Web hosting is a service that allows individuals and organizations to make their websites accessible via the internet. A web host, also called a hosting provider, owns and operates servers and other infrastructure required to store and deliver website files to end users. When you build a website, web hosting is required for it to be viewable online by others.
In this comprehensive beginner’s guide, we will cover everything you need to know about web hosting including:
- What is web hosting and how does it work?
- The different types of web hosting services
- How to choose the right web host
- Key factors to consider when selecting a host
- The costs associated with web hosting
- How to point your domain to a web host
- The steps for uploading your website
- Technical terminology explained
- Web hosting best practices
If you are new to web hosting and looking to get your website online, this guide contains all the information you need to get started!
What is Web Hosting & How Does it Work?
Web hosting provides the storage space and bandwidth needed for websites and applications to be viewed on the internet.
When a user wants to access a website, their browser sends a request to the site’s web host. The web host then retrieves all the required files for the site and sends them back to the user’s browser, which assembles and displays the website on their screen.
Some key things to know about web hosting:
- Websites are hosted on servers, which are powerful computers optimized to serve website data.
- Web hosts maintain large networks of servers in data centers around the world.
- Hosting providers rent disk space and bandwidth on their servers to customers for a monthly fee.
- Multiple websites can be hosted on a single server. The hosting control panel allows managing each site individually.
- Web hosts offer various hosting plans based on factors like disk space, monthly data transfers, email accounts etc.
- When you purchase hosting, you get access to control panels that let you manage your account and hosted websites.
- Web hosting connects your site to the internet and serves its files/data to site visitors. Without it, no one would be able to access your site.
So in summary, web hosting provides the infrastructure and services needed for websites to be viewed online by site visitors. The servers, storage, bandwidth and technical management are handled by the hosting company.
Types of Web Hosting
There are several types of web hosting available, each suited for different use cases. The main ones are:
With shared hosting, multiple websites are hosted on a single server. It is the most common and budget-friendly hosting option for personal sites and small businesses. The resources of the server are shared amongst all hosted sites.
VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting provides more power and resources than shared hosting. Each VPS plan gets allocated dedicated resources – RAM, storage, bandwidth etc. This creates isolation and improved performance for sites hosted on the VPS.
As the name suggests, dedicated hosting entails exclusive use of an entire server. It is the most powerful hosting option and provides maximum resources, control and security for a single site. Large enterprises with big bandwidth needs commonly use dedicated hosting.
Cloud hosting utilizes multiple distributed servers networked together in data centers. Websites are hosted on virtual servers that pull resources from the network of underlying physical servers. Cloud hosting offers flexibility to scale resources up or down as per changing needs.
Managed WordPress Hosting
Specialized WordPress hosting optimized for the popular CMS provides pre-configured WordPress environments on servers fine-tuned for WordPress sites. It offers better performance and features tailor-made for WordPress users.
So those are the main types of web hosting available. The right choice for you depends on your website needs and budget.
How to Choose the Right Web Host
Here are the key factors to consider when comparing and choosing a web hosting provider:
Look for a host with servers near your target audience to provide faster page loading speeds. Multiple server locations are ideal for maximum website uptime and global reach.
24/7 customer support via live chat, phone and tickets should be provided in case you ever need assistance. Knowledgeable in-house tech support is preferred over outsourced support.
Compare the features like email accounts, databases, FTP access, backups, etc provided in each plan and at what price. Make sure the features you need are available.
Reliability & Uptime
Research the uptime history of the host’s servers. 99.9% uptime and a money-back guarantee are signs of a reliable provider. More uptime means your site stays online continuously.
Your hosting provider should allow seamless upgrading to higher plans as your site traffic grows. This enables accommodating future growth.
Balance cost and value when comparing prices of hosting plans. Avoid hosts that are abnormally cheaper than competitors as that likely signals poor service quality.
Check reviews and testimonials from the host’s current and past customers. Reputable hosts with consistently good reviews indicate reliable service.
So keep all those key factors in mind when researching and comparing web hosting providers to choose the right host for your website.
Web Hosting Costs
The cost of web hosting varies amongst providers and depends on the hosting plan you choose. Here is an overview of the typical pricing:
- Shared hosting usually starts at around $2 to $10 per month. More advanced plans are $15 to $25 per month.
- VPS hosting plans start at approximately $20 per month and go up to $100+ per month. More resources mean higher cost.
- Dedicated server hosting pricing ranges widely from $100 per month up to $1000 or more per month depending on server specs.
- Managed WordPress hosting plans cost around $10 to $30 per month on average. Prices vary based on features.
- Cloud hosting pricing is usually customized based on actual server resources used, which offers flexibility.
Many hosts offer discounted rates for longer billing cycles like annual or biennial plans. Unlimited plans are common for things like bandwidth, websites hosted, email accounts etc. Overall, shared hosting offers the most affordable entry point for beginners.
Pointing Your Domain to a Web Host
To get your website live on your new web host, you need to point your domain name to the host’s servers. Here’s how it works:
First, you register your domain name with a registrar if you don’t already own it. Popular registrars include GoDaddy, Namecheap, Domain.com etc.
Next, you sign up for hosting and get nameservers from your web host (usually 2 or 4 nameserver addresses).
Then, you configure your domain’s DNS settings at your registrar and enter your web host’s nameservers. This points your domain to your hosting account.
Now your domain is linked to your hosting service. But visitors still won’t see your site yet. That’s because the files still need to get uploaded to the server.
The final step is to upload your website files via FTP or from the hosting control panel. This makes the files live so visitors can now access your site.
Uploading Your Website
To get your actual website files and pages live on your hosting account, you need to upload them to your account. There are a couple ways to do this:
Your host provides FTP login details to access your hosting space. An FTP client lets you connect and transfer files easily. Popular free FTP clients include FileZilla, WinSCP, and CyberDuck.
Via Control Panel
Most hosts provide access to a web-based control panel like cPanel that lets you manage your hosting account. The control panel includes file manager tools to upload website files with a few clicks.
You should also upload a backup of your site files to your computer in case you ever need to re-upload or restore your site. Store backups regularly as your site grows.
Key Web Hosting Terminology
Here are some common web hosting terms beginners should know:
Bandwidth – The amount of data transferred to and from your hosting account each month, measured in GB.
Disk space – The server storage space provided by your hosting plan, where your site files reside. Measured in GB or TB.
Shared hosting – Multiple sites hosted on a single server and sharing its resources. A cost-effective starter option.
SSD – Solid state drives provide faster data access than traditional hard disk drives (HDD). SSD storage improves site performance.
Managed hosting – Hosting with additional technical support and server administration provided by the host.
Uptime – The percentage of time a server remains online and accessible. 99%+ uptime is ideal.
FTP – File transfer protocol used to upload files to hosting accounts using FTP clients. Enables managing sites remotely.
cPanel – Popular web-based control panel software for managing hosting accounts, emails, files, databases, and more.
PHP / MySQL – Scripting language and database commonly used by content management systems like WordPress. Ensure your host supports them.
So those are some helpful web hosting terms for beginners to be familiar with.
Web Hosting Best Practices
Follow these tips for the best web hosting experience:
- Pick shared hosting with SSD storage for optimal speed if starting a simple, low-traffic site. Upgrade as needed later.
- For ecommerce or high-traffic sites, opt for VPS or dedicated hosting with ample resources to handle growth.
- Host with a provider that offers in-house 24/7 live chat and phone support for fastest issue resolution.
- Install WordPress or your CMS on your hosting account for easy content creation and management.
- Enable automatic backups to protect your site from data loss in case of server issues.
- Monitor site analytics to understand your traffic patterns and growth. Scale hosting resources accordingly.
- Refresh site content frequently with news posts, articles, photos etc to boost engagement and search rankings.
- Learn basic server management like creating email accounts, configuring DNS records, and installing SSL certificates.
- Keep software like CMS, plugins, PHP etc updated for improved performance and security.
- Review hosting needs annually. Switch plans or providers if current one no longer fits your site’s growth.
Following best practices will provide a solid hosting foundation for your website to operate smoothly and scale.
We’ve covered the key things beginners need to know about getting started with web hosting. To recap:
- Web hosting provides the infrastructure for websites to be available online. Servers and data centers are managed by the hosting provider.
- Shared hosting is the most starter-friendly option for beginners before scaling up.
- Compare factors like uptime record, support, price, features etc when choosing a web host.
- Point your domain to your web host’s servers via their nameservers.
- Upload your site via FTP or the hosting control panel to make it live.
- Monitor traffic and upgrade hosting plans over time as your website grows.
Following this guide will help you get set up with web hosting for your website in the most effective way. With your site hosted online, you can now focus on creating great content!