We’ll cover these questions and more as I walk you through the fundamentals ASP hosting and how to find a good ASP host.
I’ll also share my recommendations for three top ASP web hosts to help get you started in your search for the right host for your project.
What is ASP Hosting?
“[T]he haters and naysayers are wrong, and ASP.NET is a technology that you should try and get to know.” — Jeremy McPeak
With ASP hosting on a Windows-based server, you can run scripts using Microsoft’s Active Server Pages technology to create interactive pages, provide database access, and more.
Servers and Operating Systems
Your web hosting provider uses an operating system (OS) to run their servers, just as you run an OS on your personal computer. While Linux-run servers are the majority among web hosts, hosts with Windows-driven servers are becoming more common for some websites.
That’s due in no small part to the growing popularity of Microsoft’s Active Server Pages (ASP). Now in its third iteration, ASP is a scripting language you can use to create dynamic and interactive Web applications.
ASP and Its Competitors
Competing with the likes of PHP and other similar programming languages such as CGI, ASP was the third dynamic web-based technology released in the 1990s.
ASP was created to work with Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS). IIS is a built-in Windows component that handles web server and other Internet functions within the Windows operating system.
ASP is a versatile server-side scripting language. It can be used to create interactive websites, code standalone applications, access databases (such as MySQL or Microsoft Access databases), combine HTML pages, or even to perform simple user customizations like displaying the local date and time for each visitor to a page.
In addition, it can be used to allow site visitors to interact with your site content objects like Active X or Java elements.
Microsoft’s Developer Network houses documentation on Active Server Pages (ASP). Also on tap: an FAQ, tutorials, and code samples.
ASP/Active Server Pages
ASP/Active Server Pages are HTML pages that embed directly into ASP scripts. From there, the ASP scripts process on your host provider’s server before sending them to your site visitor’s browser for viewing.
In short, your hosting solution server runs the HTML code, then the ASP code, and then finally delivers the content to the browser for your site visitor to see.
ASP is particularly known for its:
Ease of use
Independence from scripting languages, so you can use whatever you want. You do not have to use Microsoft languages.
Short learning curve
Lots of documentation
Large online community
ASP can refer to two different frameworks: ASP and ASP.NET.
ASP vs. ASP.NET
If you’re a bit confused, it might be because there are two things out there that go by the name of “ASP”:
ASP or “ASP Classic”
How Does ASP.NET Differ From ASP?
ASP.NET was first released in 2002. ASP.NET has many of the same features as ASP but incorporates a more stable foundation based on Microsoft’s .NET server technology.
Microsoft’s ASP.NET website offers documentation, tools, and training.
Adding to that, while ASP.NET is much more secure and works well with multiple websites, it may require more resources to run properly, leaving ASP Classic as an excellent alternative for well-established websites.
What are Some ASP Use Cases?
Both ASP Classic and ASP.NET languages still remain popular, though.
Several major websites, including Yahoo Music and Newegg.com, run on ASP Classic, as well as Microsoft.com.
Anytime you see a URL ending in “.asp”, you’re seeing an ASP-generated web page. Many other pages rely on ASP as well, but use URL redirection to masks its use.
Database Connection Protocol
ActiveX Data Objects (ADO)
ActiveX Directory Objects (ADO).NET
Separation of Concerns
Mixes HTML with coding logic
Separates logic code from HTML
Does Microsoft Support ASP?
Microsoft has promised continued support for ASP for at least a decade following the release of Windows 8.
This gave developers and users alike plenty of time to make any necessary upgrades to and replacements on their proprietary and hosted systems, and upgrade to ASP.NET if they wish.
What are the Advantages of ASP Hosting?
ASP hosting is a good option if you need interactive web pages and applications that are powerful, yet easy to create and maintain, especially if you use other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office Suite, with your web content.
The Need for Windows Hosting
Because ASP is a server-side scripting language, it requires a web server to execute its tasks. The web server is provided by Microsoft’s IIS, so if your site relies on ASP for its content, you’ll need a Windows server hosting option.
If you use other Microsoft web-friendly products like Office and Exchange Server, integrating your web content with your communication and collaboration systems is a snap.
Choosing an ASP-ready Host
The vast majority of hosting service providers run their servers using UNIX or Linux-based operating systems, such as CentOS.
While the reverse is true when it comes to personal computers, the lightweight, free, and open-source features of the Linux OS make it an ideal choice for most web hosts to run their servers.
No Linux Allowed
But Linux can’t do everything and isn’t the ideal option for everyone. ASP-run websites can be a better choice depending on your website needs and preferences. And ASP can’t run on Linux — it requires a Windows-based server.
Windows-based servers are in the minority and require more investment on the part of the hosting provider.
For that reason, you can expect to pay a little more for hosting than you would for a comparable level of UNIX-based hosting.
Why Does It Cost More?
But it’s worth the investment if:
You use the Office or Exchange Servers
Your site depends on Microsoft products
Your site relies on technologies like Silverlight
You use languages like Visual Basic or Visual Basic.NET for scripting
You use MS SQL (Microsoft’s proprietary version of the Structured Query Language) for content distribution or data collection
If you’re planning on running a website that relies on ASP, it’s a good idea to check with your potential web host to be sure they can support your website and provide all the options you need.
What are the Pros and Cons of ASP?
As does everything, ASP also has its Achilles heel alongside its wonderful features.
Add, edit, or change dynamic content on your website using your hosting provider’s Windows server
Lower learning curve than advanced successor, ASP.NET, including ease of data integration into existing web pages
Easily build advanced web applications in a familiar programming program, complete with less coding
The newer, more popular ASP.NET solution has XML-based components, better language support, user authentication, and new controls to take advantage of making ASP Classic seem inferior
Running under the IIS process space, ASP Classic is prone to crashing and forcing the IIS to restart, not to mention there are no built-in security measures
Despite quick development environment, forced code interpretation each time ASP pages render reduced scalability
3 Best ASP Hosts
As I promised, here are my personal choices of the best hosting providers for ASP hosting.
A2 Hosting is the number one choice for those looking for a web host service that supports ASP. In fact, it offers ASP specific hosting plans that come with blazing fast site performance, around the clock support, and 99.9% uptime guarantees.
In addition, you receive a free SSL certificate, perpetual security to protect your website’s data, and free CloudFlare ServerShield for increased site speed, enhanced security, and the benefits of a solid CDN for faster content delivery to site visitors.
Another hosting provider offering ASP specific hosting is HostGator. For example, it offers customers the powerful Parallels Plesk Panel, the Windows-based hosting control panel, IIS (Internet Information Services), and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2.
Moreover, HostGator’s Windows hosting provides free website building tools, one-click installations of popular scripts, and premium support in the form of phone, live chat, and email.
Lastly, GoDaddy offers Windows web hosting services complete with a free domain name, utilization of Windows Server 2012 R2, one-click installs for scripts like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, and 24/7 site monitoring and security protection.
An ASP file contains a combination of HTML and scripts to create dynamic web pages.
What is a server side script?
Server side scripts are executed on the server before the content is sent to the visitor’s browser. This allows you to present customized content, without placing any load on the visitor’s computer.
Is ASP a programming language?
No. ASP Classic and ASP.NET are frameworks that allow developers to use a number of languages to build websites. VB script or C# are common choices, but it supports variants of Java, Ruby, Python, c++, PHP, and others.
How do ASP Classic and ASP.NET differ?
There are a few important differences. ASP Classic uses interpreted scripts, but ASP.NET is compiled. That makes ASP.NET faster. ASP.NET supports more complex languages, and is more widely used than ASP Classic.
Why do ASP files have .asp or .aspx extensions?
Generally speaking, an .asp extension denotes a ASP Classic file. An .apsx extension indicates an ASP.NET file.
Who uses server side scripting?
Most common scripts, including popular CMS tools, include an element of server side scripting. You don’t have to know how to code to use it.
What are the main alternatives to ASP?
Java and PHP are the most common alternatives, but Python and Ruby are gaining ground.
Can I use ASP on Linux?
In the vast majority of cases, ASP is installed on Windows. There are workarounds for Linux deployment, but they can be unstable and difficult to set up.
Does it cost more to use ASP?
Yes. Whenever you use a Windows technology, you will have to pay more compared to a Linux equivalent. This is because of the cost of software licenses. If you buy hosting, your host will roll up the cost into your monthly or annual subscription payment.
Why would I want ASP over other scripting languages?
If you already use Windows technologies, it makes sense to stick with the same toolset. If you’re starting from scratch, there may be cheaper alternatives, providing you don’t need to use Windows-specific functionality in your application.
What database technology is best used with ASP?
MS SQL is the obvious choice. It is also possible to use MS Access and others.
Why are Windows web hosting packages less popular?
There are two main challenges: cost and availability. Windows always costs more because of the price of the licensing. Additionally, fewer web hosting providers offer Windows packages.
If you plan to set up a blog, forum, or simple website, you may find it easier and cheaper to use PHP on Linux.
What is IIS?
IIS is Microsoft’s web server software. ASP is installed as a module of IIS.
Can I code in ASP on my Windows PC?
Yes. In the control panel, under Programs and Features, you will need to review your Windows Features to ensure ASP and IIS are enabled. Check under Internet Information Services.
Brenda is an active online publisher and experienced WordPress blogger. She has been building websites since 1997. In addition, she publishes science fiction and fantasy stories under the name Brenda Stokes Barron.