Are you unfamiliar with web hosting and unsure of how to begin the whole process? The objective of this guide is to provide a rudimentary understanding of the mechanics of web hosting.
What is Web Hosting?
In the simplest terms, a web host is a company that offers web hosting services. A web host can also be the computer or server that houses the files that make up a website, making them accessible on the internet, but, for the purposes of this guide, it’s safe to assume that when we mention a web host, we are referring to the company.
Who Needs Web Hosting and Why?
When you’ve designed your website’s backend and frontend and have chosen and registered a domain name, the only step remaining to get your site live is to host your website. In fact, some companies offer all three of these services either individually or as a complete package.
Now that you know web hosts are really just computers housing the website and its files, you may be wondering about the necessity of paying good money to a web hosting company for the service. You own a perfectly fine computer, and you have access to the internet. Why not simply host the website by yourself?
Self-hosting is indeed an option, if a very poor one comparatively. There are several web hosting companies out there and they offer different affordable packages. These web hosting services, such as HostGator, GoDaddy and BlueHost are hassle free, and usually highly efficient at what they do. When surfing their websites, also look at the URLs to see if it gives you an idea of what to expect. For instance, a www.discountdomains.co.nz/web-hosting, tells you that you are likely to get cheap hosting service.
That being said, here is a look at some of the issues you are likely to encounter in attempting self-hosting and how those problems are dealt with by web hosting companies.
1. Connection Speed
Even if you have a particularly fast home connection, this probably only applies to download speed. Hosting a website is, however, mostly reliant on upload speed since you need a fast upload speed to send multiple files with a server.
Web Hosting Companies:
The companies that offer web hosting services typically boast ultra-fast, stable connections with servers that are capable of serving tens of thousands of concurrent visitors without a hitch.
2. Hardware Maintenance
If your home computer goes down, your website goes down with it. Downtime might stretch for days or even weeks, during which time your website is offline. This is extremely bad for business.
Web Hosting Companies:
Standing hardware technicians on call, and replacement parts are on hand as well, as backups are always available.
3. Power Outage
If power is down in your house, your website will also go down.
Web Hosting Companies:
Most web hosts have stand-by generators on site that make sure websites stay online during even the most severe of power outage episodes.
4. IP Address
Private home connections usually have dynamic IP addresses that change over time, sometimes even every time you connect. This makes constant access to your website nearly impossible from outside your home connection.
Web Hosting Companies:
Web hosts assign you a static IP address that never changes and is always available.
Types of Web Hosting
One of the most important steps to take before venturing into the world of web hosting in any capacity is to understand the available types and how they would potentially relate to you and your website. Here we will be covering the three main types of hosting as well as examples of the sites that use them.
1. Shared Hosting
This is the most common, most available, and most affordable type of hosting there is. It is also the most suitable for small websites (small websites make up the vast majority of websites on the internet). Shared hosting essentially enables multiple websites to share the available resources, making it the most cost-effective option available. It’s also usually the easiest to set up. If this is your initial foray into the world of web hosting, shared hosting comes highly recommended as a good starting point.
2. Dedicated Hosting
With dedicated hosting, a single server houses a single website. Because of this, dedicated hosting is usually rather expensive, but it is the best option if your website requires pages to load very quickly and if your site gets 100,000 or more visitors in a month. Dedicated hosting is the most secure type of hosting.
3. Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
A VPS is basically a bunch of computers (they may number in the hundreds) linked together and performing as one single resource. When you choose VPS hosting, you are buying or reserving a portion of the total output of these computers for use in hosting your website. VPS hosts usually offer an hourly payment rate rather than monthly, and it is best used by programmers and designers who are the more technically inclined users of web hosting services because of its complexity.
Choosing a Domain Name
Picking the right domain name is critical to the success of a website. Here are some rules to keep in mind when trying to decide on a domain name.
Use a Brandable Domain Name
A brandable domain name consists a unique (possibly invented) word or phrase that evokes a specific brand in the minds of the users.
Insert Keywords if Possible
Use a domain name that shows up when people do a web search for the service you offer. For example, “computersales.com” is more likely to show up in a Google search for “where to buy computers”.
Use a .com TLD
The .com is the world’s most popular top-level domain, and it will lend your site an extra air of legitimacy.
Steer Clear of Trademarks
Inserting popular brand names in your site name can turn out to be a legal minefield, especially as your site gains popularity.
Use Advanced Tools
There are fortunately a few tools available to help you choose a productive domain name.
Google’s Keyword Tool: With this tool, you can do a thorough keyword analysis to decipher which phrases are most often searched per month on the search engine.
Domain Name Generators: These are sites that generate some random website names for you to choose from.
Domain and Website Auction Sites: If you decide on a domain name but you find that it has already been taken, you can check out domain auction sites to see if your domain name is available for purchase.
Choosing a Web Host
Armed as we are with a basic understanding of web hosting and the various types available, it is time to look at the factors you need to consider when choosing the right web host for your website.
Processing power is an especially important factor if you are planning on using VPS or dedicated hosting. With most web hosts, you will have access to a list detailing the amount of processing power in cores available for each level of service.
This is the amount of data you are allowed to store on your server. Typically, it is recommended to start with a minimum of 20GB.
Bandwidth is the amount of data sent from your server to a visitor’s browser. There is a simple formula for calculating the minimum bandwidth needed:
Bandwidth Needed = Visitors per Month x Page Size x Pages per Visit
It is generally a good idea to select a plan that offers at least slightly more than your current bandwidth requirements, in case those requirements increase.
Uptime refers to the amount of time your server is available to visitors online. While, for some websites, it may not be imperative that they are available all the time, some other websites lose revenue during downtime, making this a potentially vital factor in selecting a web host.
If you are new to web hosting, this should place higher on your list. It is important to choose a web host that responds promptly when you have issues that need resolving and to explain technical bits you might meet encounter using the service.
Windows or Linux Server
Most web hosts offer a choice between a Windows server and a Linux server and the best choice here is almost always the Linux server. Note that the type of server you select has absolutely zero bearing on your personal computer’s operating system. Linux is simply the go-to OS for web hosting. For those unfamiliar with the Linux OS environment or who are simply not interested in using the command lines, there is no need to worry. Most hosting plans come with great user interfaces that require no prior Linux administration knowledge.
In fact, you should only use a Windows host if you plan to use ASP or ASP.net on your site.
Web Hosting Control Panels
Web hosting control panels provide a graphical interface and automation tools that help simplify the process of hosting a web site. Most web hosting packages will give you access to a control panel. The two most popular options for web hosting panels are Plesk and cPanel. These function similarly but Plesk is more useful for Windows servers while Linux server users are best served by cPanel.