‘Practical Techie’: Web hosting maneuvers

Written by  //  August 20, 2013  //  Biz Views  //  No comments

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Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to cccrafael@gmail.com.

Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to cccrafael@gmail.com.

A critical aspect of any business web site is where to host it. And then, how to host your portal.

The place where you will house your important digital pages must offer a stable server and a hosting company very supportive of your present and future needs.

Just to make sure this thing about the server is clear, let’s peek into the entrails of one of these machines so we all know how they should work for us.

A server is a computer chock full of memory and powerful software that will keep it connected to the Internet, no matter what. In real life terms, a server is like storage building where client locates data, of all sizes, types and amounts.

The key to a server’s functionality is its interconnectivity to the Web. Without proper connectors, it would be like a warehouse building with no doors to access the storage areas. As defined by the experts, a good web hosting plan will include many strong and accessible servers so that users can access this information rapidly and easily, and in a fail proof manner in case of shutdowns, overloads or malwares.

The useful protocol
A server’s effectiveness is defined by the Internet protocol number (IP address) assigned to a client’s computer. This defines the machine where you originate your data from, its location in the vastness of the Internet, the host, and the network used by the service provider, as the Web lives inside a boundless network of connected computers. Simplified, the IP is similar to your residence address in the immensity of the city where you live in.

To serve you well, the hosting company must have a unique domain name for your web site. Something like maybe calling your abode in the city “Villa Paciencia.”  Quite distinct.

Next, we define what a hosting service is. The hosting company’s job is to provide servers programmed to connect domain names and IP numbers, solidly together, in a never-ending, never-interrupted loop.

A good hosting service will make your site very accessible to search engine algorithms, a term we explained in previous columns.

The Internet Service Provider (ISP) you choose to host your site must offer the capability of allowing thousands of visitors to access your pages simultaneously. It must also rapidly decode all the formats in your pages and show them on any computer screen around the world without distortions or glitches.

All this must be done at lighting speed via an immense Internet network and through the intuitiveness of good Web browsers. Navigators, are they as also called, are like translators in the Web realm. They decipher the hypertext codes and magically convert them into text, graphics and audio for us mere humans. And vice versa.

Make sure your host provides 24/7 support because the servers the provider are using might be somewhere in Finland, Utah, Japan or Mexico.

A server is a computer chock full of memory and powerful software that will keep it connected to the Internet, no matter what.

A server is a computer chock full of memory and powerful software that will keep it connected to the Internet, no matter what.

Nuances of hosting
Discussing the matter of bandwidth is also imperative. This negotiation refers to the amount of available or consumed data by a server. The bandwidth is expressed in a unit of bits per second or similar multiples of it, kilobits per second or megabits per second. The more, the better, although quantity, as all things in life, has a price.

The more text, good quality images, video and audio streaming you insert into your site, the more bandwidth you will need to rent from the hosting company.

There are many more technical intricacies in the use of servers, frequencies, networks, protocol and coding when dealing with hosting services, but for any business, another key issue is simply security. A host must offer use of a password that has been converted a secret data format. This will protect your site from being hacked because only authorized users can use the encrypted password.  Or so the theory goes.

A good host will have a very reliable program able to unscramble the encryption when given the correct parameters.

Other hosting options
An option oft used by some web site owners is to do their own hosting. This is accomplished by buying and setting up your own dedicated server or rent one, that is, an entire computer for the files and content of a single website. Costs were prohibitive 10 years ago, but now it can be done with some technical knowledge and a couple of thousand bucks.

But, most of us simple citizens must attach to a shared server hosting which allows multiple website owners to share a server for storage. Generally, shared hosting is much less expensive and usually suitable for small businesses and blog sites.  And then, there is open source hosting, but this requires a bit of setting up knowledge, a theme for another column.

Puerto Rico has a host of major and smaller ISP, some through cable TV, direct service lines, optical fiber or mobile phone wireless. These include Caribe.Net, AT&T, Claro Puerto Rico, Liberty Media, OneLink Communications, WorldNet Telecommunications, Choice Cable, Coqui Net, PR Digital, Islanet, Puerto Rico Net, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Open Mobile, among others.

A third alternative for small, personal websites is free hosting through such biggies as Yahoo, Google and a host of template website designers, but broadband, voice, blog, social media, email, graphics and e-commerce options are limited. This option is shared hosting to the max, as your site will be placed with thousands of other freeloaders on the same servers.

If dissatisfied with your present provider, a small business can always switch hosts, but this may be a small hassle as contractual and technical conditions apply.

All and all, the key to good commercial web hosting is to find a provider that can keep your business pages running smoothly, all the time and very securely.

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