Web Hosting 101
Web hosting may seem complicated at first, but it's really quite simple and doesn't need to cost the earth. The first thing to do is run through exactly what a web hosting service is doing, and ask yourself a few questions about your website to establish the sort of service you need.
What is Web Hosting?
To make your website available you need to lease a web server, which is essentially a package of space on the internet on which your website will exist. This is what a web hosting company provides.
There are a few different types of service available. Which you need will depend on the requirements of your website.
Do you need a static or dynamic website?
“Static” websites are built on your computer, and then uploaded to the host's server using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software. The key point here is that the website on their server cannot be changed directly – to make changes you edit the HTML pages on your computer, then re-upload them to the web host. Here you are using a simpler (and so cheaper) service from your host. It is therefore often a good idea for websites that won't need to be updated often.
The key difference between this and “dynamic” websites is that dynamic websites can be changed. You will access software called a web application, which is installed on the server along with your site, to edit it directly. This is preferable for blogs and other sites expected to be updated regularly. This is a more complicated service, but the web applications are typically very user friendly, do not require installing special programs on your computer, and a good web host will have tech support able to give you any assistance you need.
What type of hosting do you need?
The next question to ask is what type of hosting service your website is going to need. These can be broken down into levels of increasing size, reliability, security – and, of course, price. The important thing is to have an idea of the size, scope and content of your website, to understand what you really need. Keep in mind that most hosts will let you upgrade at any time, so it may be easier to start off with a lower level and re-evaluate as your site grows.
- Free hosting is the lowest level of service. Your site will share a large server with a number of other clients (though the websites will be separate and you'll have your own account). They typically support themselves by putting adverts on your site, and are likely to have a large number of clients on the same server, meaning the website may run less quickly and reliably. These can be very useful for private sites such as personal blogs, but may not be suitable for professional websites.
- The next level up is Shared Hosting, costing around $5-10 per month. You are still on a shared server, but with no adverts, and your website will run more reliably. This is the most common type of hosting, and is perfectly sufficient for most sites.
- VPS (virtual private servers) cost slightly more, around $30-40 per month. The sites are more strongly isolated in the shared server, resulting in higher security. This may be preferable if your website contains highly private or confidential information.
- The top level is Dedicated Servers, which can cost from $70 up to several hundred dollars a month. Here you have your own server, meaning excellent security and fast running for even a very large website.
Having answered these questions, you'll have a good idea of what service you need and what sort of price you'll need to pay, and be well on your way to getting