What is Web Hosting?
How to Choose the Right Web Hosting: Shared vs. VPS vs Dedicated vs. Cloud vs. Reseller
ALEX JASIN | FEBRUARY 16TH, 2017 | UPDATED: AUGUST 18TH, 2017
When you make a website or blog, you’ll be storing (or “hosting”) your files on a server, so that people can access them through the internet. When someone types in “www.YourWebsiteAddress.com” into their browser, they’ll be taken to the server hosting your files.
In case you’re curious (I know I was), the dictionary defines web hosting as “the activity or business of providing storage space and access for websites.”
The internet is basically a global network that links millions of computers. This connection allows for fast communication from one computer to the other.
So when content is published on the internet, this shapes what we now would call your website or blog. And your website can only be made easily accessible through a domain name and web hosting.
By registering a domain name, you’ll gain a website address that users are able to make a search for online to find your website. After you set up your web hosting, people will be able to gain access to view what you publish on your website.
Web Hosting Providers
I’m throwing a lot at you, and you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. We’ll slowly unpack this information together, and I promise you’ll understand more after you finish reading.
Before we dive into who needs web hosting, the different types of web hosting, and where you go to get web hosting – I want to give you a quick overview.
If you’re just starting to make your website, something you’ve probably noticed is how many web hosting providers there are to choose from (all claiming to be the best):
I’ve mostly used Bluehost for web hosting and domain registration, both for myself and my web development clients. I even wrote a guide on how to sign up with Bluehost.
They’re really affordable, have good customer service, and are perfect for both beginners and enterprises alike — but there are many quality web hosting companies that offer hosting plans for relatively low costs:
For most websites and businesses, the popular choice is get set up with one of the above web hosting service providers and start developing your site.
The main exceptions would be if you’re thinking about choosing a website builder, or if you’re setting up an eCommerce store and don’t code (you’ll probably want an eCommerce site builder like Shopify or BigCommerce).
No matter which host you pick, let’s dive into who needs web hosting and the different types of hosting options available.
Who needs web hosting?
You’ll need web hosting if you match any of the following:
- You want to create or own a website or blog.
- You want to join the blogging community.
- You’re excited about starting an online business.
- You want to get in the web hosting business.
- You want to use the internet to sell some of your products or services.
If any of the above describes you, web hosting is something you’ll definitely need. You really can’t achieve these goals without hosting.
Why do you need web hosting?
Your struggle with web hosting may not be what it is, but rather why you really need it. If this is your issue, or if you need a reminder of why web hosting is important, read on.
Since you already know if or not you need hosting from the section above, understanding why should be relatively easy.
To explain the why, below are 3 simple reasons.
1. It’s only through hosting that your content can be widely consumed
While creating content can be easily done in the comfort of your home or business, you will need the internet to distribute that content. That’s where the need to be on social media (which is hosted on the web) and create a website or blog comes in.
To build a website and share it with the world, you’ll need web hosting. While you can do this yourself, it’s technically demanding and might prove very expensive.
So if you don’t have the technical expertise or the unlimited resources needed, you will want to try out web hosting services.
All in all, you’ll need hosting if your content is going to be made available to large groups of people through internet
2. Web hosting takes away the hassle
Think of web hosting like renting a house. You pay a monthly or annual fee to a company, and in exchange you can rent out space in their servers.
Through this space, your web pages and files are stored and made available to the public. In this whole process, you don’t need to do any of the hard work to set up or maintain your own server.
In fact, you don’t need to understand a single line of code or spend time learning it. All you need to do is follow the hosting provider’s instructions, click the buttons that need clicking and make your payments.
You won’t even need to remember when the next payment is due, as you’ll receive numerous reminders in your email.
By taking over the technical stuff, a web hosting service provider lets you concentrate on what really matters: Running your business.
3. You don’t really have an alternative
You have a message that you’re dying to share with as many people as possible, right? Well, making a website or blog will help you achieve that.
And to start one, you’ll need web hosting. There’s no way around it. Simply put, you’ll need hosting because it’s the only option you’ve got.
Where can you get web hosting?
Why you shouldn’t self-host
If you’re super tech savvy, you might know that it’s technically possible to host a website through your personal computer.
While this is true, it’s not all that practical. You’ll need hosting software installed in the PC for that to happen. Your computer will need to be on at all times. You’ll need to make sure that your computer never crashes, even once. Can you do that? For one website?
If you host your site on your personal computer, you can’t afford a power failure or a day off. Your computer would need to run 24 hours a day, every day, in order for users to access your website with ease. And the more visitors you get to your site, the heavier and more advanced equipment you’ll need.
You can also personally host a website through own servers at home. But this will require you to have near unlimited resources. With self-hosting, you’ll be in charge of every technical aspect required to maintain the servers and connect to the internet.
So unless you have the time and money to cover setbacks, cooling, upgrades and constant headaches from the process, web hosting service providers will be your best bet.
About web hosting service providers
A web hosting service provider, or web host, is a company that rents out their server space for your website. There are hundreds of providers to choose from, but here are some of the best known providers:
These web hosting companies own the servers, through which your website or blog is allocated space and availed on the internet.
Simply put, a web host is like the computer you’re using to browse the internet and read this guide.
If you download an image, song or video, you’ll need to save these files in a specific folder that you create in the computer. The same applies when you want to save a Word document or a video you created.
Using this example, web hosts act like your computer and their servers work like these folders (where you save files).
So when you want to setup a website or blog, the web host allocates you a space on their servers where you can store your files. This space is measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB) just like in the computer.
This way, when people search for your content, the web host is able to retrieve the files you stored and serve them to these users, as instantly as possible.
When creating a blog or website, your first step is usually to sign up for web hosting services. It’s important to note that different web hosts will have different hosting packages at varied prices.
Types of Web Hosting Services
Understanding the different types of web hosting and their importance can get a bit complicated. But I’ll try to make it as easy and nontechnical as possible.
There are six main types of web hosting:
- Shared hosting
- Cloud hosting
- VPS hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- Reseller web hosting
- Managed hosting
Now let’s go a bit more in depth about each type of web hosting:
- Shared Hosting
I decided to start with shared hosting because it is the most common of hosting services. It is affordable for everyone and requires little responsibility. This type of hosting is available from as little as $2 per month to as high as $15.
The name says it all. It involves users of a certain hosting provider sharing space on the same server. This kind of hosting is like sharing house space with a roommate(s).
For instance, if you choose to host your website with Bluehost and opt for shared hosting, your site will be hosted on a server that is already hosting hundreds or thousands of other websites.
You can use shared hosting if you are just starting out, don’t have many users to slow down a site, are looking for something simple, and are on a tight budget.
Unless you’re running a very large organization or highly engaging online business, most times you’ll find shared hosting to be more than enough.
A big disadvantage with shared hosting is that other sites can slow down the performance of your own website. This can be rectified by your service provider through a move to a different server. Or you may have to upgrade to a different type of hosting.
- Cloud Hosting
If a web host is not touting their cloud hosting options in 2017, something’s very wrong. Though existing in early years of the 21st century, cloud hosting has only become popular in recent years as technology advances.
With this type of hosting, everything you get is virtual or “in the cloud”. Your website is built on the cloud and allows you to upgrade easily when visitors increase. This is because cloud hosting is possible through several servers that act as one main one.
This is unlike in shared hosting where you need to upgrade to a different plan when traffic to a site grows, failure to which your website may shut down.
If you choose to host your website through cloud hosting, you can be sure that increased traffic will not be a problem. This is because you pay for the resources and space you use every month instead of that which you are likely to use.
However, hosting providers still provide preset cloud hosting plans that range from as low as $7 (think Bluehost) to as high as $240 per month (think SiteGround). If you’re starting out and don’t have an open budget, cloud hosting may not be an ideal option. You might accumulate a bill you’re not able to pay for.
- VPS Hosting
VPS or Virtual Private Server hosting is a powerful package that hosts few users on one particular server.
Unlike with dedicated hosting where one server is allocated to one individual or entity, VPS shares one server among a set several users.
This kind of hosting allows for better performance and more available space at a cheaper price than that of a dedicated hosting. In fact, we can call it the middle ground between shared hosting and dedicated hosting.
If you’re looking for hosting that will not compromise your site performance as a result of increased traffic but don’t have the budget to own a server, VPS hosting should meet your requirements.
Again, while VPS promises better performance, you get what you pay for as the hosting packages vary. Starting at about $20 (Bluehost & NameCheap), you can expect to part with up to about $80 or more depending on term paid for.
- Dedicated Hosting
This type of web hosting is the true definition of money talks. With dedicated hosting, you own the resources you use. At no particular time, will you share these resources with someone you’ve not given permission to.
The web host you choose to host your website with avails a server that is solely dedicated for your use. They provide support and management for your server, replace hardware, and provide all fixes that may arise during the term of your hosting.
But ownership and dedication comes at a high price. To subscribe for dedicated hosting services, you can expect to part with an amount ranging from $99 (InMotion) to $500 per month and more. The price will depend on the hosting provider as well as the package you want.
With dedicated hosting, you are assured of a large amount of disk space, uninterrupted performance and fast loading speeds for your users. Unless the server is faulty, everything is expected to run smoothly.
- Reseller Web Hosting
Like its name suggests, reseller web hosting is an option that gives you the power to resell web space. This is mostly common with web developers or people getting into the web hosting business and don’t have a budget for servers.
This web hosting works basically as an extension of the shared hosting package, allowing users to host multiple websites from one account.
Reseller hosting provides resellers with a different control panel than the usual, where client accounts can be easily managed.
Users are able to easily manage billing, storage and functionality of their clients’ websites. Prices for reseller web hosting services can start at $11 per month and go up to about $70. This is, of course, dependent on the provider and package you choose.
Reseller web hosting is for website developers and designers, or someone looking to get into the hosting business. Any other person should be content with shared or other hosting.
- Managed WordPress Hosting
Being that WordPress is winning at being the most popular Content Management System (CMS), web hosts are offering managed WordPress hosting. While you can easily install WordPress by following instructions on shared hosting, this particular hosting plan does everything for you.
If you select WordPress hosting, you don’t need to access the control panel to start installation for WordPress. All you have to do is select the hosting plan you’re comfortable with and everything else is done for you.
Now, pricing for WordPress hosting varies from one hosting provider to the next. For instance, SiteGround and InMotion Hosting charge the same monthly fees as they do with shared hosting. There is no difference at all.
On the other hand, Namecheap is $1 cheaper and providers like Bluehost, Hostgator and Name.com charge more than they do on their shared hosting plans. Prices range from $4 (SiteGround) up to $149 (Name.com). So again, pick your website battles carefully.
How to select the right web hosting
First things first; only you can decide the web hosting that is right for you. I can tell you of the features, advantages, disadvantages, give my recommendations, and even use phrases like “this has got to be the best for you”, but the decision ultimately lies with you.
This is because you understand your needs and target market better, know the type of business you want and the budget you have. But while all is said and done, there are several factors to consider before settling on a web hosting service.
What to look for when selecting a web hosting service
- The web space you are paying for
To reiterate what we mentioned earlier, web hosting is the art of paying for space on a server owned by a web host. This space we pay for determines how much information or how many files we can save on the website.
Different web hosting providers offer different web spaces. For instance, a starter plan for Bluehost will provide 20GB of web space at about $3 per month, while that of SiteGround will offer 10GB space at about $4 a month. These two prices are for shared hosting.
With such a difference in options, you may want to take time in choosing which plan serves you best.
When it comes to bandwidth, you’ll be looking at the anticipated number of monthly visits. At the beginning, bandwidth or data transfer may not count as much since you’ll most probably have few visits.
However, as your site grows in traffic, you’ll need more bandwidth. If you can get unmetered and have the budget for it, then go for it. Alternatively, you can opt for cloud hosting as it easily adapts to any increase in traffic.
- Policy on bandwidth usage
Unfortunately, many people forget to pay attention to the terms of service and conditions. Who even reads the T&Cs, right? Well, you might want to. On most occasions, users will click on the box adjacent to “I have read terms and conditions…” and proceed to checkout.
Doing so when the bandwidth you are paying for is limited may cost you when your website traffic increases. To avoid this, ensure the hosting plan you’re going for is clear on the consequences of exceeding bandwidth usage. The devil is in the details.
Some services may result into an unplanned website shut down, others will give you early warning and others will extend the bandwidth but charge you a higher price than normal.
- Email addresses count
With every hosting plan, service provider and type of hosting you select, there is an email address count. This information is listed under features for every plan available. If you’re looking towards having more than one email address, you need to select web hosting that allows it.
If yours is a business and you need to set up several people with an email address, select the option that allows for this. Preferably, you can go for the one offering unlimited email accounts. This way, you don’t have to worry about running out and needing to upgrade.
Like any other service or product, you get what you pay for with web hosting. At least this is true with many reliable web hosts.
This means that while you may want to go for the cheapest option available, don’t allow price to control your decision. Cheap is expensive and you might learn just how true this statement is the hard way.
So while it’s important to watch the budget you’re working with, ensure you don’t miss out on an important feature because you didn’t want to pay that extra dollar.
Web hosting is a requirement for anyone looking to create a website or start a blog. Without hosting, your website will only be available to you.
To make it live and available to internet users, you’ll need to select the right web hosting and purchase a domain. These two work hand in hand, and without one, the other is useless.
So whether you’re starting a website for business or personal pleasure, you’ll need to web hosting.
The only decisions you’ll need to make is the type of web hosting ideal for you, which web host to use and the hosting plan that works best. I hope this guide helps ease the decision making.