Web hosting 101
Web hosting refers to a service that makes your website available to your users. Websites are intended to be viewed by anyone on the Internet, at any time.
If you want anyone on the Internet to see your website at any time, you’ll need to make sure your website is running on a computer that’s connected to the Internet all the time. Otherwise, if the computer’s off, no one will be able to see your site.
It is possible to host the website yourself. You’ll need equipment like a web server and a permanent connection to the Internet. You’d also need to be sure that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is OK with this kind of service. You’ll also need to have important skills like managing and configuring a web server, use of firewalls and virus protection. However, hosting a website yourself is time consuming and can be unreliable. Even if a company has the skills or equipment to host the website, they often bring in a third party host.
Using a third party host is the most common choice for web hosting. Using a third party provider gives you time to do everything else you need to and focus on the development of your website and web design.
What do I need from my webhost?
A good web hosting company should provide you with 24-hour support and FTP access. FTP access allows you to update your website.
Many web hosting companies will also provide you with email accounts, online control panels to manage your website, traffic information to your page and a database management system. Some websites may need specialized software such as a SQL Server or PHP. If that is the case, you’ll need to check that your hosting company provides those services.
The space and other features you need will vary depending on what you plan to use your site for, how much traffic you’re getting and expect and how much content you want on your site. For more specific information, consult a professional since it varies on a case-by-case basis. You can check to see if you can upgrade your plan later, and stick to the minimum you think you need.
Shopping for a webhost
Besides checking for certain features, you should also look at deals that different webhosts offer. As you shop around, you’ll see prices vary quite a bit. You can also usually find deals that bundle your domain name with your web hosting.
Some webhosts will offer web design tools, templates or “builders” too. If you’re unfamiliar with HTML and CSS, or only know the basics, you’ll want to look for a webhost that bundles this feature, too. However, you may find that hiring a web designer in addition to a cheaper webhost that doesn’t offer design services may save you money in the long term.
Different hosting plans
Most webhosts offer different levels of pricing based on different hosting plans. If you’re just starting out and only need a small website, shared hosting is fine. Shared hosting means your site is on the same server as other websites. Your customers won’t know and you won’t know what other sites are on the server. Dedicated servers are when your site is the only one on the server. You only need this if you’re expecting very high volumes of traffic or extra security requirements.
No matter what kind of webhost you go with, make sure they provide you with great technical support. If you need help designing your site, finding a webhost that includes those services will make the process easier. The amount of space you need and expected traffic will determine which hosting plan will work best for you. If you have specific questions, it’s always best to consult a professional.