A Primer on Web Hosting

A staggering amount of tools and technologies converge to deliver what we know as the “web,” which makes it difficult to track what they all do and why. Hosting is one such element.

Before joining amazee.io, I really only knew the basics:

  1. I pay my hosting provider money, and they make sure my website is reachable to potential visitors.

  2. If my website goes down, I get mad and call them.

  3. I have several vendors to choose from, and the costs can range dramatically for some reason.

  4. Some vendors are better suited for different web applications.

  5. At the end of the day, vendor selection is usually up to IT, the dev team, security, and finance.

While settling into my role, I’ve had the opportunity to develop an understanding and appreciation of the underlying intricacies of each of those points by asking and now answering so many foundational questions around “what we do and why.”

From this treasure trove of acquired knowledge, I’ve assembled the following “non-uber-technical” field guide to web hosting:

What is hosting?

Running an application or website on the internet requires a physical place for its code and data to exist, as well as a digital platform for all of its services to run. There are thus three main components of hosting: infrastructure, services, and platforms.

What is infrastructure?

Much like brick and mortar storefronts rent or buy commercial retail space from a landlord or property owner, websites and applications also need a physical residence. Hosting infrastructure providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure offer the hardware and data center where code and databases can physically exist. Think of them as the landlord.

Why does hosting require services?

Continuing with the storefront analogy, just as the store owner/tenant brings its unique brand and products to the space it’s occupying, web applications do the same. But in order for them to run efficiently and smoothly, they rely on crucial services. Where physical stores require utilities, surveillance systems, and cleaning crews, websites require monitoring, maintenance, and external services to perform well.

So what are hosting platforms?

Building upon the above analogy, we can think of platforms as a retail space’s management company, the party responsible for delivering most of the services mentioned above. These parties often have preferred third-party vendors, non-negotiable terms, and restrictions around how tenants can use their space do. But, the upside is that the tenant doesn’t have to manage all those services themselves.

Is Lagoon amazee.io’s hosting platform?

Yes, amazee.io built Lagoon as the open-source container-based answer to the other hosting platforms that currently exist. As developers ourselves, we hated being encumbered by lack of visibility or accessibility into systems, processes, and configurations.

With Lagoon, developers have access to any (and the latest) technologies they want or need. They also benefit from secure infrastructure (provided by our partners, AWS and Azure). And they receive the full-time support needed to keep their applications running at full speed at all times.

In addition to amazee.io’s passionate team of engineers, a large community of developers is continually contributing enhancements and new features to Lagoon because it is fully open source. This ensures Lagoon is always up-to-date, leveraging the latest technologies, and extremely secure.

So what exactly is open source?

There’s a reason enterprise tech companies like Microsoft are vocally embracing open source. It’s a powerful approach to building and maintaining software.

By opening up your source code, you invite a vast community of engaged developers to contribute new features and fixes to your codebase. And you empower them to build new solutions leveraging what you’ve already built.

This leads to rapid innovation and collaboration which is difficult to achieve in an insular environment. It also means that the code is portable, giving you far more options when it comes to supporting and maintaining it. Being open source allows you to avoid vendor lock-in, which comes in handy if your vendor ever neglects to fulfill their end of the deal.

Why open source website hosting?

Because the most innovative applications are generally built on open source technologies, we believe developers should be able to host them on a platform that’s equally open. By being an open source hosting provider, we give our customers, developers and business owners, access to the latest and greatest tools and technology, complete flexibility, and visibility into how it’s all configured.

If you’re open source, how do you make money?

Lagoon is open source, so anyone is welcome to download it or fork it and use it, but it is quite complex. Since we’ve been building and maintaining it for three years, we’re the experts when it comes to running it.

We make money by selling managed hosting services to our clients, where we do all the setup, maintenance, and support, and they get to focus on writing great code. This makes sense for teams who are not yet experts in things like container orchestration and resource scaling.

Containers…come again?

Docker introduced containers as a way to increase the speed and quality of the development process. By packaging all of an application’s configurations and files into portable units, developers can work within completely congruent development, staging and production environments. This means less time worrying about discrepancies between environments, battling regressions, or logging into virtual machines. They’re the future, and they’re here!

Because Lagoon is container-based, developers benefit from better devops and businesses benefit from faster release cycles, increased stability, and optimal security.

What now?

You may want to check with your development team to see if they’re happy with your current hosting solution. If not, you can let them know there’s another way. Feel free to reach out if you’d like more information.