server. The server is leased to the client.
- Co-location service: similar to the dedicated service, but the user owns the co-location server; the company provides physical space that the server takes up and takes care of the server. This is the most powerful and expensive type. In most cases, the co-location provider may provide little to no support directly for their client’s machine, providing only the electrical, Internet access, and storage facilities for the server. In most cases for co-location, the client has their own administrator visit the data center on site to do any hardware upgrades or changes.
- Cloud: A new type of platform that allows customers powerful, scalable and reliable hosting based on clustered load-balanced servers and utility billing. Removing single-point of failures and allowing customers to pay for only what they use versus what they could use.
- Clustered: having multiple servers housingthe same content for better resource utilization. Clustered Servers are a perfect solution for high-availability dedicated hosts, or creating a scalable solution. A cluster may separate web serving from database capability.
- Grid: this form of distributed hosting is when a server cluster acts like a grid and is composed of multiple nodes.
- Home server: usually a single machine placed in a private residence can be used to host one or more web sites from a usually consumer-grade broadband connection. These can be purpose-built machines or more commonly old PCs. Some ISPs actively attempt to block home servers by disallowing incoming requests to TCP port 80 of the user’s connection and by refusing to provide static IP addresses. A common way to attain a reliable DNS hostname is by creating an account with a dynamic DNS service. A dynamic DNS service will automatically change the IP address that a URL points to when the IP address changes.
List of Recommended Providers
If you’re looking for a place to store your website, following are two good recommendations:
- POWWEB – Company that provides: 1,500 GB Disk Space, 15,000 GB of Data Transfer, FREE Domain, Host Unlimited Domains, MySQL, PHP, CGI, SSL, FTP, Stats, Point & Click Site Builder, $80 in Yahoo & Google Ads Credits, E-Commerce Included, 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
- Go Daddy.com Please note that we do not recommend GoDaddy. GoDaddy’s user interface is incredibly confusing and difficult to use, and is designed to get you to spend more money. GoDaddy spends far too much time and energy trying to get their current users to buy other services. And if you need another reason, GoDaddy’s CEO shoots elephants and posts videos of them being butchered to the sound of AC/DC. We won’t link to the video because it is too graphic to post here. For these reasons, we recommend that you skip GoDaddy.