Understanding web hosting is an essential part of building your online presence. Whether you want to start building websites professionally, are looking for someone to build your website for you, or want to know how it works, answering the question “What is website hosting?” is an essential first step.
These days, creating a website is easier and more accessible than ever before, but you need to know the basic principles involved.
To demonstrate how hosting works and illustrate what new users need to know before they start, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to web hosting basics. First, we’ll cover how it works, followed by a look at some of the best web hosting services with pointers on what you should expect from a provider.
What is web hosting?
Definition of web hosting: It provides a secure place to store online content. The code, images, videos, and text that make up a website need to be stored somewhere. Without a stable digital storage location, none of us could permanently access content on the Internet. That makes hosting one of the essential parts of developing an online presence for everyone, from large corporations to small personal accounts.
Web hosting allows users to store content off-site, reducing the cost of local storage and the associated physical footprint. It also makes building a genuinely permanent web presence more straightforward, with built-in benefits like backups for security and support.
Some web hosting is done locally on PCs or servers, but more often, cloud-based third-party providers are used. You should find a wide range of free and paid options when looking for a hosting service.
How do I start with a website?
To develop a website, you need to coordinate several steps, and choosing a web hosting provider is just one of them.
Register a domain: You buy this from a domain name registrar like Domain.com, Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy, or Google Domain, to name a few. The domain is the same despite who you buy it from, but the prices vary depending on the services and additional options. You choose a unique name to make it easier for people to remember your IP address (which is just a string of numbers). It’s much easier to remember “HP.com” than “18.104.22.168”.
Nameserver (DNS): The nameserver is the middleman that points your website visitors to the correct IP address. Often the same company provides both your registrar and DNS service, but you can choose a different DNS if you like. Some standard providers are Cloudflare, OpenDNS, CleanBrowsing, and Google Public DNS.
Web hosting: The actual files that make up the website reside on a server managed by your web hosting company. Again, this can be the same company as your registrar and DNS server, or you can hire a different company for this part of the process. Below, we will introduce you to some reputable hosting companies in more detail.
How does web hosting work?
Web hosting services provide stable and secure storage. While web hosting is more than simple data storage, it is a central part of its functionality. Hosts store data on hardware called web servers, allowing online users easy maintenance and access.
Without sufficient host capacity and proper maintenance, websites can behave erratically. It results in a more time-consuming process for your website visitors, affecting your company’s sales and depriving your audience of information.
There are ways to set up your web servers with PC software, but the cost can be higher than a dedicated site and provider. That’s why most users rely on a third-party provider that can guarantee certain features and services 24/7.
Companies may host their website to keep everything on-site, which involves significant investment in servers and staff. That makes sense for large companies. However, third-party web hosting is a much more budget-friendly solution for small and medium-sized businesses.
Benefits include constant accessibility for users, better protection from hackers, routine maintenance, and technical support for you when unexpected problems arise.
Types of web hosting
With the advancement of technology, different types of web hosting have been introduced best to meet the different needs of websites and customers. These include:
- Shared web hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- VPS hosting
Let’s take a look at the most popular web hosting services.
Shared web hosting
Most web hosting companies offer shared hosting. Shared hosting means a website is hosted on the same server as many other websites. It’s cheap and easy to set up, making it a good solution for new websites that don’t expect a lot of traffic in the short term. It is best suited for personal and small and medium business websites.
Anyone serious about digital advertising or running an online business should carefully consider their shared hosting options and ensure your provider can offer services like Namecheap’s business SSD hosting, specifically designed for e-commerce websites. Shared hosting is also unsuitable for large websites with a lot of traffic. These websites require a dedicated server that hosts appropriate resources to ensure adequate website performance.
With virtual private servers (VPS), also known as virtual dedicated servers (VDS), a virtual server appears as a dedicated server to each customer, even though it serves multiple websites. The primary difference between shared hosting and VPS is that customers have full access to the configuration of the VPS, which is much closer to dedicated hosting. For this reason, VPS hosting is considered the stepping stone between shared hosting and acquiring a dedicated machine.
VPS is often utilized by smaller websites and organizations that want the flexibility of a dedicated server without the high costs.
Dedicated hosting (sometimes managed hosting or dedicated server) provides entire servers for rent. This type of hosting is comparatively expensive compared to shared hosting plans; for this reason, it is only used when a website has a lot of traffic or when more server control is required.
Dedicated hosting offers more than providing a single website with complete server equipment in a data center. It offers more options for server self-management. That is a more flexible arrangement, allowing complete control over the server, its software, and security systems. However, at the same time, you must have the technical know-how to manage the platform yourself.
Cloud hosting is the newest hosting type on the market, which has become very popular in recent years. This hosting runs over many interconnected web servers that provide an affordable, scalable, and reliable web infrastructure. Cloud hosting plans usually offer an unmeasured, reliable bandwidth and infinite storage space for unlimited domains, which explains why many large companies rely on the cloud. It’s an effective way to run a website with resource-intensive applications or a large amount of content like images, but it can be much more expensive.
Reseller hosting is a type of web hosting in which the account holder can use the disk space and bandwidth allocated to him to host a website on behalf of a third party. In this case, the original hosting account holder is the “reseller.” Reseller hosting is beneficial when the purchased disk space is not needed, and some of the allocated resources can be shared with another party. Sharing disk space, bandwidth, CPU, etc., provides a recurring revenue stream.
Hosting providers offer reseller hosting strategies to accommodate entrepreneurs interested in this business technique. You can design hosting packages for your websites or clients that provide the resources allocated to the reseller hosting account. Purchasing a reseller hosting plan is also helpful for anyone who owns multiple domains.
How to choose the best hosting provider
Since there are so many hosting options to consider, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when comparing them all. If you begin to glaze over when you’re reading feature lists and reviewing pricing plans, take it down a notch and spend some time looking at user reviews. It’s often constructive to read others’ experiences before signing up.
However, once you have a solid idea of the basics of web hosting, you should consider which format is most attractive to you: shared, dedicated, or another. It’s also worth making a short checklist of the most important features so that you can go through the text-heavy descriptions of the offers more quickly.
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