So you need a website, but have absolutely no idea where to start?
First off, you’re not alone. While most of us spend a LOT of time online these days – Zoom call 10, 343 anyone? – building a website of your own can feel pretty intimidating.
But what if I told you that creating a website is a lot like throwing a party? Like any bash worth its salt, you just need to find the right host – in this case, a web host.
1 – What is web hosting?
Imagine for a moment that you’re organizing a huge party, and the whole internet is on the invite list.
That’s more people than you could ever fit into your own home. So naturally, you’ll need to find another space to host the event.
That’s where web hosting services swoop in to save the day. A web hosting service, as the name implies, hosts websites for people. They rent out the server space – or publicly accessible venue, to continue with our party metaphor – where you can create and maintain the content displayed on your website.
2 – Why do I need web hosting services?
Web hosting services are like a wedding planner and venue rolled into one
Not only do web hosting services provide a location to store all the excellent stuff that makes up your website, but they also provide handy tools to help you build and manage that content.
Even the best-organized parties can hit an unexpected snag. Thankfully, many web hosting services offer 24/7 support with options to speak to someone via email, telephone, and live chat. It’s like having a team of top-tier event planners on speed dial, ready to swoop in and save the day if the caterer runs late or the wrong flowers get delivered.
Finally, let’s say you already have a host for your website, but you’re thinking of upgrading to a swankier venue. If you want to break up with your current web host, web hosting services will often help with hosting migration, letting you easily transfer your website from one host to another with a few clicks.
3 – What are the different types of web hosting?
There are many types of web hosting – or venues – to choose from when deciding where to house your website. This section will cover two popular options: shared hosting and virtual private server (VPS).
The type of web hosting you pick generally determines two things: 1) where will your website be physically stored and 2) how many other websites are housed on that same server.
A single server can store multiple websites at the same time, depending on the size of the website. Imagine a reception hall with multiple rooms, each one simultaneously hosting a different wedding, Bat Mitzvah, and retirement party.
Some websites might share a server with hundreds of other websites. Meanwhile, other websites are big enough to require an entire server to themselves.
As for pricing, some types of web hosting are more expensive than others. To understand why this is, imagine you’re apartment hunting. Renting a cozy room in a four-bedroom apartment would certainly cost less than leasing a whole house with a lush backyard to yourself, right? The same logic applies to web hosting types, in that storing your website on a shared server or computer is usually the thriftier option – hurray for roommates!
Here’s a helpful breakdown of four different types of web hosting you might encounter while shopping around for a web hosting service:
- Shared hosting means that your website is stored on a single computer alongside several other websites – simply put, the hosting space is shared, just as its name implies.
- Because you and your fellow digital roommates are sharing the computer’s resources, you’ll also save money – just like in a real-life rental situation.
- However, the downside of sharing resources is that if one of your co-tenants experiences increased traffic or a cyberattack, it could also affect the speed or security of your website as well.
- Taking it back to our party example, if 100 unexpected guests rush into the bachelorette next door, attendees at your birthday bash might have to brace themselves for a longer-than-usual wait in line to use the shared bathroom facilities. Similarly, if someone breaks into the coatroom in the foyer of the venue to steal a wallet, they might also use the opportunity to make off with one of your guest’s coats.
Virtual private server (VPS)
- Let’s say you’re fine with sharing the venue, but you want a little more privacy. Thankfully, many web hosting services offer virtual private servers (or VPS) to store your website on.
- Similar to shared hosting, the VPS software itself is installed on a physical computer, stored alongside other websites. The difference is that by opting for VPS web hosting, your website is somewhat partitioned off from those other sites. Think of it as reserving the VIP room in a restaurant – you’re still eating in the same building as everyone else, but the dining experience feels more private and exclusive.
- You can also sometimes opt for a virtual dedicated server (VDS), which works just like a VPS with the added bonus that some of the computer’s hardware components (like CPU and RAM) are set aside for just your website to use. Now your VIP room has a separate entrance and a private bathroom that no one else in the restaurant is allowed to use.
4 – What are hosting plans, and how do I pick one?
Once you’ve decided on the type of web hosting that best suits your needs, it’s time to pick a hosting plan.
Hosting plans are essentially an agreement laying out how much you’ll pay to store your website, and what sorts of helpful web hosting services are included in that fee.
Essentially, a hosting plan is a rental agreement – how much are you paying per month to rent the space, and what utilities and amenities are folded into that amount.
Plans are typically billed on either a monthly or annual basis. A quick pro-tip: While you’ll pay more upfront, opting for a plan with annual billing often offers a bigger initial discount and saves you money for that first year of service.
The price of a plan goes up depending on the size (often measured in gigabytes) and resources of your website, and the number of services you need.
When picking a web hosting plan, think seriously about your needs:
- For instance, if you’re building a website for a small business with less than 10 employees, a web hosting plan that comes with 150 email addresses might be a tier in price above what’s practical for your needs.
- Similarly, if your website features lots of data-hefty content, like high-quality photo galleries and HD videos, a plan offering a roomy 10GB of disk space could be the better choice versus one with only 1GB.
- On the other hand, sometimes all you need is a little helping hand. For example, if you already have a website through WordPress, but are tired of dealing with the endless updates and maintenance, you can get a Managed WordPress plan to handle that headache for you.
5 – What is domain hosting?
So, you’ve found the perfect venue to have your party in, picked a room equipped with everything you need, and signed a rental agreement. Now all you need is an address to put on the invitations, so guests know where to go.
This is where domain hosting comes in.
While the terms “domain hosting” or “domain name” might be totally foreign to you, I guarantee that you’re already a pro at using them.
That’s because domain names, or URLs, are what you type into a browser’s address bar to visit different websites. For example, www.rebel.com is the domain name for the website you’re on right now.
6 – Web hosting vs. domain hosting? Huh?
There’s a simple way to differentiate between domain hosting and web hosting.
Imagine you’re going camping, and you’ve invited a friend to join you in the wild.
- Web hosting is the space itself – the plot of land, the stretch of forest – that you’ve rented for the weekend. It’s the place where you’ll set up your tent and roast your marshmallows. It’s where the website itself, and all its excellent content, is stored.
- Domain hosting lets you create a domain name that acts as a set of directions to the space where the website is stored. It’s the coordinates you’ll text to your friend to punch into their GPS on their drive up.
Both domain hosting and web hosting are separate services that you pay for via a monthly or annual plan.
7 – OK, but how does domain hosting really work?
As we’ve already chatted about, websites are stored – or hosted – on servers, which are publicly accessible computers. All the stuff that makes up your website is housed on the server.
When you sign up for domain hosting, you’ll create a unique address that links to your website. You can even pick from a humongous menu of domain extensions to cap off your address, from familiar standards like “.com” and “.ca” to off-beat options like “.shop” or “.sucks”.
Let’s say your address is www.rebel.com. When you type “www.rebel.com” into your internet browser’s address bar, or click on a link like this, your browser starts looking for the computer associated with that domain name.
Domain hosting services ensure that all the right connections are in place so that browsers can use the domain name you’ve selected to locate the exact computer or data centre where your website is hosted.
From there, a polite back-and-forth of requests is kicked off. Invitation in hand, the browser asks the web server if it could display the files that make up the website, please and thank you. Fun fact: web servers support a wide range of file types including: html, css, images, video and pdf, just to name a few.
If the web server can find the files, it sends them back to the browser and poof – the website appears on your device screen.
If they can’t find what was requested – if you misspell the domain name, for example – the server returns an error message to the browser and redirects you to an error page.
8 – What does a web hosting company do?
The real question is, what doesn’t a web hosting company do? If you’re building a website, a good web hosting company is a one-stop-shop for everything you’ll need to get your site up and running.
Web hosting companies give you a space to store your website, offer tools and services to improve the quality and security of your content, help you set up domain names and custom email addresses, and offer expert tech support.
On top of that, many web hosting companies also offer domain hosting services to help you easily find and register multiple domains, transfer or renew a domain name, or uncover all available public information about any domain using WHOIS database search tools.
Some companies offer account management services, where someone else takes care of managing transactions and domain maintenance on your behalf.
Think of a web hosting company as the ultimate event planner for your Internet-wide party: they coordinate with the venue, ensure that the decorations are popping, double-check that the activities are set up properly and running smoothly, are on-call 24/7 if anything goes wrong, and even help you mail out the invitations!
9 – How do I pick a web hosting company?
There are three main factors to consider when selecting a web hosting company.
First, what type of web hosting do you need?
- It really all depends on the sort of party you’re hoping to throw!
- For example, if you want to build a personal website or blog, or a small business website with no built-in e-commerce, then shared hosting is a great, inexpensive option.
- On the other hand, if you’re looking to launch a high-traffic business website or a full-on e-commerce shop, then you’d likely benefit from the increased performance and security offered by VPS hosting.
Second, what services do you want?
- When picking a web hosting company, take a moment to sit down and think about what kinds of services you might need.
- Try to imagine what your needs will be as a customer when browsing and comparing web hosting companies
- For example, do you get some of your best work done on evenings and weekends? In that case, you’ll want to make sure that the web host you go with offers 24/7 customer support.
Third, what’s your price range?
- Web hosting services can be incredibly affordable, with some basic plans starting at prices as low as $3-7 per month. However, plans with more features, functionality, and storage space can easily inch that price up by hundreds of dollars.
- Having a price range in mind when comparing web hosting companies and plans can help you decide which is right for you.
10 – Which web hosting company is best for my business?
There’s no universal answer as to which web hosting company is best for your business’ website. As this post explained, each business has different needs, and a good web hosting company should be able to accommodate all of them by offering a range of packages, and services to choose from.
Some web hosting companies will even helpfully name their plans according to the type of user best suited to them. For example, Rebel offers Personal, Startup, and Business Hosting plans, in addition to their does-exactly what-it-says-on-the-tin Managed WordPress plan.
At the end of the day, it’s your party! Make sure it goes off without a hitch by picking a web hosting company that has your back from start to finish. (Hint: like the one you’re on right now ;)