What Is an Internet Hosting Service?

C. Mitchell

An Internet hosting service is a company or group that maintains servers and sells both access to those servers as well as related e-mail access and website content support. Everything that is displayed online is backed by an Internet hosting service. Website owners and content developers contract with Internet hosts for a variety of different services, from ad sponsorship support and data transfer capabilities to domain name control and private e-mail access.

Racks of servers.
Racks of servers.

The Internet is, in its most basic sense, a network of domain and page groupings that are based on servers located throughout the world. One of the easiest ways to participate in the Internet is to piggy-back onto a site that already exists. Subscribing to web-based e-mail or registering web page creation rights within an established blog or content creation site are some of the simplest, most popular examples. In order to actually control a website or e-mail server, however, one must contract with an Internet hosting service.

An ADSL modem, one of the ways to connect to the Internet.
An ADSL modem, one of the ways to connect to the Internet.

Hosting services typically offer a range of different services. The most basic packages are little more than server space where site owners can situate their pages and direct and filter traffic. This is known as a web hosting service. These types of services allow for basic web hosting, which gives people who already own a domain name a place to put their page. Some technical support for basic upload and download functions is usually also included.

Website hosting is different from domain service hosting. A hosting service known as a domain name system (DNS) is a specialized kind of Internet hosting service that deals exclusively with the domain name system. The domain name system is the technological framework that translates numerical Internet addresses into web addresses that Internet users can easily type into browsers. It is made up of names in various top-level domains, the most common or which include .com, .org, and .edu.

DNS hosting services manage the assignation of names within the system. They work closely with domain name registrars. Registrars are companies that have control over selling names and specific addresses within top-level domains. Most of the time, purchasing a domain name from a registrar automatically comes with DNS hosting services, but not always.

Many of the world’s largest domain name registrars are also some of the most profitable Internet hosting services. When users purchase domain names, they usually also purchase Internet hosting services, whether they know it or not. Basic DNS coordination and bandwidth functionality is usually included with new registrations and renewals. Domain name purchasers can usually elect to upgrade their packages to include such things as e-mail hosting service, ad serving support, and bigger bandwidth for faster transfers. All of these are the wares of Internet hosting services.

Different industries require more specialized Internet hosting services. A hosted service provider, for instance, may need more storage capacity and web development capabilities than more casual web owners. Internet gaming sites and virtual world hosts may also need special game server support from their hosts.

There are a number of Internet-related services that may overlap with an Internet hosting service, as well. Web users that host extremely large volumes of traffic and need to support numerous pages and e-mail accounts — traditionally, large international corporations — may be candidates for utility computing services. Utility computing services often offer special bundled deals for major clients that include cloud computing services and cloud storage, e-mail security, and bandwidth access. Depending on the provider, these packages may include hosting.

An application service provider, too, provides hosting-like services to clients over a network. These services usually include such things as payment processing systems, time-card processing, and download support service. Application services and an Internet hosting services are usually subscribed to separately, but they may sometimes be packaged together.

Computers connected to a server.
Computers connected to a server.

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