The simple guide to web hosting services, and different types of hosting.
Last week I talked through the topic of domain names, servers and IP addresses to clear up any confusion in that area, and this week I'm moving on to web hosting.
If you're looking into creating a website from scratch, or are just trying to brush up on the facts before you hire a designer or grow your website/blog further, you may have some questions around the topic of 'website hosting'.
First of all, just to reiterate some of the points from last week:
A Web Server = a dedicated computer that uses software to 'serve' your website pages and files to a Web Client (eg. your browser - like Google Chrome or Safari).
An IP Address = A unique string of numbers used to identify every computer or server.
A Domain Name = A nickname for your IP Address (eg. www.byrosanna.co.uk); you can purchase these from domain registrars like Godaddy.com.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is when a company (a hosting provider) agrees to store/'host' your website on their servers, therefore allowing visitors to see your website when they request to using their Web Client (aka browser).
A hosting provider will have facilities set up with many computers running server software constantly, to provide different types of web hosting services for their customers.
What are the different types of web hosting?
You can set up your website using a free website hosting package - however I personally wouldn't recommend this from a branding perspective.
Most free hosting providers are able to offer their services for free because they are funded by advertising which displays on the websites that are hosted with them. If they don't do this, they will usually require a credit or logo to be shown on your website.
I personally believe that there are so many inexpensive hosting packages available (or hosting that's included in the price of your website platform, like on Squarespace) that this isn't necessary. You want your website to create a good first impression with visitors, and as such it should be treated as an investment.
This is a great option for many website owners because the packages are usually very inexpensive. It means you are sharing a server with other peoples' websites, so while it is cost effective, there can be issues with the speed of your website when other peoples' websites start to 'clog up' the storage space and memory of the server.
Extra reading: Slow website? Here's how to fix it!
Managed WordPress Hosting
Hosting companies recognise that many people use WordPress to create their websites nowadays, so lots will now offer a 'Managed WordPress Hosting' package.
This means that the server is optimised for running a WordPress website, so you'll benefit from a faster website, as well as enhanced security and automatic backups/updates too.
The only issue with managed hosting is that you are limited on what plugins you can install yourself and how much access you have to the raw files of your website - but this may not matter to you at all unless you are a designer/developer!
As the name suggests, this type of package means that your website is hosted on its own, dedicated server (not sharing with anyone else's websites). Obviously this means it's more expensive, but it has the benefit of extra speed and control. It's a great option for large websites that need lots of resources or lots of security.
This option involves purchasing and owning your own server, but having a hosting provider keep and maintain it within their facilities. This is great if you want to set up your own web server yourself but don't have the space or resources yourself to store a dedicated 'always on' computer in your home or office.
Can I host my website on my own computer?
It is possible, but I wouldn't recommend it for the purposes of this article.
To host your website on your own computer you would need technical knowledge of how to set up a web server on your computer, your computer would need to always be on or else people wouldn't be able to visit your website, and it's likely that your internet connection at home wouldn't be fast enough.
Do I need web hosting?
It's worth noting that if you are using a platform like Squarespace, Wix, Blogspot or WordPress.com, you don't need to purchase website hosting. This is because your website is hosted with the platform and things like security and updates are taken care of for you. This is a great option for those who just want a simple website that will take care of itself without any technical input from yourself!
If you are looking into a WordPress.org website (ie. the self-hosted platform which most people mean when they talk about WordPress websites), then you will need to purchase a hosting package from a hosting provider.
WHO ARE THE BEST HOSTING PROVIDERS?
Some of the top hosting providers (for shared, dedicated and managed WordPress hosting) include: