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Webspace vs. Webserver

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What is Webspace?

Webspace is the most commonly used synonym for shared webspace or shared webserver. It basically means that you are running your website on a server that is shared with other websites – sometimes hundreds. It is also used as a term exclusively for people who don't have their own infrastructure and rent that space on an external server.

You could be a webdesigner who provides that service to a customer. You could also make a business by selling those webspaces directly to end user (customer) or webdesigners, agencies etc. but instead of investing in an infrastructure yourself you rent severeal webspaces from a hoster as a reseller. Regardless if you are reselling webspaces or renting one webspace directly from the hoster, every website is set up in its own space that you normally connect to with ftp to upload your website. Only within that space you have the freedom to up- and download and run scripts (sometimes only in one preconfigured directory). The rest of the webserver is unavailable to you since there are other customers (from the hosters point of view) running their website on and as you want some privacy. As an example we could use the directory structure of a webserver to show how webspace works, e.g. the root directory of a webserver on Debian linux is

/var/www

If you are familiar with windows just imagine a directory called

c://documents/webserver/

In the case of one customer renting one webspace on that webserver he would have his own directory, e.g.

/var/www/web123

Web123 would be created by an administration programm running on the webserver (e.g. Confixx) that automatically allocates a space and unique identifier. Within that directory this customer can upload his website and run it. What he cannot do is access anything outside his allocated space. In the case of the reseller it works the same way. The reseller creates a new web by given the administration programm the information to set up a new web. In comparison with the customer with only one website, the reseller has additional configuration possibilities to handle severeal websites. He can of course access all the webs that were created with his account.

Normally resellers buy a certain amount of webspaces. You can have webspaces as low as 10 or 15 up to 50 etc. That's why resellers are often webdesigner, web agencies, that want to work with a enviroment they are used to.

Webspace and TYPO3

Important for TYPO3 is the fact that regardless if you are a reseller or rent a webspace directly from a hoster, you don't have root access to your webserver where your webspace is running on. As mentioned above you are only allowed inside your specific directory and you have no influence on the kind of installation that is done on the webserver your webspace is set up.

Outdated installations

What happens is that because sometimes there are several hundred websites running on one webserver the hoster is hesitating to upgrade even the simplest installations like PHP and MySQL to a more current and stable version. This is because it has happened that after upgrading several websites wouldn't run anymore because of incompatibilities and quite often just bad programming.

To get a hoster to upgrade even one step up on your current PHP version is going to be tough. It also has been known that the same hoster, running different webservers, has updated one webserver but not the other one(s). That's what you see in endless forum discussion – and sometimes in the mailinglist of TYOP3 too – when you read something like this: I don't know why you have a problem, it's working just fine with me, you must do something wrong... Just to find out that one website is running on webwerver20 with the updated versions and the other one on webserver3 with outdated installations.

Memory

The other issue that arises with TYPO3 is the memory for PHP. In most cases with webspaces it is set up to 8 MB. Current TYPO3 version recommend 25 MB and more. People find it the hardest to convince their hoster to increase memory usage as it affects all the webspace users.

ImageMagick and others

TYPO3 uses several tools among which ImageMagick is hardly ever installed on webspace servers. Again, in order for you to install ImageMagick you need root access or special permission to do so within your webspace.

There is light at the end of the tunnel

Regardless of many problems that can arise with webspace there are more and more hosters who become aware of TYPO3 and are willing to set up the webserver for an appropriate use. The problem here is if you are accostumed to one hoster that doesn't provide TYPO3 support you end up switching to one that does and either have to handle two or more hosters or eventually switch all your websites to the one that does.

Your own webserver

A far more flexible solution is to have your own webserver. Naturally there with more freedom comes more responsibilities that can be overwhelming if you're not familiar with LAMP, WAMP, MAMP (Mac OS X, Apache, MySQL, PHP) etc.

Still, you might want to find out if your hoster that runs your webspace, assuming you are renting one or are a reseller, also provides webservers to rent. If you are considering renting a webserver you might want to read the next chapter. I'll share our experience with hosting, starting five years ago and how we progressed through the different stages. For right now, just some information in a nutshell.

Power

One really good thing about a webserver is that you don't always need the latest and best hardware. Especially with Linux even older computers serve the websites in accurate speed. Considering that most websites don't have a lot of user access you can even afford a few high traffic websites on the same server.

Service contract

It might be valuable for you to get a service contract, especially in the beginning. Ask for the specs on the service contract to find out what it includes. In most cases it will something like

  • Security updates
  • Major udpates of the operating system
  • Major updates of your adminitration programm (X-Unitconf, Confixx etc)
  • Little help here and there with the configuration or installation of modules etc.
  • Free e-mail support.

You will be still responsible for the management of the server, upgrade to newer version (minor, bug fixes) of your modules and especially the backup.

Managed server

This certainly is the top of the class maintenance you can get from a external hoster. Saying it with the words of my hoster: Your server is like one of our own. They take care of everything. If there is a crash, they take care of it. If something is broken, they take care of it. If your server is down they run faster than you can say: 'My server is down'.

Of course such a service is pricy and as my hoster adivces, safe the money, have a service contract and if something happens, pay the labor. If you trust your hoster, listen to him. His experience with his equipment is the key to a good running webserver.

Backup

Although very important, hosting providers tend not to care so much about backups, at least if it's not their own server.

One way to have a bit more security if you rent a webserver is to have a second harddisc installed and a backup program set up on the server. Don't think that your hosting provider takes care of it by himself. Ask him and invest the money. It's worth it.

Your own webserver and TYPO3

With root access you'll have the whole system to yourself and therefore no problem to install anything you want. Yet, as being responsible for your webserver more than with webspace you might need help and actually ask for it just to make sure you keep your webserver secure. Ripping a hole in your system is just too easy, especially if you're not a server specialist. Have a professional by your side. That can be a techy that works for your hoster or somebody external you know. Consider the fact that they need root access if they really should be able to help you. You have to lay the whole system open to them.