What is Website Hosting? A Beginner’s Guide

If you're trying to build a website, you need to find a host first. Learn all about website hosting, including how it works and how to choose the best host for your needs.

What is website hosting

These days, it’s hard to imagine life without the internet. But, when you consider the mechanics of how the internet works, it seems a lot more complicated below the surface.

The foundation upon which the entire internet is built is comprised of servers and web hosts (like WordPress). Website hosting enables you to view any site from anywhere in the world without waiting minutes or hours for the website to load.

We’ve come a long way from the early days of dial-up modems and long wait times. Today, users expect instant gratification, no matter which corner of the internet they visit. So, let’s dive into the world of website hosting and see what it’s all about.

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    What is Website Hosting, and Why Do I Need It?

    Website hosting is the process of storing the elements of a site (i.e., images, text, graphics) on a server connected to the internet. The host has the server, and the customer pays for both storage and access to that server.

    So, yes, you need website hosting if you want your pages to be accessible to anyone worldwide. If you were just building a site for personal use, you could technically host it yourself and store the data on your own server.

    There are three primary objectives of web hosting:

    • Accessibility – Users can load your site anywhere, even if the original data files are located far away.
    • Speed – Distance used to affect site loading speeds, but now web hosts create a content delivery network (CDN), so site data doesn’t have to travel so far to reach the end user.
    • Security – Hackers and thieves use viruses to access websites and user data. Your web host must protect your files so they can’t be stolen or corrupted.

    Three Types of Hosting Plans

    When shopping around for a web host, you’ll notice three hosting options available – shared hosting, virtual private server, and dedicated servers. Here’s a rundown of each type of hosting plan and whether it may work for your needs.

    1. Shared Hosting

    As the name suggests, your data will share a server with other websites. In this case, you’re renting space on a server, and if you need more space, you have to pay more. This option works well for small sites that have a limited amount of content or data. However, you also have to consider the amount of site traffic you get.

    Even if you don’t have tons of files for your pages, the server has to provide access to them for each person visiting those pages. So, the more traffic you get, the more space and bandwidth are necessary to accommodate it.

    Shared hosting also works well if you’re looking for a cheap and efficient way to host your website. Since you’re sharing space, the hosting service charges less than it would with a VPS or dedicated server.

    The downside of shared hosting is that it’s not as secure as other options, and it can get expensive if you need lots of space and/or bandwidth. As your site gains new visitors, you’ll likely have to upgrade to a different hosting plan to accommodate them.

    Pros

    • Cheap
    • Easy to Use
    • Can Scale Up as Needed

    Cons

    • Your Site is Affected by Others on the Server
    • Can Get Expensive When Scaling
    • Not as Secure as a VPS

    2. Virtual Private Server (VPS)

    While a shared hosting plan means sharing a single server with other websites, a VPS plan gives you more customization and control over your site. A virtual private server also provides dedicated resources to your site, so elements like speed and accessibility aren’t affected by other websites on the server.

    VPS plans can be affordable or expensive depending on how much storage space you need and the amount of traffic you get on your site. They’re also more secure than a shared hosting plan, and it’s much easier to scale up or down as necessary.

    A virtual private server is also very similar to cloud hosting. However, while a cloud host may store your files on multiple servers for better efficiency, a VPS plan usually uses a single server for added security. That said, your data may be held elsewhere for faster site speeds and accessibility.

    Overall, a VPS works for most sites, including small and mid-sized businesses.

    Pros

    • Secure Network
    • Dedicated Site Resources
    • Fast and Efficient Scalability

    Cons

    • More Expensive Than Shared Hosting
    • Not as Secure as a Dedicated Server

    3. Dedicated Server

    Typically, you would only want a dedicated server if you have an enterprise-level business and want complete control over every aspect of your web hosting experience. As the name suggests, you get your own server that you don’t share with anyone else. This is the most expensive and secure option, and it also allows you to manage massive numbers of visitors without significantly increasing your bandwidth.

    You can also dictate the server’s configuration settings, making it more productive on the front or back end. For example, if you need a functional site for employees and managers to communicate and share files, you want a back-end server configuration. However, if you’re building a front-facing website with many user accounts, you must adjust the structure accordingly.

    Pros

    • Best Performance
    • Fully Customizable
    • Excellent Security Settings

    Cons

    • Starting Plans are Expensive
    • You Need to Pay for Managed IT Services or Have Your Own IT Team

    Examples of Web Hosting 

    Thankfully, many different website hosting options are available, so you can compare and contrast each provider until you find the one that suits your budget and needs. We’ll also go over the different elements to consider when choosing a web host so you can make an informed decision.

    Here are five examples to help you get started.

    Hostinger – Affordable Shared Hosting

    If you’re just starting or building multiple websites, you’ll love the efficiency and affordability of Hostinger plans. You can get your site up and running for as little as $2.39 per month, making it far cheaper than other hosting options available. The site also offers cloud and VPS hosting if you want to upgrade. There’s even a site builder to help you get started.

    InMotion – High-Performance VPS Hosting

    As we mentioned, VPS hosting works well for sites of all shapes and sizes because it’s fully customizable and offers excellent cybersecurity options. InMotion is one of the better VPS hosts, thanks to its high-performance plans that give you better control over your site and how it operates. Also, as you can see, you can pre-pay for multiple years of hosting to save a lot of money over the long term.

    WPEngine – Superior WordPress Hosting

    WordPress is one of the most widely used website-building platforms because it offers many tools and advantages. Although most website hosting services can help you build a WordPress site, WPEngine is solely focused on WordPress and WooCommerce, so it’s a better option than most. WPEngine is also a valuable resource if you need help configuring your site or adding new templates and plugins.

    SiteGround – Comprehensive Cloud Hosting

    Cloud hosting is slightly different than a VPS in that you have less control over your server settings. However, as with a VPS, you can scale up your operations quickly and efficiently, making it an ideal choice for companies looking to expand into new locations and markets. SiteGround specializes in cloud hosting solutions, and you can add more security options to make it more like a VPS.

    HostGator – Affordable Dedicated Servers

    HostGator is an excellent all-around hosting provider but has some of the best pricing for dedicated servers. This way, even a small business can get the advantages of its own server without spending a fortune. HostGator also has excellent customer service and can guide you through each step of the site development process.

    Which Type of Hosting is Best for Beginners?

    The type of hosting you need will depend on what you’re trying to do with your website. For example, if you’re building a blog, shared hosting is probably the best bet because it’s affordable, and you don’t need a lot of bandwidth for your content. However, if you’re building a business site with payment processing, customer accounts, and interactive product listings, you should use a VPS.

    Conversely, if you’re building a WordPress site, it’s best to go with a hosting provider that knows WordPress inside and out. Even if you’re a newbie, a dedicated WordPress host like WPEngine will give you the best bang for your buck. Also, since there’s a learning curve with the platform, you want a host that can help you when you encounter an obstacle.

    Overall, you shouldn’t worry about dedicated servers or cloud hosting until you either have to scale your business significantly or have tons of web traffic threatening to crash your site.

    How to Choose a Web Host

    Now that you know the types of hosting options available, you need to be able to compare and contrast hosting providers so you’re sure you can get the best deal possible. Here are some other factors to consider during your search:

    • Website Builder – A site builder tool is beneficial unless you’re adept at creating a new website from scratch. However, not all tools are the same – some have more features and design options than others. As a rule, WordPress has the most features, but it can also be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing.
    • Domain Registrar – Before you can even worry about building a website, you must purchase a domain (i.e., www.mysite.com). Some web hosts offer domain services for your convenience. This way, you can handle both tasks at once.
    • Customer Service – Eventually, you’ll need to contact your web host to resolve an issue (i.e., slow site speeds). So, look for brands with excellent customer service reputations and multiple ways to contact them. For example, if you can only open a help ticket via email, what happens if you need help immediately?
    • Scalability – You may only need shared hosting right now, but you might have to upgrade to a dedicated server in the future. Ideally, you can work with a web host that allows you to scale up without having to transfer to a new company.
    • User Friendliness – Some web hosts are designed for beginners, while others have more options for those with experience in website building. Depending on your skill set, you should choose a hosting provider that can give you all the tools necessary without making the experience complicated or overwhelming.

    FAQs About Website Hosting

    Do I Have to Pay to Host a Website?

    Yes, you have to pay a web host to keep your site online. The cost depends on the type of hosting you want, the amount of storage you need, and the number of site visitors you get on average (bandwidth).

    Can I Transfer My Site From One Host to Another?

    Yes, if you find a better web hosting service, you can switch your site from one to another. Some hosts will handle most of the transfer for you, while others may require that you download your files from your current host and upload them to the new one.

    How Can I Test My Website for Speed and Security?

    You can use free online speed checker tools to ensure your site loads quickly. However, make sure to test it on multiple devices and set your location at different points around the globe. This way, you can verify that your site loads fast for all users, no matter where they are.

    Can I Host My Website Myself?

    Technically, yes, you can host your own website if you have a personal server. The downside of this is that you have to provide all the protection and infrastructure necessary to keep your site running. Plus, if you don’t have a content delivery network, your site will load slower the further away your visitors are.

    Build a Better Website With Rock Content

    Creating a new site from scratch is much easier said than done. Rock Content can help you with various elements like site speed and even the content you put on your pages. Visit us online to see what solutions we have to offer.

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