A virtual host can run more than one website at a time. Configure it properly, and you'll have one machine that can load two, three, or more websites.
When we think about the internet, we think in terms of singularity. One website address resolves to one machine that holds all the content. Virtual hosting turns this idea on its head.
The main benefit to virtual hosting is it allows companies to host multiple websites (each with their own name and content) on a single server. This method allows companies to pay less, as they're sharing costs with many other organizations.
Virtual hosts are used in two main ways:
- External sales: Companies like GoDaddy and Wix host multiple websites on their servers. About 330,000 web hosting providers like this are available worldwide. They all offer some type of virtual web server.
- Internal traffic: Companies with an external-facing website and an internal-facing intranet might use a virtual host. They don't need two servers for this traffic.
3 virtual host types
Someone who wants to visit your website types in an address and hopes to end up in the right destination. Virtual servers handle that query in a few different ways.
You could base your virtual server on:
- Internet protocol (IP) address. Use a different IP for each domain, but point them to one server. Allow that one server to resolve multiple IP addresses.
- Name. Use one IP for all domains on the server. During connection, ask your visitors which site they'd like to visit. After that query, resolve the visit to the proper site.
- Port. Assign each website to a different port on the server.
Drawbacks of these methods include:
- Delays. Choose the name system, and some browsers will struggle to authenticate the site. Your visitors could be told your site is not secure, or others may wait long periods for your site to load.
- Complexity. It takes little coding to set up IP addresses for each site, but you may run out of available IP addresses to use. And you must keep track of which address corresponds to each site.
Should you set up your own servers?
Creating a virtual host can be complicated, and errors can keep people from visiting your site and finding out more about you.
If you have servers you need to keep secure, watch this video to learn about Okta Advanced Server Access.
109+ Web Hosting Stats and Facts. (September 2021). Hosting Tribunal.