Web hosting provides a stable, persistent repository where your website’s code, text, images, videos, and files are stored. Whereas web hosting can be performed on your local computer or server, third-party web hosts are usually preferred. They offer high-quality expertise, infrastructures, and services such as backups, security, updates, and technical support.
How does web hosting work?
Web hosting is a secure, stable, and persistent online storage for your website. The data is saved, retrieved, and manipulated by a system of hardware and software collectively referred to as web servers. When an Internet user enters your website’s address in their browser, that request is relayed over the Internet to the web host whose web server is associated with that address.
The requested web page and files are retrieved from that web server and sent back via the Internet to the requesting user’s browser screen. This entire process occurs end-to-end in a matter of seconds or minutes (if the hosting is bad or if the request is massive).
You can host your website on your own local computer or server, a type of hosting referred to as self-hosting. While this means avoiding the subscription fees of a conventional hosting plan, it can be more expensive and certainly more complicated.
For example, you still have to pay domain registration fees. There are also time and costs of routine maintenance, patching, upgrade, security and troubleshooting. For the vast majority of individuals and organizations, a third-party host offers a more compelling value proposition.
Types of web hosting
Web hosts offer different categories of hosting in line with the varying requirements of different clients. Broadly, web hosting plans can be divided into four major categories.
1. Shared hosting
Considered the entry-level of web hosting, shared hosting plans see hundreds or thousands of websites stored on a single physical server.
Shared hosting plans cost the least and are ideal if you are running on a tight budget. Its downside is that access to server resources is dependent on traffic across the server. During periods of high traffic, your pages may load slowly or, in the worst case, be inaccessible.
You can see our selection of Best Shared Hosting here.
2. Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting
VPS hosting is similar to shared hosting in the sense that you have multiple websites stored on one physical server. The key difference is that through virtualization software, each website is allocated dedicated resources, meaning dedicated storage, RAM, and vCPU.
A surge in traffic to other websites on the same physical server does not impact your full access to the server resources allocated to your VPS account. VPS usually costs more than shared hosting.
You can see our selection for Best VPS Hosting Providers here.
3. Dedicated hosting
While VPS hosting allocates dedicated virtual resources, dedicated hosting gives a client exclusive use and control of a single physical server. It comes with all the benefits of VPS hosting plus the full autonomy of a server machine.
This control does come at a cost – dedicated hosting plans are the most expensive. They also have the heaviest maintenance and management burden.
4. Cloud hosting
Shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting all involve storing your website and files on one physical server. In cloud hosting, your site is saved in the cloud, a network of multiple physical servers that act as one.
When one server in this cloud is down, the rest pick up the slack. The result is fewer noticeable disruptions as well as lower subscription costs than dedicated and VPS hosting.
Specialized hosting types
Though they overlap with one or more of the four main hosting types, certain types are distinct enough to warrant special classification.
1. Ecommerce hosting
Ecommerce hosting is purpose designed for online stores. Therefore, it has more than just the basic features of website hosting, such as RAM, CPU, storage, and bandwidth. Additionally, you get an eCommerce platform, shopping cart, payment processing, inventory management, and other features crucial to an online shop.
2. Reseller hosting
Reseller hosting lets a user rent server space, subdivide it and then resell these portions to other customers. It is a means of setting up a web hosting business without investing in the expensive infrastructure that would otherwise be required to establish a conventional hosting company.
See the Best Reseller Hosting here.
What features do quality hosts offer?
There are thousands of web hosts you could publish your website on, so how do you determine which is best for you? By evaluating your shortlist of hosting providers and plans based on the following attributes.
Define your website’s requirements, then choose the type of hosting that will best meet these requirements.
Shared hosting is preferred for small, simple, and/or new sites, while VPS hosting is good for medium-sized and medium-traffic websites. Dedicated hosting is ideal for large sites with heavy traffic. Cloud hosting could be the right choice for sites that experience wide traffic fluctuation. Ecommerce hosting is best for online stores.
Yes. However, the ease of doing so depends on the web host, the hosting plan, and what platform your website is built on. For sites built from scratch or using popular content management systems such as WordPress, switching to another host should be relatively easy. If your site is created via a website builder, especially one tied to the web host, a smooth transfer is not assured.
A website builder helps you create a professional-looking website though you may have little to no coding skills or technical knowledge. Most use templates and drag-and-drop editors, so you can make a market-ready website in under an hour.
Yes. However, your site will be stored on the host’s subdomain and not on your own custom domain. Free hosting plans are also allowed minimal server and bandwidth resources.