What is Web Hosting & Why Do I Need It?
If you’re getting ready to launch a new website and learn you need to connect with a web hosting company, you’re probably wondering what this entity is and how you benefit from working with them. On this page, we’ll go over some of the basics of web hosting and answer a few common questions people have as they explore their options.
What is Web Hosting?
A web hosting company stores your website and puts it online for people to view. You can liken it to the property your house sits on. It holds your house and connects to a road, so people can drive to it. In this case, however, your web hosting company stores all the files associated with your site and connects to the Internet, so people can find it.
Can I Host My Own Website?
Technically, you can. It’s not a whole lot different than storing files on your computer aside from the fact that it needs to be set up in a specific way so people can access it online. However, the computer would need to be built well in order to handle all the files and traffic, plus you’d need to keep it on all the time. That usually results in massive electric bills and could be impossible if your Internet provider drops your connection on any kind of regular basis. Ultimately, most people, including computer gurus, prefer to use a hosting company because it’s costly to host your own sites and it can be a serious headache. Plus, outages mean your site is unavailable, and if this happens, people visit less. Google may also drop your site from the rankings for being of poor quality.
But I’ve Had a Website Without Web Hosting Before?!?
Many website builders and blogging platforms take care of everything for you. This may have been the case if you used a platform like Squarespace, Weebly, WordPress.com, or Blogger. There are e-commerce site builders like Shopify which work the same too. They offer tools that let you build a site and manage the hosting, but it’s all integrated into one service, so it’s easy to overlook the hosting aspect.
What’s the Benefit of Splitting Up My Hosting and Website Builder?
If you’re trying to DIY and you don’t have tech skills, a platform that combines hosting and website builder can be helpful but bear in mind the free versions tend to have serious limitations and ads, while the paid versions are still difficult to customize fully. That in mind, when you graduate to a professional site and work with a developer, he or she will design your site with your specific needs in mind and will require access everything on the back end. That means leveraging a builder or framework such as WordPress (the .org variety and not the .com) and having the site’s data professionally hosted.
How Much Does Web Hosting Cost?
Web hosting can be surprisingly inexpensive, starting at just a few dollars per month. However, if you have a resource-intensive site, perhaps you have a ton of data or millions of visitors, you’ll need something a bit more robust.
What Are My Web Hosting Options?
There are typically three different categories for web hosting. Each has benefits and drawbacks.
Shared hosting is kind of like staying in a historic hotel. You and everyone else there are sharing the same amenities, like bathrooms, air conditioning, hot water, and items on the breakfast buffet. If a family of seven gets up before you, you’re getting a cold shower and plain oatmeal for breakfast. In the case of web hosting, though, your site may be sluggish if one of your neighbors gets a ton of traffic or they’re doing something that consumes a lot of resources. The degree to which this happens will vary based on your hosting company—some are fantastic and balance the loads fairly well, while others don’t seem to particularly care. However, it is the least expensive way to go, with most options under $5 per month and some even under $1.
Way on the opposite end of the spectrum is having a dedicated server. It’s like owning a vacation home. You get to customize it to your heart’s content, but you’re also usually responsible for things like maintenance and security. Because of this, you’ll either need to be a computer guru or hire one. However, you’ll never have to worry about what your neighbors are doing because you’ll never see them and you don’t share the same resources. As an aside to this, you may find companies that now offer management of your dedicated server. If you’ve got someone to manage your dedicated server, the raw costs for the server can be about the price of a few cups of coffee from one of the swanky shops, but if you’re paying for management too, it’s going to be over $100 per month. The cost will vary based on how you set it up though. You could easily be spending several hundred.
Semi-Dedicated or VPS
Somewhere in the middle is having a semi-dedicated server or virtual private server (VPS). It’s kind of like having a townhome or patio home. You’ve got neighbors close by and you’re tapped into the same resources, but you each have your own preset allocations. If your neighbor uses all the hot water on his side or likes to keep his home like the arctic, it doesn’t impact you. So, although you’re sharing the server with other sites, you each purchase a certain amount of resources. If anyone goes over theirs, only their site is impacted. Traditionally, these hosting services are like dedicated ones; you’re responsible for maintaining it, but some hosts will maintain it as well. Pricing varies but is usually one-third to one-fourth the price of a dedicated server.
Which Type of Web Hosting is Right for Me?
Most people are good with shared hosting or semi-dedicated/ VPS. An experienced developer can talk you through which package is ideal based upon how you intend to use the space; the size of your site, the traffic it will receive, etc.
In terms of which companies are best, it’s a good idea to check reviews before selecting a company. Some web hosting companies have bad reputations for being down a lot or providing sluggish service. If you’re working with a web developer, he or she may also be able to make suggestions based on experience.
Still Have Questions or Feel Overwhelmed?
At JJ Social Light, we provide web development and web design services. We ask all our clients to get set up with hosting, based on our minimum requirements before we begin work. However, we’re also glad to walk people through what they need to do and make suggestions based on what they’re trying to accomplish. If you’re in the market for a professional website or are one of our clients, contact us for a free consultation and we’ll walk you through everything.