Amazon.com, Facebook, and Wikipedia use it. Critical sectors like finance and healthcare use it to power mission-critical applications. And it’s the official language used in the Android SDK.
Java is a popular object-oriented programming language that’s here to stay.
You’ll learn what Java is. You’ll discover some fun (and fascinating) resources for learning how to code in Java. And you’ll learn how to find a good Java host.
I’ll share tips on errors to avoid in choosing a good Java host. Plus you’ll get my top hosting recommendations, based on my experience as a software engineer.
Are you ready? Let’s get started.
What is Java?
Java is a class-based, object-oriented programming language and platform that enables developers to serve up dynamic, interactive content.
On the web, you will almost certainly have used Java applications and applets.
While Java hosting is more expensive than regular hosting, such options do offer added functionality to match the higher price tag.
Background of Java as a Programming Language
Finding Java and relevant information in the Oracle main menu.
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.
Java is now owned by Oracle, is being used for websites, enterprise applications, Internet of Things (IoT) apps, home automation, and gaming.
Running Java Applications
For the end user, the software needed to run Java applications is packaged as a small, free download, so there is 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.
On the server side of things, you will need a Java Virtual Environment (which includes the Java Virtual Machine, or JVM), which compiles your Java code down to the machine language that is executed on the underlying server.
Oracle provides cross-platform download mirrors for JRE.
Free Software by Java
This is freely available software, but it is still software that takes up space and whose use can add overhead to your runtime.
If you are unfamiliar with Java’s capabilities, look at your host’s cPanel or similar control panel. There is probably a Java-based SSH client in there that you can try.
On the plus side, Java definitely has some perks in store, should it seem like the right choice for you. As one of the most popular programming languages globally, plenty of developers and webmasters have valid reasons to loyally stick with it.
Ease of Learning
Longevity and Popularity
Powerful Programming Language
Free to Use
Java is relatively fast; it takes the perks of C (and to some extent, C++) and simplifies the code. For example, you do not need to work with pointers in Java, as you would in C.
Java used to have a reputation for being slow to load. However, beginning in the late 1990s, Java began to set the standard for Virtual machine performance thanks to innovations like just-in-time compiling and adaptive optimization.
Ease of Learning
CodeCademy is an awesome platform to get started with for learning Java.
Among object-oriented programming languages, Java is considered to be relatively easy to learn. There are many online resources for wanna-be Java developers. The best of these range from full-fledged free courses to professional qualifications.
Longevity and Popularity
Java is the backbone of Android development, so it is not a language that is going away anytime soon. During the first quarter of 2017, 81.7% of all smartphones sold ran Android.
Java is not an uncommon language, so you will likely find a web host that meets your needs.
Powerful Programming Language
It is object-oriented, which means that it is quite powerful in terms of allowing for code reuse and extensibility. Java’s power also lays in its mass adaptability from the creation of simple apps to machine learning.
In the past, there have been some serious security-related issues with Java. Today, Oracle’s Java SE security technologies incorporate a comprehensive set of security APIs, tools, protocols, and algorithms.
These cover platform security, authentication and authorization, public key infrastructure (PKI), and cryptography.
Java users do not need to have a particular device or operating system. They are able to use Java web apps, and JVM runs on pretty much any platform. Independence played a huge role in Java’s mass adaptation.
Udemy offers a good starter course on Java for free.
Free to Use
With the exception of Commercial Java Software or programs related to Java SE, Java is free to use.
Downsides of Java
There are specific situations where Java is the best choice, but it certainly is not for everyone. There are a few downsides to choosing Java (especially when it comes time to choose a Java hosting provider). These should be factored into the buying decision when choosing your Java hosting provider.
Difficulty of Support and Pricing
You may have a hard time finding a host offering support for Java/JVM, particularly if you’re just considering traditional providers. Siteground is a good example of a top-performing hosting provider who does not offer strong Java support.
Understand that the current standard for web applications — the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) — is widespread, but not sufficient for Java hosting.
The popularity of LAMP is seen in the number of options offered including those at low prices.
Java hosting plans that include the required functionality tend to be more expensive than basic LAMP-based plans. But “more expensive” is a relative concept. There are plenty of affordable options available.
Also: some hosting providers will not let you use Java on shared hosting plans. This isn’t really a problem though because Java runs best on VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting.
What to Look for in a Java Host: Support for Java Tools
Additionally, to general Java support, you might need to consider support for Java tools. It is likely you’ll end up using Java-specific tools to serve your website. For example, you might be interested in using JavaServer Pages (JSP).
JavaServer Pages and PHP
JSP is a facilitating technology assisting in the development of dynamic Web pages on HTML, XML and other document systems.
JSP was developed by Sun Microsystems and currently managed (as an open source product) by Apache Software Foundation.
JSP is essentially Java’s way of handling what PHP is used for in the LAMP stack, but as the name suggests, it is based on Java, a class-based, object-oriented programming language.
Running Web Applications – Spring vs Tomcat
Furthermore, with the rise of Spring, you can now run robust web apps and all you need is the servlet container.
GlassFish, the open-source Java EE reference implementation and application server, also makes things easier.
However, if you are not using Spring, Tomcat should be an acceptable substitute. Though Tomcat is not strictly an application server, some developers to use it as such instead of a Java EE application server.
Ease of Use
Simple to use
Simple, although Spring is more conventional
Quality of Support
Good support for both users and clients
Not as easy as Tomcat
Variety of methods
Regular updates, good user response
Great resources, complemented by user reviews
Plenty of case studies and examples
The Best Servlet Container
Regardless of which side of the Spring/Tomcat debate applies to you, both are lightweight.
This is especially important when it comes to web hosting, where you are likely paying for servers and resources based on usage.
Hosting support for all of these tools (JSP, Tomcat, Spring, and so on) is not a given. Even if the vendor claims to support Java applications and allow the installation of JVM, ensure you have compatibility for what you need.
Java Hosting: 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.
Issues with Shared Servers
Its reasoning is sound. With all Java hosting, you will have a Java server installed. One example is Apache Tomcat. On shared servers, everyone shares one instance of Tomcat (or the equivalent). This can cause problems and downtime.
Rarely, some web 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 web hosting.
5 Reasons Why VPS Hosting is better for Java Web Apps
The majority of Tomcat hosting (or JSP hosting) options available are VPS-only.
Overall, for Java web apps (and other advanced uses), a VPS is better for these reasons:
Private Servlet Container
Uptime and Downtime
Private Servlet Container
You get your own Java servlet container and a private JVM — not a shared one — so your Java applications are isolated. Your private JVM also ensures that it’s not compiling code for other people’s websites.
You have more control over the web hosting environment. This is important when you are doing anything more than the basics. Larger and more complex businesses will appreciate this feature.
You can reboot the VPS whenever you like to get your Java server and its applications working properly. This is not a feature that typically comes with shared servers, so do cherish it.
Uptime and Downtime
There is less chance of downtime caused by other people’s rogue Java content. Like traditional VPS plans, you have a set amount of resources for yourself.
If you upgrade to a dedicated server, you will have the entire machine to yourself. Upgrading to a dedicated server from a VPS plan is much simpler, eliminating hassle.
Do I Need a Dedicated Server for Java Hosting?
Depending on your use case, it might not take much for you to consider even a dedicated server. Not only do you get all the benefits of a VPS hosting plan, you get even more control and even more resources for your servlet containers, web apps, and the like.
Downsides of a Java Dedicated Server
The downside to choosing a dedicated server, of course, is that you are fully responsible for your server. You can certainly circumvent this downside by opting for a managed dedicated server. This would narrow down your options by placing more restrictions on what is becoming a niche area within web hosting.
Furthermore, on some plans, managed options may only cover things like system administration.
You might still be the one responsible for installing JVM. Setting up your servlet containers, and spinning up JSP can also be tiresome. So, before choosing a managed plan make sure you know what items will be managed for you.
Java Hosting Server Requirements
To serve up Java content, you will need the Java servlet container and web server. Apache Tomcat is free and open-source; I 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.
Installing Java as an Add-On
It is worth checking the Oracle recommendations on what you need to best run JVM and all things Java. (Find the link under “Recommended reading” at the end of this article.)
On VPS and dedicated web hosting plans, the software is normally provided as an optional add-on that can be installed from your control panel. If you do not see it in your control panel, ask your web host to install it for you.
System Requirements for Java
In terms of server RAM, it is best to aim for 512 MB as a minimum. If you are running other things alongside your Java container, or you want to run resource-intensive applications, go for more RAM for best performance.
Finally, I recommend you buy a managed VPS hosting plan unless you’re familiar with server administration, willing to learn quickly, or can pay the extra for managed services.
Winners: Favorite Java Hosts
When it comes to Java hosting, there are a lot of new players in the market you might consider. These options are more likely to be cloud-based options, such as the Google App Engine.
However, there are still traditional providers you might find worthwhile. Some offer cloud-based or hybrid host services.
Bluehost: Bluehost is a very popular option, and I think its host plans at the VPS or dedicated level are a great choice for all your Java-related needs. Bluehost boasts things like instant provisioning (so you can get started right away), solid customer service, and flexibility.
InMotion Hosting VPS
InMotion Hosting: I like InMotion, especially if you choose a cloud-based option for your Java, Tomcat, or general JSP needs. You do need to opt for a VPS option at the minimum.
InMotion offers features you want, such as cPanel/WHM control panels for server management. Further features include redundant hardware clusters to reduce the chances of website downtime.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Amazon Web Services is a strong option for deploying Java applications. Check out their tookit for the Eclipse IDE: You can deploy your app to AWS and set up RDS databases straight from Eclipse.
Also check out Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk tool which supports Tomcat, GlassFish, and much more.
Pros and Cons of Java Hosting
Java is not going anywhere anytime soon. It has a solid hold in the enterprise area, and its role as the backbone of Android means that the language will continue to be used for quite a while
Java is an established language that comes with a lot of tools you can use to build the apps you need
Android uses a variant of Java, which does differ somewhat from the server-side language. This could possibly lead to the diminished importance of Java
Hosting Java apps can be expensive due to the specific needs you must meet with the server you purchase
Java is a programming language and a platform for the development of application software.
No. The two languages are not really even related. Their similar name is something of a historical accident.
What is Java used for?
Java is used for building any type of software application. It is platform-independent so that you can write an application once and run it anywhere with a minimum of extra work.
Is Java still widely used?
Yes. Although it is over 20 years old now, Java is still one of the most popular programming languages in the world.
It is hard to say exactly how popular a computer language is, but the industry standard Tiobe Index generally has Java and C in the top two positions.
Is Java open-source software?
The Java language is open-source in the sense that anyone can create their own compiler to run Java code. Most people use a particular implementation of the language, however.
The most popular ones are open-source. OpenJDK, for example, is open-source with a linking exception. And both Oracle’s HotSpot and GNU Compiler for Java licensed under the GNU GPL.
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 (JVM). Java programs run on JVMs the same way, regardless of the environment.
Java’s flexibility provides cross-platform compatibility to any computer system that has a JVM. Most computer systems now have a JVM.
What is the Java Runtime Environment (JRE)?
The JRE is a package that allows a computer needs to run Java programs. It includes a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and the standard Java libraries.
Can I use Java to build a website?
Yes. 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 anyone who has the Java Runtime Environment browser plugin.
However, with the release of HTML5, Java’s use as a client-side language is becoming less common.
What are the alternatives to Java for client-side programming?
Client-side Java requires a browser plugin.
Are there times to use Java for client-side programming?
If you are building a client application that is separate from a browser, Java is one of the best options available, because of its cross-platform nature.
Are there any good 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 and Ruby on Rails.
How does Java compare to the .NET framework?
Java is open-source and widely supported. You can run Java applications on almost any architecture, which makes moving it easy, and hosting cheap.
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.
Where .NET excels is in its integration with Microsoft tools and services. So if you need to use several other tools from them, you will probably have an easier time working with .NET.
How does Java compare Ruby on Rails?
Several independent benchmarking tests have shown that Java applications have better performance than Ruby on Rails apps — they simply run faster. The slower speed isn’t surprising since Ruby has to be interpreted.
However, run-time speed isn’t everything. Rails applications are usually faster to develop.
How does client-side Java compare to Flash?
The two technologies have similar capabilities, but Java is much better supported across platforms. It is also open-source.
However, they both require browser plugins and will eventually be unnecessary because of additions to HTML5.
How does client-side Java compare to Silverlight?
Unless you need some specific tool available in Silverlight only, Java is going to be a better option because it is available on pretty much all 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 short for Java Server Pages, an early application of Java technology to dynamic web content.
Small bits of Java code could be embedded into HTML documents and the results of running that code passed on to the web server at runtime. It is very similar to PHP.
How does JSP compare to PHP?
IF you want to insert small pieces of server-side code into HTML documents, use PHP. Save Java for when you want to use the full framework.
About Katie Horne
Katie is a C# developer who became a technical writer. She is a lifelong bookworm and all-around nerd with a soft spot for gimmicks and packaging. She judges books by the cover, and she's not sorry about it. In her spare time, she likes to swim, knit, and do the New York Times Crossword Puzzle.