What is Website Hosting?

A Complete Guide to Web Hosting

If you’ve ever considered launching your own website or online store, you’ve probably heard the term “web hosting.” Web hosting is one of the most essential things you can have when you’re getting started in the digital world. With the right web hosting provider, you access space on the dedicated server of a hosting company, where you’ll store your website and all of its information.

Without web hosting, you wouldn’t be able to take your business online. A hosting company is responsible for making all the files and code that make your site visible in the digital world. Unfortunately, a lot of people still don’t fully understand what web hosting means.

If you’re keen to start bringing your online venture to life, then you’re in the right place. Today, we’re going to introduce you to everything you need to know about website hosting, from how to choose a hosted provider to the difference between cloud hosting and dedicated hosting.

Let’s get started.

An Introduction to Web Hosting

As mentioned above, web hosting services offer companies a way to get their website online by purchase a certain amount of space on a server. The amount of space you get on your server will depend on the type of hosting web service you buy. For instance, you’ll have less space if you choose shared hosting, and more if you opt for dedicated hosting packages.

The portion of the server that you buy with your monthly or annual subscription will hold your HTML, CSS, images, and other website content. For those who aren’t sure – a server is a lot like a massive computer that connects other people to your website from around the globe.

Because different types of website come with different resources attached to them, the average web hosting service comes in a variety of flavors. For instance, if you’re hosting a huge ecommerce site, then you might choose a dedicated hosting package to give you more bandwidth. The more bandwidth and server space you have, the more files you can manage on your website.

On the other hand, if you only have a very basic website, then you might prefer to use something small, like shared or VPS hosting.

How Does Web Hosting Work?

Although there are different kinds of web hosting available, they often work largely in the same way. Web hosting is what happens when the files that make up your site sit on a web server.

The resources that your web server offers, like hard-drive space, RAM, and bandwidth, keep your site up and running. When you build your website with a website builder, control panel, or just basic HTML, it won’t become active online until you’ve chosen your web hosting provider and acquired the server space that you need. Even when you use a “free” site builder, like WordPress, you need website hosting to get online.

Once you purchase a domain name for your business site, the files that hold onto your website’s content will need to be stored alongside that domain name in a location that connects to the internet. Your website host is responsible for delivering the files on your small business or enterprise site to the users that want to access them.

When someone types your website address into their browser, their computer will connect through the internet to the server that holds your website files. This server locates the IP address of your domain and directs the user to the site they want to visit. Their browser then showcases all of your website information, so they can browse your content however they like.

Remember, most hosting companies will need you to own your own domain before you can host a website. You can get a free domain with some website builder applications, or you can purchase a domain name from a dedicated company before you begin looking for website hosting.

How do You Choose a Website Hosting Company?

Every business that wants to have a presence online will need a hosting company.

In an ideal world, you’ll want a host that gives you an excellent uptime, plenty of support, and excellent reliability, for a price that you can afford. The good news is that there are literally hundreds of different web hosting companies available today, all offering different services.

The plans available range from everything from free hosting with limited functionality, to dedicated hosting account support, complete with cPanel access and a content management system. Choosing the right host solution for you will mean figuring out what kind of resource allocation you need to get the most out of your website.

Here are some of the things you may want to consider when you’re exploring the types of web hosting, and how much you’re willing to pay for your service.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is one of the most important considerations when choosing between hosting options. Sometimes referred to as “data transfer”, bandwidth describes the number of “bytes” necessary to transfer your site information to your visitors when they type your address into their search bar. The hosting you choose needs to provide plenty of space for your needs. For instance, many sites that don’t feature video or music will take up less than 3 gigabytes of bandwidth per month.

However, if your site has a lot of complex features, like videos, streaming sessions, booking forms and checkout pages, then you might need additional bandwidth. Most companies start with a relatively low amount of bandwidth and then increase their limit as their website grows. Remember, your bandwidth needs will increase as your number of visitors increases. Just be careful not to end up with less bandwidth than necessary, or you could end up with a site that doesn’t load for some of your customers.

Downtime and reliability

A reliable web hosting provider keeps your website up and running day or night for your customer. Reliability is extremely important, because every time a customer can’t visit your site, you could be missing out on a sale. Unfortunately, cheaper hosting plans can sometimes suffer from limited reliability. You may need to think about spending a little more if you want an excellent uptime guarantee.

A site that’s difficult to reach or frequently goes down doesn’t just lose a couple of visits. You might find that some of your most loyal customers stop coming to your website because they can’t rely on you to keep things up and running smoothly.

Control panel access

Any excellent web hosting company should provide you with a back-end where you can manage various aspects of your website. This control panel will help you with maintenance tasks like upgrading email addresses or changing passwords. Some solutions, like cPanel will also help you with making basic server configurations.

When choosing your hosting provider, make sure that the control panel is something you’re going to feel comfortable using. If you don’t, then you’re going to have to wait around for someone managing your hosting account to make all of your technical changes for you. This can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. There’s also a chance that you’ll need to pay an additional fee whenever you want to perform a simple task.

Customization options

Speaking of control panel options, great web hosts will also give you access to various forms of customization. For instance, if you need to install PHP, you’ll need to ensure that you can do this without having to wait for your host’s say-so.

More control and customization options on your back-end will allow you to do things like changing your error pages and protect your site against bandwidth theft with modifications to your .htaccess files. You may also need to consider access to things like SSH for MySQL databases, and when you’re looking for ways to run blogs and content management system technology.

Check out your options regarding FTP too – this is a popular solution for transferring files and web pages from local computers onto web host servers. Some hosts won’t allow you to design and upload pages on your own. Instead, you’re restricted to using an online site builder, which can be frustrating for some.

Upgrade options and scalability

Just because you start off with a basic hosting solution doesn’t mean that you won’t want to upgrade eventually. A web hosting provider should give you plenty of room to grow as your business evolves. Remember, many websites start off with shared hosting. However, if your business grows at an incredible rate, you might decide to switch to a virtual private or dedicated server instead.

Another thing to look into with scalability and upgrade options, is whether you can host multiple domains with the same provider. It’s very common for some business owners to own more than one domain. Domains can be very cheap these days, and you may even decide that you want to buy extra domains just to stop competitors from getting hands on names that are similar to yours.

If you choose to own multiple domains, you need a host that can accommodate this with extra space. Each separate website on your account will be an “add-on” domain. While most hosting providers allow for add-ons, some will not.

Cost

Web hosting can cost a lot or a little, depending on what you need. However, as with most things in life, you’ll usually get what you pay for. If you have a basic website and you don’t need the durability and resilience of a virtual private server, then you could spend less than $100 a year on shared hosting.

The more capacity you need in terms of bandwidth and performance, the more you’ll need to pay. The good news is that most of the leading hosts will allow you to upgrade and downgrade your hosting as your business changes. You can even decide if you would prefer to pay for a plan on a monthly basis, or you’d prefer something that you can pay for each year.

Getting an annual plan will usually save you some money in the long-term, as many hosts offer discounts in exchange for your loyalty. It’s also worth noting that you might be able to access additional benefits the more time you spend with your host, such as a free SSL certificate, or extra service and support for your WordPress hosting, for instance.

Email

Most companies will want to host professional email accounts with their website. Usually, even if you’re just paying for basic shared hosting plans, you’ll still get email address support included. However, it’s a good idea to check the features of your web hosting plans before you sign on the dotted line.

Remember, when you’re launching a company, it looks much more professional to have your own dedicated business email address associated with your domain. Of course, if you sign up for hosting for your business website and discover that email isn’t available, you can always access it elsewhere.

Customer support

Look at any of the top hosting companies like bluehost and hostgator today, and you’ll see that they all come with at least some form of customer support included. If you’re concerned that you might not have all the knowledge you need to run your website alone, then customer support will be extremely important. Remember that things can go wrong at any time.

The more your website is down and not providing fantastic experiences to your customers, the more likely it is that you’re going to miss out on sales and conversions. A hosting company that can get you back up and running quickly as soon as you press the “help” button is a great investment.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to solve their own problems and take a DIY approach to issues, then you might find it helpful to look for a host with a lot of documentation, content, and FAQ support.

The Different Types of Web Hosting

As technology continues to progress, and websites become increasingly essential, the types of web hosting continue to evolve. These days, forward-thinking vendors with access to their own data center are coming up with new and improved ways to serve their customers through new web and email hosting plans.

The question for most business leaders is what type of web hosting is right for you?

Shared Web Hosting

Shared web hosting is one of the most common forms of hosting, ideal for those who don’t need a lot of disk space. With a shared web hosting plan, your hosting provider will manage your website on the same server as many other sites. Most hosting companies also provide shared hosting, so it’s easy to access too. Whether you go for Bluehost or GoDaddy, you can get your shared website hosting system up and running fast, without spending a lot of money.

Of course, if you’re very serious about building a successful online presence, it’s important to review your shared hosting plan frequently to determine whether it’s still right for you. Shared hosting solutions won’t be suitable for larger sites with a lot of traffic and specific security needs.

Pros

  • Low cost solution great for small business sites
  • No need for excessive tech knowledge
  • User-friendly control panels
  • Lots of customer support usually
  • Pre-configured servers

Cons

  • Minimal control over server configuration
  • The traffic on other websites might slow yours down

VPS Hosting

Virtual private server hosting, or virtual dedicated server hosting is another kind of hosting environment that doesn’t always require much investment. With a virtual server, you get something that appears to be a dedicated server, even though your host is actually supporting multiple websites.

VPS hosting is typically the stepping-stone for a lot of companies moving between shared hosting and dedicated machine options. The main difference between this and shared hosting is that if you have the know how, you can configure your VPS however you choose. Usually, smaller organizations that want the benefits of controlling a dedicated server opt for VPS.

Pros

  • Get your own dedicated server environment
  • Traffic surges won’t impact your online business
  • Root access to your server and operating system
  • Easy scalability
  • Lots of customization options, like having your own server

Cons

  • Requires more technical and server knowledge
  • More expensive and only available from some service providers

Dedicated Hosting

Sometimes called dedicated hosting or managed hosting, dedicated hosting gives you an entire server that you can rent completely on your own. You get complete control over your entire server, and the actions of other people won’t impact you at all. This type of hosting can be a little more expensive when placed side-by-side with other shared hosting plans, however. For this reason, it’s usually only suitable for website owners that need a lot of disk space and control.

Dedicated hosting requires a lot more technical support and knowledge of server resources than any other form of hosting. However, at the same time, you have more opportunity to adjust different administration facilities. This means that you get more control over your server, security, and software systems.

Pros

  • Full control over your server configuration
  • High reliability and security options
  • Root access to your server
  • No need to worry about other websites draining your resources
  • Excellent privacy

Cons

  • High-cost so more suited to larger businesses
  • Server and technical management knowledge is crucial

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is the most recent hosting type to appear on the market, and it’s one of the most popular choices for any business. Cloud hosting operates across a host of interconnected web servers that supply scalable and affordable web infrastructure. Cloud hosting plans generally offer reliable, unmetered bandwidth and as much disk space as you might need.

If you’re looking for an effective way to run a website that has a lot of resource-intensive applications and content assets, then cloud hosting could be the best choice. You’ll also need to consider the fact that you can’t always predict the costs of cloud hosting.

Pros

  • Virtually no downtime to worry about
  • Server failures have no impact on your website
  • Resources available to allocate on demand
  • Pay-as-you-go pricing (so you only pay for what you use)
  • More scalable than most web hosting types

Cons

  • Difficult to predict costs
  • Root access not always available

WordPress hosting

One of the newer forms of shared hosting to appear under searches on Google is WordPress hosting. This is a solution designed specifically for WordPress website owners. Your server comes with support from a dedicated expert who configures your service for WordPress You’ll also get a server that comes with all the plugins you need for crucial tasks pre-installed.

Because of the highly specialized nature of WordPress hosting, your site will load a lot faster and run without as many problems when you have WordPress hosting. WordPress related features like pre-designed themes and specific developer tools are available as standard.

Pros

  • Beginner friendly and low-cost
  • One-click installation gets you straight onto WordPress
  • Excellent performance for WordPress websites
  • Pre-installed selection of themes and plugins
  • Excellent customer support team with experience in WordPress issues

Cons

  • Only recommended for WordPress sites

Reseller Hosting

Reseller hosting is an interesting form of website hosting that isn’t always mentioned in articles comparing the different options available today. Reseller hosting allows the account owner to use their own allotted hard drive bandwidth and space to host websites on the behalf of other parties. The original hosting account owner resells the product in this situation.

Reseller hosting is often a good choice when the amount of space you have is too much for you. You If you know how to use things like Linux and hosting tools correctly, then you can share your resources with another party. This gives you access to a handy source of recurring income.

Hosting providers sometimes offer specific reselling plans specifically to support entrepreneurs who are interested in this kind of business. Buying a reseller hosting plan is also a good choice for anyone with multiple domains too.

How Can Your Online Business Benefit from Web Hosting?

Ultimately, if you want to publish and run a successful website online, you need a web hosting service. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that works for everyone. A web hosting service will give business owners more than just the ability to get online. Many web hosting firms can also help out with things like customer support and site maintenance.

If you choose the right web hosting provider, then you’ll have a professional on your side to ensure that your site stays up and running as much as possible. What’s more, if you have any issues and need help with things like troubleshooting, then your web host’s technician will be on hand to answer your questions. A professional web hosting service can give you a more hassle-free and convenient experience when you’re building your company online.

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