If you’re ready to take your business online, you’ll need to know the basics of web hosting. In this beginner’s guide, you’ll learn how to host a website plus get tips for deciding which hosting types and plans are best for your website.
What Is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the act of putting a website on the internet for the world to view. Most of the sites you visit every day are hosted by website hosting providers. These web hosts have dedicated servers or computers that store websites and their information, then allow other users to publicly access their sites.
What Do You Need to Host a Website?
When it comes to hosting your website you’re going to need two main things, a domain, and a server.
Domains: A domain is the registered website name that people type into the address bar of their browser to access your website. Domains can have a variety of structures, such as the ever-popular “.com” names as well as .net, .org, .gov, etc. In this example of a URL, https://domain.com, the domain name is domain.com.
Servers: A server is a computer that stores your website’s information. Unlike the home desktops and laptops you use on a daily basis, servers are specialized computers with fast internet connections that make your website accessible to others. There are two main options for choosing a server. You can either use a hosting provider that has preconfigured servers and a support team to help you troubleshoot, or buy and create your own server. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options, though opting for a hosting provider is the best choice for most website owners.
Option 1: Host Your Website Using a Hosting Provider
A web hosting provider offers you a preconfigured server to store your website’s information. These servers are specially designed to offer fast response times, excellent reliability, and simple connectivity so that other users can easily access your site. In addition, the servers are set up to make it easy for you to create your website and publish it to the world.
Pros and Cons of Hosting Providers
- High upload speed
- Server grade infrastructure
- Easy setup
- Simple domain connection
- Preconfigured server operating systems
- Housed in an advanced data center
- Very low upfront costs
- Less customizable
- You don’t own the server
Using a hosting provider is the recommended choice for beginners looking to launch their website. That’s because hosting providers take care of all of the setup and technical aspects normally required to host a website. Follow these steps to get started with a web host:
1. Choose Your Hosting Type
The first step is to decide what hosting type is right for your site. Most hosting providers will give you a variety of options, which dictate the power, speed, price, and capability of the server you’ll get. The most common hosting types are shown below:
|Hosting Type||What It Is||Best For|
|Shared||Shared hosting allows you to host your website in a special container alongside other websites, rather than on its own computer.||Shared hosting is best for personal websites or websites that will have relatively low traffic.|
|VPS||A virtual private server (VPS) is an isolated container for your website, which is still shared with other websites, but gives far more speed and power than shared hosting.||VPS/Cloud hosting is best for medium-sized websites, such as business websites, that need a little more power or speed when compared to shared hosting.|
|Managed||With managed hosting plans, the hosting provider sets up a dedicated server for you and helps you maintain the infrastructure.||Managed hosting is best for web applications that process a lot of data or require more intricate setups.|
|Dedicated||Dedicated hosting gets you your very own server, which gives you full access to change, customize, and set up your server.||Dedicated hosting is for technical personnel to set up intricate web applications or multiple websites used in larger business applications.|
2. Select a Web Hosting Provider
Now that you understand the different types of web hosting, it’s time to actually choose a web hosting provider. To select a hosting provider, you must understand these common factors that distinguish a good hosting provider from a mediocre one:
- Upload: Upload speed is one of the main factors in determining the speed at which your website will load. You can use a third-party reporting service such as HRank to determine each hosting provider’s upload speed when compared to others. For comparison’s sake, industry-standard upload speeds are usually far above 100 MB.
- Response Time: Response time is how long it takes for the server to start sending your website details to the user once they enter your domain name in their browser. This can directly affect the speed of your website, so it’s a good idea to use HRank to compare these rates. You’ll want the speed to range from 250ms to 750ms as these are the typical industry standards.
- Hosting Types Available: As mentioned above make sure the hosting provider you choose allows you to select the proper hosting type based on your need.
- Support: A good support team is crucial. Most hosting providers give you access to 24/7 customer support through phone, email, and live chat. If you need help setting up your website, connecting your domain, or have any questions about hosting your website, a support team will help you.
- Customer Feedback: Do your due diligence and look at your potential hosting provider’s past customer reviews and feedback. This will give you a sense of their overall performance in terms of speed, uptime, and customer support.
- Cost: Most hosting providers have a variety of monthly subscription models based on the hosting types offered. In most cases, shared hosting is going to be the cheapest option, while VPS will be a bit higher, and managed servers will be the most expensive.
3. Register Your Domain
The next step in hosting your website through a provider is registering your domain. There are a couple of ways you can go about this. The first, and recommended option, is to purchase a domain through whichever hosting provider you select. Most hosting providers will bundle a domain with their monthly hosting packages, which simplifies the process.
The other option is to register a domain with a domain registrar. These registrars sometimes have a wider range of TLDs, which are the endings of your domain, outside of the common .com options. Most hosting providers have in-depth documentation on how to point a domain purchased from a registrar to your hosting provider’s server.
When looking to purchase a domain, you’ll generally be looking in the ballpark of around $7 to $12 per year for a .com domain. If you decide to go with a less common TLD, it can range anywhere from $3 to $100 per year.
4. Migrate Your Site to Your Hosting Provider
Once you have both your hosting provider and your domain name the next step is to move your website onto your hosting provider’s server. There are a couple of different scenarios.
The most common scenario is moving a website you’ve created on your computer to the hosting provider’s server. To do this, the recommended method is to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) which is usually accessible through your hosting provider’s dashboard.
Another very common scenario is moving your website from one hosting provider to another. In this case, most hosting providers allow you to contact their support teams to facilitate this exchange, but you can also manually download your website’s files and move them over using the method described in the first scenario.
The best course of action when deciding how to move your site to your chosen hosting provider is to contact their support team. Most hosting providers will be more than happy to help facilitate the migration of your website onto their server, and in many cases, will take care of any technical issues on their own.
Option 2: Host Your Website Locally
The second option for hosting your website is to build your own server. This is an option you can take if you’re looking for more control over your website’s hosting infrastructure, or if you’re planning to build large website applications.
Hosting a website yourself usually involves purchasing or building your own server. This typically requires you to purchase space at a co-location center where you can house your built or purchased server and hook it up to a specialized internet connection.
It’s important to note that it’s almost always required that you use a specialized hosting center when trying to host your own website. That’s because most internet providers prohibit hosting websites on your personal computer.
Creating and managing your own dedicated server infrastructure can significantly reduce costs and allow a greater level of control when building large-scale web applications. Here are some general pros and cons of managing your own dedicated server.
Pros and Cons of Hosting Your Website Locally
- Greater control
- Specification of technical infrastructure
- Place servers at any location
- Good for large-scale web applications
- Larger upfront cost
- Requires extensive technical knowledge
- Needs a specialized hosting center