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  • Java

What is Java Hosting?

Java is a programming language and platform that enables developers serve up dynamic, interactive content. On the web, you will almost certainly have used Java applications and Applets.

Note: Java and JavaScript are completely unrelated: don't confuse them!

While Java-enabled hosting is more expensive than regular hosting, it offers added functionality to match the higher price tag.

Java is a veteran programming language. It was launched by Sun Microsystems in 1995, and has achieved impressive longevity since then. Java faces tough competition from HTML5 on the modern web, but many websites depend on Java - and will continue to do so. It's now owned by Oracle, and it's being used for websites, Internet of Things (IoT), home automation and gaming.

For the end user, the software needed to run Java applications is packaged a small, free download, so there's minimal interruption to the browsing experience. This is called a Java plugin, or Java Runtime Environment (JRE). Once downloaded, the plugin needs to be updated periodically.

If you're unfamiliar with Java's capabilities, look at your host's cPanel or similar control panel. There's probably a Java-based SSH client in there that you can try. There's more information in our cPanel tricks blog post.

Pros and Cons

There are specific situations where Java is the best choice, but it isn't for everyone. There are a few downsides to choosing Java, and these should be factored into the buying decision when you choose your hosting provider:

  • Hosting plans that include Java functionality tend to be more expensive than the basic plans they offer; you'll rarely get the headline price
  • Newbies will need to learn a new programming language on the fly (or hire a developer)
  • Some hosts won't let you use Java on shared hosting plans (see below for more information)

On the plus side:

  • Java is considered to be relatively easy to learn if you're interested in coding
  • It's Object Oriented, which means it shares common features with other languages
  • Users don't need to have a particular device or operating system
  • It's free

Java used to have a reputation for being slow to load, particularly compared with Flash. However, this has become less of an issue now that our internet connection speeds have caught up. Once a Java app has been downloaded, it is normally saved in the browser cache for instant execution the next time around.

Hosting For Java: Shared or VPS?

In September 2012, Go Daddy removed all Java functionality from its shared servers. Its reasoning was that the shared environment was not sufficient to give customers the flexibility needed to program in Java.

Its reasoning is sound. With all Java-enabled hosting, you'll have a Java applications server installed. One example is Apache Tomcat, which is an open source container and server in one. On a shared server, everyone shares one instance of Tomcat (or the equivalent). This can cause problems and downtime.

(Rarely, some hosts do offer dedicated Java installs for shared hosting customers. However, these are definitely exceptional, and the hosting is almost always more expensive than regular shared hosting.)

Overall, for Java (and for other advanced uses), a VPS is better:

  • You get your own servlet container - not a shared one - so your Java applications are isolated
  • You have more control over the hosting environment generally, which is important when you're doing anything more than the basics
  • You can reboot the VPS whenever you like to get your Java applications working properly
  • There's less chance of downtime caused by other people's rogue Java content

If you upgrade to a dedicated server, you'll have the entire machine to yourself, giving you even more surety.

Java Hosting Server Requirements

To serve up Java content, you'll need the Java servlet container and web server. Apache Tomcat is free and open source; we recommend version 6, which supports version 1.7 of the Java Development Kit (JDK). Tomcat version 5.5 will suffice for older versions of the JDK.

On VPS and dedicated hosting plans, the software is normally provided as an optional add-on that can be installed from your control panel. If you don't see it, ask your host to install it for you.

In terms of server RAM, it's best to aim for 512mb as a minimum. If you're running other things alongside your Java container, or you want to run resource-intensive applications, go for more RAM for best performance.

Finally, we recommend you buy a managed VPS hosting plan, unless you're familiar with server administration (or willing to learn quickly).

Related: Tomcat JSP

Java Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Java?

    Java is a programming language and a platform for the development of application software.

  • Is Java the same as JavaScript?

    No. The two languages are not really even related. Their similar name is something of a historical accident.

  • What is Java for?

    Java can be used for building any type of software application. It is designed to be extremely platform independent so that you can write an application once and run it anywhere.

  • Is Java popular?

    Yes. Java is one of the most popular programming languages in the world, with an estimated 9 million developers.

  • Is Java Open Source?

    Mostly. The language is Open Source, and most of the platform is as well.

  • What operating systems does Java work on?

    Java is designed to be widely supported by all hardware architecture. Java will work on almost all operating systems, including Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, Android, and iOS.

  • How does Java work?

    Java code written by a programmer is compiled into Java bytecode. Java bytecode is run on a Java Virtual Machine. Java programs run on JVMs the same way, regardless of the environment. This provides cross-platform compatibility to any computer system that has a Java Virtual Machine. Most computer systems now have a JVM.

  • What is the Java Runtime Environment?

    JRE is a Java Virtual Machine, a browser plugin, and the standard Java libraries, packaged together and made available as a single download from Oracle.

  • Can I use Java for building a website?

    Yes. Java has both server-side and client-side uses. On the server side, Java can be used for creating dynamic web applications in the same way that PHP, Ruby or any other language can be. There are a number of web development frameworks for Java, including Play, Ninja, and Grizzly. On the client side, Java applets can be deployed and run in browser by any one who has the Java Runtime Environment browser plugin.

  • What are some alternatives to Java for server-side web programming?

    A number of languages and development platforms can be used for server-side programming. The most popular options are PHP frameworks such as CodeIgniter and Symfony. Ruby on Rails is another option. Node.js is similar in terms of performance. Because of its history with desktop and device computing, the most direct competitor might be the .NET platform.

  • What are the alternatives to Java for client side programming?

    JavaScript is native to web browsers, so it is often a better choice for dynamic interaction on a web site. Flash and Silverlight have similar features as browser-based Java and have a similar need for a plugin.

  • Server side Java vs. .NET. Which is better?

    .NET has better integration with Microsoft tools and services. So if you need to use several other tools from them, such as Silverlight or integrate with other MS applications, like Word or Excel, you will probably have an easier time of it working with one of the .NET technologies. Java, however, is both Open Source and more widely supported. You can run your Java app on almost any architecture, which makes moving it pretty easy, and also makes hosting much cheaper. The Java platform can run several useful languages which don’t work with, or have been abandoned by, the .NET platform, such as Ruby and Python. The developer community for Java is also larger, which may make it easier to find talent in the future.

  • Server side Java vs. Ruby on Rails. Which is better?

    Several independent benchmarking tests have shown that Java applications have better performance than Ruby on Rails apps — they simply run faster. This isn’t surprising since Ruby has to be interpreted. However, run-time speed isn’t everything. Rails applications are usually fast to develop. The specifics of your needs will affect this because RoR is not good for every type of application, but for applications where either platform would be suitable, speed of development vs. speed of runtime is a good thing to think about.

  • Client side Java vs. JavaScript. Which is better?

    In terms of content accessible by web browsers, JavaScript is native to browsers and runs much faster in them than Java inside of an applet running on a browser plugin. Additionally, JavaScript has access to the entire DOM, whereas Java is given a small write panel embedded on a site. For most client-side web apps, JS is a better option. However, if you are literally building a client application that is separate from a browser, Java is one of the best options available, because of its cross-platform nature.

  • Client side Java vs. Flash. Which is better?

    The two technologies have similar capabilities, but Java is much more well-supported on a variety of systems. Also, Java is Open Source.

  • Client side Java vs. Silverlight. Which is better?

    Unless you need some specific tool available in Silverlight only, Java is going to be a better option because it is available on a wide variety of systems. However, Silverlight has some really unique features (like Deep Zoom), so you may need to use it, depending on what your requirements are.

  • What is JSP?

    JSP is Java Server Pages. This was an early application of Java technology to dynamic web content. Small bits of Java code could be embedded into (X)HTML documents and the results of running that code passed on to the web server at runtime. It is very similar to PHP.

  • JSP vs. PHP. Which is better?

    PHP. If you want to write in Java, use a serious Java framework. IF you want to insert small pieces of code into HTML documents, use PHP. (Or stop doing that, and use a framework or a content management system.)

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