As of 2017, the number of websites worldwide stood at more than 1.2 billion, great for web hosting companies. This figure comprises everything from simple personal blogs to more elaborate websites and ecommerce platforms. Suffice to say, anyone with a message to convey or a product to sell has a website. Although the majority of people know what a website is, not too many actually understand how they work.
In this essential guide, we’ll cover the details you’ll need to understand the concept of web hosting, how it works and the process involved in owning a website.
So, let’s get started.
How web hosting works
Web hosting refers to a place where a website is stored or located.
A website is made up of numerous files, HTML, CSS, PHP, images and videos – all of which need to be stored somewhere so that visitors can access them. Typically, the files that make up a website are stored on a computer connected to the internet; this is known as a web server. Meanwhile, web hosting simply refers to storing your website files on a webserver.
Web servers are usually owned, sold or rented out by web hosting companies. When paying any of these companies to host your website, you are effectively paying for web hosting. Once your website is stored on their webserver and you’ve completed the web hosting process, your site can then be accessed by visitors from any part of the world.
The web hosting process also involves registering a domain name, as well as marketing, so as to let people know your website is now up and running.
What different types of web hosting are there?
While all web servers serve the same purpose, they come in different shapes and sizes to meet people’s individual requirements. When you want to buy web hosting, you’ll have to choose from one of the different web hosting variants covered below. Be aware that the performance and functionality of your website could depend largely on your choice of web hosting.
- Shared Hosting: Shared web hosting means you’ll be sharing one web server with a number of other websites. This type of web hosting is suitable for new websites or those that don’t expect much traffic to begin with. Everything about this type of hosting is shared – including the cost – which makes it the most affordable variety of web hosting. However, it’s also the least reliable, as a breach on one website can put the other websites on the web server at risk. Before choosing shared web hosting, it is therefore important to understand the pros and cons to be entirely sure that it’s something you can work with.
- Virtual Private Servers (VPS): A virtual Private Server (or VPS) is just one step above shared hosting. It is essentially one web server, divided into a number of virtual servers. Each website is hosted on a virtual server, though still on the same web server. VPS hosting provides more resources, more privacy and is more reliable than shared hosting. In fact, it is the ideal solution for a website owner looking for a reliable hosting option, without the financial commitments of dedicated hosting. There are several reasons to consider VPS hosting once your website outgrows shared hosting.
- Dedicated Hosting: Dedicated hosting is a web hosting system whereby you have the entire web server to yourself. You won’t share it with any other website and have the freedom to customise and utilise as you see fit. Dedicated hosting is highly reliable, but fairly expensive and also requires a high level of technical expertise. For this reason, dedicated hosting is ideal for big businesses and websites with a high volume of traffic. Once your website has grown beyond a VPS system, you can perhaps consider dedicated hosting.
- Cloud Hosting: Despite having been on the market for a number of years, Cloud hosting is seen by many website owners as being the new technology in web hosting. Cloud hosting uses a series of networked servers to provide resources for websites. It provides optimum performance and reliability, with very little downtime. Because it works with multiple servers, the moment one goes down, another takes its place immediately; suffice to say, this is the most reliable of all hosting types. Cloud hosting is also highly scalable and will automatically adjust to suit your website’s changing needs, eliminating the need to change servers as your site grows. This system of hosting is equally ideal for small websites or those with a high volume of traffic.
- Managed WordPress Hosting: There are more than 75 million websites built on WordPress. This highly popular CMS accounts for an impressive percentage of websites online. However, because of the special server requirements of WordPress, not every web host can accommodate it. Managed WordPress is a system of hosting whereby every technical aspect (of hosting and running a WordPress website) from installation to upgrading and monitoring is left in the hands of a reliable web hosting company. This type of web hosting is ideal for WordPress site owners who would rather focus primarily on growing their business than the technical aspects of running a website. To be honest a lot of our websites are on Managed WordPress Hosting sites. Read this post for more info on Managed WordPress Hosting
Choosing the right Hosting Company
At this point, you should know enough to choose the web host that would best suit your needs. However, it’s also important to know how to identify a reliable web hosting company. After all, you can’t trust every web hosting company you find via Google search results; there are several factors you need to take into consideration. These include server performance, data centre location, server features, customer support, and price.
Choosing the wrong web hosting company can negatively impact the success of your website, so you’ll need to make the right choice at the first time of asking.
How domain names work
Every website comes with a string of numbers known as an IP address, which will look something like this: 126.96.36.1991. However, because it’s difficult to recall the IP address of every website we visit each day, domain names came into existence. The domain name is an easy to remember, easy to use representation of the IP address attached to a website. When you enter a domain name in the address bar of your browser, the web server checks to confirm the IP address associated with that particular domain name. Once confirmed, the website attached to the IP address will be displayed.
Every website has a domain name, which you’ll also need if you want visitors to be able to access your site. To use a domain name on your website, you’ll need to register it with an ICANN accredited domain name registrar. This is not as tedious as it appears; in fact, major web hosting companies also register domain names for their customers. Some of them even allow you to register a domain name and use it free of charge for the first year.
Domain name extensions
A domain name is made up of at least three sections – the first of which is WWW. This is usually found at the beginning of every domain name. The middle section is made up of your actual domain name, while the third is the domain name extension.
Popular domain name extensions are called ‘Top Level Domain Names’ (TLDs). Examples of TLDs include .COM, .NET, .ORG and .INFO.
There are also other domain name extensions known as ccTLDs, which stands for Country Code Top Level Domains. These are domain extensions each associated with particular countries of the world. A ccTLD is ideal if your website provides goods and services to local customers. For example, if your website is targeted at people in New Zealand, you may want to consider .CO.NZ as your domain name extension with a dedicated NZ host such as www.discountdomains.co.nz/web-hosting to help you access the local market. Popular ccTLDs include: .CO.UK, .FR, .ES, .JP, .RO, and .US.
In addition to, there is also a series of new domain extensions, known as gTLDs. These were created to appeal to website owners who would rather show a clear association to their niche. Popular gTLDs include: .BAR, .LAW, .FOREX, .CLUB and .WEBSITE.
All together, there are more than a thousand domain name extensions available. You can view the full list here.
How domain name registration works
As stated earlier, before you can use a domain name, you’ll need to register it with an ICANN accredited domain name registrar. Buying and registering a domain name is relatively easy and not time consuming. In fact, the hard work is finding the perfect domain name that properly represents your brand and subsequently attracts visitors to your website. If this proves difficult, these tips can help you. It’s vital to get your domain name right the first time, as changing it in future can cause you to lose important page rankings and website visitors.
When you register a domain name, it is for a fixed period (usually a year). At the end of this period, the domain name is placed back on the market (unless you renew before this time). Your domain name registrar will typically send you an email before the expiration period, reminding you to renew. Unless you’re no longer interested in using the domain name, it is certainly in your best interests to renew it.
As we’ve already pointed out, major web hosting companies will give you the domain name of your choice for free when you buy web hosting from them (if your preferred domain name is available). However, this is usually for the first year and you’ll be required to pay for it if you want to use it thereafter. It’s always a good idea to use just one company for your domain name and hosting needs. This way, you can manage both products from the same account, whilst avoiding any technical hassles associated with using separate providers.
You can also opt for separate providers; that is buying your domain name from one company, but web hosting from another if you so desire.
This marks the end of our web hosting beginners’ guide. We hope you’ve found it useful and that it will help in no small way you when next you want to buy a domain name or web hosting.
In case you are thinking of hosting a chatbot on your site. Check our chatbot guide.