What is web hosting?

Can’t have a website without it

When you set up your website, there are a few basic terms and concepts you should get your head around. Aside from registering your domain name (for example, YourBusiness.com), the other main service you’ll need to get sorted is web hosting.

Listen to learn more about website hosting

So, what’s web hosting and who needs it?

Web hosting is the technology that makes a website viewable to people around the world. A web host owns the servers where your website lives (home sweet home). If you’ve just registered a domain name and intend to use it for a website, you’ll need to buy web hosting.

Web Hosting Young Woman Looking Curious
A web host provides the digital space where your website resides on the web.
Photo: Gleren Meneghin on Unsplash

Once you’ve created your website, you (or your web designer) will upload the site files (logos, banners, product images and the like) to your web host, and update your domain name info (YourBusiness.com) to point to the digital location where these files are stored.

How hosting works

When visitors arrive at your website, a few important things have to happen so they can view your web pages:

  1. Their browser requests information from your domain name.
  2. Your domain name tells their browser where your website’s files are located.
  3. Their browser requests the files from your web host.
  4. Your web host sends them the files so they can view and browse your website.

Usually, all of this happens in just a few seconds — all without your site visitor knowing it.

Is there ever a case where you don’t have to buy hosting?

The only reason you might not need to organise website hosting is if:

  1. Your website designer hosts it for you on their own server.
  2. You use a DIY website builder that comes with built-in hosting, like GoDaddy’s Website Builder.

But don’t worry — hosting is easy to set up and a relatively small expense for most small businesses.

What about WordPress websites?

If you have a website, you’ll need website hosting to store your site files — yes, even if you go with WordPress.

The WordPress platform is open source, which means it’s free software you can use to build and manage your site. But you still need a place to store the files for your website (aka your website host).

For more on how to choose the best WordPress hosting plan, check out this post.

How much does website hosting cost?

Right now, GoDaddy’s Web Hosting plans start at a few dollars a month for a Basic plan. You’ll want to keep an eye on their site, as plans occasionally go on sale.

Generally speaking, the more space, speed and features you require, the more you can expect to pay.

 

The cost of hosting your website depends on a bunch of factors, including:

Space

In other words, how big your site is and how much storage space you need for your files. Large sites or those that store lots of space-hogging files — a wedding photography site, for example — need more space than small, information-only websites.

Number of sites

The cost could also depend on how many websites you need to host. Some people have multiple websites and find it most convenient to store them on the same web host.

Number of visitors

Web Hosting Gaming Keyboard
High-traffic websites (e.g. gaming or eCommerce) need costlier hosting than low-traffic sites.
Photo: Euwen on Unsplash

How many visitors you expect to come to your site also affects your web hosting costs. An eCommerce or gaming site that attracts a lot of visitors needs more bandwidth than an informational website.

Level of support

What level of support you need also comes into play. Are you willing to manage installation and maintenance yourself or do you want everything done for you? In addition to 24/7 support for all hosting plans, GoDaddy offers three levels of maintenance for its Dedicated Servers.

Platform

Price could also be affected by which platform you choose to build your site on: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or one of the many other content management systems out there.

Extras

Any extras you need to package up with your hosting, like a domain name, email, subdomains or an SSL certificate will add to the cost.

Plan

Whether you choose a monthly or yearly plan impacts your cost. Many providers offer a discount for longer contracts.

Fortunately, most website hosting is easy to increase or decrease, to adapt to changing needs. Usually, you can start small and upgrade your plan as you get more traffic and sales through your site. For some businesses, it’s worth paying a little more to make sure you have certain features and a quality web host you can rely on.

For a more detailed look at pricing, read this article on the cost of website hosting for small businesses.

10 things to look for in a quality web host

I’ve put together a super-simple checklist to help you choose the best website host for your business. If you can’t find the answers on a potential host’s website, use their online chat to ask them about the following points.

Web Hosting Open Shop Sign
Your website is visible to the world only as long as your web hosting is up and running.
Photo: Mike Petrucci on Unsplash
  1. Support. Do they offer 24/7 phone and chat support in case your website goes down for any length of time?
  2. Reputation. Consider the reputation, experience and scale of your web host. Smaller web hosts could deliver a less consistent service because they have fewer resources at their disposal.
  3. Storage. If they advertise unlimited storage, check the fine print to make sure you understand exactly what this means, as it can vary between providers.
  4. Bandwidth. If your host offers unlimited bandwidth, make sure you read the Terms & Conditions so you don’t get overcharged or end up with a super-slow site.
  5. Flexibility. Ask the web host if they can easily increase your plan and handle extra visitors if you get a sudden influx of traffic.
  6. Uptime. Check if the host you’re considering offers a guarantee of uptime. For example, GoDaddy guarantees 99.9 percent uptime for websites hosted on their servers. If your hosting service goes down, your website becomes unavailable to customers.
  7. Price. You’ll need to make sure the web host you’re looking at offers something that not only fits your budget, but provides value for the money.
  8. Security. Find out what security and malware/virus protection they offer, if any. This is a growing area of concern for everyone.
  9. Backups. Ask if they offer backups, in case you need to revert to an earlier version of your site due to a malware or ransomware attack.
  10. Options. Make sure the host offers a range of flexible plans and options to suit your needs as your business grows and changes.

Read more tips on finding the best hosting company for you here.

Ready to get started?

A few final tips …

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the tech. Learning is a journey! If you’ve engaged a web designer, ask your web designer for advice on the right website hosting plan for your needs. Alternatively, go directly to your web host for advice on your situation.

A good web host will help you make more sales, thanks to consistently fast page load times, close to 100 percent uptime and great customer support.

Don’t waste your time and money on a dodgy hosting plan. You’ll risk downtime, bad customer service, lost traffic and a drop in your search engine rankings — all bad for business!

Image by: Le Buzz on Unsplash