Is web hosting the same as buying a domain? What is shared hosting? And what on earth is cloud hosting? Aargh. TAKE A BREATH. Let’s take a no-jargon look at exactly what web hosting is, and what you actually need for your website.
The Essential Guide to Web Hosting
I get asked about hosting all the time: what is it, is it different to buying a domain, and what kind is best. In this article, we’ll cover the essentials, and what you need to know before you buy hosting and launch your website.
Reminder: If you’re one of my clients on a hosting & maintenance package, you don’t need all this info, as everything’s taken care of for you.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is a service that stores your website files on a server and makes them accessible on the internet. When someone visits your website, their device contacts that server in order to view your content. And that’s it. Just somewhere for your website to live, basically.
Is web hosting the same as buying a domain?
No, they’re different. Think of it this way: your domain name is your address on the internet. Web hosting is the actual space on the internet that you’re renting for your website to live on.
What are the types of web hosting?
There are many types of web hosting services that you can choose from, and this is usually where it starts to get confusing. The most common types are shared, dedicated, and cloud hosting.
Heads up: this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking, it won’t cost you a penny more but I’ll earn a small commission. (Don’t worry, I’ll just spend it on more web hosting.)
What is shared web hosting?
Shared hosting is the most common and least expensive type of web hosting. In shared hosting, multiple websites are hosted on the same server.
The big advantage of shared web hosting is that it’s the most affordable option for individuals, bloggers, startups and small businesses.
However, because you’ll be sharing the server’s resources with other websites, it can lead to slow response times. If another website on that server is having issues or a spike in traffic, your site may well be affected. And if the server gets overloaded, your site can go down.
The other issue with shared hosting is that the customer support is usually really basic. If you’ve ever run a website on cheap shared hosting, you might be cringing right now at the memory of trying to get through to a real person who might actually explain to you why your site is broken. Again.
Shared hosting is totally fine for a hobby blog or tiny site without much traffic. If you’re launching a business website, you’re going to need something more reliable.
What is dedicated hosting?
Dedicated web hosting provides customers with their own virtual server. No more sharing. With dedicated hosting, you have complete control over the server and all its resources, but you’re also responsible for any maintenance needed on the server.
This type of hosting is typically for more experienced users who need to host larger websites. Dedicated web hosting provides more flexibility and reliability than shared web hosting – but it’s obviously more expensive and more difficult to set up.
What is cloud hosting?
Cloud web hosting is where your website is hosted on a cloud server, instead of a physical server. Wait, what? I know, this one can be hard to get your head around.
Cloud servers are made by splitting a physical server into multiple virtual machines which then connect together to host a website. It means the data is stored and gathered from different servers. But don’t worry about the details too much. Basically, cloud hosting has several benefits, and that’s what you really need to know.
The first benefit of cloud web hosting is that it offers scalability. You can scale up or down your site as needed without any downtime, and with no need to worry about running out of space for your website. This is great news if you’re starting off small as your website and traffic (and your hosting bill) can grow with you.
The second benefit is speed. Cloud servers are faster than traditional servers because they have higher processing power and more bandwidth available to them. This means that you will get a faster loading time on your site, which is good for your visitors, and good for your Google ranking.
I love cloud hosting and host most of my websites with Cloudways, which offers fast, affordable cloud hosting for all sizes of website. They have a free trial and there’s no minimum contract period.
Do you need hosting with WordPress?
Yes. WordPress is a content management system that you use to build your website, but it does not come with hosting. You need to buy that separately. This is a key benefit, as you get to choose the best hosting for your needs and budget.
When you use a proprietary website builder (e.g. Wix, Squarespace), you don’t get that choice. Your website goes onto their hosting and you have no control over it or how it performs. This is just one of the many reasons why I love WordPress.
How to choose a good website host
Choosing the right web host is important because it will determine how your site performs, how much you’ll pay, and what support you’ll get if things go wrong.
There are loads of things you can do with your website and online marketing for free or with really little expense – but web hosting is one area where you probably shouldn’t take the bottom-dollar option. It might be more more hassle than it’s worth.
So – do your research, ask around, read reviews, find out if there are any hidden fees or lock-in periods. Do they offer free migrations? Can you easily scale up your package if your website or traffic grows? What’s the support like?
I’ve used several different hosting providers over the years, with vastly different experiences. There are some I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. These days I use, love and recommend Cloudways. They offer cloud hosting that’s easy to use, scales with you, and has no minimum contract. You just pay monthly for what you use, and the chat support is quick and helpful.
Still confused about web hosting?
Looking for help with your website?
I’m a WordPress developer who loves helping small businesses grow their online presence with great looking websites.
Want a new website or to overhaul an existing site? Got a broken WordPress site that’s driving you crazy?
Just let me know what you need and I’ll be happy to help!