How to Host a Website

by | Jun 13, 2017 | Web Host How-To

These days it seems like everyone and their mother has their own website. With so many different blogs and niche sites out there it must be easy to create and manage your own page, right? Well, that is true, but the fact is that a lot of different things go into web hosting. To help you understand this process, we are going to go over all of the basics of hosting as well as what you can do to host your own website. Whether you’re looking to get into blogging or you want to start an online business, it’s imperative that you understand everything there is to know about this process and how it works.

What is Web Hosting?

At its core, this system is where a particular site or service stores your website on a server so that it can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Essentially, what this means is that all of your website data is stored on a hard drive and connected to the internet so that you or anyone else can access it when you type in the right domain.

So how is this different from storing everything on your computer and skipping the middleman? Well, the reason to use a web hosting service is that you don’t have to worry about using your server to keep your site online all the time. When you think about it, you want your audience to access your page any time of day, which means that you have to maintain a stable connection and keep it open 24/7. The cost of doing that can be high when you consider things like electric bills and wireless capabilities, so it’s usually better to have someone else handle all of that, so you get professional results.

Also, if you don’t have the tools or software to build a site from scratch on your computer, it can be hard to do anything without using a web host. Most of the time they will have programs you can use to create all of the elements of your page, such as backgrounds, buttons, and functionality (email, subscriptions, eCommerce, etc.)

What About Domain Names?

When you look at most web hosts, you will see that a lot of them will offer a free domain or some kind of domain name hosting as well. If you’re new to the world of hosting, then you might get confused as to what each of them are, so allow us to explain.

A domain name is the address to your website. This is what people will type into their search bar to find your page. Each domain is unique, and it has to be registered for it to be active. You’ll notice that domains have different endings, such as .com, .net, .org, and so on. For the most part, that suffix is important as it will tell you the type of website that it is and where it comes from. For example, if you use .org then you are most likely an organization, while a .gov means that it’s a government website. The suffix can also change depending on the country, with many of them using their own suffix to signify the origin of the site. For example, the United Kingdom uses co.uk, and Japan uses co.jp.

In the end, a domain is simply the address of your site, and it has to be unique. You can attach multiple domains to the same location if you want (such as mywebsite.com, mycoolwebsite.com, mywebsite.net, and so on). The reason for that is if you want to make sure that your audience can find you even easier. For example, if your site name is millerwebsite, then you might want to register miller.com, millersite.com, and millerwebsite.com just to be safe. That way, your audience will find you even if they don’t have the exact right address. This is mostly helpful for large companies who want to ensure that competitors or detractors don’t buy domains that can hurt their reputation (such as millerwebsitesucks.com).

Domain Registrar vs. Website Hosting

Many web hosts will offer domain name registration as a service, which means that you can either create a new domain through them or transfer one that you already own to that site. As long as the domain is registered with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), it is legal to have, and you are the sole owner of it.

Registering your domain is necessary to have a website, but web hosting is more than just that. Hosts also store all of your website data and images so that you can build the page that corresponds to your domain. Both are necessary to get online, but they are two different services so don’t get them mixed up.

Types of Hosting

There are four ways that you can host a website: shared hosting, VPS hosting, cloud hosting, or dedicated servers. Let’s go over each method and how they work.

Shared Hosting

This is by far the most common method for putting your website online as it is the most cost effective and easiest to use. The way that it works is that all of your data is stored on a server along with a ton of other websites. The “shared” part of the name comes from the fact that there are dozens, hundreds, or thousands of pages all on one server. Shared hosting usually means that you have limited disk space and bandwidth, but some hosting services are allowing unlimited options with the idea that you won’t take advantage of it too much.

The benefit of using shared hosting is the price and ease of access, but the downside is that you are limited in how much traffic you can get at one time. If your site starts to blow up and get bigger, you will most likely need your own server to handle the overflow.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting

As the name suggests, in this case, you are getting your own digital server for your site, which means that you have greater access and control over how it operates. However, because it is all digital, your data is still being stored on a physical hard drive with other sites, meaning that you are still somewhat limited in how much you can do. Overall, VPS hosting is for people who want the control of a dedicated server without the cost or the unlimited resources that can come with it.

Dedicated Servers

In this instance, your site is on its own server, meaning that you can process as much data as you can afford. This is helpful for large sites that get a ton of traffic as you don’t have to share disk space, RAM, or bandwidth with anyone else. As you can imagine, this all comes at a high price. Ideally, you will be making money from your high traffic to cover such costs.

Cloud Hosting

These days, more and more things are being stored and handled in the “cloud.” That term refers to a network of servers that work together to handle things like traffic spikes and bandwidth issues. Whereas before this was all done through physical infrastructures such as modems and cables, now it can all be done remotely over the internet. This service does cost a bit more than shared hosting and doesn’t give you root access to change server settings, but it can handle high volume websites and gives you better control than shared or VPS hosting.

Hosting Terms

While it’s imperative that you know and understand the different methods for web hosting, it’s equally crucial that you familiarize yourself will all of the terms and lingo that gets tossed around on these kinds of sites. If you don’t know what something means then you cannot take advantage of it, nor will you be aware if it can help you or hurt you. Here is an overview of the most common hosting terms that you should memorize.

Bandwidth

This term refers to the rate of speed with which you can transfer data online. Back in the day, it required a ton of bandwidth to send large files like videos over the internet, which meant that you had to pay extra to get it done. Fortunately, these days it’s getting cheaper to transfer data online (thanks partially to the cloud) so bandwidth is not as big of an issue. Usually, most web hosts will offer unlimited bandwidth under the assumption that you’re not running a video streaming service or anything like that.

Disk Space

This refers to the amount of hard drive space you will have on the server. With shared hosting, you might be limited in the amount of disk space you receive since you are being stored with other sites. However, some hosts have unlimited storage capacity (again, under the assumption that you won’t take advantage of it). This space is measured in gigabytes (GB). If your host does limit your storage, then you will have to upgrade if you need to store more files on your page.

Databases

Whenever you use a third-party system to build your website (such as WordPress), you have to have a database to help manage everything that you do. Because you’re not programming everything yourself (such as buttons and page functions), the database acts as the brain of the site. Typically, you will get as many databases as you have websites, with some hosts offering a limited supply of both or unlimited, depending on the route you take.

WhoIs Data

Whenever a domain is registered, there is a list of contact information to show who registered it so that anyone can contact that person or entity for any reason. This data is made public so that people can verify who owns a particular domain. The purpose of this information is to allow for better online tracking just in case of fraud, hacking, or anything else that will require holding someone accountable for the domain.

Overall, web hosting is a relatively straightforward business as long as you know what you’re doing. As we’ve covered the basics, you should have a much better understanding of how it all works and comes together, meaning that you shouldn’t have any problems hosting your own website. Happy hosting!