What is shared (virtual) web hosting?
Shared (or virtual) web hosting is the most fitting way of hosting for 99% of web sites. It means that a web hosting company will have one or more servers (computers constantly connected to the Internet that run a web server software such as Apache or IIS) that will be running multiple web sites (it will be shared). Unless a web site is exceptionally busy or requires a lot of bandwidth, this is the least expensive way to get a real web site.
Shared hosting typically uses a web-based control panel system, such as cPanel, DirectAdmin, Plesk, InterWork, H-Sphere or one of many other control panel products. Most of the large hosting companies use their own custom developed control panel. Control panels and web interfaces can cause controversy however, since web hosting companies sometimes sell the right to use their control panel system to others. Attempting to recreate the functionality of a specific control panel is common, which leads to many lawsuits over patent infringement.
In shared web hosting, the provider is generally responsible for managing servers, installing server software, security updates, technical support, and other aspects of the service. Most servers are based on the Linux operating system and LAMP (software bungle), which is driven by the low cost of open source software. But some providers offer Microsoft Windows-based or FreeBSD-based solutions. For example, the Plesk and Ensim control panels are both available for two operating systems, Linux and Windows. Versions for either OS have very similar interfaces and functionality, with the exception of OS-specific differences (for example, ASP.NET or Microsoft SQL Server support under Windows, and typically greater security and stability under Linux).
Apache server, MySQL server, and even physical memory are shared.