What is web hosting and why is it crucial to your website?
Today’s digital world comes with a host of new terms and phrases to get used to, from “domain name” to “SSL certificate”. If you want to build your own online presence with a website, you’ll need to learn how to navigate these new terms.
One of the first phrases you’ll need to come to terms with is “web hosting”. A web hosting solution is a service which makes your website, application, or online portfolio accessible to other people on the internet. It’s also one of the most important factors involved in designing your online presence.
Provided by dedicated web hosts, responsible for maintaining, configuring, and running the physical servers which house websites around the world, web hosting solutions come in a range of sizes and shapes to suit different companies.
Here’s your guide to web hosting.
What is Web Hosting and How Does it Work?
Web hosting is a service which involves “hosting” the information on your website, including all of your files, documents, and content, on a physical server connected to the web. The “hosting provider” you choose will make the content on your website available to other browsers online when they enter your URL into their website browser.
Web hosting is essential to getting your business online. Without a host, you can’t share your content with other people. Usually, web hosts offer various services to suit their customers, and each package will come with access to a certain amount of storage space on a physical server, where you can store your website data (such as media content, CSS files, and HTML).
Web hosting services are offered by IT specialists who rent out computing servers. These companies also provide the software, services, and connectivity required to take a website live. Some web hosts will also allow you to purchase the domain names with your hosting.
Notably, domain hosting is a little difference to web hosting. Domain hosting is a service for managing and hosting domain names, provided by domain name registrars. Your domain is the official address of your website. The host uses the DNS records (Domain Name System) records for your site to connect your domain with your site’s IP address, so people can find you.
Why is Web Hosting Important?
Ultimately, the web as we know it wouldn’t exist without web hosting.
Although it’s possible to use any computer with a connection to the internet as a server for online hosting, the configuration process is extremely complex and can be resource-intensive. As a result, most business leaders prefer to use a web host service instead.
Web hosting providers generally give you an intuitive control panel where you can have more control over your site and hosting experience, install applications, and manage domain names without doing everything on your own. At the same time, web hosts give you reliability.
Web hosting companies maintain and manage servers on a 24/7 basis, ensuring the consistent positive performance of your website for the people who might want to visit it. Choosing a web hosting provider who can offer excellent reliability and uptime ensures you can provide your customers with more of the powerful online experiences you’re looking for.
A good web host can also help you to strengthen your position online from a SEO perspective too. When you access the services of a good web host, you can improve the speed at which your pages load on the internet. Site speed is one of the common ranking factors Google uses to determine where your website should appear in the search results.
What are the Different Types of Web Hosting?
As mentioned above, there are various forms of web hosting available in the digital landscape, and each solution has different benefits for certain types of websites. Although the number of hosting options and what they offer will differ depending on your web hosting provider, the most common solutions include:
The most common and least expensive type of hosting, shared hosting relies on a single server to host a range of websites. The number of sites a shared server can host can vary from dozens to hundreds, depending on the server.
With shared hosting, all the websites share access to a specific number of resources, including the same amount of disk space, RMA, and CPU support. Users also share a central directory, though they won’t be able to see the data of other websites because there’s no root access to the server. Lack of extensive access also means you’re restricted from modifying the server configuration, or installing specific pieces of software.
Shared hosting solutions usually come with site building tools, FTP accounts, and simple set-up, with minimal requirements for any kind of technical knowledge.
- Easy set up and low maintenance with plenty of customer support
- Cost-effective due to multiple people sharing resources
- Support for dynamic websites using a variety of programming languages
- Vulnerable to additional security issues due to shared resources
- Limited customization options because of lack of root access
- Unstable site performance in some cases
Otherwise known as Virtual Private Server Hosting, VPS hosting is a form of hosting service which hosts multiple accounts on the same server, similar to shared hosting. However, with this solution, dedicated resources are offered for each user.
Essentially, you get a virtual segment of the server dedicated specifically to your needs, where you can deploy your preferred operating system and software, and access bandwidth without having to worry about the actions of other websites influencing your performance.
The VPS environment uses a hypervisor to install virtual layers over a server’s OS to split the environment into virtual partitions. There are two forms of VPS web hosting available today. Manged hosting means you have someone who handles your virtual server for you, so you don’t have to worry about developing your technical knowledge.
An unmanaged server allows you to configure and run your server yourself. Although this takes more work, and knowledge of technologies like LiteSpeed or Apache, it’s a good choice if you want more freedom to make changes to the core of your hosting environment.
VPS hosting is a more flexible solution than shared hosting, but it can also be more expensive.
- Access to more customization options through Root connectivity
- Highly scalable environment which can adapt according to your needs
- Secure and unaffected by the activities of other people on the same server
- More expensive than shared hosting
- Can require more technical knowledge if you want to take full advantage
One of the most common forms of hosting gaining significant attention in recent years, cloud hosting involves the use of multiple web servers in a cloud network to guarantee consistent performance and uptime. Compared to other web hosting plans, this service can offer significant availability, as it distributes your files across a range of virtual servers.
Cloud hosting plans can come with managed services to ensure that whenever a server encounters a problem, another server will pick up the pace automatically.
Cloud servers have higher uptime rates, and offer excellent scalability for companies who might be growing at a much faster or less predictable rate.
You’ll also be able to access more of the latest tools and functionality with the cloud, including powerful backup and disaster recovery tools. However, the costs can be quite high, and the prices can be complex, as you often need to pay for what you use.
- Safe from issues caused by physical servers with downtime
- Backup and disaster recovery solutions already in place
- Excellent scalability for any growing website
- Can be very expensive
- Pricing packages are often confusing
Further reading 📚
Other forms of Web Hosting
While shared, cloud, and VPS hosting are the most common options for most companies right now, they’re far from the only solutions. Depending on the web hosting service you choose, you can also explore options like:
- WordPress hosting: WordPress hosting is a specific form of hosting optimized for using WordPress as your content management system. Providers offer shared WordPress hosting, which works similarly to standard shared hosting, but with a pre-installed WordPress access point. Alternatively, you can access managed WordPress hosting with features like enhanced security, staging, and server caching.
- Dedicated server hosting: The most expensive, but also the most advanced form of web hosting, dedicated hosting gives a single server to a single user. You’re the only person accessing this server, so there’s no need to worry about shared resources, and you have complete control over the technical settings. Obviously, it costs a lot more to access this kind of hosting, but you do have more flexibility.
- Reseller hosting: Reseller hosting involves an individual or company buying resources for hosting from another major provider and then selling it onto clients. This usually means you simply get a small VPS hosting or shared hosting solution from a third-party.
What to Look For in a Web Hosting Service
Web hosting solutions come in a range of different packages to suit all needs. The kind of hosting service you need for a business website is likely to be different to the solution you’ll choose for small business ecommerce, or enterprise selling.
Though everyone’s needs are different, some of the features you should be looking for in a hosting package include:
- Speed: Whether you choose shared hosting plans or VPS solutions, the best web host will give you the speed you need to impress your audience. A good hosting solution should be able to continue working perfectly no matter how many people visit your site.
- Performance: A web hosting service provider will consistently work to keep your web pages up and running. Look for a website hosting service which provides an uptime guarantee of at least 99.9%, so you can have peace of mind. It’s also worth looking at solutions which allow website owners to receive instant alerts if downtime is an issue.
- Security: Everything from your website to the data center where your information is hosted needs to be secure. There may be SSL certificates included with a free domain on some web hosting solutions, as well as encryption.
- Add-ons: Many web hosting solutions will come with additional add-ons alongside the server resources you receive. These add-ons could include things like email accounts, antivirus software, content delivery networks, or boosted storage and bandwidth.
- Support: No matter how familiar you are with web hosting; you’ll still need at least some support to get the most out of your hosting account. Make sure subscribers to your chosen server can get plenty of assistance from experts.
- Cost: It’s important to find a web hosting solution that fits your budget. While there are free web hosting options out there, they usually come without the uptime guarantee and extra features. Don’t compromise too much on server resources to get a cheap plan.
Web Hosting Service Providers
As mentioned above, there are plenty of web hosting solutions on the market today, each offering pros and cons. When choosing your own server, it’s worth making sure you do plenty of research into all the support you need, from MySQL hosting to guidance for beginners.
Some options for web hosting may include:
Offering dedicated hosting for your WordPress website as well as a range of other package options, SiteGround is one of the most popular tools on the market today. The hosting provider has data centers across the world, so you can choose where your information goes, and there’s a huge range of security and speed features built-in too.
SiteGround combines exceptional uptime and reliability with a range of control and customization options. You get plenty of ways to transform your site however you choose, without harming site performance, and there’s even a website builder available, with templates for your site if you’re starting from scratch.
SiteGround pricing depends on what kind of service you want, but you can start with a package as cheap as $12.99 per month with daily backups, enhanced security, and unmetered traffic, as well as managed WordPress support.
- Wide selection of hosting packages
- Powerful performance with exceptional uptime
- Unmetered traffic options
- Enhanced security and data control
- Freebies like CDN, email, and SSL
- Can be expensive for some packages
If you’re looking for something a little different from your web-hosting provider, GreenGeeks could be the ideal solution for you. The most environmentally-friendly hosting provider on the market, the service will give you all the tools you need to run your website, while offsetting it’s carbon footprint by 300% through investments into various programs.
Hosting packages from GreenGeeks include everything from WordPress and WooCommerce hosting at $2.95 per month, to virtual private servers, and more. The service comes with the best built-in speed technologies, scalability solutions and an ultra-stable hosting platform, with expert support available 24/7 if something goes wrong.
Advanced security comes as part of every package, and GreenGeeks keeps pricing relatively low too, with packages starting at $2.95 depending on the kind of functionality you need. Notably, the entry prices do go up after your first package ends.
- Most environmentally friendly hosting provider
- Free site migration features
- Expert support available at all times
- Advanced security and stability
- Powerful scalability for growing companies
- 1 free backup per month only
- Expensive long-term packages
If you’re searching specifically for a solution for your WordPress website, WP Engine could be perfect for you. Ideal for WooCommerce and WordPress websites, WP Engine can power all your apps and keep your site running smoothly.
The service is extremely flexible, capable of supporting high-traffic sites with unique requirements. There’s free access to the Genesis framework included for theme optimization, and a free SSL certificate included with most packages, as well as integrated CDN support.
For those who need help bringing their site to life, there’s a free staging environment where you can test changes to your online store before you implement them. There’s also a dedicated custom dashboard for performing crucial customization actions. Pricing for the WP Engine hosting solution starts at around $20 per month, however, if you want ecommerce support.
- Dedicated hosting for WordPress users
- Expert support and automatic updates
- Staging for testing updates
- Free restore and backup services
- Faster loading speeds than most providers
- Not all plugins are supported
- No cPanel
Making the Most of Web Hosting
Hopefully this article has answered your questions from “how does web hosting work?” to “how can I choose the best hosting provider?”. The most important thing to remember is all websites need a webhost if they’re going to get online.
Whether you choose one of the options mentioned above, or explore other well-known names like hostgator, godaddy, bluehost, or something different is entirely up to you. Remember, always look for the best possible technical support and uptime, whether you’re using shared web hosting, or dedicated server hosting, and make sure you focus on speed.