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What is website hosting?
Big or small, if you’re a business owner it’s pretty safe to say you have (or are thinking of having) a website, and that’s great. The problem is many people struggle to understand the basics when it comes to making a website work to its full potential and web hosting plays a key part of this. Whilst you can’t have a party without a host, the same goes for a website, a site simply can’t exist or even start thinking about attracting visitors without a place to hold it. Not everyone is a web developer and unfortunately being clued up on web hosting just isn’t on the agenda for most website owners, but it needs to be.
There’s a place here to touch on the difference between web hosting and domains, much to the contrary of popular belief, the two are not the same thing. A domain is essentially used to identify web pages, for example in the URL http://www.mywebsite.com/index, the domain would be www.mywebsite.com. The purpose of a domain name is to point to a specific server and web host, meaning that whether somebody searches for your website directly or stumbles across it on a SERP, they are taken to the correct server where all the files and content held on your website can be delivered to them.
With this in mind, the place and purpose of website hosting becomes a little clearer. The website host is where all of your websites attributes (think: files, content, analytics, media) are kept safe; ready and waiting to become available to you and your visitors when needed. When it comes to website hosting, it can help to think of your site as a tenant looking for somewhere to live. You, the website owner are renting a space for which your site can happily live online, the host acts as the landlord in this scenario, and guarantees visibility of your site to all users at all times.
In short, web hosting is all about making your website visible, reliable, fast and safe.
Different types of website hosting
Understanding the importance of web hosting for your site is one thing, but it’s a completely different ball game when it comes to choosing the right type of hosting for you. Every website is different and requires different things to make it work as best it can, in general the types of hosting out there can be split into three categories:
How do I chose a website host?
- Shared hosting
This is usually the most affordable option and pretty much does what it says on the tin; a single server working away to host a number of different websites, all of which sharing the server’s resources. Whilst this option can be fairly easy to work with, a downside of shared hosting is limited capacity; if other websites are using up the resources it can mean lower performance for you.
- Virtual server/ virtual dedicated server
Some similarities to shared hosting here, except the servers resources are nicely split between the different websites. This option can lead to better functionality and performance for your own website as it doesn’t really matter what the other sites are up to, there will be no impact on yours.
- Dedicated server/ managed server
With dedicated server hosting, each website has its own server, meaning you, the proud website owner can take the reins and have a little more control. This can be a bit more pricey (largely depending on the level of performance provided by the server) and will likely require a bit of technical know-how to keep things ticking over. Choosing this type of website hosting will also open you up to a number of sub categories, such as a managed hosting service. With this, you can hand all aspects of server management (including maintenance and modifications) back to the web host service provider.
Cloud hosting is the newest addition and is growing in popularity by the day, it’s affordable and means you only need to pay for the services you use. It’s also been held as a fairly reliable option, being completely independent from a specific physical server and instead connected to a group of computer servers, making if difficult for failure to be a problem.
You’ll need to compare a fair few providers before making a final decision on your perfect web hosting service, but here are a few things to consider:
- Site performance
The web host you choose to go with and the plan you have set up will have an impact on the speed and uptime (a measure of reliability, usually a percentage of time something has available and working correctly) of your site.
If you get the website hosting right, you’ll have access to a whole host of brilliant features that will help your site be the best it can possible be. Think along the lines of security scans and automatic back ups.
- Visitor capacity
The whole point of having that shiny new website is to attract visitors and a good web host will be able to handle a sudden influx of visitors, the last thing you want is a popular website that cracks under the pressure.
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