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When you are setting up a web server, what you need is a http server that can send requested web pages to the machine that requested it. These pages are content files along with formatting information. The requesting browser uses the formatting information (via HTML, CSS etc) to render the content information on the machine that downloaded the page. This http server needs to be located such that it has a domain name (that can be translated to an IP address) and is connected to the Internet. This connection has to have enough bandwidth so that even when many people are interacting with your server the server is still able to operate easily. The machine on which this http server is to be located is a server.
There are service providers who provide the server to locate your http server as well as the connection to the Internet. The resources that are needed is storage space for your web pages, the bandwidth as mentioned already and a processor set up that can let your http operate fast enough. The whole process is known as web site hosting or simply hosting. The service provider actually has very powerful servers which can host multiple web sites. This is shared hosting. If you anticipate very high activity, you can rent out a complete machine for yourself. That is known as private hosting. For various operational and economical reasons, the service provider may have virtualized the servers. Typically a powerful physical machine may be running several individual server applications, and they can be a mix of operating system environments.
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Virtual Private Servers
Each virtual server has defined, guaranteed resources and their operating environments are isolated from one another. Thus even though multiple virtual machines are living in the same physical machine space, for all intent and purpose, they are individual machines. Each such virtual server runs its own OS and applications. These can be rebooted individually. Root access, as well as administrative controls are provided to the user and it appears simply as a dedicated private machine to the user. When the OS environment is Windows these are Windows virtual private servers. You simply use it as your own machine and set up your user group, applications and the necessary file system. Your own control panel will let you do all of these activities. Uploading of new or modified pages are also through the access provided by the control panels. Parallels Plesk and Ensim are popular one. If you choose to, you can let the provider do the maintenance and back up etc. Unlike shared servers these individual machine cannot affect the operation of each other; such as when one may be infected by virus or other malware.
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Some Typical Specs
Service providers typically would specify the memory you can use, the disk space and the communication bandwidth you can use. Generally they will provide you 250 GB bandwidth. Any incremental use will cost you more. You’ll need to ensure your needs are fulfilled by the bandwidth provided with the package. Memory resources are typically guaranteed at 512 MB to 1 GB range. Usually you can get a “burstable” usage spec too. As storages keeps getting cheaper HDD space available gets larger. 25 to 50 GB spec is very common. You should look for uptime guarantees in the service level agreements (SLA). Look for numbers better than 95%, 99.5 is desirable. These packages come at price levels of $50 to $100 per month.
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Server Intellect provides solutions in this space. For $99 per month it will provide you Windows server OS, 512 MB of error correction RAM, 25 GB disk, 250 GB bandwidth. HELM control panel, SQL Server database and SmarterTools suite.
VPSLand provides in its lite package 512 MB RAM, 6 GB disk space, 200 GB bandwidth per month, 99.9% uptime guaranty, back-up and restore, tech support etc all thrown in at $18 per month.
Pandela provides for a $39 per month subscription, 512 MB RAM, 10 GB storage, 500 GB bandwidth.
Liquidweb offers for $100 per month, 768 MB RAM, 40 GB HDD, Plesk 8 control panel, 350 GB monthly transfer.