What is the difference between hosting and server? Is one better than the other, or do I need both?
I can answer these questions for you.
I wrote this article to explain the difference between web hosts and servers. I’ll also talk about how to pick the right host and server.
Table of Contents
The Basic Difference Between a Host and a Server
The difference between a host and a server is a web server provides a service.
Web hosts refer to companies providing these servers.
Let’s dissect the two even further.
What Is a Web Server?
A web server is a machine providing a service to other devices. It can be a general term for file servers and others.
You store data on a web server and transfer the data to other locations.
There are multiple servers with dedicated purposes.
I’ll define each type of server and its purpose.
These servers hold databases, which are collections of data.
Like a database server, a file server stores files or data. The two types of servers have the same essential function.
A mail server stores and sends emails. This server stores your email, whether you use Gmail, Yahoo, or other email providers.
Mail servers also forward outgoing emails to the right recipient.
It may seem instantaneous every time you send an email, but it passes through multiple email servers before reaching the target recipient.
Application servers provide storage for your application data. These servers also run the application and store the app’s data, files, and interactions.
If your app requires an internet connection, the application server automatically connects to the internet.
Virtual Private Servers
Virtual private servers are virtual machines sold as servers like virtual dedicated servers.
Think of this server as your private deposit box.
You can rent a virtual private server to store files online away from the public and use it to store personal files, applications, or more.
Only you have access to your private server.
This server acts as a gateway between the user and the internet, separating end-users from the websites they visit.
A proxy server can build firewalls and prevent hackers from attacking private networks. It’s an internet protocol address you can use to hide your primary location.
Your own IP address and internet protocol are safer with a proxy server.
These servers are for communication-based applications. They quickly transfer files to other servers, functioning in the same way as email servers.
When you message within the app to other devices, it passes by multiple communication servers.
What Is a Web Host?
A web host is a company selling you access to web servers.
Web hosting is the service that provides access and storage space for your website.
Web hosting companies can have various servers to serve multiple clients.
Think of it this way: the web server is the house, and the web host is its landlord. You need to pay the landlord to live in the house.
The difference between a host and a server is the host sells you the product, which is the server.
All internet data exists on web servers, including mail servers, database servers, application servers, and others.
Servers can run websites 24/7.
You can theoretically set up a server by yourself. However, you must install it, buy the hardware, maintain it, and program it.
You can turn a personal computer into a server for your web pages. Just be ready to run it 24/7, modify it, and ensure you connect to an ISP with near-zero interruptions.
However, running your own server becomes more challenging when managing multiple web servers for various clients.
Here are the different types of hosting services:
With shared hosting, your website exists on a shared server, meaning one server has multiple clients. The shared server connects to the network where you store your website.
Shared hosting providers offer affordable services.
You can use this hosting service for smaller projects. To scale an individual business or website, you must consider getting your own host and server.
Here are the pros and cons of shared hosting.
- It’s affordable.
- You don’t need technical knowledge.
- It has readily-available website management features.
- It has a set server environment.
- There’s automatic management for maintenance.
- It supports limited program languages
- It has bandwidth limits.
- It has storage limits, and upgrading is expensive.
- Websites on other devices can affect your website speed.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
You can choose VPS hosting if you don’t want to share your server with other devices. It’s a private server that takes a block out of a larger server.
People typically start with a shared host. Upgrade to VPS hosting when other devices get in your website’s way.
With VPS hosting, you get a server you don’t share with other websites—it’s strictly for your use, and other devices can’t access your server.
Think of a server as a pizza cut into equal slices.
VPS hosting means one slice is yours and yours alone. The hosting provider divides the remaining slices among other clients.
Here are the pros and cons of virtual private server hosting.
- There’s dedicated space on the server.
- It’s stable and scalable.
- It gives you root access to the server.
- You can install any software.
- It’s more cost-effective than a dedicated server.
- You are responsible for software patches and security.
- You have to tune and perform maintenance tasks.
- Using VPS hosting requires technical knowledge.
- There are still configuration and control limitations.
You’re the sole client on the entire server with dedicated hosting, meaning you don’t share sharing resources.
There are several critical differences between dedicated and VPS hosting.
Dedicated hosting lets no other device access your server, while VPS hosting takes a piece from a larger server.
With dedicated hosting, you rent the actual hardware where you store your server.
You isolate your server from the rest. The devices on other servers can’t access your server.
When your server connects to the network, it does so directly without the interference of other computers or devices.
A corrupted device connecting to the network may damage the whole server. The benefit is you can monitor any device connecting to the network and grant access to specific IP addresses or a local area network.
You have complete control over the network, allowing you to obtain services to improve security.
Companies that want to isolate their servers use dedicated hosting, giving them more privacy and protection.
Here are the pros and cons of dedicated hosting.
- It has no configuration and customization limits.
- You have exclusive access to the entire hosting server.
- You have guaranteed resources.
- You get improved security and privacy.
- The performance is stable and predictable.
- It is expensive.
- It requires technical knowledge.
- You need a team to manage your server.
- You’re in charge of regular maintenance and upkeep.
Managed hosting is one of the simplest hosting services available, making it ideal for beginners who want the least stress.
Managed hosting gives local users a hosting plan and other inclusions like infrastructure support, hardware management, and maintenance.
You can apply managed hosting to shared, VPS, cloud, or dedicated host plans.
Hosting providers provide services to make things easier for the website owner.
Managed hosting lets the website owner focus only on the website and not the server.
You can also decide what features you want in your managed hosting. You can customize your managed hosting to only include what you need.
- It’s less stressful.
- You don’t need technical knowledge.
- It’s ideal for businesses without in-house IT resources
- It’s somewhat more expensive
- Some providers don’t give users access to their control panel
- It lacks some customization support
- It limits your website’s abilities
This service is very similar to VPS hosting.
Cloud hosting gives you access to computing resources over the internet and is more flexible.
You can customize the RAM, CPU, storage, and other features you want to use.
Most cloud hosting providers let you decide how much power you want.
The benefit of cloud hosting is you can scale when you want. You can instantly upgrade once your current plan becomes insufficient for your needs.
Cloud hosting is suitable for website owners with experience. Once you’re sure of your needs, you can choose cloud hosting to only pay for what you use.
- There’s limited downtime
- You have on-demand access to resources.
- You only pay for what you need.
- It’s scalable.
- You can access value-added services.
- You have a considerable pool of resources.
- You experience lower latency.
- There are customization limits.
- You need cloud technology knowledge.
- You share security responsibilities with the provider.
The Technical Difference Between Host and Server
I’ll explain the technical differences between a host and a server.
What Is a Web Server (the Technical Definition)?
A web server consists of computers or other devices that form a network, which the provider gathers and develops into a server.
The server lets you rent space in the form of storage, maintenance, and access. It acts like a device connecting you (the client) to the network.
Web servers store and deliver web pages like HTML pages or files to multiple users. When users access your website through the internet, the information they get comes from a server.
Website performance is highly reliant on servers. They provide a place to store, transfer, and send data to visitors.
When you access your server, it connects to the network where you store your files. These data centers show you the files or data on demand.
You need servers to store all your website data, even your domain. A domain name system makes your address always accessible.
A domain name system (DNS) stores your domain name (website name). It routes searchers to the correct server where you store the website.
Here’s how it works:
1. Visitors enter your website name on their web browser (ex., omarderyan.io)
2. The DNS points them to the correct server.
3. The server routes your website data or files to the visitor
4. The visitor sees your website.
5. Every time visitors interact with the website, they interact with the server.
What Is a Web Host (the Technical Definition)?
A web host’s primary business is housing, serving, and maintaining files for one or more websites.
The host and the server go hand in hand.
You need a host to access a server and a server to access complex network resources.
A file server alone will require an efficient network. You may need to use other devices and turn them into a computer network.
Each hardware device should be capable of storing data.
The difference between hosts and DIY servers is you get access to a capable server. With a host, you get a competent server instead of starting from scratch.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, my article helped you understand the differences between a host and a server.
Research the type of hosting that best suits your needs before choosing a host and server.
Determine the ideal type of hosting for your business by learning the differences between web hosting vs. cloud hosting.