The Basics of Web Hosting
If you have a website, you need a web host. From shared hosting to private hosting platforms, website owners have an abundance of options when they choose a web hosting service. In this article, learn what web hosting is, the different types of web hosting, and the benefits of popular web hosting platforms so you can make the best decision for yourself and your website.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is an online service that makes a website and its content accessible to users on the Internet. Hosting plans are generally purchased. Purchasing one is like renting a billboard; you're renting space on a real, physical server to store your website's data.
In simple terms, web hosting is how and why we're able to access websites on the Internet on any network. Every website is hosted from a physical server in a real location. Web hosts are the institutions that provide hosting technology and resources needed for the hosting of your website. They keep the server running, ensure the website's security, and check that data correctly transfers between the server and users’ devices.
Types of web hosting
There are five types of web hosting: shared hosting, dedicated hosting, VPS hosting, managed WordPress hosting, and colocation hosting.
Shared web hosting
Shared hosting is when your account and websites will share resources with other host accounts located on the same server. How effective this is depends on how many host accounts are found on a server – the fewer the better.
This type of hosting doesn't provide root access and limits your resources, like bandwidth, storage space, and CPU power. However, the advantage of shared hosting is that it is often the cheapest hosting option. The overall cost of maintaining the server is split across the customers using it, which reduces costs for an individual company or user.
Dedicated web hosting
With dedicated hosting, you have an entire server just for your websites. You don’t have to share resources with any other host accounts. This provides complete control over the hardware and software that your sites use and host on.
Though it's more expensive, you have exclusive access to your resources. Most use this type of hosting for large businesses and corporations that have massive numbers of websites and users whose information they need to store.
VPS web hosting
VPS hosting, or virtual private server hosting, is a combination of shared and dedicated hosting. A host account’s websites stay in virtually divided sections of the same server to mimic dedicated hosting. This provides several advantages of dedicated hosting at a lower cost, and it yields higher speeds than shared web hosting. Unfortunately, it still suffers from resource sharing and can’t handle a large amount of traffic at once.
Managed WordPress web hosting
Managed WordPress hosting is a service created specifically for websites that are made using WordPress. WordPress is an application used for building a website. The host provider takes care of the background technical aspects of the website so that the host account can focus on creating and publishing content.
They update software and handle security while also optimizing performance. For any website built using WordPress, this option is likely the best choice.
Colocation web hosting
With colocation hosting, instead of renting the server that stores the websites, you actually buy the servers and rent a place, generally in another company’s warehouse or facility, to store them. While it can be useful to own the hosting hardware, this is extremely expensive, and another type of hosting that is only really used by large corporations.
What is private hosting?
Private hosting is a specific type of hosting in which all files, databases, and emails are secured. This means they're indecipherable to anyone that doesn't have permission to view them. If the devices containing these assets were found and accessed in a security breach, they would be encrypted.
Typically, because it involves sharing resources with other host accounts and websites, shared web hosting isn't private. VPS hosting allows for a much greater level of privacy, since each host account has their own private part of a dedicated server. However, it isn't a flawless solution.
For fully private hosting, dedicated hosting is the most effective method. The renter of the server can control all aspects of security on the server. While dedicated hosting is the most expensive option of these three, if privacy and security are important aspects of the website being hosted, it may be the ideal hosting plan.
Can I host my own website?
Yes; anyone can build and host their own website or websites. All you need to do is follow a few simple steps to set up your site to make sure web hosting works and establish yourself on a hosting platform.
How do I host my own website?
If you haven't already built the website you wish to host, the first thing you need to do is figure out which platform you want to build your site on. Website builders like WordPress and SquareSpace have proven themselves to be quality options. From there, you can choose a content management system that matches your selected platform. WordPress is free, but it does require third-party hosting; other website builders don't require hosting, but they are less versatile than WordPress.
Once you have your site, you need to find a web hosting services. Because there are many services available, the choice can be confusing. However, look out for these features:
- a free domain name
- a free SSL certificate
- free one-click WordPress installation, if you're using WordPress
If you're hosting a website that has already existed, you can migrate it into WordPress if that's the platform you want to use.
Once you have a web hosting service, acquire a domain name. You can purchase one through domain registrars like nametime.com or Google Domains. Your web host provider may also give you a domain name for free with your host account.
After establishing a domain, connect your domain to your web host provider. If you happen to get your domain name from your host provider, it will already be connected to them. Otherwise, you'll need to manually connect them by going to the site where you got your domain name and go to the settings for your domain name to point it at your Web host's server.
Finally, install your website platform into your domain using your web hosting account. Many web host providers make this an easy, one-click process.
Is web hosting free?
It depends. Based on your needs, hosting can be free forever or it could cost hundreds of dollars per month. If you've spent a long time building your website and know you'll need to store user information, then you'll likely need to spend money on hosting.
On the other hand, if your website isn't going to track or store information about you or users, security is less of an issue. Therefore, you don't necessarily need to spend money on a premium hosting platform. Additionally, if you know your site won't have a lot of traffic at once, cheap - or even free - web hosting could be the way to go.
Especially for simple websites, hosting can be the hardest part of the website publication process. Free web hosting sites can reduce the difficulty and cost of this process, allowing you to get your website up much faster.
GoDaddy, for example, is a free web hosting service with the largest domain registrar in the world. They host a number of websites at no charge. If you have a low-involvement site with no data that needs secured, platforms like GoDaddy are good options.
What are some popular web hosting services?
There are countless web hosting services that you can choose from when hosting your own website. It can be overwhelming trying to choose the best one for your site, as each hosts offer their own benefits. Below, go through a breakdown of several of the most popular web hosting companies that includes the benefits and costs of each.
Bluehost is one of the most well-balanced and versatile hosts. It offers a variety of features and is popular for hosting new websites. Its basic plan offers 10GB of storage and unlimited bandwidth.
Though Bluehost plans aren't free, they're affordable, even for premium plans; they generally range between $5 and $15 per month.
HostGator offers shared, VPS, and WordPress hosting. It also has unlimited disk space and unlimited bandwidth with 24/7 support. Hosting plans start as low as $2.95 per month.
In terms of a simple setup, GoDaddy is an optimal provider choice. They are the largest domain registrar in the world. GoDaddy provides one-click installation and daily backups for WordPress.
They also include a free SSL certificate to keep your site secure. Ideal for smaller websites that don't require a lot of storage, these plans range from $5 to $20 monthly. They also offer free plans.
Plans come with a free domain name, SSL certificate, and one-click WordPress installation through DreamHost. The service also offers a site builder for beginners and 24/7 tech support for hosted websites. All of these features come at a monthly cost of $2.49, which makes it a good, low-cost option.
The HostWinds provider supplies your website with unlimited storage and bandwidth with every plan. If your website focuses on large amounts of content, this provider is an excellent option. Additionally, it comes with unlimited business email accounts, a free SSL certificate, a free dedicated IP address, and free site migration from one web server to another. Hosting packages are only a few dollars and can fluctuate based on how many months you contract for and how many features you add.