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Website Hosting Types -- Choosing the Right Technology

Website Hosting Defined

Firstly, it is useful to define what a "website" is from the perspective of hosting. A website is a basically a collection of integrated electronic data files that are stored on a server computer which is connected to the Internet superhighway by fiber optic cables. The collection of files for a website contain all the information needed by a browser in order for it to display in an orderly manner all the webpages and media files that constitute the website. The storage of this collection of data files on a server computer is known as "hosting". Every website on the Internet must have its bundle of files stored on a server computer somewhere on the Internet. A website hosting service is a Web technology business that operates powerful server computers on the Internet and functions as a vendor to provide website hosting for customers. The server computers can contain hundreds of individual websites. The number of sites stored on each server is dependant upon the amount of data that each website takes up. Obviously large websites, especially those containing extensive video media files, take up a lot more storage capacity on the server. Consequently the hosting of these large media-intensive websites will typically be at a higher cost.

Selecting The Right Type of Hosting Technology

This is the most critical decision you will make! 
There are three basic types of website hosting technology in use today. The most important decision you can make in a website construction project is to select the right type of hosting technology for your site's needs, while taking into consideration your technical abilities and budget. After a website has been constructed, it is pretty much impossible to "convert" your website from one type of hosting technology to another type. If you have made an unwise hosting technology decision at the beginning of your project, and later discover that you have made the wrong choice, it will be necessary to re-constructing the whole website in order to host the site on a different type of hosting technology. So it is best to make an informed and wise decision on hosting choices right at the beginning of your project!
 

A Hosting Technology System Must Accomodate "Responsive Design" Architecture

Because most of the traffic on the Internet now originates from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, it is imperative that the website hosting system you select is able to host and construct your website using what is known as "responsive design" technology. In a "responsive design", the webpage of a website will display differently on a personal computer (PC) and laptop screen compared to how it is displayed on a smartphone or tablet with a small screen. When viewed on a full-size screen, the webpage will need to have a "landscape" type of orientation, occupying the full width of the screen or the full width of the browser window. When the same webpage is viewed on a small screen, the responsive design technology "knows" that the site is being viewed on a small screen device, and it will automatically re-configure the design of the webpage so that it displays on the screen in a vertical portrait-style orientation, with each part of the webpage vertically stacked one on top of another in an orderly manner, so that each part of the webpage can be viewed by scrolling down the vertical length of the page. The navigation design will also automatically re-configure for the small-screen viewing mode, so that the navigation can easily be operated by the user of a smartphone or tablet in order them to quickly find the information they are looking for.     


Three Main Types of Hosting Technology Systems
The introduction of "responsive designs" on websites rendered obsolete a lot of the older web hosting systems and website construction software. There are now three basic types of web hosting systems that are suitable for hosting sites with "responsive design" architecture. These three systems are:

1) "Website Builder" hosting
2) "Content Management System" (CMS) hosting
3) "Classic FTP Website" hosting.

Each of these systems has its pros and cons. There is also is some crossover between "Website Builder" hosting and "Content Management System" (CMS) hosting. The hosting technology system you choose for your own particlular website project will primarily depend on the following three factors:

(a) The anticipated size and complexity of your website.
(b) The level of your technical abilities.
(c) Your budget.

Let's take a look at each of the three main hosting technology systems. We will start with the simplest system first.

1) "Website Builder" Hosting.
Here are five of the most popular brands of "Website Builder" hosting services:
Google Sites 
GoDaddy
Wix
Weebly
Squarespace

The above 'Website Builder" hosting services are listed in the order of their ease of use. Please also note that "Google Sites" provides free hosting for non-profit organizations like churches and ministry organizations. So it you are new to constructing and hosting a website, and you are a church or ministry, you might want to start with a free simple "Google Sites" website just to get some experience with hosting and site construction. Most of the other "Website Builder" services also offer a free hosting plan for a starter website. However the free hosting will usually provide a site with a limited number of features, or there will be some obtrusive commercial advertising displayed on the site. You can always start with a free hosting plan in order to "try out" a particular brand of Website Builder service, and then later upgrade to a paid hosting plan if you are happy with the service provided by that particular brand.

Please note that technically speaking, in a generic sense a "website builder" is any kind of computer software or hosting system, online or offline, that enables you to construct a website without needing to know or use website computer code known as HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). The "website builder" does all the coding for you. When the term "Website Builder" is used in reference to website hosting, it is describing a type of website hosting technology service that enables people to host and construct a website with a minimal amount of technical knowledge and ability.

If you know how to compose a document in Microsoft Word or some other type of word processing software, and if you know how to access, receive, compose and send e-mails, or if you know how to post information onto Facebook or Twitter, then you have the sufficient technical ability needed in order to be able to construct/host a very nice and functional website using a "Website Builder" hosting service.

With a "Website Builder" service, the software that hosts the website and the software that constructs the website are integral; that is they are one and the same software. This software resides on the server, not on your PC or other device. This software it is maintained by the hosting service provider, and you as the customer never need to be concerned about any kind of software maintenance or upgrades. This is all taked care of by the hosting vendor. Once you have established a hosting account with a "Website Builder" service, you are provided with a "blank" website that comes with a "default" theme and template. This is a website without any content on it. You will then need to "construct" the website by specifying how the design of the website will "look" by means of selecting a specific "theme" and "template" from one of many stock themes and templates made available by the service provider. These "themes" and "templates" can always be changed later to give a different "look" and "feel" to your website.

With "Website Builder" hosting, the website is constructed "on the fly", which means that your browser accesses the construction software on the server, and you are creating and modifying the website while directly accessing it on the server using the browser on your Personal Computer (PC) or other device. This operates very similar to the manner in which you compose an e-mail with a webmail service like gmail or hotmail, or just like you post information on a Facebook page. In fact when you compose an e-mail using a webmail service, or when you add or change content to a Facebook page, you are actually making changes to a literal "webpage" residing on the webmail or Facebook server. Constructing a webpage using a "Website Builder" service is actually the same basic technology process as composing an e-mail or producing a Facebook or Twitter post. Obviously constructing a webpage is more involved than creating an e-mail or making a social media post, and you have a lot more design options and options for the type of content you want to place on the webpage. However the two processes are basically the same. In order to compose an e-mail, or to make a social media post, you do not need to have any knowledge of HTML code. The same is true for constructing a webpage using "Website Builder" hosting. 

Obviously if you are just a novice and only want to construct a very simple starter website, you may want to begin with Google Sites, which is hosted for free by Google Sites if your website is for a non-profit organization like a church or ministry. However if you have in mind the desire to construct a more professional-looking website that has more advanced features, then it will be best for you to use one of the other four other more comprehensive "Website Builder" hosting services. The best service is the one that matches the anticipated complexity of the website with the skill level that you have and your budget. If you desire to construct a more complex site, but are lacking in technical skill, it may be better for you to use a service that is simpler to use. Other considerations include hosting cost and quality of customer service.

Be aware that with a "Website Builder" hosting service, the provider of the hosting is also the provider of the proprietry software that resides on the server and constructs the website. This means that the hosting and the website construction software are one and the same thing, and it will not be possible for you to "move" your website to another alternative "Website Builder" hosting service, perhaps to reduce cost or to obtain better customer service. With "Website Builder" hosting, once you have constructed your website, for better or for worse (like marriage), you are stuck with that vendor's hosting service. If you are subsequently not happy with that vendor and the service they offer and you want to divorce yourself from it, your only option will be to abandon the wesite and totally re-construct it on an entirely different "Website Builder" hosting service provided by another vendor. This will off course be a very time-consuming proposition.

"Website Builder" hosting and its service providers are discussed in more detail on the "Website Builder hosting" webpage in this "WEB HOSTING" section of this AWA7.org website.   

2) "Content Management System" (CMS) Hosting
Here is a list of the current most popular commercial CMS website construction/hosting technology brands:
WordPress
Drupal
Joomla
TypeO3
DotNukeNet

There are also available three distinctly "Adventist" CMS website construction/hosting technology brands:
netAdventist 
Adventist Church Connect and Adventist School Connect
SimpleUpdates.com

"netAdventist" CMS hosting is administered by the General Conference and is made available to Divisions,  Unions, and Conferences, who typically offer free hosting of "netAdventist" websites to local Adventist churches, ministries and other denomination entities located in their territory. The ASI organization also makes available free hosting of "netAdventist" websites to ASI members. Paid "netAdventist" hosting can be obtained from "netAserve", the technical support agency for the "netAdventist" CMS hosting product.

Incidentally, the "AWA7.org" website you are viewing is constructed/hosted on the "netAdventist" CMS, with free hosting graciously provided by the Pacific Union Conference in the NAD.

Adventist Church Connect and Adventist School Connect in a proprietry CMS hosting service administered by the North American Division (NAD) through its "AdventSource agency, which provides free websites for use by local churches, schools, and ministries/administrations located in the territory of the NAD.

SimpleUpdates.com is a proprietry CMS hosting service offered by an ASI-member private business owned by an Adventist church member. It is based in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.

Additional information on the "netAdventist" hosting product and all the other CMS hosting technologies mentioned above is available in the "WEB HOSTING" section of the "AWA7.org" site. 

What Is "Content Management System" (CMS) Hosting?
"Content Management System" (CMS) hosting, more accurately called "Web Content Management System" hosting, is very similar to a "Website Builder" hosting service. The main difference is that with "Website Builder" hosting, the hosting of the website and the software used to construct that website are one and the same. However with CMS hosting, the hosting of the website and the software that constructs the website are two separate items. The software, for example "WordPress", still resides on the server; however it is a separate item. The vendor who provides CMS hosting already has the website construction software installed on the server, and it is usually made available at no extra charge beyond the cost of the hosting.

One main advantage of a website constructed/hosted with CMS software is that the site can always be "moved" from one hosting vendor's server to another hosting vendor's server, if you are not happy with a particular hosting vendor. Your are not married to the same hosting vendor. However the CMS software used for the construction/hosting/maintanance will still need to be the same software brand, for example WordPress or Drupal. Although you are able to "move" a CMS website from one server to another server, you must still use the same brand of CMS software. Given that pretty much all hosting comes with free CMS software, this is not usually a problem.

WordPress is by far the most popular commercial CMS construction/hosting technology. It is used on over 60 million websites hosted on the Internet. About 35% of the Top 10 Million most populare sites on the Web use WordPress technology hosting.

The dissadvantage of CMS hosting is that the CMS software used to construct the site is much more difficult to use compared to that used for "Website Builder" hosting. So if your technical ability is limited and ease of use is important, it will be best to avoid constructing/hosting your site on a CMS. Instead use a "Website Builder" hosting service.

Web "Content Management System" (CMS) websites and their technologies are discussed in more detail on the "Content Management System (CMS) Hosting" webpage in the WEB HOSTING section of this AWA7.org website.

3) "Classic FTP Website" Hosting
Please note that as of 11/2019 this "Classic FTP Website" Hosting paragraph is still being authored .

Paid Hosting for "Classic" FTP WebsitesIf you intend to construct a "classic" website using Web design software such Dreamweaver, or you already have a classic website hosted on the Internet but want to host it on a better hosting service, then you will need to find a Web losting provider that offers excellent hosting. The Adventist church member-owned Web hosting business called "netAserve" (formerly called TAGnet) provides excellent classic website hosting for only $99 per year. Technical support is offered at extra cost.

FREE HOSTING FOR ADVENTIST WEBSITES

As mentioned under item "2)" above, the section on "Content Magagement System" (CMS) Hosting, please be aware that free websites with free hosting is available to many Adventist churches, schools, instituions, ministries and individuals. If you qualify for a free Adventist webiste, there is no need to look for a Web hosting provider, as the website and its hosting is already provided for you at no charge.

Free Hosting for "netAdventist" CMS Websites
If you intend to construct and host your website on the "netAdventist" Content Management System (CMS), please be aware that the Adventist entity that provides your netAdventist website takes care of the hosting. If your netAdventist site is a free website provided by a denominational administrative unit such as a Division, Union Conference, local Conference, or the General Conference, then hosting is provided for free on a netAdventist server maintained by the administrative unit or the GC. If your free website is provided by Adventist-laymens Services and Industries (ASI), ASI takes care of the hosting for you on ASI's netAdventist server. If you do not qualify for a free netAdventist website, but you would still like to construct and host your website on the netAdventist system, then you can purchase your website hosting from netAserve, which will host you website on their "netAdvent" netAdventist server for a yearly fee.

Free Hosting for NAD "Adventist Church Connect" and "Adventist School Connect" Websites

If you are a local Adventist church or education institution located in the territory of the North American Division (NAD), you already have a free website hosted on the Internet, even if your church or school has not been maintaining that provided free website. These free websites are hosted on the "Adventist Church Connect" (ACC) and "Adventist School Connect" (ASC) system. This free hosting is provided by the North American Division through their "Adventist Web Media Ministry" department administered by AdventSource, which is an NAD ministry based in Lincoln, Nebraska USA. The "Adventist Church Connect" (ACC) and "Adventist School Connect" (ASC) websites are a branded version of the "Simple Updates" Content Management System (CMS).