How would you like to own a website?
Now I know what you’re thinking…
It’s probably expensive and complicated.
Here’s the thing though: It’s actually inexpensive and easy!
I know I just threw your entire world for a loop, but allow me to explain. With blogging platforms like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal out there, designing and building a website is easier than its ever been.
On top of that, web hosting only costs a handful of dollars per month, and your actual web address (the domain) is just $10 for the entire year!
I can tell your interested, but you’re unsure how to proceed. It’s almost like you need a guide to web hosting for beginners or something.
Not to worry my friend, you’ve come to the right place.
Go ahead and grab yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever your beverage of choice is, and settle into a comfy chair because I’m about to bring you the ultimate beginner’s guide to web hosting!
Here’s what we’ll cover today:
- An overview of web hosting
- The types of hosting to choose from
- The difference between your hosting and your domain
- How to choose the right hosting for your website
An Introduction to Web Hosting
When I first heard the term “web hosting” I had no idea what it was. To be frank, I didn’t know how websites work so the idea went right over my head.
I knew that if I typed an address into my browser that I would go to that website, but that was the extent of my knowledge on the inner workings of the internet.
Fast forward to now and I can practically talk about this stuff in my sleep. Web hosting is essentially the place where your website is stored. If you want to show someone something or share a document with someone, you have to attach it to an email or upload it. They can’t just reach into your computer and read it, it needs to be online.
Websites function in a similar way. They need to be placed on a server in a data center that can “host” the files and put them online for all to see at any point during the day or night, every day of the year.
If the internet was a museum and your website was a priceless artifact, then the hosting service you choose is how you put that artifact on display for all to see.
Web Hosting, Servers, and Data Centers?
Those three terms above all connect together. A data center is essentially a place where servers are stored. They come in a variety of sizes, but their goal is to keep the servers online and running, with security in place to protect them and backup power in case of an emergency. If those servers go down, so do the websites on them.
Have you ever visited a website, only to see an error? That’s what it looks like when a website is down. No one can get it, which is bad for business. That’s why it’s such a big deal that web hosting services have very little or no down time.
Within these data centers you have servers, which are essentially super computers that have a direct connection to the internet. They take all the pictures, designs, and posts on your blog and put them online so people can visit your site.
The actual hosting service you pay for is actually space on one of these servers. You are essentially renting out a stage for your website to put on a show for the concert that is the internet.
Next we’ll take a look at the types of hosting you can choose from.
The 4 Types of Web Hosting
Now that you know what web hosting generally does, it’s time to delve deeper into the different types. The differences between these choices generally changes the amount of storage, control, and speed you have access to.
Generally speaking, there are four types of hosting, so let’s take a look at each one:
1. Shared Hosting
This is the basic entry-level for most websites and blogs. This type of hosting has your website on the same server as a number of other sites.
There can be a few others, or a few thousand, it really depends. With all of the websites using the same server, the power is divided among them. Even so, you won’t need any technical knowledge here. This is a simple and easy way to get your website online.
The bottom line:
- Shared hosting is great as an entry-level option
- You don’t have any control over specifics (perfect for those who just want to get started)
- With resources being shared, other websites on the server can affect your site’s performance
- Not enough speed to handle high traffic levels or massive spikes
2. VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting
This is the next step up for websites that need a little more control with their hosting. This type of service takes one server and divides it up into multiple “virtual servers” that are self-contained within the larger physical one.
You’re still sharing space and resources with other sites, but with this type of hosting you will have a greater control over the root access and a more secured environment for your website.
What you need to know:
- This option provides you with more stability and control than shared hosting
- High traffic and spikes can still affect performance
- Other websites on the server can also affect your websites performance
3. Dedicated Server Hosting
This is the big daddy of them all, a server of your very own to host your website on. All that power, all the control, and all of the perks that come with having your own space are ripe for the taking when you choose this approach.
Sounds perfect, right?
- Dedicated hosting works as advertised: it’s the ultimate combination of power and control.
- That being said, it’s expensive.
- This is the solution only for massive sites that need these capabilities.
4. Cloud Hosting
Before we can talk about cloud hosting, we need to establish what a “cloud” is, and no, it’s not condensed water in the upper atmosphere, I can see you smirking from here. Clever jokes aside, in terms of technology a cloud is a collection of servers working together to store or host information.
When you choose cloud hosting, your site is hosted by an entire group of servers hosting other sites on the cloud. This approach is great because servers can move resources around to handle traffic spikes and limit performance drops.
- Cloud hosting is a little expensive, but it offers a good middle ground between shared and dedicated hosting.
- There isn’t any root access, so control over server settings and certain software isn’t an option.
Web Hosting Vs Domains: What’s the Difference?
You’re practically an expert at hosting now, but we’re not quite finished yet. Next up we have your domain name. This is essentially the name of your site (and the web address people use to reach it).
Here are some examples of major domains:
Domains come in a variety of forms as you can see above. Sometimes they end with a .com (the most popular) or sometimes they have a .net, .org, or others. There cannot be two identical domains on the internet so you may have to try more than once to find a name that isn’t taken.
That being said, you can switch out the last part if the .com version is already taken. Large companies typically purchase multiple domains and variations to ensure that no one can take a modified version of their websites name as their own.
When you’re just starting out though, such precautions aren’t needed. There are a number of websites called domain registrars where you can purchase the rights to a name. Doing so ensures that you can use that web address.
If you’re unsure of where you want to purchase hosting, but you know you want to lock in a domain name, you can purchase this first for around $10 a year and secure the name. Here are some websites where you can register a domain name:
- Network Solutions
If you’re ready to purchase your hosting and your domain, many sites will offer both. In some cases, you can even get the domain for free!
The Difference Between Your Web Hosting and Your Domain Name
In order to own and maintain a website, you’re going to need both web hosting and a domain name. Understand the differences between the two will help you figure out how to best approach your first site.
Your domain name is the web address that your website will have. It doesn’t constitute an actual website, it’s just the name. Say you bought a domain called suspiciouscats.com (dedicated readers will get that joke).
If all I did was buy that domain, when I type that address into my web browser, it won’t go anywhere. I’ve bought the rights to use that name, but it’s not attached to a website yet. You can think of it like a piece of land that you purchased, but you’ll need web hosting to build anything on it.
How to Register a Domain Name
Registering your domain (check out that step by step tutorial) name takes more than just a fantastic website idea. You’ll also need to provide some additional information during the process. An organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for providing the guidelines that registrars use to collect the proper information.
Customers who wish to register a domain name must provide the following information:
- Contact Info
- Any information on their organization or business
- In some cases employer details will also be required
This information is used to prove that you qualify for the domain that you’re trying to register. For example, .org domains are reserved for organizations, not just any individual. Likewise, if you want to use a domain with a .us or .uk, you need to prove that you live in those respective places.
These are called Top Level Domains or TLD’s for short. They are strictly regulated, hence the information you’ll need to provide. In some cases, other extensions are used based on the nature of the website. If you see a .biz then it’s a business for example, and .edu is reserved for schools, universities, and colleges.
Do I Need WhoIs Data and Domain Privacy?
Another thing you will need to consider when registering a domain name is the option to mask your information online. Every domain name has a public record that shows the owners contact information and when the domain expires. This is called a WhoIs record.
It’s very easy to access this information, which means that just about anyone can acquire this information. Nothing too sensitive is displayed here, just your name and contact information. That being said, spammers can take this information and use it to try and send you renewal notices designed to make you switch to their company, or send solicitations.
It’s not the end of the world, but it can be frustrating. If you don’t mind dealing with spam or the occasional fake invoice, then this isn’t totally necessary. That being said, if you’d prefer to have this information private, you can do so. Just look for the WhoIs privacy option when registering your domain name.
How to Choose the Right Hosting For Your Website
So you have all the knowledge you need. It’s time to purchase your hosting and register your domain. This is an important decision, so it’s not one to be made lightly. You’ll find tons of different hosts out there, all of whom offer different plans and prices.
You’ll want to check out customer reviews, statistics, and the various plans on offer before you make your decision. Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of Web Hosting Hub. I’ve used them for a number of my websites (including this one!) and they’ve always been a reliable provider.
They also offer great prices and a free domain if you sign up using that link above. Can’t beat that, now can you?
You’ll be up and running in minutes. To help you make your decision, consider these key questions before you decide:
- What is the uptime guarantee? Anything less than 99% isn’t worth your time.
- Where are the servers located, do you have a choice between locations?
- What type of support is there (online, phone, email, etc.)?
- Are there any free setup assistance options?
- What are the renewal fees and terms (you’ll probably pay a full price when you renew)
- How easy is it to scale your plan based on your needs?
- What security and backup measure are in place?
- How long have they been in business?
- What is the refund policy?
- How many clients are assigned to a server for shared hosting plans?
These are all important questions to ask yourself before you sign up for hosting.
Make sure you bookmark this web hosting for beginners guide, this information will come in handy when you’re shopping for the best options. Remember that you’ll also need a domain name with your hosting to fully set up your site.
Are there any tips you would suggest for beginners? What hosting service do you prefer and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below!