Think of a website as one huge folder that contains tons of subfolders, documents, and files. That information must live somewhere, and web hosting provides a home for website and all its files.
While it does seem like things on the internet just come out of nowhere, the truth is everything on the web is stored in a specific location. For logistical reasons, your computer isn’t the place for your web and all the files to live. It probably couldn’t handle the traffic, nor is it reliably always available. Instead, you’ll need a hosting service that will take care of housing your website for you.
Figuring out your hosting is one of the first and most important things you must do when launching a website. This guide will help you understand more about web hosting, as well as the different types of web hosting, so that you can pick a service that is right for your website.
Keep reading to learn what web hosting is. We break it down in a simple to understand web hosting definition. To understand web hosting basics, just keep reading.
Website Hosting Definition
So, what is website hosting? Here's a simple website hosting definition: website hosting provides storage for and access to a website. Your web host gives your website a place to live and lets visitors come and see it. Web hosts often do more than just hosting, but as the term suggests, hosting is their main bread and butter.
You can technically host your website yourself, but it is extremely technical and beyond most beginners’ capabilities. Additionally, you’ll have to invest in expensive server technology to meet the needs of visitors as your traffic begins to grow. Even experienced web developers rely on web hosting.
How Web Hosting Works
Now that we've covered the web hosting definition, let's take it a step further to learn how it actually works.
With web hosting, your site and all the files (HTML, images, video, and more) that make it up live on a server set up by a host. When people go to your site, they’re requesting to see those files from that server. The server then sends that information over to the visitor, and what they see is your website.
Comparing the internet to a big city is one way of understanding what hosting is. Think of all the homes and buildings in the city as separate websites and the land that they are on as host servers. The streets, naturally, would be the connection between users and the sites. Users will travel the streets to your website where your host will open the door and let them in to visit.
Difference Between Web Hosting and Domain Name Hosting
Oftentimes, people may confuse the definition of web hosting with domain name hosting. The two are related, and many companies offer both services, but they are quite different.
- Web hosts provide a place for your website to live.
- Domain hosts provide a way for users to easily find your website.
To go a bit deeper, domain hosts manage names of addresses. Your site’s actual address is a series of numbers known as Internet Protocol (IP). The internet would be a lot more cumbersome to navigate if we used IPs. Domain names are much easier to remember. Most of us don’t even remember phone numbers anymore.
Web hosts are where you keep your site — web domain hosts are who you turn to when registering a domain.
7 Types of Web Hosting
Learning about what web hosting is means understanding the different types of hosting. As someone new to running a website, it might be hard for you to see the differences between each type.
These are the several types of web hosting services you can find.
1. Shared Hosting
With a shared hosting service, your website and several others share the same server. Going back to our analogy, it’s like you’re renting a bed in a hostel. There is a ton of shared common space. This option is especially appealing to those just starting out on the web as it’s relatively cheap.
Of course, with a lower price, you can face some issues. Shared hosting is not ideal for sites that get a lot of traffic as that can bog things down for every other website or application on the server, including your own site. However, if you’re just starting out, and on a budget, shared hosting is all you’ll need to get your site up. You’re also likely to get helpful tools like email support and website builders.
2. Virtual Private Server
A virtual private server (VPS) is a step above shared hosting. You still share a server with other sites, only now you have virtual dividers that give you your own space on that server. This time it’s more like you have your own apartment in a building and no roommates to share your space. With a VPS you aren’t sharing RAM and CPU with other sites.
Virtual private servers are typically more expensive than shared hosting but should be able to handle a bit more traffic, and more customizations. VPS hosting is much more scalable than shared hosting, making it a better option for those who want to go bigger when the time is right.
3. Dedicated Hosting
Dedicated hosting gives your site its own server. This is like having a house all to yourself. You will not be sharing any of the space on the server with any other sites. All its resources are dedicated to you.
As you might expect, this is one of the most expensive website hosting options. It also requires a lot of technical know-how as you’ll be responsible for things like security and maintenance. On the other side of that coin, however, you get an extremely high level of customization, and you don’t have to worry about other sites’ traffic impacting your site’s performance.
4. Cloud Hosting
There’s a good chance you’ve heard about the cloud. Everything these days seems to be on it, including websites.
Cloud hosting uses resources from several different services rather than just one dedicated server. This provides exceptionally reliable hosting as your site and its files live in multiple points. One server going down isn’t going to affect your site as it can pull resources from elsewhere.
Because resources are seemingly endless, cloud hosting is extremely scalable. That doesn’t mean you have to pay for all those resources all the time. With cloud hosting, you only need to pay for what you use. While this is a nice feature, it does make costs unpredictable.
5. WordPress Hosting
WordPress hosting refers to hosting services specifically designed and optimized for WordPress websites. It can take the form of several of the other types of web hosting, such as shared, dedicated, VPS, and cloud hosting.
Because of the optimizations, even shared WordPress hosting is fast and doesn’t quite suffer from slowness often associated with that hosting type.
Check out this guide to learn more about what managed WordPress hosting is.
6. Reseller Hosting
Reseller hosting is where a person or company buys hosting from one company and sells that space to others. You can look at this as subletting your house or apartment. This is often done by those who want to get into web hosting or even by web developers who want to offer hosting as part of their services.
7. Managed Hosting
Most website host services offer some form of managed hosting. This is where the hosting company takes care of a lot of the day-to-day management of the server and site. Managed hosting often comes with technical support, maintenance, software installation, updating, and more.
What to Look for in a Web Hosting Service
Now that you have a better grasp on what web hosting is and what types of web hosting are available, you’re now ready to find one and get your site launched. As you look for web hosting services, consider these key factors.
When starting out, you probably don’t need too much storage, and even the most restrictive of shared hosting services will probably suffice. Still, if you have big growth plans, you might want to make sure you have the room to grow. Consider that even unlimited storage offered by many hosting services comes with some drawback
When you’re choosing your hosting service, make sure you understand the bandwidth limitations they may have. This is the amount of traffic that can visit your site. To start, you probably don’t need to worry about this, but as you gain a larger audience, bandwidth could quickly become an issue. Know what your options are once this happens.
When your business is web-based, there’s really nothing worse than downtime. Every moment your site is not up adds up to potential revenue loss. Do a bit of research to get an idea of how reliable your potential web hosting service is. Find customer feedback, expert reviews, and stats when possible.
Site security is a big deal with everything internet-related these days. Web hosting services know this, and all of them make it a point to focus on security at least a little bit in their marketing materials. Make sure security is as important to your web host as it is to you.
Like we said earlier, most website hosting companies offer managed hosting. Check with your potential hosts to learn just what they are offering to manage and for how much. You’ll want to see if they handle things like updates, backups, hardware maintenance, software setup, support, and more.
Try Hosting With Nexcess
Now you know web hosting basics, and how important web hosting is to having a successful website. Choosing your host should not be done lightly. No matter what type of site you have, or the level of support you need, Nexcess has a web hosting offering that’s right for you.
Learn more about Nexcess’ fully managed hosting and find the package that fits your needs.