What is web hosting? You might know that it’s essential for everything that lives online, but how does it work, and what kind is right for your brand?
We’ll answer these questions and more in this guide. We cover what hosting a web is, types of web hosting services, and how to get started with it.
Table of Contents
What Is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is a service that allows you to publish your website online. This is what helps your website “live” on the Internet.
When you create a website, the pages along with the text, images and other elements, have to be stored somewhere so visitors can access them. This is what a web hosting service provides. It allows you to rent space on a server to store all of your website data.
How Does Hosting a Website Work?
In web hosting, when you create a website, you upload the files from your computer to a server where they will be stored. For this, you need a web host.
What is a web host, you ask?
A web host provides data storage space so you can keep your website online. This means that you are using the server’s resources to store your website online and make it accessible to visitors.
Resources such as bandwidth, random access memory (RAM) and hard drive space vary depending on the web hosting plan you choose.
Once you upload the website files to a server, the host is responsible for making the files accessible to users. However, besides web hosting, you also need a domain name system (DNS) to ensure that users can find your website through a web browser.
Types of Web Hosting Services
Knowing about the different types of web hosting will help you better understand how web hosting works, so you can decide which option is best suited for your needs.
Below are the four most popular types of website hosting:
1. Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is when multiple users share the same server resources, including storage space, bandwidth and memory.
Building a website using shared hosting requires no technical knowledge, as it comes with pre-configured options. This option includes managed web hosting so there is no need for you to handle maintenance.
This is also the most affordable web hosting option, suitable for small-scale businesses looking to build their websites with simple configuration and without breaking the bank.
Given the affordability and simplicity, shared hosting is a very popular type of web hosting, especially among startup owners and affiliate websites. However, there are some drawbacks too, such as limited storage space and bandwidth limit.
- Affordable – typically between $2 and $13 per month
- Requires no technical skills
- No maintenance required
- Bandwidth limits
- Higher traffic on shared websites can affect your website’s speed
2. VPS Hosting
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is when you share a server with other websites, but your website gets a dedicated space on the server.
How does this work?
Each website in VPS hosting is hosted on a separate virtual partition and gets a set amount of resources to use.
In this type of hosting, you can make changes to your dedicated virtual server and you’re not restricted when it comes to the type of software or programming language you will use. Compared to shared hosting, this is a big upgrade.
It’s a great choice for medium-sized businesses and online shops that are growing quickly.
- Dedicated virtual server for your website
- Flexibility regarding the software you use
- Scalability – you can get more storage and accommodate more website traffic
- Affordability – between $18 and $100 per month
- Maintenance of your dedicated server is up to you
- Some technical skills for installation and management are required
3. Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting, which is increasingly gaining popularity, uses cloud resources to make websites accessible to users.
What does that mean?
While traditional hosting stores data on a physical server, cloud hosting uses multiple interconnected virtual servers, which translates to better performance.
It basically splits a physical server into several cloud servers that are connected and form a network for website hosting. Because of its connected nature, cloud hosting is also sometimes referred to as cluster server hosting.
- Availability – if one server goes down, your website will keep running thanks to the rest of the servers
- Handles high traffic easily
- Scalability – your website is not limited to one server
- Greater security compared to shared hosting
- More expensive than VPS hosting or shared hosting
- Requires cloud expertise
4. Dedicated Hosting
As the name indicates, dedicated hosting means that you get a dedicated server for your website. In this type of hosting, you have full control over your server so you can configure it, customize it and choose a software and operating system that works best for you.
With dedicated hosting, you get all the resources you need for running your website. However, you are responsible for maintaining it. You also need to be tech-savvy because you will be the one installing the operating system and all the tools necessary for running your website.
However, in some dedicated hosting plans, you can hire a team (provided by the web host) to handle maintenance, setup and more for you.
This type of hosting is ideal for large businesses handling high traffic on a daily basis.
- Complete control over your server
- Resource availability
- Stable website performance
- Expensive – the most expensive option out of the four, ranging from $100 to $500 per month
- Technical expertise required
- Maintenance is your responsibility
Self-hosting is the practice of running and managing your own website or application by locally setting up a network and server.
Instead of utilizing a public cloud provider or platform-as-a-service, self-hosting a website allows you to run your networks.
With self-hosting, you are in control of the server and responsible for website development or application creation, uptime, and maintenance.
- Total control over data
- Potentially lower maintenance costs
- Full customization
- Easier monetization
- Tailored email integration
- Huge responsibility
- Tedious site management, backups and troubleshooting
- Inadequate site security
- Subpar quality and performance
6. Managed Hosting
Managed hosting is a web hosting model where a service provider leases hardware and a dedicated server to the client.
The hosting company takes care of the server or application setup, management, administration and 24/7 support.
Their services also include updating operating systems and patching, managing equipment and network infrastructure, plus ensuring basic security measures are in place. They monitor any malicious activities and remedy security threats when detected.
- Reduces cybersecurity risks
- Flexibility and speedy solutions
- Access to up-to-date technologies
- No server storage or network
Top 5 Web Hosting Providers
There are a variety of web development companies offering web hosting platforms available, with varying features, resources, website speed and pricing. When choosing a web hosting provider, consider all the options and compare prices, features, scalability, and other factors to find the best fit.
Here’s our list of the top web hosting providers:
HostGator is a great platform for websites that don’t require a lot of extra features or pages.
Pricing starts at only $2.64 per month so it’s a cost-efficient solution for hosting your website.
Another great thing about HostGator is that you have access to detailed guides when it comes to technical support. And if you can’t figure something out, you can use live chat, email or phone support.
HostGator also offers the option to upgrade to VPS hosting, cloud hosting or dedicated hosting, depending on your needs.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular hosting platforms in the world, BlueHost is very beginner-friendly, so it’s a great solution if you’re launching your first website. You also get a free domain name as well as a website builder.
The platform guides you through the process when you’re doing something for the first time, such as setting up your email account. There is also live support 24/7 via chat or phone so if you have a problem, you can reach in-house support team at any time.
It’s very easy to install WordPress or any of the apps available in the BlueHost marketplace.
Pricing starts at $9.99 per month but BlueHost often offers plans at reduced prices.
Another perk of using this web hosting provider is the fact they offer a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can try it out and if you don’t like it, you can get your money back.
GreenGeeks is known as an eco-friendly web host, meaning that they use renewable energy to power the websites.
GreenGeeks prides itself on offering easy on-boarding with automatic WordPress installation that takes just a click. Aside from WordPress hosting, they also offer the option to get shared hosting or virtual private servers.
Another good thing about GreenGeeks is that the platform offers daily backups for your website and automatic updates, so it’s easy to run a website on this platform.
Pricing starts at $10.95 per month for the Lite hosting plan. They also offer Pro and Premium plans which are a bit costlier. Keep an eye out for special discounts!
You can also opt for hosting like a rocket as a GreenGeeks alternative. Take a look at this rocket.net review to find out what it can do for you.
DreamHost is another popular web hosting platform that offers free website migration services as well as a free Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate. This certificate authenticates your website’s identity and facilitates encrypted connection.
The platform is ideal for website beginners as it features all you need to get started and WordPress is pre-installed so no need for technical skills.
DreamHost is known as the most affordable hosting solution. Pricing starts at just $2.59 per month for the basic plan called Shared Starter and $3.95 per month for Shared Unlimited.
Shared Starter allows you to run a single website using their web hosting services, while Shared Unlimited lets you run unlimited websites. Free domain is available for both plans.
5. A2 Hosting
A2 Hosting is another cost-efficient website hosting platform that is known for great speed. The headline on the home page of the website reads “Blazing Fast, Low Cost Shared Web Hosting” and it really provides just that.
This platform too offers free site migration services with each plan. It’s also very easy to set up since installing WordPress, Magento or Drupal takes a single click.
A2 Hosting offers multiple hosting plans, and often offers discounts as low as $2.99 per month for the basic Startup plan.
They also offer Drive, Turbo Boost and Turbo Max plans, depending on how fast you want your website to be as well as the resources you require.
How To Get Started With Web Hosting?
Getting started with web hosting is very straightforward if you follow a step-by-step process. The best part is that you don’t necessarily need to be very tech-savvy, because many of the platforms are geared towards beginners. This means that anyone can build and publish a website in no time.
Here is a step-by-step process of how to get started with web hosting:
Decide What Type of Web Hosting You Need
Before choosing a provider, you first need to decide what type of web hosting services you need.
This can depend on many factors, including:
- The size of your business
- Your technical knowledge
- Resources you will need to power your website
If you’re starting a business and want to build a low-cost website without the need for technical skills, shared hosting is a good solution. On the other hand, if you run a medium to large business and expect high traffic, dedicated hosting is an ideal solution.
Ultimately, the choice depends on your current needs and your budget. When the time comes, you can easily scale your website to support more traffic, customize your server or get access to more resources.
Choose a Web Hosting Provider
The next step is to choose a web host to store your website files online. If you’re wondering exactly how to choose a web host, consider your website needs and compare the top web hosting providers, including the companies we listed above.
Web hosting providers vary when it comes to pricing and technical knowledge required. DreamHost is the most affordable option suitable for beginners, so if you’re just starting out, it’s worth considering it.
When you decide on a web hosting provider that suits your needs, simply purchase a monthly plan to get started.
Register a Domain Name
Besides a web hosting provider, you also need a domain name to run a website. You can buy a domain name and web hosting services from the same platform, for example, BlueHost or HostGator, or you can go to Domain.com and purchase a domain name there.
Your domain name is part of your unique resource locator (URL) and it’s what helps users find your website. When choosing a domain name, use something similar to your business name to maintain consistency.
There is a possibility that your desired domain name is already taken, in which case you will need to come up with a variation of the name. You can check if your desired name is available and browse domain names that are up for sale using a tool such as Instant Domain Search.
Most web hosting platforms offer parked domain names and DNS services as well, but some don’t. However, this isn’t a problem because there are many domain name providers available for name purchasing. Just take your pick!
Create Your Website
Now you can start building your website. This can be a simple website with only a handful of pages (homepage, about us page, contact page), or if you run an online shop, it can have numerous product pages too.
When building your website, think about the information you want to include and what you want to achieve. Ask yourself:
- What do you want users to do on your website?
- What information will you need to provide?
- What questions might users have about your product/service that you need to answer?
Make sure the website is structured in a way that makes it easy for visitors to find what they need quickly. Your website should be easy to navigate and optimized for an excellent user experience.
When visitors land on your website, they should be able to understand what you do quickly and find the information they’re looking for.
You can outsource this to a web design and development company or you can handle it in-house. Some free website builders such as WordPress or MailChimp make it easy to create a website without any coding skills, so even beginners can do it.
Many startup owners create a free website on Wordpress.com first, then later, when their business grows, they migrate the site to WordPress.org which is also free to use but you need to purchase hosting.
But if you want a more professional, optimized website, consider investing in an experienced web design agency for a custom solution.
An essential element of your website is content. You need content that helps users understand your offering, and the benefits of your product or service.
To produce high-quality, useful content, research your target audience and their specific pain points so you can address them in your web copy and blog posts. You can write the web content yourself, of course, but it’s worth considering a professional content writer to handle this task.
Publish Your Website
Finally, when your website is ready, all that’s left is to publish it.
Sometimes, it can take a few days for your website to go live. This is because of propagation, a process that takes place when a new domain name is registered or when you move your website to a new server. A domain’s DNS information must be updated across the web.
During the propagation stage, your website might not be accessible on all devices or might display security issues. However, this only takes 28-48 hours to resolve.
How To Choose a Web Hosting Service in 3 Steps
In building a website, one of the most important decisions to make is selecting a web hosting service. We'll break down the process of selecting a web hosting service into three simple steps:
1. Identify Your Website Requirements
Determine the purpose and objectives of your website.
The right web hosting provider can help support your platform with the right building tools so you can create the look and feel you envision for your web pages. Your web host should be able to provide your site with speed, reliability and ample storage.
Keep in mind that a host that works for another site may not necessarily be the best fit for you. That is why you need to ensure you get the one that meets your specific business needs.
2. Consider and Compare Site-Building and Bundled Package Options
On the one hand, you can choose a service provider that offers both web hosting and building. You can build your website with them while getting hosting as part of the package.
Weebly, Wix, Shopify, Squarespace and Blogger are popular web-builders that also provide hosting services.
On the other hand, you can opt for a web hosting service that is separate from your site -builder. This will work best if you are creating a completely customized site.
3. Take Note of These Key Considerations
Do your due diligence and read about your web -builder and hosting options. Then, shortlist your top choices based on what you need for your site and the services to help meet these requirements.
These are the key factors to examine when making your decision:
- Signup and renewal costs
- Ease of use and management settings
- Customization costs
- Support services
- Cancellation policy
- Web hosting environment
Website Hosting FAQs
How Much Does It Cost to Host a Website?
Web hosting costs can range from $4 to $450 every month. The pricing will depend on the type of plan you subscribe to.
For instance, shared web hosting tends to be the more affordable option compared with other forms since you will share a server with many sites. A dedicated host can be pricier because it will provide you with your own server.
Can I Host My Website for Free?
Yes. There are several platforms available to host a website for free on-demand.
However, note that no-cost hosting services offer limited bandwidth and storage capacities. These also tend to display ads.
What Is the Difference Between Web Hosting and Web Server?
Connection is primarily what sets web hosting and web server apart. The former only needs to be connected to the internet while the latter needs to be connected to the internet and LAN.
A server is an automated software product where web hosting functions. A host can run one or multiple servers catering to numerous websites. However, there are types of servers that do not offer hostings, such as email, gaming, file, and database servers.
Wrapping Up On Web Hosting
Now you know what web hosting is, how it works and how to choose the best solution for your website. We covered the most common types of web hosting, including:
- Shared hosting
- VPS hosting
- Cloud hosting
- Dedicated hosting
We have also discussed the top providers for hosting a website including:
- A2 Hosting
Once you identify the web hosting services and providers that match your needs the best, you can purchase a domain name and web hosting services and start building your website.
Follow our step-by-step process listed above to get started with web hosting — best of luck!