Web Hosting Explained
A web host is simply a home for your website. Put in simple terms, this is a computer which is connected to the Internet all the time (24×7) so that users looking for your website can connect to this computer and view the information that your website has to offer.
Well then you may ask, ‘if I connect my own computer to the internet and keep it on all the time, then can I host my website on my own computer?’. Well, theoretically, yes, you can. However, in practicality, this is not a good idea since there are multiple factors which can make your website go offline like your connection breaking, your ISP not giving you a fixed IP, electricity outages at your home etc. Web hosting companies take care of all these contingencies by having fixed IPs, multiple connections to the Internet, power backups and all measures to ensure that your website is up all the time (most decent hosts promise 99.9% uptime). This, and the fact that web hosting costs only $8 to $15 a month, makes going for a web hosting service the best possible choice.
How do I go about buying a web hosting service?
This depends a lot upon what type of site you want to host, what’s your expected visitor volume and how much control you need on the website. At one end of the spectrum, you have free hosting options (which won’t allow you to use your own domain name) while at the other end, you have high-end dedicated servers that can handle thousands of users at the same time.
If you are just starting out and are want to create your own blog or simple website using the world’s most popular blogging platform WordPress – you can use WordPress.com. It allows you to use your own domain name (charges are about $11-$18 per year) and is easily the cheapest option for hosting WordPress based sites. Note, that WordPress can be used to create blogs as well as static websites. The main disadvantage of hosting with WordPress.com is the extremely low flexibility you have in running and configuring your site.
On the other end of the spectrum, the most sophisticated hosting provider for WordPress is WP Engine. Note that WPEngine is one of the best WordPress hosting providers in the market, however, it is also expensive.
As a beginner in website development, you should host your website with hosting companies offering Shared Hosting. Shared Hosting means that your website is stored on a computer which also stores other websites – i.e. the server is shared with others. This hosting is affordable and the best option for beginners. This usually costs between $8-$16 per month. You can check our comprehensive comparison of the best web hosting companies or directly jump to our recommendations on the best web hosting for beginners.
The best providers in the shared hosting space are SiteGround and DreamHost. This site is hosted on Hostgator and I have had my sites hosted on BlueHost as well. I would recommend SiteGround as their customer support is way better. We had tried Godaddy as well, but chose to move away from them due to issues with their customer service.
Most Important things to look for in a Shared Hosting Provider
- Customer Service: Trust me, when things are fine, you don’t care, but when things go wrong, the speed at which the customer service responds and fixes things can be a major factor in you not losing your customers or your Google rankings.
- Control Panel: This is the interface given to you to manage your website. Most good providers use cPanel. However, be sure to go through the demo of the web host’s interface to know whether it is user-friendly or not.
- Quick Installers: Again, most good hosts provide you with a click-to-install interface for installing popular scripts like WordPress. Ensure that your hosting provider provides you with the same. If you are new to web development, then creating a WordPress installation using the file manager is way more complex than a single click installation.
- Reviews, Reviews, Reviews: Do trust the opinions of other users. Do not look for one-offs but for patterns in either exceptionally good service or consistently bad service. For example, we have had good experiences with Hostgator and BlueHost so we gladly recommend them. We have had one bad experience with Godaddy, so we won’t’ recommend them, but won’t ask you to avoid them either.
As a beginner, you should also go through the guide on understanding costs of web hosting to ensure that you don’t get ripped off by a deep new user discount.
We hope this web hosting guide for beginners was useful to you in understanding what web hosting means and how to choose a good web host for your website. Do let us know your comments, questions or any suggestions on how to improve this web hosting guide in the comments sections below. We will highly appreciate a Like, Share or Tweet using the social sharing buttons.
Photo Credit: ivanpw on Flickr. CC Licensed