What is web hosting and how does it work?

Web hosting is a service that allows you to have a website on the internet. Web hosting companies provide the servers, data centers and other technology necessary to connect a website to the World Wide Web. When you sign up for a web hosting plan, you are essentially renting virtual space on the hosting company’s server. Without this service, you would have to provide all of your own technology, which would be very costly and require a great deal of expertise!

Anyone with an internet connection can start a blog or website, provided that certain conditions are met. The first thing you need is a domain name, which is your address on the web, sometimes called an URL (which stands for Uniform Resource Locator).

What is web hosting?

Domain names can be registered with companies called registrars, which in some cases are the same companies that provide web hosting. You can read a previous article which details the differences between a domain name and web hosting in a very interesting infographic.

Domains, Web Hosting and Web 2.0 Sites

It’s possible to have an online presence without a domain, but this limits your capabilities. Some people use free services such as Blogger.com, WordPress.com (which is different from WordPress.org, for which you do need a domain), Tumblr and others. These are sometimes called Web 2.0 sites, and they allow you to set up your own pages.

Some sites bridge the gap between Web 2.0 sites and web hosting companies by allowing you the choice of using their domain or purchasing your own. On Blogger.com, Wix or Weebly, for example, you can use your own domain for an additional fee.

Weebly.com

There are several benefits to having your own domain. For one thing, it’s easier to rank your site with the search engines. Without a domain you are also at the mercy of the third party site that you are using. If you have a Blogger blog, for example, Google (who owns Blogger) can delete it at any time if it decides you violated its TOS (which it’s very easy to do unintentionally). With your own domain, the site is yours and you have complete control over it!

You can register a domain for approximately $10 per year. The only requirement for choosing a domain name is that it has to be unique – i.e. no one else has already registered it. You should also be careful about issues such as copyright infringement. You may be allowed to purchase a domain name that contains a copyrighted name (such as Apple, eBay, Walmart, etc.) but it could get you into trouble later on. Your domain name consists of a name of your choice followed by an extension, such as .com, .net, .org, .info or many others.

You can either purchase a domain name first and then get web hosting, or do them together as a package.

Let’s look at some of the different options for web hosting.

What to look for in Web Hosting

Once you have decided to get web hosting, your choices are almost endless. Hundreds of companies are competing to get your business, and each one claims to be the best web hosting company. When choosing a web host, you should do plenty of research and look at all of the features they offer. Here are some criteria you can use when comparing web hosting companies.

  • Basic Features

    How much disk space and storage does the web hosting plan give you? How many domains, sub-domains and add-on domains can the hosting plan support? The latter questions are important if you plan to create multiple websites.

    It’s best to get a hosting plan which supports unlimited disk space and bandwidth, as well as unlimited add-on domains. This will allow you to host multiple websites under a single account.

  • Building a Website

    How easy is it to build a professional website with the host? Many web hosts offer website building tools that are geared to beginners. If you’re an experienced programmer, you won’t care about this, but this is very helpful for newbies. A good website builder gives you many templates and features so that you can customize your site to your specifications.

  • Extras

    Web hosts often throw in “extras” to entice people to sign up. This may include a free domain name registration (usually for only the first year) or advertising bonuses such as $100 Google AdWords or Facebook ads coupons.

    These extras should only be secondary reasons to choose a web host, but they can be nice and save you some money on something you might have otherwise had to purchase separately.

  • Support

    You want to be able to reach customer support any time of day or night. Look for companies that offer 24/7 support, preferably via email, live chat or phone.

  • Price

    You have to consider the cost of web hosting along with all of the other factors. You shouldn’t choose a web host simply because it’s the cheapest, but if you can find a reasonable one that excels in other areas as well, it makes perfect sense to select that one.

    When comparing web hosting prices, you have to look at the terms, such as whether you can pay monthly or you have to pay for a year or more up front. Different companies also offer different money back guarantees. Bluehost, for example, has an “anytime” money back guarantee, that allows you to get a refund on any unused portion of your plan at any point.

    If you want to find out more, you can visit Bluehost official website.

  • Reputation

    The reputation of the web hosting provider is very important as well. You can analyze this in a number of ways. You can look at how long the company has been in business and how many sites it hosts (the bigger companies will tell you this).

    You can also look up customer reviews on the web. Reviews and ratings don’t tell the whole story – sometimes people will criticize a company for something that wasn’t really its fault, but if you read enough reviews you can get an overall picture of how well it satisfies its customers.

Different types of Web Hosting

Web hosting types comparison

Web hosting comes in many varieties. Different varieties of web hosting come with various features and the prices vary from one type to another.

  • Shared Hosting

    The majority of website owners have what is known as shared hosting. This simply means that resources are shared among many different users. This saves space, and allows you to buy shared hosting plans at cheaper prices. Any advertisements you may see for hosting that costs less than $10 per month is almost certainly for shared hosting.

    There are many web hosts that are well known for offering reasonably priced, high quality shared hosting. Let’s discuss two of the more popular ones.

    1. Bluehost

      Bluehost, for example, offers one shared hosting plan that can be as low as $3.95 per month, depending on what kind of promotion the company is offering. For this rate, you get unlimited domains (in case you want to have multiple websites on a single account), unlimited hosting space and email accounts.

      Get the best discount from Bluehost by following our promotional link. This will reduce Bluehost’s price from $6.95/month to $3.95/month.

    2. HostGator

      HostGator is another well known web hosting company. One difference between them and Bluehost is that HostGator has 3 separate shared hosting plans to choose from. This can be seen as either an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it.

      Their “Hatchling” plan, which is currently less than $4 per month is the cheapest, but this only allows you to have a single domain (you can only have one website on this plan). If you want to have multiple domains, you can choose the Baby plan for $6.36 per month or the Business plan for $10.36 per month.

      For more about HostGator, see: HostGator.com. For the benefits of our readers, you can use an exclusive coupon code to get 25% off their hosting plans. Enter this coupon code when you order from HostGator: BLUEGATOR25.

  • VPS Hosting

    Another type of hosting worth mentioning is VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting. This is for people who want a more secure, flexible and advanced type of hosting than they can get with shared hosting. VPS hosting is more costly, but it has some advantages if you plan to have a large or if your website gets a lot of traffic/visitors. VPS is also great if you want to host multiple sites reliably.

    With VPS hosting, you are still sharing resources with other users, but in a way that gives you your own unique space and bandwidth with which you can do what you want. This allows you to configure your own server or run your own batch files. You will also have access to a higher level of support than you’d get with shared hosting.

    Many web hosting companies offer this option, but Bluehost is exceptionally good for this type of plan. They offer a variety of VPS packages, starting at only $14.99 per month.

    They have several other costlier plans as well, but the good thing is that you don’t have to pay for resources you won’t actually be using. You can always upgrade to a more advanced plan later as your site grows or you start getting more traffic. For more about Bluehost’s VPS hosting, see: http://www.bluehost.com/vps.

  • WordPress Hosting

    Still another type of web hosting to consider is a web host that specializes in hosting WordPress sites. Many people decide to install WordPress, as it’s the simplest and most popular blogging application around and it’s free!

    Most web hosts, including the ones we’ve talked about today, make it very convenient to install WordPress. On Bluehost, for example, you can install WordPress and many other scripts in a single click using their SimpleScripts installer.

    However, if you want the best possible support for your WordPress site, you should consider using a web host that only deals with WordPress. For this, I would recommend WP Engine, a company that offers several different plans depending on how many WP sites you have and what kind of traffic you get. While WP Engine hosting is more expensive than ordinary shared hosting (their least expensive plan is $29 per month), it offers many advantages over traditional hosting!

    WP Engine gives you more speed, efficiency and security for your WordPress sites than you could get with an average web host. Even more importantly, you have access to expert support if you need advice on issues like WordPress plugins or other technical issues. Finally, they guarantee the security of your site, promising to fix it for free if it ever gets hacked. This is an option worth considering if you have one or more WordPress blogs!

Windows vs Linux Hosting

Linux vs Windows hosting

Web hosting is generally done on either a Linux or Windows operating system. Linux is the more popular choice, and is generally less expensive. For this reason, most new website owners (whether they are aware of it or not), end up choosing a plan that uses Linux.

The most notable benefit of Windows hosting is that you can run .NET and .ASP scripts. These are programming languages that are quite popular and allow you to run a variety of applications, from CMS software to ad management programs to poll scripts. Of course, you can find other ways to install such applications, but some people prefer these type of scripts.


Some of my readers often ask me, “I am using a Mac computer, can I use Windows web hosting? Do I need to find a web hosting that’s based on Mac OS?”


Actually, there is no relationship between your local computer’s operating system and whether or not you can or should use Windows hosting. For example, you can have a Windows OS and still use Linux hosting, or have a Mac computer and have Windows hosting.

If you do want Windows hosting, your choices are more limited as not all web hosts offer it. The aforementioned HostGator, however, is a good choice for Windows (or Linux) hosting. Another web host with a good reputation for Windows hosting is Lunarpages, which has Windows hosting plans for $9.95 per month.

Conclusion

There are many factors to consider when you are looking for a good web hosting company. We’ve covered some of the features that you should look for and suggested a few good web hosts for different purposes. Before making a final decision, you should browse a few web hosting sites and see how you like them. Aside from comparing the various plans, prices and features, you should find the overall site appealing and easy to navigate. You should also decide what type of hosting will best suit your needs, e.g. shared hosting, VPS, Windows hosting, and etc.

Web hosting is the first step when it comes to building a successful website. Once it’s in place, you hopefully won’t have to give too much attention to it. However, finding a reliable web host is essential so make sure you make your choice wisely!