Every type of business today needs to have a website up and running. This could be either to directly make sales, to share information with customers, to boost marketing, or any number of other things. In addition, millions of individuals are creating their own websites for various reasons.

If you’re thinking about creating a website, you need to think about what servers it runs on. While it’s possible to run a website on your own computer or webserver, the vast majority of sites today run-on servers managed by a third-party hosting company.

Learn why third-party hosting just makes sense for virtually all types of websites, and get answers to questions like these:

  • What is third-party hosting?
  • How third-party hosting works?
  • What types of third-party hosting is available?
  • What type of hosting do you need?
Web Hosting Platform
Source: SiteGround

What Is Third-party Hosting?

Third-party hosting is when a website for an individual or company is run off of servers that are owned and managed by another business. The alternative is to have your website hosted on your own servers that are housed in your own data center.

Running web servers requires quality hardware, extremely fast and reliable internet connectivity, and the ability to act quickly should any hardware go down. Because of this, the vast majority of sites today are operated through third-party hosting providers.

Advantages of Third-party Hosting

  • It’s run by experts: The biggest benefit to using a company that specializes in web hosting is that your site is on servers that are built, configured, and maintained by experts. This helps to reduce the risk of downtime dramatically.
  • It’s far more affordable: Compared to buying your own servers, building out a data center, provisioning data circuits, and everything else on your own, third-party hosting is extremely affordable.
  • It’s easy to upgrade: If your site gets popular and you need to upgrade, the hosting company can get it down quickly and with no downtime. If you’re self-hosting, you would need to purchase all new hardware and plan out the upgrade on your own.
  • It’s “worry-free” hosting: When you put your website up on a third-party hosting provider’s equipment, you don’t need to worry about anything. They manage the environment so that you can focus on other things. Top hosting providers also monitor the sites closely so that they can react fast should something break.

Disadvantages of Third-party Hosting

  • You’re giving up some control: If you self-host, you do have absolute control over every aspect of the hosting environment, which some people prefer.
  • There’s reduced transparency: While there are many great web hosting companies that are trustworthy, it’s impossible for a third party to be as transparent with how things are done as you can be when doing things internally.
  • There are potential content restrictions: Some web hosting companies have restrictions on the type of content you can publish. These restrictions may prevent you from posting adult content, certain political content, and more. Third-party hosting companies are generally upfront about any restrictions, though, so it’s not difficult to find one that allows the type of thing you want on your site.

How Third-party Hosting Works

Third-party hosting is a fairly simple concept. The hosting company sets up its hosting servers and sells the hosting services to customers. If you decide to host your website on their servers, you will be given access to an environment they’ll set up on one of their servers.

You can then upload the files and other things for your website onto their servers. Then, you update your domain name’s nameservers to direct traffic to the hosting company, and visitors can access it from anywhere in the world.

What Types of Third-party Hosting Are Available?

One of the best things about third-party hosting services is that there are different levels of service that you can choose from based on your specific needs. In addition, if your site grows or changes, you can always upgrade or downgrade to a different level of service to match your current requirements. This would be very difficult and costly to do when hosting your site on servers that you own:

  • Shared hosting: A shared hosting server has dozens, or even hundreds, of smaller websites set up on a single physical server. They share the resources of that server, which helps to keep the costs down. Shared hosting is the most affordable option and is ideal for sites that don’t get a huge amount of traffic.
  • Virtual private server (VPS) hosting: VPS hosting also has multiple websites on one physical server, though typically far fewer than a shared server. The big difference, however, is that the various sites don’t share the resources of the server. Instead, each account on the server is placed in its own virtual environment and has exclusive use of a set amount of system resources.
  • Dedicated servers: A dedicated server means that one customer has exclusive use of a full physical server or even multiple servers. This option is used for larger sites that get quite a lot of traffic.
  • Cloud hosting: Cloud hosting technology spreads each site out across multiple physical servers. These physical servers are configured to operate as one large server. Cloud hosting can operate the one cloud server ― made up of many physical servers ― as a shared environment, VPS environment, or even a dedicated server environment.

In addition to these main types of hosting, you should also be aware of content delivery networks (CDNs). A CDN is a service that hosts files for websites on geographically distributed servers so that visitors can access them quickly no matter where they are.

The whole site typically isn’t housed on a CDN, but only large files or applications that require the fastest response times. A related strategy is to host certain types of files, such as videos, on a major platform like YouTube and then embed the video into your page. This way your hosting server isn’t bogged down with the massive files, but you still get the great videos on your page.

You can have key aspects of your website on a CDN whether you’re using a third-party hosting company or hosting it within your own facility.

Which Type of Hosting Do You Need for Your Website?

If you decide that you want to move forward with third-party hosting for your website, you need to decide which type of hosting you want, and from which company. Almost all small businesses and individuals want to start off using shared hosting services.

If, however, you know that you’ll be getting a lot of traffic on your site, it may make sense to move up to a VPS or even a dedicated server.

Web Hosting with Purpose
Source: DreamHost

However, even a basic shared hosting account that costs just a few dollars per month can easily run most websites. They can even serve traffic to thousands of visitors per day without any trouble. If you aren’t sure which one you need, the chances are excellent that shared hosting is going to be the best place to start.

Choose the Right Hosting Solution for You

Third-party hosting companies are the best option for just about everyone who needs a website. That being said, there are many different types of hosting available, and thousands of different hosting companies from which to choose.

While you can always migrate your site to a new hosting provider if needed, it’s much easier to do a little research and choose the best hosting company available from the beginning.