Today, it is extremely simple to own and run a website. Most .com domains won’t cost you more than $10 yearly and a good web hosting account won’t cost you more than $10 per month. As for CMS (Content Management System), with powerful systems like WordPress and Joomla being free and user friendly, publishing content is also now a breeze. As you can imagine, with a little bit of work and for a few dollars, you too can own a slice of the web.
If you are an absolute newbie to web hosting and domains and you have no clue as to how to start a website, let alone run one, then you are at the absolute right place to learn all that you need to know about web hosting and the like. Although, these terms have a technical ring to them, they are easily understood once you know how they apply.
What is web hosting?
Simply put, just as the files on your computer require a hard drive to live and be accessed, the web pages that make your website require a physical drive to exist. A hosting provides the “space” for your website files to live as well the means via which they can be accessed. So, in other words, a hosting makes websites available to users on the World Wide Web via a powerful internet connection.
Where do your website files live? What is a server?
Your website files, which includes all your web pages (in HTML or otherwise), images, videos etc are ‘hosted’ in/ live in the server that your hosting provider rents out to you. All websites are hosted on servers, which are basically super computers with really powerful internet connections. All the servers together make up the World Wide Web.
Before, I get into the different kinds of web hosting, I want to clarify something that confused me when I was just venturing into this territory and might be confusing to you too.
Difference between Web Hosting and Domain name?
This can be a little confusing, if you’re just starting out on your first website, and it is worthwhile clarifying before you start working on your website. We saw earlier, what a web hosting is: it is basically a space for your web files to exist and be accessed by users via the World Wide Web. The domain name is simply the address for the location of your web files on the server.
To understand this better, consider the analogy of your house to a server. The domain name then represents the address of your house, your house represents the ‘hosting’ and the stuff in your house (furniture etc) represents the files of your website.
Some examples of domain names are Facebook.com, Delaware.edu, Wikipedia.org, Espn.net. The different domain name suffixes that you in my examples are just you give you an idea of the variety of suffixes that are available. However, many of these domains, like .org, .edu and .gov require specific registration requirements and are not as easily available as the .com.
Different types of web hosting:
There are three basic types of hosting that are available: VPS, Shared and Dedicated. However, here I will also be talking about Cloud hosting, in brief, which is relatively new, to give you an idea of the immense possibilities of this type of hosting.
1. Shared Hosting: This is the most popular option and it also happens to be the cheapest. The concept behind shared hosting is pretty straight forward. With a shared hosting, you are sharing the resources of the server with the other customers on that server. Since you are sharing, the space, memory, power etc. there are certain limitations to the scope of your website. As your site grows and starts to attract more visitors, you will definitely have to change your setup and opt in for a different hosting to have access to more resources. If you’re simply planning on starting a small blog, or small website where your website is not the main source driving your business, a shared hosting is a good option. Bluehost and Hostgator offer some of the best and most economical shared hosting plans. Take a look at my Bluehost Review to learn more about their shared hosting plans.
2. VPS (Virtual Private Server): It is just that a virtual private server. You are designated a virtual space on the server and only you have access to this resource. Since you have complete autonomy of your virtual space, there are no limitations in terms of growing your website. In addition, for a certain cost, you are granted access to the server main frame where you can make certain upgrades related to the performance of your website (power, memory etc). So, if you are planning on running a small business/ medium business website, or an e-commerce platform or other powerful web operations, VPS will foot the bill more than adequately.
3. Dedicated Hosting: With a dedicated hosting you are given a server that is entirely dedicated to running your website. This is the ultimate in autonomy and resource allocation. All the power, memory and functionality of the serve are at your disposal. While this might sound great, as you can imagine this kind of setup doesn’t come cheap. A dedicated hosting can cost anywhere between a hundred bucks a month to close to a thousand dollars, if you get serious about the specs. Leaving aside the cost, a dedicated hosting is just not for beginners, there is a lot that goes into the setup and the upgrading process. If you are large business, or a professional who like me runs a high traffic website, then a dedicated hosting is a great choice.
4. Cloud Hosting: With Cloud hosting, your data is stored and distributed over a network or cluster of various computers/servers and made available via the agency of the internet. It is like having your data stored in an immensely powerful virtual hard drive. Now, because the internet itself is so vast, there is literally no limit to the number of servers that could comprise your cloud setup. That is just astronomical capacity right there. If you look at the dynamics of cloud computing and cloud hostings, you will see the internet as just a larger version of the same principle working on a macro-cosmic level. The implications and applications of cloud technology are huge and that is where the future of online business and transactions are headed.
Here I have gathered a few key points that you will find helpful if you are just starting out creating a website or even if you are simply curious about the process behind creating and running a website. There is much more to learn in terms of the things one needs to consider when purchasing a web hosting, such as the uptime guarantee, security and back-up protocols, level of customer support, scalability potential etc. that are offered by the hosting provider. Read my article on, ‘Beginners Guide to Web Hosting: Part 2’ to learn what questions to ask and what factors to consider, including price, when you are in the process of selecting a Web hosting.