If you’re new to web hosting and don’t know where to start, this article is for you. Our step by step guide will help you understand the basics of web hosting and how to get started with your first website.
What is hosting?
Simply put, web hosting refers to a computer device where a website is hosted. Before your website can be made available for visitors to access, it has to be stored on a computer that’s connected to the internet; this is known as a web server.
When you pay to host your site on a web server, you are effectively paying for web hosting. The company you pay to host your website (on their servers) is called a web hosting company.
While it is possible to host your website files on an internet enabled computer yourself, doing so will require advanced technical expertise and a strong internet connection; even then, you might not get it right. Opting for paid hosting is the easiest way to get your website online whilst avoiding any bothersome technical details.
In a nutshell, after designing a website, you’ll need to host it on a web server with a web hosting company before people can visit it. There are a few other necessary steps to take before your website can be viewed by the public, but we will cover those in a bit.
Types of hosting
Web hosting comes in different shapes, sizes and prices. This is so that website owners can choose the hosting variant that best suits their requirements and budget. The four most common hosting types are:
- Shared hosting
- VPS hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- Cloud hosting
There are more than 1.2 billion websites in the world today; of this number, more than 90% are considered to be small websites. Notably, the size of a website is not determined by how many pages it had, but by the number of monthly visitors. The idea behind shared hosting is that many websites will share a single server – a system that makes it cheaper for people to afford. Unless otherwise stated, most web hosting comes under the shared hosting umbrella. An average shared hosting platform can handle approximately 30,000 visitors every month, meaning that 90% of websites are to be found on a shared hosting platform.
Shared hosting is ideal for websites with the aforementioned number of monthly visitors or those with a small budget. It’s also a good place to host your new website; however, because it’s a shared resource, if your website begins to grow and attract more traffic, you may begin to experience performance issues.
A Virtual Private Server (or VPS hosting) is designed to give the website owner more resources and extra privacy. This system of hosting involves one server, split into multiple virtual servers. Each website is hosted securely and independently on a virtual server. VPS hosting is a step up from shared hosting and ideal for site owners who want to enjoy the benefits of dedicated hosting without the attendant cost.
VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting but not dedicated hosting, whereby you’ll have the server all to yourself. VPS hosting provides many more server resources than shared hosting, as well as extra privacy and more room for customisation. However, it does require a high level of technical expertise to use.
Dedicated hosting is the best and most expensive type of hosting. This plan is exclusively offered to large websites with the financial wherewithal to pay for it. Dedicated hosting is different from VPS in that your website is only hosted on a single server and you’ll have complete control of the entire server to use as you see fit. You’ll also have control over the type of software that will be installed, the configuration of hard drive space and every bit of detail pertaining to that server.
As already established, dedicated hosting is rather expensive, which is why only websites with heavy traffic (as well as mobile apps which demand high performance) are hosted on it. Dedicated hosting also requires a high level of technical expertise.
The ‘new kid on the block’, Cloud hosting is a more robust form of hosting which allows for high performance at affordable costs. Cloud hosting involves a deployment of server clusters that provides the space and processing power that websites need. Websites using Cloud hosting platforms experience zero downtime and optimum performance, as all the connected servers contribute to make sure the system is working efficiently. Cloud hosting provides the ideal hosting solution for websites that need more server resources and processing power than a single server can deliver; this is because the number of simultaneous requests and amount of traffic is too high for a single server to handle.
Cloud hosting is also highly scalable and can automatically adjust to meet the needs of a growing website, seamlessly channelling resources during peak periods and allowing for a pay-as-you-go model, making this the best hosting option available on the market today.
Which hosting type do you need?
You should consider your website’s requirements and how a particular type of hosting will affect its performance. For example, if you expect your website to receive around 30,000 visitors each month (or less), you could opt for shared hosting. However, if you feel your website is meeting an important need and that it will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, you may want to consider dedicated hosting or Cloud hosting. Dedicated hosting will prove effective for this number of visitors, as long as you have the means to afford it. However, if you’re still watching the pennies, you may want to opt for Cloud hosting.
Choosing the right web hosting
Choosing the right web hosting company is essential to the success of your website. This section will cover some of the factors you should consider when choosing a web hosting company.
- Speed and performance: These days, visitors expect your website to load in just three seconds; any longer than this and you’ll likely lose them. Poor web hosting can affect the performance of your website, resulting in slow page load speed and less than optimum uptime. Therefore, you should check to confirm the web hosting you prefer has a good performance record.
- Size and bandwidth: Some web hosting companies have a cap on the size of their storage and bandwidth. This can affect the performance of your website during peak periods, so it’s important to check that the web host has enough storage and bandwidth to meet your site’s needs. First, make sure you have an idea of the storage and bandwidth your website will need.
- Customer support: In order for your website to enjoy optimum uptime, you’ll need to opt for a web hosting company that has a team of qualified and experienced technical support staff on standby24/7; no matter how skilled you are, you could encounter issues with your website that fall outside your expertise. When this happens, you’ll need expert help that’s always available.
- Security and backup: Every website needs adequate security – both for its content and the site’s visitors. Any web hosting company you choose must follow the current security best practices in web hosting. These should include SSL certificates and regular backups.
- Scalability options: Because your website will grow in time, you’ll need a web hosting provider that’s able meet your growing needs. If your current web host does not offer scalability options, you might need to move to a different server when you outgrow their services. This can affect your website, causing you to lose customers and page rankings in the process.
When choosing a web hosting company, it’s a good idea to opt for one with a datacentre close to your target audience; this will help improve the speed and reliability of your website. For example, if the bulk of your visitors are from New Zealand, you should look for a top web hosting provider in that particular country such as Freeparking.
Choosing a domain name
You should now have a good idea of what web hosting is and how to choose the right type (as well as a hosting provider) for your website. However, web hosting isn’t all you need to run a website; you’ll also need a domain name.
A domain name represents the physical address of your website and is what people will type in order to arrive at your website. Choosing a domain name also requires some consideration, as this is essentially your online brand which will in turn determine your reputation.
There are dozens of tips on how to choose the perfect domain name – one of which is that you should use the .COM extension and make your domain name short, easy to spell and unique.
However, if your website is aimed at visitors from a particular country, you can use what’s known as a Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) to attract your target audience. A ccTLD is a domain name extension comprising letters associated with the country it represents. For example, a website targeting New Zealand visitors can use .CO.NZ in place of .COM as a domain name extension.
Many websites use the wrong domain name, because they fail to grasp the difficulties involved in changing an existing domain name; therefore, take your time when thinking of a domain name and make sure you arrive at the perfect one before registering it.
We hope you found this article useful and that it will help you get a better understanding of how web hosting works and how to choose the right domain for your new website.