Website hosting explained
If you’re new to website development, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the new terms and abbreviations that are used.
One of those terms are Website hosting and this guide will explain what it is, why you need it and the different types.
What is website hosting?
Website hosting is the process of storing your website on a server and making it accessible to the public.
When someone then types in YourDomain.com, they will be directed to the server where your website is stored, which then sends the website back to their browser.
Most people end up renting space on a server provide by a professional website host.
Do I need a website host?
Although it’s possible to host your website on your own physical server, I strongly advise you to not go for that option (unless you really know what you’re doing).
Just to give you an idea, in order for you to successfully host a website on your own, you would have to:
- Buy a server to store your website on
- Ensure continuous power supply to keep your website online at all times, including power backup in case of power outage.
- Have a really good internet connection to handle all the traffic
- Ensure that sufficient security measures are in place to avoid hacking
- Keep software up to date at all times
I could have mentioned more, but you get the point.
Setting up a physical server on your own and hosting your website on it is both complicated and costly. That’s the reason why I strongly recommend that you go for a professional web host that will handle all of these things for you.
How do I find a good host?
That’s a really good question!
There are a lot of host reviews on the web already, and they all claim that one of the hosting companies are better than the other.
The truth is that there is no hosting company that suits everyone’s requirements perfectly, but there are still a few key points that separate the good from the bad.
Uptime – When you’ve first spent a lot of time and money on creating your website you’ll want a web host that actually keeps it online for people to see. Aim for a web host with uptime scores at 99,9% and above.
Loading speed – If your site spends ages on loading, people will just leave before they’ve seen the content. Another important part is that Google has a tendency to give sites with poor loading speed a bad ranking in their search results, leaving you with even fewer visitors.
Cost – Don’t get blinded by a small startup cost, some hosts bump up their prices quite significantly when it’s time for the renewal of your hosting plan.
Refund policy – You should choose a host that would refund your money if you change your mind and would like to cancel the hosting. A host that really believes it offers the best product on the market will not be afraid to offer a refund.
Support – As always, having a friendly support team that is actually available when you need it is worth quite a bit.
When searching for the right hosting provider we also have to consider which hosting option that suits you the best. Here’s an overview of the typical hosting options and the differences between them:
Shared hosting is the most popular hosting option by far, and usually also the cheapest one.
Shared hosting is exactly what it sounds like, your website will be sharing the same server and the same resources like CPU and RAM with quite a few other websites. Basically, that means that if another website on your shared server is using a lot of resources, this might affect the performance of your website and the other way around.
But since you’re sharing resources, you’re also sharing the cost which usually makes this option very affordable. And the truth is, a lot of us don’t actually need that much resources.
I’m currently running this site on the cheapest shared hosting option Siteground has to offer.
This option is well suited for your website if:
- You’re new to web hosting and want to get started with your first website
- You expect less than ~100,000 visitors per month
- You’re looking for the cheapest hosting option
- You need a hosting option that requires no technical knowledge
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting
Although you are still “sharing” one physical server with other websites like on shared hosting, you’re now sharing it with a lot fewer users.
In this case, the physical server has been partitioned into several smaller virtual servers, where you have been given one of them. This smaller server comes with its own set of dedicated resources that are only available to you and your site.
So, although you are still sharing a physical server with other users, the other websites will not be able to steal your server resource (CPU, bandwidth, RAM etc.)
This option is suited for your website if you:
- Want to expand beyond shared hosting
- Require dedicated server resources to ensure stable performance
- Need the possibility to do server configurations
- Requires increased security
Dedicated server hosting
With dedicated hosting, you now have an entire physical server for yourself. So now you have all the RAM, CPU, bandwidth etc. all for yourself.
The downside is of course that you also have to cover the entire cost all by yourself.
As a result, dedicated server hosting is usually the most expensive hosting options. It’s also the option that gives you as the customer the most possibilities with regards to server customization.
This option is typically suited for:
- Large organizations
- Websites with very large amount of visitors
- Users that require full control of their server
Cloud hosting is something quite different than the options described above. The main difference is that cloud hosting utilizes a cluster of many physical servers, whereas the above-mentioned options only rely on one physical server.
This means that you are no longer limited by the limitations of one physical server because the traffic can just be routed to a second or a third server with available capacity. The result is a hosting option that easily can scale according to your resource needs.
The clustered servers will also provide you with greater uptime reliability since a malfunctioning server will just be replaced with another one in the cluster.
Cloud hosting is a great option for your website if you:
- Want an option that can handle a lot of traffic
- Want an option that can easily scale resources up and down according to your needs
- Want the added reliability a clustered environment gives
As you might have realized, there’s no option that suits every need.
When I select hosts for my websites, I focus especially on uptime, loading time and support. This is because those three factors will have a direct impact on how your visitors experience your website.
Loading time – Nobody likes to wait. Every extra second a visitor has to wait for your site to load, the more likely the visitor is to leave the site before it has even loaded.
Uptime – From a user perspective, nothing feels worse than finding what seems like a good answer to a question, only to realize that the site is down/doesn’t exist.
Support – If you are struggling with any of the two factors above, you want a good support team that can help you out of a sticky situation as soon as possible.
Got additional questions? Feel free to send me a message, or leave a comment below.